So, you’re probably wondering how it felt during and after. I can honestly say after a somewhat cocky and painless start on my face, which really didn’t hurt that much at all, it descended into the most intense six hours of my life and opened us up in ways I could never have anticipated. We started on my face as we thought it would be the most challenging with the biggest risk of me going into shock. Such was Loren’s prep talk before we started, a simple “When I start on your face – don’t go into shock.” Ha! I should point out he had got up very early that morning and made me a massive breakfast, hydrated me and prepared me a tuna and lime salad for lunch, accompanied by my favourite raspberry yoghurt. He really does look after me. He’s just very honest.
We’d discussed doing my face last, then there was always the option if we were running out of time (which we did) we could leave it and I wouldn’t have to go the wedding full of strangers the following week looking like a Voodoo Priestess. I felt very strongly from the start that I needed to have my face lined because I wanted people to realise how serious we were. I felt like stopping at the neck or chin line would be a huge cop out and send the wrong message. This is a piece about love, pain, the reality of suffering and regeneration and the death of pride and I needed that to be apparent as soon as you walked in. We didn’t want the piece to come across like S&M titillation, always a risk with nudity and needles in a gallery with red flood lights obviously, so it was important we cut through that immediately. My bloody gruesome face certainly did and set an instant tone (which was instantly subverted by the pendulous musical shifts between Mayfield, Hendrix, Tom Waits’s caterwauling and Justin Timberlake’s warbling).
Under the needle my forehead tickled, a lot, I found myself giggling and naively thinking “Well if this is really the worse part I should breeze through.” Wrong. It felt utterly surreal having my temples lined though again not too painful, the vibrations quivering through my lobes manifested the nervous energy I’d been building all morning and the electric hum skipping across my sinews felt like a welcome release for that. Having an industrial tattoo gun vibrate against the tip of your nose is the most weirdly intense feeling I will EVER have and made me want to sneeze (a terrifying thought in itself), my eyes were streaming but I held it together well. It was still early so there was nobody in the room except my marvellous ushers. It was a quiet, calm way to ease me in.
We’d anticipated my neck and throat being quiet a tough area as I’d watched our friend Steve have a tat on his neck saying “Never Too Old.” It looked like medieval torture for the modern world. Steve’s a hard ex-army Dude and sat for four hours being inked in the same area and he was seriously going under. The second Loren stopped vibrating against my wind pipe (he’d been on my neck for no longer than fifteen minutes) all I could think was Poor Steve.We anticipated that would be the worse over with early on and the more conventional areas should be easier. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
My chest was fine until we got below my breasts and started on the ribs, then it dawned on me things were going to get a lot harder as we were only one and half hours in and the edge between my bottom ribs and the soft fleshy upper torso was excruciating. I knew it was going to hurt the closer we got to my sides and over my ovaries, I was due on and already hyper sensitive. It wasn’t so much the individual parts that hurt but more the increasing momentum of pain on pain, going straight into one area after another, you’d think it would be easy to work your way down and not go over the same areas but different parts of the body have different sensitivity scales and you can’t anticipate anything. I’d only had to consciously breathe through my ribs but as soon as we started on the fleshy areas of my upper stomach I was struggling.
We had to move fast to try and fit all the verses onto my body so there was no recovery time between areas and we had to flip and do my leg half way just to give me a break from the front. Loren had set himself the challenge of twenty minutes per verse with fourteen verses in total and we had spent over an hour on my face and neck alone. Usually when people get tattoos (Loren’s done thousands he’s an authority) it’s the bony parts that hurt more and the fat fleshy parts that take it better. I’m completely the opposite and I’m quite buxom from the waist down, there’s a lot of meat on my lower body and I knew from having my Promethea Suns (from Alan Moore’s comics) on my hips how much that was going to hurt. I love having the tattoo needle on my bones, particularly the little hump at the top of my spine and the base of my neck, it makes my eyes go cross eyed and my brain melt, like all those tiny oscillations are surfing my nervous system and letting everything happily disperse. I hate the glutinous wobbling of buzzing fat, it bleeds more and it makes your muscles hurt from the tensing that comes whether you want it to or not.
(More to follow :: After waking up at 4:00am (my sleep patterns are destroyed) I’ve actually managed to lull myself sleepy again writing this. I’m going to catch some Zzzzzs whilst I can. TBC)
Stef 21/05/2013 4:30am