In my last tattoo related post, I told you the reason behind the tattoo. Now, I want to talk about why I chose this specific design as well as my experience getting it.
Choosing the Design
As I previously mentioned, my original plan was to do exactly as Charlie and I had discussed – a Tinkerbell flying, sprinkling pixie dust over a broken heart. I’m glad Charlie and I never got the matching tattoos. Not that I would have regretted it (I don’t think anyways) but I don’t want to live the rest of my life with a broken heart tattooed on me. Years ago, I would have (and probably did) suggest that I would be broken forever. I’m still broken, but I think I’m on the mend. I may always be on the mend. But that’s just the Kimi of today talking.
I considered the idea of getting Tinkerbell sprinkling pixie dust over a heart with a crack in it, like the one I modified and colored above – to signify healing. I looked through probably hundreds of pictures of Tinkerbell and various hearts and sketched some ideas myself, colored some sketches of others. I even started a Tinkerbell Pinterest board in addition to a Tattoo ideas board that I’ve had for ages in order to pin some images that interested or inspired me. It never came together for some reason. It just wasn’t working and as an artist, my biggest fear is the inability to picture something for myself or worse, rely on the artistry of someone else so that they can help me see it.
At one point, I even considered getting the tattoo on my chest, with Tinkerbell sprinkling pixie dust – as if she were doing it over my own heart. But in the end, that would have meant for a very large chest piece and I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I wanted my tattoo to be something I could see often as a reminder, while also being something I could easily hide if I needed to.
Obviously, the design for the tattoo changed. I kept seeing this sketch of a toddler-esque Tinkerbell designed by Steve Thompson, a current Disney animator. It just popped up everywhere I was looking for inspiration – and even when I wasn’t. Every time I saw it, I felt like someone had reached into my body and gripped my heart tightly.
Something about it was just so… Hailey.
A mere few days before I was to get my tattoo, I sent it to my artist – Margo @ Holy City Tattoo Collective here in Charleston, SC. I had previously given her the long and the short of what the tattoo was about and why I was getting it. We otherwise honestly didn’t talk about it much – I assume because she understood that it was a very difficult subject for me to tackle face to face with someone. I told her that something about this toddler Tinkerbell sketch was really hitting home for me and that I thought it appropriate to have her holding a small heart.
Alas, I still wasn’t 100% sure and I was open to seeing any ideas or sketches she had. We’d discussed several the day I made my appointment – my original plan as well as other ideas such as Tinkerbell sewing a heart (remember the spool of thread and the thimble in Peter Pan?). I couldn’t seem to find a heart with stitching that didn’t seem gory to me and that was definitely not the route I was looking for.
In the month and a half between when I made my appointment and when I got my tattoo, I really struggled with it. The placement, the what exactly, the how. It just wasn’t coming together for me. The day of my tattoo, I literally walked into the shop with no plan, no concrete idea as to what I would be walking out of there with. For an abstract thinker like myself, this is paralyzing. I have to think about major life choices from many different angles before I can make a decision and frankly, I just knew I would walk out that day either without a tattoo or with one I hated.
I originally planned to have Jeremy present. I made the appointment date and time with his presence in mind. Two weeks after making the appointment, it was announced that he had to go out of town that same week for job training. Instead, I had my best friend Keegan take me. Once again, I planned for someone to be present but he was feeling very ill and I would be tackling my first tattoo without anyone accompanying me. To be honest, I’m glad it worked out that way.
I arrived pretty early and took a little narcoleptic nap on the couch in the waiting area. Once Margo was done working on another client, she brought to me one drawing… just one. She had redrawn the sketch of the toddler Tinkerbell, holding a heart. It was just lines on some paper, but it was perfect and I didn’t need to see anything else.
“Yes. That’s perfect. That’s it.”
The Tattoo Process
I took ridiculously good care of my skin for weeks. I’m really bad about drinking water, but I made myself. I was so afraid I would get to the day of my tattoo and Margo would look at my skin and just say “Ugh. I can’t work with this…” because I would be devastated and I’d have no one to blame but myself. Here are some things I did to assure that my skin was tattoo ready:
- I drank plenty of water every day – at work, at home, while blogging.
- I cut my soda intake waaaay back. Sorry Mt. Dew gods.
- I shaved my legs every other day to prevent hair growth and razor burn.
- I put lotion on my skin at least twice a day.
As a note, Aveeno Positively Ageless Skin Strengthening Body Cream is basically the most amazing lotion I’ve ever used. It won’t be okay for the tattoo healing process but it’s a fabulous lotion if you are especially dry. My legs look freaking amazing.
The day of my tattoo, I made sure to eat and drink plenty. My appointment was for 6 P.M. so I had plenty of time to rest during my day off from work, pump water and Gatorade into my body and eat a hearty meal. I also brought snacks with me to the appointment in case my blood sugar dropped during or after the tattoo.
