Category Archives: General information

The Tattoo Everybody Has

Sixteen year-olds shouldn’t be allowed to make life-changing decisions, especially not permanent ones. At sixteen, I was sitting in a tattoo shop with my mom next to me getting my first small piece. Rewind a couple months prior, and I was sitting with my mom trying to convince her to let me get a tattoo. I thought it was cool at the time and I wanted to be the first badass in my friend group to get one. I was actually drawing a peace sign with sharpie on my left hand, just above my wrist on a daily basis. That’s what I said I wanted when my mom asked—not exactly badass. Let me just say, THANK GOODNESS I DIDN’T GET THE PEACE SIGN TATTOO. I decided to get a tattoo with my mom instead and I told her she could pick what it would be. My first tattoo was a lotus, the meaning for compassion. My mom wanted it to remind us everyday that we need to be compassionate towards one another. I tried to explain that to people when I got it and that it just wasn’t a pretty flower. Now, six years later, I look down at it and think of my mom and don’t feel the need to explain anything at all.

We all know someone that’s done it. We all know someone that’s gotten one… or two… or three. We all have seen them. Maybe you have one. I know I do. The cross on my right shoulder and the lotus on my wrist, they both have meaning behind them but I bet when you saw those two, you weren’t impressed, you weren’t excited, but you were probably thinking, “I wonder what that means to her.” I’ve accepted that that’s the case and I’ve moved on.

So, what makes a tattoo unique? Better yet, what makes them common? Simple designs tend to be more everyday like flowers, infinity symbols for women and men, well, I see a lot of tribal, maybe some detailed cross on their bicep or praying hands. Those are just three examples of the many tattoos that so many people have, yet so many people are scared to get because they’re worried about others constantly asking, “So, why did you get that tattoo?” “Are you actually religious?” “Is it really forever though?”

The history behind tattoos is pretty interesting. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the first tattoo shop and tattooing machine came to America. Before then it was all stick and poke. Tattoos were very popular with sailors and the U.S. military because it conveyed loyalty and devotion. According to PBS, the 1940s, or the World War II era, was the Golden Age of tattooing because of the patriotism and the way men in uniform were viewed. Tattoos were still not accepted in society, especially among upper class Americans. Today, tattooing is viewed as an art form. The skin is looked at as a canvas.

I’ve come up with a short list of some tattoos that I commonly see to give you a better idea.

For women:

  • ALL types of flowers (I’m guilty of this)
  • Any quotes from a song
  • Or… a movie (Yes, this means The Lion King, too.)
  • Or… a TV show
  • Or… a lame lifestyle choice aka “Live, Laugh, Love” or “Carpe Diem”
  • Anchor
  • Infinity symbol
  • Dream catcher
  • That dandelion blowing in the wind

For men:

  • Tribal
  • Last names across shoulder blades (in case you forget?)
  • Bible quotes (because are you actually religious?)
  • “Only God can judge me” (he’s judging your tattoo, actually.)
  • Your zip code (incase you get lost)
  • Barbed wire wraps

AND that’s just a tiny list, but hey, art is subjective.

Some of my Facebook friends seemed to be a little offended when a conversation sparked up of why certain tattoos are frowned upon or looked at as over done. With every comment, I kept having to ask myself, why could this be a stereotypical tattoo on one person and not another? Kyle said she knows someone with a cat silhouette tattoo and some arrows, which to her is “basic,” but she too has a cat silhouette tattoo because she “effing loves cats.” So, because she loves her tattoo, it doesn’t exactly make it “basic”… makes sense, right? Because the other girl with the cat silhouette tattoo didn’t say she was getting it for any specific reason automatically meant to Kyle that it was more “basic” than hers. No, I hate to break it to you, Kyle. Same tattoo—No personal significant meaning—still “basic.”

From this, I decided that the tattoo-stereotypic-level has a lot to do with your mindset going into that tattoo shop. That mindset is what will make your tattoo unique or insignificant—something you see on Pinterest. That will be the story you tell the artist, and that will be the story you tell your friends. I would prefer to be able to tell the story behind my tattoos rather than just telling someone that I liked it. Your tattoo doesn’t need to be an intricately detailed piece, but the meaning behind it is what will make it sentimental.

