In case you’ve missed it, a good chunk of my blog content is about tattoos and tattoo culture. I’ve even written a guide to being a Black or brown tattoo customer called Tattoos are for Everybody. So I thought I’d chat to my friend (and technically, colleague) Tanya Swemmer, also known as Lady Luck Tattooer. We started working together last year and I’ve been getting tattoos from her since around 2016. Tanya is also one of the few white tattooers I’ve seen regularly sharing tattoos on diverse skin-tones via her Instagram account.
I asked her some questions that people commonly ask me and get a tattooer’s perspective.
What should first-time clients bear in mind when contacting artists?
Bear in mind that if you want your specific idea to be interpreted as best as possible, the artist needs concise and clear information regarding content/placement/size and style. It is best to give the artist some leeway to express their individual style. Sometimes you might not really know what you want and in that case be open to suggestions or even more fun – just pick a piece from the artist’s flash.
What is the basis of a consultation?
A consultation is sometimes necessary for the client and tattooer to meet and understand each other better, to get a clearer idea of what the client wants. Usually, a lot of this can be done over email but in-person meetings are helpful.
How many references should be brought along to a consultation and how does it help an artist?
References help if the idea is difficult to explain or very specific. Rather bring references of your chosen tattooer’s work than that of another tattooer. That will help the artist to see what the client likes or dislikes about their work. About 2-5 references are sufficient.
Let’s talk price: a lot of artists tend to use hourly rate vs minimum price for a tattoo, can you explain this?
The minimum rate is usually for tiny tattoos and covers the basic cost of equipment. Usually an artist will book out about an hour even if the tattoo only takes 10 minutes, to make time for talking, setting up and drawing etc. Hourly rates are helpful for larger tattoos that take up multiple sessions. Multiple session work is difficult to quote as a whole because the total time is indeterminable.
What should black and brown clients look out for when choosing an artist?
Look for tattoos on the artist’s Instagram or portfolio to see that they have done work on black or brown clients. If you can’t find any then ask the artist directly if they can show you some examples that they have done. A consultation could be helpful to meet each other and discuss any concerns the client might have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
What are some of your pet peeves when dealing with clients?
Rudeness and entitled behaviour is not ok. Tattooers are often very busy and it seems that people can forget that they are dealing with a human being with a limited capacity. Patience and professionalism is always appreciated.
Like her work? Follow Tanya on Instagram. Want to book an appointment with her? Email email@example.com