Tattoo Parlor - Ethnography

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This essay describes the job of a tattoo parlor and the tattoo artist, and the interaction between the artist and the customer. The description is of a normal day where I visit Blue Moon Tattoo, watch a lady being tattooed, and receive a tattoo of my own. I describe the complete day in the parlor, from watching a woman find the perfect tattoo, to watching her getting the tattoo. Along with the description, the main point of this essay is to explain how people can actually be comfortable with a tattoo artist and be comfortable with needles being poked into their body. A small amount of interaction between the artist and the customer makes the tattoo have a bit of personality, and a memorable experience.

The Life of a Tattoo Parlor
Throughout the past thirty or so years, the human body began to show originality, not through bone structure, but through personality. Wilham and Bulark (2003) believe sixty five percent of adults (18+) in the United States chose to add originality to their skin. This form of art is called tattooing. The process of tattooing is described by Mirriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2003) as, "to mark or color (the skin) by pricking in coloring matter so as to form indelible marks or pictures." Even though originality may seem ideal, there is a controversy over whether getting tattooed or to worry about the stereotype of promised disease, infection, and easy fading. The question is, why would a person allow an unknown individual to place foreign inks into their skin, with sharp needles? The answer lies in the tattoo parlors that shape our body modified world, and the god/goddess if the shop, the tattoo artist.

In front of Blue Moon Tattoo located in RingGold, VA, the first sign I see is a prominent "NO ONE UNDER 18 MAY ENTER!". My first impression is, "my god, what am I thinking, this isn't a porn business, I hope." I am greeted by a friendly smile of a typical long-bearded Harley rider, Mike Vaughn, who is the shop owner. "Welcome to Blue Moon Tattoo, how may I help you?" he belts out with his deep voice. For some reason in this tattoo shop, which I had never been in before, it seemed as if I was at home. "I'd like to get my first tattoo, if that wouldn't be a problem," I say, as if I'm a child. I've had an idea since age 14 that I wanted to put a pink ankh on the top right of my back. So that is what I picked. I was too anxious to wait, but I had to. There's a lady getting a tattoo before me, which is to my advantage so that I may watch the process of a tattoo being made, and to make sure I am absolutely sure of what I was doing, before I destroy my skin. Picture and Paperwork

The tattoo artist is a blonde-haired blue-eyed female around the age of 26, named Jesse Smith. I didn't want to bother her work, since she does do art for a living, but the tattooing process is a complete wonder. Jesse explains the complete process of her work to the woman ahead of me, before she even touches the tattoo gun. Even though the artist specializes in drawing perfection, the best way to the perfect tattoo is by listening to what the customer wants. The tattoo artist doesn't just draw what they think may look decent, but if a customer requests a purple Playboy bunny with green eyes and a pink bow on it's head, then that is what the customer gets. The person being tattooed picks a light blue star with tribal on each side to place on her left wrist. The tribal is picked out of a book of flash (pictures used often in tattooing) and is changed to the customer's preference.

The customer has to fill out a permission form to be tattooed so that the artist can't be sued, just incase complications arise. The permission form consists of the customer's name, address, phone number, driver's license number, and birth date. A colored copy of the customer's ID/driver's license has to be kept on file for 5 years, so that the artist has proof that they are not tattooing anyone under age without parental...
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