Tattoo artists, like Sarah Cortese, are viewed in two different ways: a person who can create their vision exactly the way they want it as a tattoo, or as an artist who can develop their vision into something more creative. “As much as I prefer working with the people who sees me as an artist, at the end of the day both types of clients are important to me. I do hope that [as] time goes by, I only take on projects that are more artistically driven, however I still have to remember that I am not wearing the tattoo for life. I am only a part of the process for a short while and then I leave the person with their tattoo. At the end of the day, its what’s important to the client and what makes them happy,” explains Cortese. Cortese has been tattooing for roughly five years at Highlight Tattoo.

A lot of people get tattoos because they are honoring a loved one, like Rachael Reigottie. Her tattoo incorporates dog tags and is in honor of her father who passed away. It is just one of her thirteen tattoos. She also has “SHH” tattooed on the inside of her pointer finger. BINGO. I actually have seen this before and it takes everything in me to not ask those people why they feel the need to make the universal symbol for shut up and turn it into a permanent marking.

It’s very important for someone getting a tattoo to trust his or her artist so they don’t end up getting an unnecessary universal symbol. This creates an easier atmosphere to communicate what they want as a tattoo and the tattoos just turn out better overall. When someone comes to Cortese with a basic idea of something they saw off the first page of Google Images, she is able to change it to produce something unlike any other. “Half the time they don’t even realize you can interpret an idea much differently and provide them with a unique tattoo. It is my job to give them that option because I can think beyond the usual. Half the time they are okay with it, other times not,” says Cortese.

Dan Czar has been a tattoo artist for about two years now, including his one-year apprenticeship. As a new tattoo artist, Czar has always been passionate about creating. “With original designs my clients can walk out of the shop knowing that the tattoo is their own and no one else will have it,” says Czar. “My job is to make my clients happy with their tattoo and experiences so doing the ‘Pinterest’ designs and prior existing tattoos is necessary sometimes.”

Don’t judge a book by its cover; in this case, don’t judge a tattoo before you’ve gotten the chance to hear the story behind it. Jessica Mahoney comments on Facebook that she has a tattoo of a butterfly. “Of course the cliché girl tattoo is to get a butterfly. So every time I show it to someone I feel the need to explain that it’s not a butterfly ‘cause I’m a cliché, stupid girl, but because it has real reason behind it,” she explains. The tattoo is another in memory/honor tattoo. It’s for her grandmother who passed away a few years ago.

My mom and my dad both have tattoos in honor of their parents who passed away. That seems like a normal reason to get a tattoo in the first place, but have you ever had a friend tell you they got a tattoo out of spite? Colleen Curry did just that. Breakups are hard and people cope with them in many different ways. Curry’s ex-boyfriend absolutely hated tattoos. “I had $80 to spend and heart full of hate,” so naturally, Curry decided a tattoo. Colleen later realized that it didn’t give her the satisfaction she was looking for and four years later two horseshoes covered it up. I had to ask again why she decided to go with the horseshoes. Curry has been riding horses for 17 years. Her horse means everything to her and riding has always been a huge part of her life. This story was definitely nicer to hear.

Getting a tattoo for a significant other is always risky and not at all recommended. I’ve seen wedding band tattoos, name tattoos, portrait tattoos, etc. Now that’s real commitment. You’re making a commitment to that person that even if your mother-in-law hates your guts and runs you out of her house, that you will stand by your lover’s side through it all. As long as that tattoo is there, you will be reminded of that relationship but unfortunately, things can change in the blink of an eye. I have actually seen a high school student tattoo his girlfriend’s name on his neck. I wonder how that ended.

Czar says he’s seen a lot more artists taking the artistic approach and really developing their styles. Tattooing has grown over the years, but it’s necessary to keep those stereotypical tattoos because despite what you think, the artist thinks, or your grandmom thinks, it can make someone happy. “Artists are taking it to a new level,” he says. “I will gladly turn down money if I think the design won’t look good. I am always willing to work with clients and find a middle ground.” And going back to what I said earlier—“I think it’s really important to trust a professional’s opinion.”

