This month I was contacted by Single Needle, Ltd. – a UK-based company that sells ‘stick and poke’ tattoo kits.
For anyone not familiar with the term ‘stick and poke’, it refers to users buying kits online in order to tattoo themselves and their friends from home (if you’ve watched the TV show Tattoo Fixers you’ll have seen the often messy and regretful results of these occassions).
‘Stick and poke’ is not to be confused with the term ‘handpoke’ tattooer and tattooing – the likes of Grace Neutral, Hannah Rose, Mike Love, Holly Snook, Ferank Manseed, Lydia Amor and too many to name here (reputable machine-free tattooists that work from licensed studios).
Stick and poke, however, is a form of ‘DIY’ tattooing and is considered extremely controversial in the tattoo industry. A skill that can take years to master, tattooing requires an in-depth knowledge of technique and hygiene procedures in order to carry out the process safely and artistically, in the best environment.
Having never personally encountered (or actually agreed with) this homemade tattooing trend myself, it’s not something we’ve covered in depth before here on Inkluded, yet it seems to be on the rise amongst a particular generation. One of our writers Chloe did blog about stick and poke last year after finding out that many of her non-tattooist peers at university regularly tattooed themselves.
So, when this company reached out to us, I was desperate to know more. With a tattoo scene thriving with exceptional artists and styles, why does this method continue to be used by so many today?
In today’s impatient world, we’re encouraged to save money, self-teach and explore our visual identites within the comfort of our own homes. Are home hair-dye and gel-nail kits an insult to the skills of our local hairdressers and nail technicains? Is there a danger of tattooing falling into the same category as these other beauty proceedures?
As one of the UK’s leading tattoo blogs that seeks to educate its readers on what makes great (risk-free) tattoo art, I guess I have to begin this interview with a disclaimer of sorts. At Inkluded, we aim to support artists and provide information and advice to those seeking it. This interview is by no means a promotion or pitch from me to start scratching at your own skin. Go to reputable tattoo artists. Be safe out there.
We also seek to accurately reflect the current status of the tattoo industry. Find out what shit is going down, and talk about it. This is an insight into an underground world increasing in popularity.
Aware of the controversy of which I speak, Single Needle’s founder Tom, asks to withhold his full identity.
Beccy: Tell us who you are, and what your company is.
Tom: Single Needle was founded (and continues to be run) by myself, Tom. I am a handpoke tattoo artist from Cambridge, UK. SN sell stick and poke tattoo kits to anyone of legal age, with the ambition of promoting safe and knowledgeable practice. The brand was born in an effort to change the current stick and poke culture. After seeing tattooing with sewing needles, poor quality ink and in dirty environments, I designed an affordable kit that contained both the quality equipment and sterile components needed to safely practice.
B: When we first spoke, you mentioned that home tattooing can be “risky”, why so?
T: Tattoos carry a risk no matter what, and most people are aware of the obvious infections and diseases that can occur. Home tattooing has the potential to amplify this risk because the environment is not designed for sterile tattooing. In an effort to minimise this risk, the kits all contain surface dressings, alcohol wipes, single use aprons and sterile gloves. Furthermore the instruction manual details how to properly prepare and sterilise your environment. It’s not perfect, but a lot better!
B: Do you recognise that stick and poke is risky?
T: The first page of Single Needle’s instruction manual reads ‘Handpoke Tattoos and Their Risks’. I try to make this message as clear and open as possible both on the website and in the kit. Each kit explains the possible complications, how to prevent them, signs and symptoms of a problem, what to do if it goes wrong and of course, what one should consider before getting a tattoo! And if all that fails, there is a telephone and e-mail contact.
B: Do you think these kits discourage people from going to professional tattooists?
T: Yes and no. I think its important to remember stick and poke kits are not trying to overthrow the the years of invaluable training, experience and skill artists have to offer. But tattoos often are more than just art. For myself certainly, the meaning behind a tattoo can hold equal, if not more value. Stick and poke is incredibly intimate and personal, a true symbol of ones confidence to make a permanent statement. In this respect, some might feel a simple line design would hold greater meaning if done by themselves.
B: Do you think a lot of stick and poke tattoos eventually get covered up?
T: Possibly, but then cover ups seem to be on the rise for all styles. The real catch with handpoke is the simplicity. Joining every little dot to form a crisp clean line can be challenging, and if you stencil on a full sleeve for your first attempt, well… it’s probably going to look shit. In the kit, there is a page of designs, all simple, no shading, just small linework pieces. If the design is easy, it’s likely to look much better!
B: Who is buying the kits?
T: We sell them all over the world. It seems Australia love to poke with a friend, Germany enjoy a solo poke, and England are split between having a try with one of the ‘Practice Kits’, and giving it a go with a friend.
B: Anything else you want to say that I haven’t asked?
T: I understand that by selling these kits, and promoting this method, I am encouraging home tattooing of which some practice will continue to be unsafe. However, the company is based on the deep rooted values that people have been, and will continue to, tattoo themselves. Therefore providing people with proper materials, information and advice is the way forward – it reduces the innate risk associated with stick and poke tattooing.
What do you, our readers, think of stick and poke? Have you tattooed yourself? Why do you think it’s wrong, or right? Comment below or let us know on Facebook.
Words: Beccy Rimmer / Single Needle
Images: Instagram / As Credited
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