People being dicks to Montreal tattoo artists is so common that one artist I spoke with, self-described "SheHulk" Tiger Kate, said that she(Hulk) has "don't be a dick" printed on her business cards and her favourite coffee mug.
"It’s almost a 100% 'gonna happen' thing that clients will misbehave at some level," Kate told MTL Blog over Instagram. "Clients are amazing and are so diverse. But that means that some are diverse in the negative sense too."
I spoke to a variety of tattoo artists across Montreal, from handpoke artists to traditional machine lovers. Two of these brave souls offered their names to the common public: Mot Collins, a handpoke artist based in Montreal, and Kate, who works at the Tattoo Box (which just opened a new branch in Angrignon, France!).
Here's what I gathered from our conversations, and a surefire guide to your first-ever tattoo appointment. Roll up your sleeves and slap on some moisturizer, and let's get into it.
Collins recommends that future tattoo-ees look into the various styles and make an educated decision. Handpoke and machine tattoos are not only different processes, but they feel and look distinct as well.
"The best clients are the ones that come prepared and are respectful of the space you’re tattooing in," Collins told MTL Blog over Instagram. "It’s the greatest when your client shows up well rested, showered, hydrated and with something substantial eaten so they feel good throughout their session."
It's also best to check in with your artist if you're bringing a friend or two — especially if you don't know how big the studio is.
When determining the size and placement of your tattoo, it's a good idea to be as specific as possible. "Don’t just tell your artist that you want a tattoo that’s ‘small,’" Collins said. Giving exact inch (or centimetre) measurements is helpful.
It's a good idea to consult with your artist about placement, too — and not just for aesthetic reasons. "For example," Collins told MTL BLog, "rib tattoos can be a lot harder to do than a forearm piece because of the way the skin stretches - therefore, don’t be surprised if a rib piece is more expensive."
If you can feel yourself chickening out on your upcoming appointment, tattoo artists across Montreal are BEGGING you to tell them in advance. "No shows are a nightmare," one artist told MTL Blog, "mostly because you find yourself sitting at a set-up station with everything ready to go like a fool."
Tattoo appointments take time and effort to set up, from sanitizing the space to preparing the right tools, stencils and inks. If you truly must cancel, it's polite to do so no fewer than 24 hours in advance.
Sit still and stay sober
It almost shouldn't need to be said, but don't get a tattoo while you're actively drunk, hungover or otherwise ill or intoxicated. This is all part of the preparation stage: making sure you're physically well enough a) to not pass out mid-session and b) to make thoughtful decisions about your body is key.
And while you're at it, try your best to sit still — and don't be a dick when your movements mess with the tattoo. "I had a human rights lawyer move during the first line of her tattoo," Tiger Kate told MTL Blog, "she whipped her phone out in a jerking motion and then threatened to sue me for her one wiggly line."
"I had to show her the video of her moving and she still swore that she was going to sue me through her job at 'the biggest law firm in the city.'"
Kate, ever the powerhouse, "asked her to watch the video of her using her law license to threaten people. And told her I’ll submit it to the bar of Quebec and have her censured or disbarred. She apologized and paid then left."
Don't make it weird
That lawyer made it super weird, but at least she paid and left quietly. Not every interaction ends so positively, several artists said. Don't hit on them, please, and don't make weird comments.
"Speaking as a femme-presenting artist in a fat body, I would also ask that you be careful of putting your tattoo artist in a weird position with how you speak to them," Collins advised. "It’s my professional environment — you don’t need to comment on how your hand is near my boobs. I’m here to tattoo you, I’m not here to f*** you. Be respectful, don’t be creepy."
Tattoos can take a long-*ss time, and taking breaks is good for the client and the artist, alike — the best artists are those who take their own and their clients' comfort into account, Collins said.
"Now I’m guilty of this — a lot of the time I’ll power through a larger tattoo without a break and pay for it later in back pain. But trust me when I say, it’ll be appreciated if you feel like you need to take a beat during your tattoo," she added.
Give your honest opinion
When you're getting art permanently poked into your human body, it's worth being honest about what you like and what you don't. But say it with me, you can do all of that WITHOUT BEING WEIRD ABOUT IT!
If you're physically uncomfortable or unhappy with the placement of your stencil, it's crucial to be open with your artist, even if they're freakishly cool and you don't want to be a baby.
"I understand that getting tattooed can be an intimidating thing," Collins said, "but we’re in this together. You have to talk to your tattoo artist if you’re not 100% happy about a part of the process, and they’ll certainly help you. If not, they’re a massive d*ckhead."
Your piece is coming to an end, your arm hurts, and you're ready to be several hundred dollars poorer. But maybe, you think to yourself, you can get a discount. After all, you're just a humble hardworking person.
Do not follow those instincts! Tattooing is not a haggling sport!
"If you think you can get a piece done cheaper elsewhere, go elsewhere," Collins simply stated.
Prices are set with careful consideration of the equipment, expertise, time and labour that goes into a piece. If you think you're being overcharged, that is on you.
And please, don't forget to tip if you can! New artists often "rely on tips to make ends meet," one anonymous artist shared. It's just good practice, so factor in a good tip before you commit to a tattoo of any price.
Follow aftercare advice
Once a stranger's beautiful art has been successfully stabbed into your skin, the tattoo journey has not ended. No, my friend, it has only just begun. Taking good care of your new tattoo can sometimes feel like a part-time job, but it's not actually that hard to moisturize, keep your tattoo out of the sun and avoid scratching.
"I’ve had people come to me with tattoos where the ink is half fallen out and asked, 'What aftercare did you use for this?' And they’ve looked at me with dead eyes, like I just spoke to them in a foreign language," Collins said.
"It’s not hard to moisturize, folks."