Tattoo artists may even turn down a tattoo if they don’t want their name attached to it. If it’s not something they would put into their portfolio, why even do it? Maybe money purposes, but that’s not what many tattoo artists are about. “I have turned down tattoos for being ‘job stoppers’. A lot of these popular tattoos are in areas that either don’t heal well or they are in such a visible area that most employers do not deem them as professional. I will always turn down a sixteen year old who wants a neck or hand tattoo. I will always turn down racially motivated and offensive tattoos,” – I couldn’t agree more, Cortese.

So before you get that tattoo to pay tribute to your favorite movie, favorite celeb with the same tattoo, or show or band or whatever the hell else you want to pay tribute to, remember that it may not be as significant to you in ten years as it is now. Remind yourself that you don’t even speak that language that the lame quote is in, or that the Chinese symbol may mean cheeseburger instead of wisdom. Remember that those wings you want on your shoulder blades will not actually help you fly. Remember that with every single person that asks you, “What does that mean to you” or reminds you that tattoos are forever, it will get ridiculously annoying and you will probably end up second guessing it in the first place. If you end up remembering all of these things and still want one of these irrelevant tattoos, accept that it’s cliché and don’t try and make it seem like it’s a deep emotion thing for you. Own your basic.

“I am just the hands that are providing them with the tattoo.” – Sarah Cortese


How NOT to Pick a Tattoo Artist

I don’t regret my first tattoo whatsoever. I look down at it even years later and smile because I think of my mom. Yeah, there are definitely things I would have done differently knowing what I know now. I probably would have chosen a different style to be honest. Don’t be that person. So, you’re saying you want a tattoo? Once you figure out what you want to get, the next step is to find an artist. Tattoo shops are a dime-a-dozen, almost like fast food restaurants, but how do you avoid the ones that forget to put the tomato on your burger? I’ll tell you through my experiences and the words of tattoo artist of over seven years, Dave “Azma” Knauer.


Don’t try to put a price on great artwork and the time it takes. If you have an extravagant idea for a tattoo, don’t be caught off guard when the price tag is well into the hundreds. Tattoos are expensive, and you get what you pay for. Be prepared that, even if your idea is a small, simple one, tattoo shops have minimums. And although it isn’t required, it’s encouraged to tip your artist based off the work he or she did. I’m not sure if it’s a percentage thing, but I always try and tip at least $50 to $100 depending on how much time, but that’s just me. Don’t pick your artist based off your price range. “Stop emphasizing what you’re spending on good work. You wouldn’t blink and eye to spend $150 on a pair of sneakers that will last you two years,” explains Knauer. “Don’t think cheaper is better because it’s not always better. Sometimes cheaper becomes more expensive in the long run when you want to fix it.”

Perhaps you’re thinking, “This tattoo shop is right down the road! Maybe today I’ll go in and get some ink!” Stop right there. RESEARCH, REASEARCH, RESEARCH.

“See if there’s been feedback on the shop. Good or bad or both. You’re always going to have good, and you’re always going to have bad. See what the artist has been doing, if he’s got a lot of people that follow ‘em, like ‘em, respect ‘em,” says Knauer. Don’t miss out on an amazing opportunity to work with an artist who could give you exactly what you want just because you’re limiting yourself to the shop down the road.

Just stop right there. Hey, I don’t know your dad’s friend… he might be an amazing artist, but avoid going to so-and-so’s friend. This way you know the equipment is clean, the place you’re in is clean, the artist’s work is credible and you can sign any documents saying that you agree to this tattoo just incase there are any issues. Tattoo shops are designed and furnished with your safety in mind. A tattoo is initially an open wound. Touching things around the shop that could get into your cut or whatever fluid is coming out of the cut soaking into things around the shop can be very dangerous.

“Potentially damaging people’s skin, or spreading disease and infection, don’t know proper ways of cleaning, everything like that, they’re doing more harm that good,” said Knauer. “And then they wanna put a staple on their name, ‘oh I’m a tattooist,’ no you’re really not. You’re not a tattooist.”

