Tattoo Artists and Body Piercers Describe The Most Uncomfortable Job They’ve Ever Had To Do.
Tattoo artists and body piecers get to see us at our most vulnerable moments. Often, we focus on the person receiving the tattoo or piercing and not on the artist themselves. Here, tattoo artists and body piecers share their most uncomfortable stories while on the job.
1/18. I'd been inking for about five years when this guy swaggered into the shop. I say swaggered because I could tell he'd had a bit to drink that night. Enough to make him feel cocky but not enough to be completely out of it, which automatically would have gotten him kicked out of my chair. I'm not going to deal with people so drunk they aren't in control and no one needs 10 am buyers remorse. Not for something like a tattoo.
So he comes in and I can tell he's new. So I direct him to my book of options but he doesn't even look at it. Just sits in my chair and says "I want you to draw a troll. He should be fishing using one of those plumbs to balance the line." "So you want a net?" "What?" "A net. A trolling net for fishing?" "Ha! Is that where it comes from? Heck no, man. I want a troll. Big green under the bridge troll! And make sure he's got a plumb. That's really important. I want it on my arm."
I roll my eyes but start sketching a few things out.
I'm halfway through outlining something and I say "so what type of fish is this troll catching?" "Fish? Heck no, man. He's catching an alpaca!" "An alpaca?" "Heck yeah." "In the water." "Now you've got it!" "With his fishing pole?" "Don't forget the plumb!" "How could I?"
So I sketch it out and the guy's like going bonkers over it. He loves it. And I start it up and go for an hour and get a third of the way through before we stop.
"What are you doing?" He asks "Stopping man. Large tattoos have to go in pieces. It'll be better for you." The guy slaps down $2,000 in cash and says "keep going." I stare at it. I stare at him. I keep going. "And don't forget the plumb!" He says.
So three hours later and this guy hasn't so much as whimpered on the chair but I'm finally done. The weirdest tattoo I'd ever done but my god was it a masterpiece. The troll was an ugly pale green. The alpaca a fluffy off-white, fur glistening in the water. And the plumb. Well, who could forget a thing like that.
And he thanks me and walks out the door and I stop him on the street because I can't let it go. I can't. "Hey, dude. What's up with the tattoo?" And he looks at me with these instantly sober eyes and says "so I never forget." "Forget what?" I ask. "That 'alpaca plumb troll' is an anagram of 'Paul Blart Mall Cop'."
2/18. My aunt used to run a tattoo shop up until three years ago because it was in a bad location and she got a good enough offer of sale. My favorite story of hers was that someone came in on St. Paddy's day and wanted a tattoo of a shamrock around their butthole. She refused at first but then the person offered her $2,000 and since the person was almost entirely sober she did it. After hearing this story I remembered that my cousin's birthday is March 25th and she got a really nice laptop for it about 6 years back. I'm pretty sure her computer had been bought with bunghole money.
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3/. I was getting a tattoo, and this big, shabby looking guy walks in. He looks at me, my artist, and takes his shirt off. He turns around and shows us the dragon tattoo that is half complete on his back. He then looks at my artist and says "Can you make that into, like, a fire truck or something?" My artist just exhales deeply, as I can guess this guy does this a lot or something, and says "Give me a few minutes to finish this up."
4/. Not a tattoo artist or piercer myself, but I remember the piercer being extremely annoyed that day. Why, you ask? A guy was in there 3 days earlier to get his member pierced. He came back 3 days later, when I was there to get a tattoo, to come back and complain because he thought it was infected. As soon as the piercer said "why do you think its infected" I saw in her face that she regretted ever asking.
The guy got the piercing, and then proceeded to do his girlfriend up her "Hershey Highway" the next day. She spent the next half an hour nearly screaming from the stupidity of the guys actions, even after she told him to NOT have sex or anything of the sort.
He wasn't the brightest bulb in the box.
5/. My boyfriend is a tattoo artist and owns his own shop. He once did a tattoo on an uncircumcised gentleman of a rabbit right on the head of his penis, and a top hat on the foreskin... so he would have a rabbit coming out of a hat... He's also done Where's Waldo's head on the head of a penis, and tattooed a teabag (like a tetley teabag) on someone's scrotum...
The stories he tells me are phenomenal and I don't know how he does it.
