As a hand-poke tattoo artist I get a lot of questions. About the method, pain, experience… so I thought I’d compile a list of frequently asked questions for potential clients to have a read through before getting tattooed by myself!
DISCLAIMER. This is not a ‘how to’ guide for people wanting to ‘give it a go’. I get A LOT of emails and messages on social media about this!
These questions and answers completely relate to myself and my methods and practices, and reflect entirely my own views and experiences. The answers to each of these questions may differ for every other artist.
1) What is ‘hand-poke’?
In a nut shell, a hand-poke tattoo is done with no machine or electricity. Essentially, it is made by somebody who uses only a tattoo needle and the power of their hand to literally ‘poke’ tattoo ink into the skin.
Some artists use specific hand-poking tools that give the tattooist a better grip when holding the needle, others tape the needle to a stick of bamboo or wood. All tools used should be either single use, or sterilised in an autoclave before each use.
2) How long does it take?
As with every tattoo in any style, the time it takes completely depends on the design, size, placement, client or artist. Personally, I work quite quickly. One of my palm size mandalas usually takes around 2 hours, depending on the detail.
3) Ouch! It sounds like it hurts?!
Everybody’s pain threshold is different. It also depends on the placement of your tattoo, your mind-state, what you’ve had for breakfast and if you’ve drank alcohol the night before. Most people who have had both machine tattoos and hand-poke say that the hand-poke tattoo is much more chilled. I’ve even had a few people fall asleep during their tattoo.
Just make sure you have a good nights sleep, don’t drink any alcohol the night before, have a decent breakfast/ lunch an hour or two before your appointment, and bring a banana with you for energy!
Bringing a friend with you can also effect your pain levels. In my experience, people are much more comfortable experiencing the tattoo by themselves. Its much easier to get into a relaxed mind state if you’re not having to worry about what your friend is doing or if they’re bored. Its easy to play up to your friends too. You’re much more likely to convince yourself that the pain in worse than it actually is if your friend keeps asking you how much pain you’re in!
4) Are there limits on designs and style?
This one completely depends on how you look at it. Each artist has their own specific style and look to their work. There are hand-poke tattooists out there that can do realistic black and grey work, watercolour, dot-work, heavy blackwork, solid line-work. Basically, pretty much all styles of tattooing can be done with this method, you just have to find the right artist!
5) How many sessions will my tattoo take? Do you have to go over it a few times?
Again, this one depends on the size of the tattoo or project you are wanting done. A palm size tattoo with me will take one 2 hour session, I don’t get you back in afterwards to ‘go over’ the design. However, I know that some artists do do this. If you are wanting a large piece, such as a sleeve or back piece, this would take a few sessions, just as it would a machine artist.
6) Can’t I just do it myself, at home?
At the moment, there is a craze of ‘stick ‘n’ poke’ tattoos being done in peoples homes, by people who have no idea about tattooing, sterile set ups or how to pull off a good tattoo. This, is essence, isn’t good. There’s a whole plethora of reasons as to why its a bad idea to tattoo yourself at home, whether that be with a tattoo machine or not. From the high risk of infection and spreading diseases, to ending up with a really bad tattoo that you will most likely want to cover up in the future!
7) Is your style linked to spiritual/religious practices or cultural rituals?
My method doesn’t incorporate any spiritualism at all. Hand-poke tattooing is linked to the earliest form of tattooing and many cultures incorporate tattooing with just a needle or sharpened objects into rituals and rites of passage. There are still artists out there that do incorporate different cultures into their tattooing, but I am not one of them.
My methods are a fusion between the oldest tattoo techniques and modernised practices. My tattoo designs are also a kind of fusion between old and new. I do tattoo sacred geometry and mandalas, but this is purely due to my own tastes and fascination with patterns and repetitive designs.
8) Can I have colour in my tattoo?
I do occasionally incorporate colours into my designs, but generally I like to work with black the most. I think black tattoos are very striking, and when used in certain ways can be a strong statement. Not all colours are effective with hand-poke, as the ink textures are different and don’t always heal the best with my technique. If you have a design idea that incorporates colour, get in touch and I’l let you know if it’s possible!
9) How do I book an appointment?
Let me know what kind of design you would like, where on your body and rough sizing of the design. Please send pictures of the kinds of designs you like! I’ll then get back you you and chat about your ideas. I take a deposit (which comes off the total price of your tattoo), draw your design up, and make a date for when you would like to come in.
10) Do I need to bring anything?
Bring a drink with you and something sugary. Bananas are really good for providing a little energy and sugar boost!