Just one? While he may be a good artist, how do you know if there isn’t someone out there who can do your tattoo even better? Feel free to shop around. You don’t want to miss out on someone who could best represent the idea you’re going for. This was my first mistake with my first tattoo. I was 16, I wanted a tattoo and my mom wanted to get one with me. “Awesome,” said the 16-year-old with no prior knowledge of the tattoo world. I talked to one friend. She recommended one artist. My mom picked the tattoo. The artist was good. He said he would do it. The tattoo was pretty. That was all.

Yes, they do. While one artist may do excellent black and gray work, they may lack in working with colors. Know your styles! There are many different types of tattoos, including portraits, photorealism, illustrative, and cartoons – the list goes on. Artists specialize in certain types of art. Some artists even prefer to do certain pieces over others, and that’s something you need to find out.

“We obviously like to focus on certain things because it’s what we like. I like photorealistic kind of stuff. If somebody comes in here and wants a solid colored rose, yeah, I can do it, but I would rather make that rose look real,” commented Knauer. “You want them to leave happy. Not leave kind of happy because they got the tattoo but… ya know… I’m not fluent in that style. So, I don’t’ really want to do it. I want them to get it from someone who’s fluent in that style.”

Bad idea. I’ve had a few friends go against these made-up rules I’ve decided are important to know. Spontaneity becomes a factor. Sometimes it works out, but making irrational decisions about tattoos doesn’t always work in everyone’s favor. This is on your body forever. Think about it. Forever is a very long time. Knauer recommended checking out @NIGHTMAREONINKSTREET on Instagram to see some of these nightmare pieces that we’re talking about.

There are so many amazing artists out there just waiting to work on your next piece. I hope some of these steps will help you decide on who.

“You have pride in what you do or you don’t or what you’re getting or what you’re not getting.” –Knauer

Don’t forget to check out Dave “Azma” Knauer at Mythic Ink in Pitman, NJ!

INK It Over is looking for writers and photographers who want to build their portfolio.

Interested in writing about the tattoo world? What about photographing some artists at work? INK It Over is looking for you! This is an opportunity for you to put your work out there and showcase your journalistic talents. Head over to the CONTACT section of the site and share your ideas with me.  This is solely volunteer and you will not be being paid. It will mainly promote you and your work.


This is not goodbye, INK It Over.

What started as a class assignment for my Online Journalism class, now has become quite an amazing opportunity to help me make strides in the multimedia world. Through these last few months, INK It Over has let me not only showcase my work, but use something I’m passionate about to do it… three months, almost 4,000 views, and 16 different countries later.

If you read the “My Ink” section, there’s so much meaning behind my tattoos. This site gave me the opportunity to see the meaning behind others. This site gave me the opportunity to learn what goes into a tattoo and why artists chose to be in that field.

I owe a lot to the people that graciously volunteered to share their stories with me thus far. The lessons I’ve learned through my writing is irreplaceable. Corey Robinson taught me the meaning behind a family legacy and the bond they all share. Cassandra Hartman taught me that maybe being a little rebellious can turn into a beautiful peace of artwork. Kaitlyn DiClerico and Alexis McCarthy taught me that choosing an artist comes with a lot of responsibility and really, choose wisely. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is I don’t look like the stereotypical tattooed person and people were more willing to share their honest opinions with me because of that.

I want to learn more. I want to share more. I want to keep people interested in why we do it, why we get tattoos, why we chose to convey a message or share a story using our bodies as canvases. Hey, maybe your tattoo doesn’t have an significant meaning to you. Maybe it’s just “cool.” That’s your decision, but I’ll share the story if it’s there for me to. This is why I have decided that even though my class is ending and summer is approaching, I would like to continue to work on this page. So reach out to me. 



My goal for this page is to tell the stories behind the ink. I want to be able to portray how tattoos can affect someone’s life in negative or positive ways through events held, past or present. I’ll be attending the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention and also visiting tattoo shops to feature them on my site. I want to get the opinions of the elderly, the artist, the tattoo-ee, the president of that dream job you’re looking to land.