What do a needle, a pencil, some thread and a bottle of India ink all have in common?
They are all pieces of the tool used for creating a stick-and-poke tattoo.
This do-it-yourself inking process has a long history. Found on the famous “Iceman,” they date back as far as 5,200 years. Tattoos are also common among Egyptian mummies and are thought to have many purposes, such as status symbols, declarations of love and signs of religious beliefs among other reasons, an article on smithsonianmag.com said.
Daniel Baxter, a UNF alumnus, let his girlfriend leave her everlasting mark on his lower right leg.
“It’s fun because it’s spontaneous. It’s more meaningful this way,” said Baxter. “When dealing with a tattoo shop, it’s usually a thought-out process.”
Baxter, who has had multiple tattoos done professionally at a parlor, said the process wasn’t necessarily more painful, just a different experience all together.
“You can’t just go over the drawing once,” he said. “To get the ink darker and bolder, we went over my drawing four times. It took about 45 minutes and is only an inch in diameter.”
The process is tedious, but the pain-inflicting pastime is about more than the tat itself; its main lure is the journey on which you embark while leaving a permanent mark on yourself or on your friends, one jab at a time.
“If you want a fun experience with your friends and have a silly, permanent reminder of those good times, maybe a homemade DIY. tattoo is your kind of thing,” said Elizabeth Georges, a UNF nutrition senior.
Georges rocks a stick-and-poke tattoo of her own. It’s a small carrot with an arrow through it.
“My friend who did it calls me ‘The Vegetable Warrior.’”
And while she said it took only about 15 minutes, there is a serious side effect to dealing with needles, and more than likely a good bit of alcohol (for the pain, of course).
“It’s not a regulated or sterile environment,” said Lars Lundquist, a tattoo artist at Carribbean Connection in Jacksonville Beach. “Most of the time, you are getting a tattoo from someone who has no clue what they are doing. Then they end up coming to us, anyway, asking us to fix it.”
Baxter said needles are usually thrown away after each tattoo, eliminating some risk, but the real concern is the potential of disfigured or unsightly designs that will remain on them forever.
Georges admits the tats can be awful, but she said that is part of the fun.
However, for those who regret their snap decision, most tattoo parlors are able to cover up the blemish by adding color and design to the mark and attempt to improve the mistake, although it is not an easy task.
“It’s hard to fix something that’s permanent,” Lundquist said.
Securing a needle to the end of a pencil or pen with the tip of the needle extending just past the end of the pen/pencil builds the device. Thread is then wrapped around the needle tip to absorb and wick ink into the skin.
The tattoo design is drawn onto the body with removable ink and traced, one dot at a time with the tool, dipping it in the ink every few dots.
Stick ‘n’ Poke Testimonies:
By the time I saw the prickly device that would soon poke the milky white canvas of my thigh, the ripe enthusiasm that initially led me to volunteer shriveled into the unsavory raisin of doubt. Lacking the resources and vigor to obtain any sort of painkiller, I decided to turn to my old comrade Jack Daniels, who proved to be more than helpful for the time but, as usual, was a real jerk in the morning. All banter aside, the process went fairly smoothly except for occasionally striking a nerve, and thanks to Mike’s skillful, steady hand, I was more than satisfied with the results. Chances are I would probably not endure this again, nothing against the stick ‘n’ poke process, but I’ll leave being poked and prodded for another human pincushion.
I have to admit, the idea of stabbing my friend multiple times with a make-shift tattooing device felt a little unsettling at first. But those feelings soon morphed into anxious anticipation as I dipped the needle tip into the black India ink in preparation for the permanent punctures. After the first few pokes, I found the rhythm for penetrating the flesh, by pushing the needle not too shallow and not too deep with just the right amount of pressure. Believe me, the tattooee will notice when your technique ratio is out of whack, typically with a heavy flinch and an “oh s—.”
I think the tattoo came out well, considering it was my first attempt. The more I do it, the more comfortable I’ll be at sticking and poking, therefore improving the final result. So I would definitely like to do it again.