Q&A: Student shares experiences with amateur tattooing done by hand

by Katherine Dominek, ’19

The urge to get one’s first tattoo can be great, but at what lengths will one go to get their first taste of ink? Junior Maria* gave her and her friends “stick and poke” tattoos, a method of tattooing where the needlework is done by hand, often by a non-licensed artist. This is a growing trend among teens, who are bypassing the legal age requirements and health concerns and jumping in needle-first. Maria shares her insight below.


Q: Why did you decide to do a stick and poke tattoo rather than get one at a tattoo shop?

A: It was kind of in the moment with my friends. Obviously, our parents wouldn’t allow us to get real tattoos before we’re 18. So, I thought doing something by myself, to myself would be personal. And it’s not going to last my whole life.

Q: How did you decide to do this with your friends?

A: We were all hanging out over a weekend and were like, ‘What should we do?’ I saw some pictures of [stick and poke tattoos] and had heard the term before. So I was like
‘We should do this.’ So, we all just got together, went to Michael’s, bought all of the stuff and went back to my house.

Stick and Poke Tattoos come with risks. Find out more here.

Q: Were there any precautions you had to take?

A: Being sanitary was definitely a big deal for me because I didn’t want it to get infected. Especially for my friends, because their parents would probably freak. I cleaned everything off. I burnt the needle. Then, we would wrap [the tattoo] up and clean up afterward. So it was all safe, all clean.

Q: Did your parents eventually find out about your tattoo? If so, how did they react?

A: My parents are aware now. They weren’t that surprised by it. My parents are pretty laid back. My dad has a bunch of tattoos. I told them it was going to go away in a couple of years anyway.

Q: Would you ever want to get a more permanent tattoo?

A: I do. I always bring it up to my mom like, ‘When I’m 18, I’m getting a tattoo. I hope you know that.’ I just like the idea of having something permanent on your body that shows what you stand for or your history. I’m definitely interested in something small and really meaningful to me.

Q: What is the meaning behind your own stick and poke?

A: It’s a little mountain and a sun. I’m just really outdoorsy and I find peace outside. Whenever I can’t find myself, going out there and calming down reminds me that it’s okay. I just really like the outdoors, so I got that.

*Denotes anonymous source