6/. I used to assist in piercings and suspensions at a shop my friend owned. A guy comes in for a guiche piercing. He is in a suit and tie. Not out of the ordinary. At that shop there was ton of under the suit piercing and tattoo people that came in. So for the guiche you have to get on your elbows and knees and more or less "present". He takes off his clothes and (story continued on the next page...)
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He takes off his clothes and is wearing bondage clamps on his nipples. Still, not that odd. He gets into position and I go to clean and sterilize the area while the piercer is setting up all the hardware. It may seem obvious to everyone reading this as it was to me, but our customer hadn't thought to remove his massive butt-plug during undressing. Starting to be odd as I have never knowingly had anyone getting/wanting to get pierced while wearing a butt-plug. He removes it. I get him cleaned. The piercer clamps him and he squeaks, we exchange a little question glance, needle goes, different squeak, jewelry goes in and he moans. He gets up off the table, puts the butt-plug right back in, and goes about getting dressed. I go to prep the table and he has came ALL OVER the table. He gets dressed, pays well and tips well, and goes out the door. He came back every year to have it stretched and did the same thing except he remembered to take the butt-plug out during his undressing on subsequent visits.
7/. I had to change down this woman's tongue bar ( we offer a free shorter bar after the healing time ) and as the newbie I got told to do it as my training. Well first off she smelled of actual poop which wasn't a good start, her whole skin and scalp area was flaking which again wasn't that great but hey I'll look past and just deal with.
Well in her mouth was where the actual smell of human excrement was coming from. Everyone of her teeth was covered in a yellow white slime of plaque at least half an inch thick. The whole bar in her tongue was covered in the White slime too. I held my breathe and tried to undo it, the whole time her moth salivating a brown liquid on my hands. Literally couldn't budge the thing due to the plaque and spit so had to get my boss lady to help me. The look in her eyes was so sad when she saw me needing help. The smell hit her too so she held her breathe and tried her best too, but accidentally bumped her teeth with her hand as she was trying, which ended up being dentures that fell out leaving a slime trail down the ladies shirt and onto my bosses shoes. Spattering this thick cream everywhere.
Never have I wanted to laugh and throw up so much in all my life.
8/. I used to be a mall piercer. Lets just say, if you want to get a decent piercing, please go to an actual shop, not a mall kiosk. They are cleaner and have better tools than a damn gun with an earring in it. I had absolutely no training save for a 45 minute video and having to pierce 5 of my friends.
The most uncomfortable I've felt is when parents would bring in their 2-3 month baby girls to be pierced. I refused to do them and nearly got fired over it.
9/. I asked my artist about this and he told me a great story about this woman, maybe early 30s wearing a nice suit. She came in with a picture of a dog and wanted a memorial portrait tattoo of it and set an appointment for the next week.
First thing he thought was weird was that the picture of the dog looked like just some random dog picture that she found in a magazine or something. Then she shows up and informs him that she wants the tattoo on the inside of her butt cheek, like right next to her butthole. Not one to turn down an interesting story he says let's do it. (Story continued on the next page...)
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So she strips down and spreads out and he starts. As if most of it isn't weird enough at this point he notices that she almost seems to be getting off to it. Her squirming seemed normal at first because people do because it hurts, especially considering the location, but when she started moaning he knew something was up. He said the tattoo took about twice as long as something that size should have because he was having trouble with not laughing and also had to wipe the area constantly because it was "hella moist".
10/. I've been piercing for about six years now. I will generalize when I say the most uncomfortable position (as a hetero female) is when women clamp their legs around your head/upper body just as you've penetrated the hood. It is a knee jerk reaction but not a good position, I generally use my elbows to keep their legs spread. I've seen so many disgusting things; the back to front wipers, currently on their period girls, and once I saw fresh cum inside of a woman. It was my, or their I suppose, luck that their significant other was standing behind me watching in said situations. I made a habit of putting a couple drops of lavender oil in my mask to avoid odors. It has never made sense to me that people clean their noses out before a nostril piercing but don't consider checking their lady bits before a genital piercing.
11/. I had to tattoo very early in my tattoo career, Snoopy's Dog house around an older woman's vagina.. When I asked why she said " so when my husband pisses me off I can send him to the dog house!!" Fun times.
12/. When I was in my 20's I was a body piercer and I managed the shop I worked at. A woman requested a horizontal hood piercing. This is not uncommon. What was uncommon was her anatomy was very small, I could barley find her lady parts. So her lady parts were very small and her thighs were very large. She was also very nervous and kept clamping her thighs together. I tried helping her breath and relax. This did not help. Finally threatened her that if she didn't stop clamping her thighs together she would have a needle in her thigh and a crooked piercing. She somewhat cooperated and I finally got her piercing finished. One of my worst ever experiences in a woman's crotch!
