Tattoos are for life, so the saying goes.
You may (or may not) be surprised that some tattoo owners wish they weren’t.
There is direct evidence for tattooing going back to the 4th millennium BC. The oldest discovery of tattooed human skin to date was found on a mummified body discovered in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, near the Austrian-Italian border.
Ötzi The Iceman, as he has been named, is Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Europeans. His tattooed body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.
Whilst the story of Ötzi The Iceman is fascinating, for the sake of the story we’ll move forward a few millennia.
Evidence indicates that electric tattoo machines were in use by the late 1880s, at least several years prior to the first tattoo machine patent obtained by Sam O’Reilly on the 8th of December 1891. Since then, tattooing has steadily increased in popularity however it was not until the 1960s that the place of tattooing in popular culture radically shifted.
The 1970s saw tattoos become a mainstream part of global and Western fashion, common among both sexes, to all economic classes, and all age groups. The comparatively modest decoration of blues singer Janis Joplin by San Francisco tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle has been called a seminal moment in the popular acceptance of tattoos as art. Formal interest in the art of the tattoo became prominent in the 1970s and by the beginning of the 21st century, the tattoo has taken on a decidedly different meaning than for previous generations. The tattoo shifted from a deviance to an acceptable form of expression.
Tattoos have experienced a huge resurgence in popularity in many parts of the world. The growth in tattoo culture has seen an influx of incredibly talented new artists into the industry, many of whom have technical and fine arts training. Coupled with advancements in tattoo pigments and the ongoing refinement of the equipment used for tattooing, this has led to an improvement in the quality of tattoos being produced.
Despite this Tattoo renaissance and the significant advances in technology, people will still get tattoos in highly-charged emotional states and deeply regret the decision. There is the option to have unwanted ink removed using lasers; though it has been said by some that the process of laser tattoo removal can be more painful than that of getting a tattoo in the first place.
There is also the option of having the offending tattoo reworked, turning that source of despair and anguish into something new and beautiful for the owner – not a mark of shame.
A&E’s Tattoo Fixers are here to remedy those sins of the skin. Jay, Alice and Sketch tackle some of the most terrible examples of ink-work you’ll ever see.
The characters that come into the parlour might have extreme holiday tattoo mistakes, cringingly rude tattoos, the names of an ex-partner or tattoos that don’t accurately represent who they are… today. A few of us may have made decisions in youth that, with the benefit of hindsight, may not have been wise.
The stories are funny, risky and always entertaining and provide good food for thought for those considering getting inked-up – especially in a ‘highly-charged emotional state’, just plain drunk or an unruly and dangerously unpredictable, combination of the two.
Here’s five important life lessons you can take from A&E’s Tattoo Fixers.
- Accuracy is important
Back in the final decade of the 20th century, Freddie decided to get the likeness of his idol permanently emblazoned on his skin. Prior to the procedure, a much younger Freddie should have checked if the artist, whose services he was engaging, was able to produce a likeness of his idol on a piece of paper – with a pencil; before committing to his skin with ink and needle.
There are however certain things that we can never know. In Freddie’s case, it was the mortality of his idol. Saying that, Freddie’s inkwork could have been an amazing and lasting tribute to one of the late twentieth century’s Gods of Rock, a deep and intimate reminder of a phenomenal talent cut tragically short – if only the person responsible for Freddie’s tattoo, could draw.
- Don’t do it yourself! (Especially if you’re a drunk teenager with a borrowed tattoo machine)
Rhys decided at the ripe old age of fourteen to get a tattoo. Possibly due to the fact he would’ve been turned away from the local tattoo studio, young Rhys decided to do it himself. Showing great initiative, Rhys spoke to a neighbour whom he knew to be the owner of a tattoo machine.
And they say youth is wasted on the young.
- It may hurt… a lot
It was the very physical performer, intellectual and scholar, Johnny Knoxville that once said, “Doctors have told me I have a high pain threshold, but I can only know what I feel. I think I’m good at minimising the pain and being indifferent to it.”
Freya has come to the Tattoo Fixers studio with an intimate tattoo, depicting and intimate act on an intimate part of her body. Freya recalls, the original physical pain of getting the tattoo in addition to the ongoing psychological pain of this original masterpiece on her skin.
This resilient young woman has the fortitude of a Samurai, with a Zen-like ability to endure ink and needle again, in that intimate place.
- If you drink and…
… do anything, you’re a bloody idiot.
Just as it is with most types of machinery, entering dangerous places and holding babies, the decision to get a tattoo should preferably be done when sober. Whilst in the planning stage of the tattoo, long before needle and ink are committed to skin, any idea that you may come up with whilst in an advanced state of refreshment should not be considered – let alone executed.
It’s a classic scenario and a timeless comedy of errors, any story that starts with a young person and their friends, on holiday abroad, heavily intoxicated and the immortal words are uttered: “Let’s get a tattoo”.
The theme of this tattoo will invariably be a commemoration of the holiday, some other significant event or a design of your own. This design is so mind-blowingly brilliant that it completely sums up who you are as a human – for all the universe to see on your skin.
We have all had a moment like this and Dom is no exception. This young man has come to see the Tattoo Fixers presumably because his life’s philosophy has changed and that mind-blowingly brilliant tattoo, that completely encapsulates who he was, no longer reflects who he is.
The lesson learnt? Don’t Drink and Ink
- You got a tattoo where?
There are parts of the body where only the bravest of us will tattoo. The decision to tattoo certain parts of the body baffles many of us, will quite often make us wince and on occasion, trigger a gag-reflex. Adam provides a valuable lesson to men, in this moving parable about life choices and gossip.
When each client comes into the Tattoo Fixers studio, they not only reveal their tattoo to the resident artists, their personality is revealed as well. It’s not only a lot of fun to hear the stories behind the tattoo mishaps, the work of Tattoo Fixers, Alice, Jay and Sketch is stunning and skilfully executed.
We will never know fully the reason behind Ötzi The Iceman’s, Chalcolithic ink work or what he was thinking as he was getting his tattoos.
If Ötzi were around today would he use Tattoo Fixers?
Hypothetical questions like this serve no real purpose. What is for certain is that we will continue to permanently mark our skin for millennia to come and A&E’s Tattoo Fixers will be watched by anthropologists in eons hence. It may go some of the way to answering that very deep question: What were they thinking?