Al from Rockstar Ink on Being a Tattoo Artist

“I love Al, he’s done most of my tattoos. He’s professional and my tattoos always come out great,” my aunt, Christie Steelman told me. She’s gotten 14 of her 15 done by Al from Rockstart Ink.

I got a chance to interview Al from Rockstar Ink. He told me he always watned to be a tattoo artist since he was young. It came natural to him since most of  the people in his family are artists of some kind. He loves being creative; his favorite tattoos are the ones that he gets to express his creativity, he told me.

When I asked what it takes to become a tattoo artist, Al told me that in New Jersey, you must apprentice for five thousand hours, which, if you do it full time, takes about 3 years.

“I could probably put golden arches out front and say over a million served,” Al told me when I asked how many tattoos he thinks he’s done. He does about six to ten tattoos a day six days a week and he’s been tattooing for 20 years.

The most interesting tattoo he’s worked on was a man who got a tattoo to spite his soon-to-be ex-wife as they were going through a divorce. His tattoo ended up wrapping around his whole body all the way down to his ankle. Al told me he really enjoyed working with the man and the story behind his tattoo.

He loves tattooing because he doesn’t do the same thing everyday. Even though it’s technically the same thing, no two people come in and get the same tattoo in one day. He also said that people always top the last funny or great story and that always keeps him interested.

“People think they can get a sleeve in three commercial breaks.” He told me that tattoo based reality shows are ruining the industry. He said this is his pet peeve along with people owning shops that don’t know anything about tattooing except “how to take half the money.” ¬†Anyone thinks they can be a tattoo artist now, they feel like they can just buy equipment off Ebay and be a tattoo artist, he explained. He feels like this is really hurting the industry, but it’s also making the artists do know what they’re doing better. This brings the qualities of tattoos down and leaves out a lot of information that people should know, he feels.

If he wasn’t a tattoo artist, he told me he’d be a fighter. He enjoys fighting and MMA and he told me it helps him clear his mind.

When asked about the future of Rockstar, Al told me their future is bright. He told he he’s becoming more passionate about fixing the tattoo industry in the area. He wants to inform people in the community about tattooing and to show them that they shouldn’t just get it done in someone’s house or garage.

Want to check him out? They are now located at 175 White Horse Pike in Absecon, New Jersey. You can also call: (609)437-9554 or (609)442-1476, or check out their facebook for sales and deals!

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Beginner’s Guide to Getting a Body Modification

In an earlier post when I interviewed Kristen MacMillan, she gave some tips for people who get mods for the first time. Kristen is a student at Rowan University with four tattoos and multiple piercings.

Some things she said were:

  1. Do research! APT, the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, has a safe list on their website of parlors they consider safe according to their guidelines.
  2. Get references about the shop and the artist. Tattooparlorreviews.com is a website where you can look at reviews other people posted about parlors.
  3. If you have a bad feeling at any point, say no.
  4. Make sure you think about stigmas and how other people will think view your tattoos.

Some safety tips APT gives are:

1. Always insist that you see your tattooist remove a new needle & tube set-up from a sealed envelope immediately prior to your tattoo.

2. Be certain you see your tattooist pour a new ink supply into a new disposable container.

3. Make sure your artist puts on a new pair of disposable gloves before setting up tubes, needles and ink supplies.

4. Satisfy yourself that the shop furnishings & tattooist are clean & orderly in appearance; much like a medical facility.

5. Feel free to question the tattooist as to any of his sterile procedures & isolation techniques. Take time to observe them at work & do not hesitate to inquire about their experience & qualifications in the tattoo field.

6. If the tattooist is qualified professional, they will have no problem complying with standards above & beyond these simple guidelines.

7. If the artist or studio does not appear up to these standards or if they become evasive when questioned, seek out a professional tattooist.

The most important thing to remember is don’t feel bad! Tattoos are¬†permanent¬†and stopping an artist before they do something you don’t like or something you’re not comfortable with is way easier than getting it removed. Make sure you follow the safety guidelines because body modifications CAN get infected and it CAN cause serious damage.

an infected sternum piercing

infected neck piercings

an infected arm piercing

These pictures were used in accordance with a Creative Commons License. The first belongs to Chelsea Oakes. The second belongs to Kim. The last photo belongs to Ed Hunsinger

Q & A with Kristen MacMillan; a student who believes people shouldn’t judge others because tattoos

Kristen MacMillan is a Rowan University student with four tattoos and six piercings. She believes people shouldn’t judge others for their tattoos and they sHip sparrowshouldn’t take tattoos as an invitation to be rude to someone with a tat.

