The art ranges from awe-inspiring to kitsch, masterpiece to disaster. We encounter people every day sporting tattoos and when considering a tattoo it’s best to know how the process works.
Matteo Holmes is a tattoo artist and piercer working at Eugene Tattoo & Body Piercing located in downtown Eugene. Holmes has been working his craft for over nine years.
Before someone can get a tattoo they have to pay the artist to design and draw the image; the more elaborate the more expensive. The artist must translate the information they receive from their customer into an image that they will enjoy enough to have it permanently applied to their skin.
“Guessing my way through permanent alterations is not my style.” Holmes said.
Some artists charge a flat rate while others will charge based on the time it takes to complete. Prices vary based on the artist, the size of the tattoo, and its complexity.
While some tattoos are done free hand, most are done with a stencil. The image about to be tattooed is printed onto a stencil which is applied directly onto the customer’s skin. For the average tattoo Holmes uses two tattoo machines, which are in essence motorized needles used to apply the tattoo.
The machine requires a component called a grip assembly, which holds the needle steady during the tattooing process. The needles themselves are one-use much like those used for medical purposes.
The tattoo machine is operated by a foot pedal attached to the machine. Power units are also used with the machine, which are devices that diminish fluctuations in the electrical charge that comes in from an outlet. These fluctuations can affect how the needle moves, which results in parts of the tattoo becoming “blown out”. This means that the mark made on the skin is slightly distorted.
A tattoo itself is made out of specialized colored dyes called pigments. The pigment is first applied to the needle of the tattoo machine. The needle is then used to pierce the skin and into the dermis, the middle layer of skin, where it leaves drops of pigment that can be seen on the skin’s surface. As skin is worn away and replenished some pigment is worn away as well; which is why tattoos gradually fade over time.
The amount of time it takes to actually apply a tattoo can vary drastically. If the tattoo is large or complex enough, it can take a whole day or more. For larger tattoos, it can take multiple sessions to actually finish it. Sessions can last a couple of hours each.
After getting a tattoo, the skin is damaged and takes time to heal. If a tattoo is improperly cared for after it has been applied, it can damage the tattoo itself. The image can sometimes blur, colors fade or the skin becomes further damaged and scarred.
Getting a tattoo isn’t the easiest process for the artist or the client. Despite this, Holmes enjoys his job and continues to work at and help manage Eugene Tattoo & Body Piercing.