13/. At a shop in Los Angeles years ago getting some work done, asked the same question to the piercing lady. She said a guy comes in regularly, full business attire, three piece suite, briefcase, oxfords, a real Patrick Bateman type. The first time in he wants to get his penis pierced. So he goes to disrobe and (story continued on the next page...).
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So he goes to disrobe and from his waist to his mid thigh he is covered from his waist to his mid thigh he is covered in Disney tattoos. Like covered. Donald Duck, Micky mouse, Pluto, the whole gang. He also already has a penis piercing, actually he has close to a dozen. After his initial visit he came in every few months to add a penis ring or disney character. She said he was the weirdest client she's ever had.
14/. I'm a tattoo artist and a piercer. There are several uncomfortable things in the job. I think one of the worst things is dealing with people coming into the shop messed up. One time we had a guy who was totally drunk and was messing with the liquor store next door and got pepper sprayed in the face and came stumbling in the shop knocking stuff over.
One time I had a girl come in totally messed up and carrying around an old tube TV crying super hard saying she needed a place to stay.
15/. I was working on the strip in Las Vegas 10 years ago and a 99% of my business was tourists. One night I was finishing a body piercing and out of the corner of my eye I see two older women walk into the studio and start looking at the body jewelry case. I let them know that I would be with them in a couple mins. After I was done I approached them only to realize it was a nice older lady and a middle age man in drag. He wasn't even trying to look like a woman, it was if he threw this all together at the last minute for a Halloween party, smeared lipstick, crooked cheap wig, thrift store dress.
The woman approaches me and politely asks me what the largest gauge I can pierce her husbands nipples at. Surprised, I showed her and her husband into my room. I let them know that he is going to need to take his dress off for me to do the piercing and luckily he was wearing a pair of shorts underneath so it didn't get weirder, yet.
I let her know due to the size of her husbands nipples I felt comfortable doing them at an 8g max (3.2 mm). She agrees and I do all my prep. As I am ready to do the piercings she starts to stroke his wig hair and tell him he's a pretty little girl over and over. I believe some other wrong things were said that I blocked out. He took both piercings very well and after we finished he sat up and thanked me very politely and slipped me a very nice tip.
As we were finishing up with aftercare instructions and things are about done the wife turns around to ask one last question. (story continued on the next page...)
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She asks If I also do body modification work, I answer yes and she reaches into her purse and pulls out a giant metal butt plug. before I could really adjust to what I was seeing she asks me "Is there anyway that you know of that we could pierce this into him?" she explained that they would drill holes around the base of the plug to attach the rings. The point of it being she would be the one who would control when it was in and when it was out since he wouldn't be able to remove it himself. I let her know that this was way out of my field of expertise and gave her the name of a practitioner in my field that is known for the S&M side of our industry. She thanked me and gave me another large tip and let me know it was for being so professional and not laughing or judging them.
Turns out this was the last hour of their vacation and they were on their way back to rural Iowa (I think it was Iowa) where he was a school principal and she was quilter.
16/. I had to make a bunch of joker tattoos on some dude a few weeks ago. Guy was really weird. Green hair and makeup...
17/18. My sister's friend often used to get drunk wake up with fresh tattoos. Dumb ones. Like holy crap, that would be dumb even to a drunk person.
Well, his tattoo artist was apparently comfortable putting across the stomach of a blackout drunk man - in that big *olde English lettering - "BEER".
18/18. I lived 4 years next to a tattoo parlor, got to chatting with the guys inside.
Surprisingly they're not that bothered by genitals and the like, it's sort of a right of passage for them. Most of the people who've been there long enough too are just numb to everything, so there's really no "uncomfortable", though they do complain about all the people who come in wanting the generic stuff, girls who want butterflies, dudes who want the prayer hands or other gang style tats because they wanna seem tough. It was kinda surprising how many of them consider themselves "artists" first and "tattoo people" second and find the job really monotonous until someone comes in wanting something spectacular or something they can just run wild with.
Breaking up is hard to do.
And when you get the law involved, it's even worse. But sometimes people don't need the law's help to make things overcomplicated, they just have a grand ole time making that happen themselves.
People on the front lines of human cruelty include divorce lawyers. These are their stories.