At first glance: tattoo first-timers

Written by Things&Ink

The very first time you get tattooed or hold a tattoo machine in your hands is a magical life-changing moment. As the needle meets skin, that first rush of adrenaline whether you’re the tattooer or tattoo-getter, is something you’ll remember forever. Perhaps that moment, the first step into this ancient craft, will lead to an exciting career, decorated skin, new friends, travel, and endless opportunities... We chat to tattoo artists and tattoo collectors about their first tattoo experiences to find out how amazing their first time really was....

Suro, tattoo artist at Gold Leaf Ink, San Francisco -

“I've always been amazed by tattoos and ink. I'm an artist, been into art since I could walk. Growing up in the Middle East it was extremely rare to see tattoos and it would usually be on tourists. It's fascinating to see art permanently on skin as a canvas. So when I moved to the States, going into tattoo shops and making acquaintances with tattooers, I was immediately drawn to the industry. When I became an apprentice, I was told by all my friends that I should pursue this as a career – nine years later here I am.”


“Other than the nerves, I was excited to be able to have the chance to actually tattoo someone. It was my best friend from college that trusted me to do a piece on her. It was an ornamental frame on her back left shoulder. As confident as I was, there was pressure, since I knew it was going to be on her forever, there's no erasing a line like on paper.”

Suro tattoo

“The feeling of being rewarded for your labour is everything, especially something that you've psyched yourself to do for so long. It's amazing to see how much I've been through, experienced, and accomplished over the years. I am finally at a place where I'm extremely confident in what I do. I'm lucky that I do get really good people that want to get tattooed by me and also respect me enough as an artist to let me do my thing. The journey is nowhere near done. I know I have a lot more learning especially since the industry is rapidly changing. So I'm excited to see where the next nine years will take me.”

Amber Korf, content creator in Twente, Netherlands -

“I thought about this tattoo for five years before I got it. I wanted to get a tattoo of my star sign, the Leo and the constellation represent that. For me, it stands for strength, ambition, leadership and everything I've been through in life.”

Amber tattoo

“My first appointment at Inkkitchen in Hengelo, Overijssel, was actually in April but it got canceled because of COVID. When my appointment did go ahead it felt pretty normal –like it would've been if COVID wasn't here.”

“I felt a bit nervous because I didn't know what to expect and I'm always overthinking! Once the artist started I was actually surprised at the feeling. The pain was okay, the only thing that was painful was when he was working around my spine. Also laying in the same position for two hours wasn't nice either. But I was immediately thinking about what I wanted to get next! But I can't say when I will get tattooed again. I have too many ideas but I don't want to rush anything.”

Elza Van Houden, tattoo artist at Lock and Key Tattoo Worcester, UK -

“I had to tattoo myself first as part of my apprenticeship, it was quite scary as all my colleagues were watching. Although I blocked everyone out and I managed to concentrate on my technique, so much so that I didn’t even feel the pain! Compared to tattooing someone else, this was easy because I could handle the pain.”

“The first time I tattooed someone else it was my mentor so I was very frightened, I thought that I was gonna mess it up, that I was really hurting him, which made me feel really bad. I was very proud of myself afterward for finally getting to tattoo someone else, but I was petrified and very critical of the final tattoo.”

Elza tattoo

“At first, being paid for my tattoo was weird but also made me feel proud. It was very odd because I didn’t feel that the quality of the tattoos required payment as I was extremely critical of my work. After a few tattoos, I felt a bit better but I was really undercharging for my work until I got comfortable. Then I was proud and started to value my work more.”

“I still get a bit nervous tattooing people now, especially when it’s something more challenging or an area on the body I’m not comfortable with, but I’m definitely a lot more confident in my abilities and the way I interact with my customers.”

This article is written by Rosalie Hurr, who is the editor of Things&Ink magazine.

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