Tattoo artists earn their living by permanently marking people's bodies with artistic ideas often born out of beer-fueled benders. Given the amount of people who are destined to spend the rest of the lives moping about with lower-back tribal tats, I'm not entirely sure how these guys sleep at night. But, hey, we've all got bills to pay.
I guess things were simpler back when body modification was mostly a hobby of Russian criminals and American sideshow performers but these days body art lovers are just as varied as the images they cover themselves with.
To get some insight into the minds of those willing to plaster their bodies with non-specific Chinese lettering, I asked some of Vienna's tattoo artists to recount their favorite workplace anecdotes. Here are their stories, in their own words.
The Satisfied Customer
"It's pretty normal for first-time customers to bring a few friends along for support. Recently, I had a young woman show up for her appointment with three of her girlfriends. When I asked her what she wanted, the gang started giggling excitedly and she got all red in the face. She explained that she had a birthmark in her bikini area, around which she wanted to draw some petals so it would look like a daisy. A fairly straightforward task.
She took off her shorts, then very reluctantly drew down her underwear. I still couldn't see it. It turned out that it was very, very deep in her bikini region—strictly speaking, right next to her labia. I made it clear that I wouldn't be able to do it unless she actually took her underwear off completely, lay down and spread her legs. Her friends started cracking up, but she didn't seem to mind.
While tattooing her, I looked up to see her eyes were closed and she was biting her lip. But not in the same way that other customers usually do. It quickly became apparent that the machine was giving her some sort of sexual pleasure and because of its vibration, she was on the verge of having an orgasm. I have no idea if she came or not, but her girlfriends sure found the whole thing incredibly funny."
"There's a huge difference between tattooing people who already have a lot of tattoos and tattooing those who don't have any. Usually, people who have tried it before know what sort of pain to expect. Not too long ago, I had a customer who was fairly covered in work, come by and ask me to tattoo his hands. After a brief chat about the design, I began to tattoo his knuckles. Even though it's a rather tender area, it's usually quite bearable because it rarely takes more than 20 minutes to finish a piece like that.
As I was about to start on the third finger, I noticed him twitching slightly. I politely told him to stay still but when I looked up, I realized that his entire body was cramping. All of a sudden, things escalated. His eyes rolled back into his head and he proceeded to piss himself and fall out of the chair. I was just about to call an ambulance when, out of nowhere, he sat back up as if nothing had happened. He simply tied a shirt around his waist to cover the urine. Honestly, I really didn't want to finish the tattoo but he convinced me to by promising to see a doctor immediately after. He survived the rest of the piece but I doubt he ever went to the hospital."
"Quite a large part of my job is refusing customer requests. Once, this 20-year-old guy came in and wanted to have the word "whore" spelled out in huge letters on his forearm. I'm not sure what kind of answer I was expecting, but when I asked him why on earth he wanted that, he just said, 'Because it's my favorite word.' I said no, and told him to think about what his mother would say.
Unfortunately, we sometimes get asked to tattoo Nazi symbols. Since these idiots understand that it's a sensitive issue, they always try to build up to it gradually by asking general questions about scripts and portraits before finally asking explicitly for an SS-skull, runes, or in the worst cases: a huge Hitler portrait. Naturally, I tell them that I won't do it and that they shouldn't bother coming back. The scariest part about it is that these guys are more often than not just young insignificant-looking types and not the boneheads you'd expect."
"Couple tattoos are always in high demand and I often reject them. One time I agreed but only because it happened to be an acquaintance of mine. He convinced me by saying that he had found true love and that they both wanted to get tattooed to prove it to the world. It was to going be something truly "special." Given that he was 40, I figured that he was old enough to decide for himself and said OK.
That same night, I woke up and instinctively checked my texts—like I always do. He had sent me a photo. The first thing I saw was a photograph of a huge cock, followed by that of a vagina. It turned out that he wanted to have a realistic depiction of his girlfriend's vagina on his thigh and that she wanted his penis tattooed on her abdomen—both tats needed to be life-size.
His girlfriend showed up for the first appointment and, sure enough, she got a huge dick on her stomach. That was it for her, so she headed home. Then, it was his turn. Seeing as he's about 6.5 and his thigh is massive, he requested I make the vagina slightly larger than life-size. It ended up being about the size of an A4 page. While I was tattooing him, he received an text containing a new photo of the same vagina—but, this time, with something white on it. When I asked whether or not it was semen, he very indignantly replied: 'No, do you think we're perverts?' I never did find out what that white stuff was, but as the icing on the cake, he finished the tattoo with a script that read,'Ain't no pussy like my girl's pussy.' Charming.
I bumped into him on the street a few weeks later. When I asked how their tattoos were healing up, he told me that they were no longer together. It probably bothers them to have each other's genitalia on their bodies, but it can't be that bad given that neither of them has ever asked me for a cover-up."
"Once, an acquaintance of mine, who happens to be in a biker gang, came to me to get some work done. He'd always told me that he wanted to have his wife's name tattooed on his body but never mentioned what her name was. We downed a few glasses of whiskey to settle the nerves and I showed him some pre-sketches. He was thrilled and wanted it done on his wrist so that everybody could see it. We drank some more and I did it.
The next morning, I was pretty shocked to see him and a bunch of his biker mates at my front door. At first, they wanted to beat the shit out of me, but I luckily managed to ask what was going on. It transpired that in his whiskey stupor, he'd mixed up the name of his wife with that of his girlfriend which, not entirely surprisingly, his wife was more than a little angry about. As a peace offering, I told them I'd cover it up—but only if his friends stayed as witnesses."