Being a tattoo artist’s wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband—or whatever name you want to call yourself—is not for the faint of heart. It’s not something that you can take half-heartedly: you’re either all in or you’re out.
Tattoo artists are just like any other artist—their work is their life. They focus their feelings – whether frustrations or excitements—into their work. They can become engrossed, obsessed, and even a little temperamental, at times. And everything becomes about the work…
When you begin a relationship with an artist—whether a tattoo artist, street artist, or any other format—you have to understand this: The art comes first. It’s who they are and it’s something that will never change. For some of us, this means having to learn to step back and understand that they may just need time to work alone, in peace, in order to process something that has happened in their life. Sometimes, inspiration can strike at the spur of a moment, causing them to disappear into their studio, their shop, or whatever space they might be using to create their work. While this is hard enough for some people to handle, there’s another barrage of quirks you have to learn to accept when being involved with a tattoo artist.
While the tattoo shop may have written hours posted on the door, it’s not a job like any other. They’re generally more of a guideline. While your other half may do his/her best to schedule their sessions accordingly, sometimes things happen. You never know until you get into a piece how long it is truly going to take. Sometimes, smaller pieces can take twice as long because a person’s skin doesn’t want to take the color properly, or there are scars or stretch marks that the artist was unaware of. On occasion, the client may have an extremely low pain tolerance, leading to them having to take frequent breaks to rest and recoup. Sometimes, someone walks in with a request last minute that the artist just can’t turn away because it’s right up their alley and they just HAVE to do it.
Most tattoo shops also have crazy hours. It’s not a 9-5 job where your other half will be home for dinner every night. Oh no. If that’s the life you’re picturing for yourself, you need to just move on because it’s very rare to find a shop that closes before eight o’clock at night. Think about it, when do you see most people in movies and tv getting tattoos? Generally, they’re after work hours, or even at night after a few drinks. I can tell you firsthand, that if it wasn’t for me being able to work from wherever, remotely (perks of being a freelance writer), my other half and I would barely see each other. In fact, my entire social life revolves around the shop these days. If we’re not at the shop, we’re with the other staff members catching a movie or attending a festival or convention. The only non-tattoo artist I spend time with these days is one of the other artist’s girlfriend. Which, I have to say, helps, as we both face the same quirks and habits and have found a way to work with them.
Another aspect of the job that can be daunting to the ‘other half,’ is the actual tattoo process. It comes with its own set of complications. For example, generally, once they start tattooing, you won’t hear from them for a while. Obviously, it’s not a job where they can check their cell phones regularly or text back and forth constantly. Sure, they have their moments, when the shop is dead, but once they crank up that tattoo machine, they’re preoccupied for a while. And, let’s not forget the location of said tattoo. If you’re a jealous spouse, you’re in for a rocky road. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into the shop and seen some girl sitting there, shirt off, bra unclasped. I’ve seen pictures posted on the shop’s Facebook of my boyfriend face deep in some girl’s thighs tattooing god-knows-what just below her buttocks. Some of these girls are cute—and I’m not going to lie, my inner jealous streak tries to peek out a bit—other times, well, I don’t feel threatened at all.
One fact I didn’t take into account when I started dating a tattoo artist, is that I myself would be learning way more about the art than I ever thought I would. If you were to look at my purchase or search history on my computer, you’d be surprised to find that—although I don’t tattoo at all—it is filled with different types of tattoo machines, inks, and supplies. I can recognize the difference between different types of tattoos. I can explain the difference between a rotary and a coil machine. I get the concepts of how each style of tattoo is done and the technique required to do each one. Despite not being able to do the job myself, I can talk about it, write about it (luckily!), and understand the entire process. When we’re out and about, I find we end up checking out other people’s tattoos and discussing them. And, the funniest bit is that I find most other people I run into or get messaged by on Facebook are people asking questions about getting work done, as if I do it myself.
But, perhaps the best part about dating a tattoo artist is the fun. They’re creative, spontaneous, and exciting. There’s always something going on, there are always fun stories to hear or be part of. You get to meet an assortment of people and be privy to the best seat in the house when it comes to seeing the amazing artwork that takes place within the shop’s walls. And, of course, let’s not forget. . . having your own personal artist at your fingertips.
Although I’m not a tattoo artist myself, being a tattoo artist’s other half means being involved; being part of the process, the shop, and the inked community. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure, but it’s a rewarding relationship, once you get the hang of it.