Q: Do any of your tattoos hold special meaning?
A: My tattoos all hold meaning, even if the meaning behind the physical artwork isn’t about my life or experiences. Getting a tattoo is a meaningful thing, because it’s something I enjoy and look forward to. The sparrows on my hips don’t have any philosophical meaning, but I got them during a really fun day, and they remind me of the people I spent that day with. My dream catcher holds the most symbolism, with the number of the feathers and beads representing things in my life. I don’t think a tattoo must have some deep meaning; if someone decides that it’s something he or she wants, let ’em do it! Artwork’s meaning isn’t always face-value, and that’s what tattoos are, in the end: art.
Q: Do you have a favorite form of modification?
A: My favorite form of body modification is definitely tattoos. I think they’re such a personal and beautiful way of self expression. They can be reminders of good times, triumphs, and important life milestones. They’re also permanent, unlike piercings (which can be taken out), so you have to plan them out pretty well.

Q: Do you feel like there is a body modification community? If so, are you a part of it?
A: There is definitely a body modification community. Online, there are thousands of web communities and informative websites (like bme.com) dedicated to body modification. There are hundreds of conferences and “meet-ups” sponsored by the mod community (as it’s called). There’s a Association of Professional Piercers, an organization dedicated to safe piercing procedures and practices. I’m friends with some people who participate in suspension (a spiritual activity where hooks are placed in temporary “play piercings” and participants are suspended to the ceiling by the piercing). I personally do not consider myself an active part of the mod community, but I am a supporter of it and do a lot of research about it. I know a few people who are active within the community.

Q: Can you share some things “beginners” should look into when seeking out a shop or artist?
A: It’s important to do a lot of research on tattoo or piercing parlors and tattooists and piercers before getting tattooed or pierced. Even after looking at a tattooist’s portfolio, a tattoo could be poorly executed or done under unsanitary conditions, so it’s important to get references about both the shop and the artist, and to speak at length with your artist about your expectations. If you have a bad feeling about the process at any point, you should politely inform the tattooist or piercer that you’ve changed your mind. Don’t ever jeopardize your safety or health just because you feel uncomfortable telling someone “no.” Particularly with piechest piecercings, poorly done body modifications have the possibility of doing a lot of permanent damage. With piercings, you run the risk of serious infection that sometimes can even result in death. It’s important that you consider the long-term effects of your body modifications, too; even though you like body modification and don’t believe in the stigmas, many people (like family members, peers, or potential employers) don’t see things the same way. Make sure you understand what you’re getting into and if you have even the slightest doubt in your mind, don’t go through with it.
Q: Do you feel like there’s anything people should know about body modifications or people who have them?
A: There are scores of people who believe the stigmas about people who have tattoos or other body modifications. Even one of my Psychology professors here at Rowan University, whose opinions I usually support and respect, believes that people who participate in body modification suffer from severe mental disorders. Contrary to popular belief, people who are tattooed or pierced aren’t always crazed delinquents or felons, don’t always participate in porn or S&M communities, and don’t always suffer from mental disorders. I’m a normal, hardworking, and intelligent college student, living a normal life. My tattoos and piercings don’t define who I am; they complement who I am. The only difference between me and non-modded people is that I wear my artwork, stories, and experiences on my body.
12g conch, 9/16" tunnelsQ: Do you have any advice for tattoo etiquette in reference to admiring others’ pieces?
A: As a woman, I deal with people who have poor manners on a daily basis. Having visible tattoos opens a whole new can of worms as far as others’ etiquette goes. I’ve had people I just met pull down my shirt to get a better look at my chest tattoo, grab and twist my arm to look at the one I have there, and touch me in other aggressive and invasive ways, all without asking me first. People think that because a tattoo is visible that they have the right to ask you invasive questions about them. Just because some tattoos have symbolic meaning doesn’t mean all tattoos do, but people don’t realize that and often ask me to go into an in-depth description about the reasons behind them. It’s frustrating and uncomfortable, because some of the symbolism behind my tattoos is extremely personal and something I wouldn’t want to talk to strangers about.

I’ve had people ask me what I wore during the tattoo process of the one on my chest, which is large and goes far down my chest; this is a personal and invasive question, but people either don’t realize that or don’t care. Most people who talk to me about my tattoos are friendly and truly mean well, but they can be rude and disrespectful without realizing it. The best advice I can give to people who aren’t familiar with tattoo etiquette is ASK, ASK, ASK! Always ask a person’s permission before touching them, respect his or her answer to that question, and be polite about the questions you ask. Most importantly, don’t forget basic day-to-day manners. If you wouldn’t ask a question or do something to a person without body mods, it isn’t okay to do that to someone who does.

Q: Is there anything else you feel like I should know or you want to say?
A: I really appreciate you writing an article about this. Many people don’t think to ask people with body modification these questions, and they’re really important. If everyone I met knew about proper tattoo etiquette, it would save me a lot of frustration. I’m not a felon or a sexual deviant, and if people got to know who I am rather than judging me based off of the art on my body, they would meet a pretty cool chick with a lot of insight and life experience. People need to learn that just because someone looks different than everyone else doesn’t mean they should be feared or leered at. I’m just a normal girl with cool artwork on my body.
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Photos courtesy of Kristen MacMillan