Margo was pleased with my skin. I have pale, very soft skin with basically zero sun damage. I don’t go tanning regularly (tried to about a year ago and it was a disaster) and I don’t regularly sit out in the sun without sunscreen. I hadn’t really thought about it, but in essence… I’ve taken very good care of my legs all of my life. Getting a tattoo on my outer calf would be easy.
I sat down on a large, black padded table. Margo was ready for me and I got to watch as she pulled out the sterilized tools, brand new, packaged needles, paper towels, water and anything else she’d need for doing my tattoo. She was very professional and most importantly – clean!
She fit the drawn template to my leg and sent me to look at it in a nearby mirror to be absolutely certain it was where I wanted it. Perfect. It fit my leg so well. Weird, does this tattoo make me look skinny? After I approved of its placement, I got back on the table and I attempted to get comfortable in preparation for what I thought would be several hours of tattooing.
The tattoo machine buzzed and the moment of truth came. How badly would this hurt? Would I be able to keep still? Was I going to flinch and otherwise whine the whole time? Look, everyone is different. Your pain tolerance isn’t mine and mine isn’t yours. I’ve heard so many horror stories (most of them very recently) about people unable to finish getting a tattoo because they couldn’t handle the pain, or people who flinched and their tattoo was messed up in the process.
Margo started with a short stroke, midway up my calf on a more meaty portion of the leg so I could get a feel for it and she could get an idea about what kind of client I would be. I’m not going to lie – It hurt. I didn’t care for the sensation at all. That said, it wasn’t an excruciating “OMG I can’t handle this!” kind of pain. The worst part of the tattoo was Tinkerbell’s shoes since they were so close to the ankle. That was the only time I drew a ragged breath during the whole thing. I consider that justifiable. I was probably more uncomfortable in the position I was trying to sit than anything else that was going on
Remember all of that water and Gatorade I drank? About half way through the process of the tattoo outlining, I knew I had to pee. I didn’t want to interrupt her. As an artist, I know what it’s like to be in the groove of things. When I saw that she was nearly through the outlining portion, I made Margo aware that I needed to use the restroom. That worked out perfectly well as she would need to prepare for the coloring portion anyways – she could do that while I was peeing. So once the lining was done, I went to the bathroom… careful not to touch my freshly lined tattoo and then returned to the bench a few minutes later.
The coloring portion wasn’t too bad in comparison to the lining. Again, those freaking little shoes were the worst of it. The good news is that I’m not much of a bleeder. The skin is blotchy, sure… but blood wasn’t running down my leg or anything crazy. My skin seemed to take to the tattoo rather well. It wasn’t until we got to the last portion of the tattoo, which was Tinkerbell’s hair that my skin started to say “Wait a minute… what are you doing!?” and the skin began to blotch and faint prickles of blood rose to the surface.
One and a half hour and my tattoo was complete. It didn’t take nearly as long as I was expecting and it was cheaper than I planned for as well – double bonus. Margo cleaned up my leg, put a thin layer of ointment on the skin before placing a large sort of bandage across the tattoo which I could remove in a couple of hours. We were done a lot sooner than I was expecting, so I went back to the waiting area to wait for my ride home.
I sat in the waiting room for about 10 minutes before I started to feel not quite right. Up until then, I’d felt perfectly normal. But suddenly, I felt a little… off. I’m not sure how else to describe it except to suggest that I felt almost as if I were drunk. My brain was processing everything fine, but I was having a little trouble making speech happen. It’s really similar to what happens to me when issued morphine at the hospital. My endorphins kicked into overdrive and my body didn’t know what the brain was saying.
Luckily, I’d brought those snacks with me so I ate a granola bar and I fell asleep on the couch for about 20 minutes until my friend Jeff arrived to bring me home. Walking was fine. Processing was a little fuzzy. Talking was difficult. My speech wasn’t slurred but the words were on a delay. And then… an overwhelming need to consume large amounts of food.
“OMG We need to stop by Arby’s… like, seriously now.” I said on the way home. We went into Arby’s where I easily finished off one of those huge, triple roast beef sandwiches as if I hadn’t seen food in weeks. I ate every bite of it and realized that my brain and stomach weren’t communicating. I should have felt some sort of satisfaction and didn’t. So I ate all of my curly fries too. How am I even still hungry at this point? I have no idea. I did the smart thing and I stopped eating, in fear that my brain would manage communication and I’d be miserable full.
I got home, washed my hands with anti-bacterial soap and removed the bandage from my leg. I stood in the tub and pulled down the shower head and then sprayed cool water over it gently. And then I took a picture!
And that’s it. I’m on the road to recovery. I had a very long and exhausting day at work. The tattoo wore me down a lot more than I was expecting. I’d like to take a picture of my tattoo every day and document the healing process. If you’re interested, you can check that out on Instagram!
Do you have any tattoos or ones you would like to get? What was your first tattoo? Feel free to share with me! I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures.