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Q: What is 'Seppuku'?

A: Seppuku (seh’-pü-cü, 切腹, "stomach-cutting") is a term found in bushido, the discipline practiced by the samurai, and is the right to kill oneself with honor to atone for failure, or to follow one's master into death. Only the samurai class was allowed this glorious but excruciating death. Using the wakisashi or tanto, the abdomen was cut from side to side & followed by a vertical cut to spill the intestines. Seppuku is an elaborate ceremony including the writing of a death poem, drinking of tea or sake, & being assisted by a kaishakunin, a 'second'. The second would perform a beheading with the katana, to shorten the agony that could otherwise last hours or days.

In western culture, this can be interpreted as “Death Before Dishonor”. It is this ideal that will drive our commitment to our clientele.

Q: How old do I have to be to get tattooed?

A: From the New Jersey State Sanitary Code Chapter VIII Body Art Proceedures NJAC 8:27-1 ET SEQ.:

"N. J. S. A. 26:1A-10 5. No tattoo or permanent cosmetics shall be applied to any person under 18 years of age, without the presence, written consent, and proper identification of a parent or legal guardian."

b. An emancipated minor shall be exempt from (a)3 and 5 above upon legal proof documenting said emancipation."

Also, "8:27-4.1 Client Records. (c) 1. Government issued photographic identification of the client shall be photocopied & maintained on file with the client's application. 2. Identification of the parent or legal guardian shall be photocopied & maintained on file with the client's application. 3. The parent or legal guardian shall accompany the client at the time of the body art procedure."

Q: Why are tattoos so expensive?

A: Short answer - “Good tattoos ain’t cheap, cheap tattoos ain’t good.” Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins.

Long answer - There are many factors that have contributed to the pricing of tattoos, not just locally but globally. The value of art as a whole, the legitimacy and legalization of tattooing, maintaining hospital level conditions, bio hazardous waste management, quality equipment, the skill of a given artist, the years spent apprenticing and mastering technique all are parts of an equation.

You have to understand that for even a simple tattoo to be applied and applied well, a lot has to happen to make the experience a success. The tattooist has to have dedicated himself to his chosen profession, at many sacrifices, not the least of which is carrying the ongoing social stigma attached to tattooing. The individual will have forsaken other venues of employment, and undergone a grueling apprenticeship, sometimes for years, sometimes scraping by as a starving artist. Many times, the demands of becoming a tattooist will make the artist unemployable in most other professions.

In some areas of the country, tattooing is still illegal. The overall costs of tattooing as a whole are affected by this, as artists may spend their life savings on lawyers in battles for their Constitutionally protected rights to free speech and expression.

The studio will have to comply to a host of regulations that do not apply to other businesses. The studio will have to maintain the same level of sterility found in a dentist’s office, without the benefit of any medical organization footing the bills. The floors, walls, ceilings, counters, furniture and medical equipment all have to comply to health department standards. The given artist will be using only the best pigments, needles, machines and other equipment in applying the tattoo, and all such materials are rather expensive. Each tattoo will employ a set up of one time use disposable medical equipment; surgical tape, instruments pads, individual ink caps, sterilization bags, film barriers, surgical soaps, disposable gloves, cups, razors, needles, sharps containers, bio waste receptacles, and so on.

Some may try to shave off some of the overhead costs by using cheaper supplies, and unfortunately there is an entire sub-industry of sellers pushing inferior inks, ratty tattoo machines, or items that simply do not work as advertised. This is one many reasons why some brand new tattoos end up looking twenty years old. And those who have the lack of ethics to skimp on supplies most likely do not have the proper respect or discipline to become properly trained in consummate tattooing technique, and will take short cuts on your skin.

When evaluating how you feel about art and trying to calculate its worth, I would ask you to do a little pro rating on other items you spend money on. ‘Pro rating’ is calculating how much a particular item costs you per day for the life of the item,... for example, if you trick out a new Ford Explorer with a good sound system, new rims, and a host of options, you may spend close to $100,000 on a poorly built plastic toy that won’t really last long enough to hand down to your children. On the other hand, if a $200 tattoo last you for the rest of your life, the cost per day is a fraction of a penny. When you look at it like that, tattoos are practically free.

The frugal client may not be aware of some of these factors going for their first or second tattoos, and may simply be shopping based on price. If there is any doubt that the adage ‘You get what you pay for’ is true in tattooing, click on http://www.badtattoos.com, and see for yourself!

Q: How do I take care of my new tattoo?

A : Leave That Bandage Alone
Your artist took the care to cover up your new tattoo for a very good reason - to keep air-born bacteria from invading your wound. A new tattoo is pocketed with microdermabrasion, millions of small holes that keep the skin from doing its job of protecting you. Leave the bandage on for a minimum of two hours. If you finished your session late, you can wear your bandage to bed, but remove it immediately upon waking. After the bandage is removed, NEVER re-bandage your tattoo. Avoid gauze or plastic wrap at all costs.

Wash and Treat
After you remove the bandage, you will want to wash your tattoo. Use lukewarm water and mild soap to gently wash away any ointment, blood and/or plasma and to completely clean the area. Do not use a washcloth or anything abrasive. Your hand is your best tool in this case. (If your tattoo feels slimy and slippery, you have probably been oozing plasma. Try to gently remove as much of this as possible)

Then pat (do not rub) the area firmly with a CLEAN towel or paper towel to get it dry. Follow with a very light application of your choice of ointment. A&D vitamin ointment, Bacitracin or a similar antibacterial ointment is acceptable.

If you prefer, you can also use a specialty product such as Tattoo Goo or H2Ocean.

After day five, continue to keep it clean, and switch to a hand creme or lotion when needed to keep the skin slightly moist. Whatever lotion you use, it should be dye and fragrance free. Lubriderm, Keri, or Aveno. Do not overdue it, let your skin breathe. Also, do not get tricky on us. Holistic medicine, vitamin E, aloe vera, tea tree oil, et al, are not needed in the aftercare of a well done tattoo.

Bathing, Showering, Hot Tubs, and Swimming
Yes, you can shower with a new tattoo. Keep your tattoo clean. Submerging or soaking your tattoo in a bath or hot tub can cause serious damage, avoid doing so for 2-3 weeks. Swimming - whether it be a pool, fresh water or salt water - should be avoided for at least 2 weeks.

Total heal time will vary from size of the tattoo size of the client, & location on the body, but can take from two to three weeks.

Protection from the sun
After your tattoo is healed, you will always want to protect it from the sun's ultraviolet rays. The sun is a STAR. It will give you skin cancer & kill you. In the battle of STAR VS. TATTOO, tattoo always loses. Sunburn can fade and damage a brilliant tattoo prematurely. By all means, use the highest possible sun block available to you.This will keep your tattoo vibrant for many years, and it will continue to be a source of great pride.

Q: Can you remove bad tattoos?

A: Short answer: Yes. Laser surgery is capable of removing a tattoo.

Long answer: Laser surgery can be problematic. Just as there are different skill levels for tattooist's, there certainly are various grades of success among laser surgeons. In our experience, we’ve seen horrible examples of laser surgery; heavy scar tissue, failure to remove all the ink, skin mauled to look like wads of chewed bubble gum. Laser surgery is far more expensive than tattooing, and is far more painful. Remember that lasers are accelerated light particles, and the temperature of laser light is a few thousand degrees.

Q: Can you cover up or rework bad tattoos?

A: Tattooists can either rework an older, faded piece, going over the entire tattoo again, and making it look the way it should have looked in the first place, or they can completely cover an existing tattoo with another design so no one could ever tell the first tattoo existed. You can see examples of this process in our portfolios. Keep in mind that many of the poorly done ‘before’ tattoos were not done in prison or a friend’s basement, but at known shops in the tri-state area.

Q: Are reworks or cover ups more expensive?

A: Generally, yes. Even if a rework is not adding on to an existing tattoo, there will be factors the artist will have to deal with, like skin trauma or scar tissue left from an amatuerly applied tattoo, or figuring out how to make muddy, blackened areas bright with color, that make a rework more time consuming than working on a fresh piece of skin.

A cover up usually involves going larger than the original tattoo. Tattoo ink is not opaque, it tends to be somewhat translucent, which is why you can’t simply tattoo skin colored ink over an old tattoo, the darker colors will overpower the lighter ones. So in order to completely hide an older design, using some new skin and using a bigger piece is required.

The fact that reworks and cover ups will cost you more money, as well as more time, and more pain, should be incentive enough for you to choose a quality shop the first time around.

Q: How bad do tattoos hurt?

A: That answer will be different for every person. On the whole, tattoos aren’t all that bad. Tattoos are applied with a small grouping of needles, that will move rapidly in and out of just the top few layers of the epidermis. They do not penetrate anywhere near as deep as a doctor’s needle, which is a hypodermic and will pierce through epidermis, dermis, fat and tissue to find a vein. Some people describe the sensation as a sting, a burn, or a mild abrasion. Most people will tell you they can’t exactly describe the pain properly.

During a tattoo of any length, the body starts to produce its own natural pain killer in the form of endorphins. Many people will be a bit taken at first by the initial surprise of the needles, and then settle into the session rather nicely. Some people will say that they even enjoy the pain process, as an experience that makes you feel alive.

People will also experience different levels of pain on different parts of their bodies. Again, everyone is different, and each person will handle each part differently than the next person. And there is no real way to tell who will be a good ‘patient’ or not; we have seen petite eighteen year old girls come in and get extensive tattoos for their first time, and sit as still as if they were just having a cup of tea. On the other hand, we’ve had gigantic 300 pound weightlifters who work as bouncers come in and pass out just looking at the needle.

Q: Can people pass out when getting tattooed?

A: Rarely. And when it does happen, 90% of the time this has nothing to do with pain or anything physical, its all in the mind of the client not knowing what to expect and working themselves into a panic. Sometimes it is a result of low blood sugars form not eating all day, exhaustion, or pushing the metabolism too hard, like getting a tattoo after an all night binge. This is why it’s a good idea to have something to eat before you get a tattoo.

Q: Which are the least painful spots to get tattooed?

A: The right answer to this question, again, will be different for every person. Some beginners will go jumping into a spot that will make a veteran wince, and have no problems at all.

Generally, the outsides of the arms and lower legs are the most tolerant areas. Really stingy areas are the extremities, like the hands or feet. Ribs are notoriously uncomfortable, some will say the sternum, some will say across the belly.

However, the question of pain really shouldn’t be a factor of where a tattoo should go. Don’t let some very short lived and temporary discomfort dictate where you will wear a tattoo for the rest of your life.

Q: What about taking pain killers?

A: There are several problems that can be caused by employing pain killers. The various types of oral pain killers may actually affect your blood chemistry, thinning it, and causing you to bleed. If the bleeding is bad enough, it may actually remove some of the pigment the artist was trying to put in, resulting in a faded washy look when the piece is fully healed. Oral pain killers may also not eliminate the pain completely, may make the client feel dopey or spacey, and may actually contribute to making the whole process worse.

Topical pain killers, like Lidocaine, or any of the variety of ‘caines’ available on the market, has an unfortunate habit of opening up the pores of the skin, to the extent that the skin becomes spongy as the capillaries dilate. The result is a very poor heal, the scabs can get as big and ugly as a multicolored oatmeal cookie, and the colors of the healed tattoo will be faded and totally unacceptable. Which means returning for heavy touch ups, which means more pain, which defeats the purpose of using a pain killer.

Many of these topical pain killers were never manufactured for use in tattooing, and certainly were never meant to be injected under the skin.

A tattoo veteran will tell you that the pain is as indispensable to the process as the art is. Or, as the German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said, “Whatever does not kill you will only make you stronger.” This is another reason why you should seek out a professional tattooist, his years of experience & technique will cause less trauma & make for far less painful tattoos than some amateur with questionable ethics.

Q: What about alcohol, can I drink before a tattoo?

A: Getting a tattoo under the influence isn’t going to help anything. Again, alcohol can help thin the blood, making for a weak tattoo. Alcohol normally will not kill the pain, either, usually it will just relocate it, like to the base of your skull. It is also against state law for any tattoo studio to tattoo a client under the influence of any controlled substance.

Q: What if I get smoked up before a tattoo?

A: Marijuana, which is illegal, but ironically safer to consume than aspirin or alcohol, again, is of no real use in alleviating tattoo pain. In fact, jumpier people may have the adverse result, and work themselves up into a paranoid fervor, that makes time move slower and it simply drags out the entire procedure.

It is the policy of Seppuku Tattoo, as well as any reputable tattoo establishment, to never tattoo anyone under the influence of any controlled substance. In addition to being mandatory for any professional environment, it is also state law.

Q: Will I have to get my tattoo touched up?

A: Short answer - no.

Long answer - There are several factors that could affect the way a tattoo heals. A tattoo on thin skin, or skin that is in a constant state of motion, like the inside of the elbow, or joint of a finger, will impede the proper healing of a tattoo, and may require a quick touch up. Tattoos that are heavily covered up, like shoes on feet, can affect healing and may need a touch up. Not following the instructions concerning the aftercare of a tattoo as laid out by your tattooist will definitely result in poor healing. For example, picking at your tattoo before the pigment has time to settle can lead to small gaps or fallout. Smothering your skin in greasy ointment will suffocate your skin and lead to the same results. Using something never intended for tattoos, like hydrogen peroxide, can actually flush color out of a still healing tattoo. Healing tattoos should never be soaked, especially in salt water. Excessive sunlight, even long after a tattoo is healed, can drastically alter the look of the color.

Seppuku Tattoo guarantees its work. Any touching up that your new tattoo may require that was not the result of negligent actions will be done at no additional cost to the wearer.

Q: Can you use white ink in tattoos?

A: Short answer - Yes.

Long answer - Every tattoo is about four or five layers deep into the epidermis. These skin layers contain their own pigment, called melanin. Even the lightest skin person contains some traces of melanin. So when you are viewing a healed tattoo, you are looking at it through a ‘filter’, as it were, of those extra skin layers and their natural color. Many times when white ink is tattooed, it is as white as the day it was applied, but is just dimmed by some darker skin. A good tattooist will gauge his skill and technique against the depth of color present in his client’s skin, and judge how much white he can safely use.

Q: Will you tattoo all white tattoos?

A: We highly recommend against these tattoos, especially if you spend any amount of time in the sun at all.

We find the majority of people who request white tattoos do so because "they do not want the tattoo to be that noticeable". This goes against the entire point of the medium, & is like going to a performance car showroom & asking to buy a car with no engine & four flat tires. Tattoos are a graphic visual medium. All our training is dedicated to making them look vibrant & brilliant even after many years of abuse. An all white tattoo has practically none of the elements it needs to survive, & since we cannot guarantee the quality of such a product, we do not offer it.

Q: What about using glow in the dark ink?

A: Fifty years ago, phosphorescence pigments used in paints and inks were actually radioactive, which is why they glowed. This is why so many grandmothers who spent World War Two painting the instrument panels on submarine dials are experiencing so many problems with skin cancer. Even without the radioactivity, any glow in the dark inks are completely synthetic, and we cannot in good conscience inject them into people’s skin.

Q: What about using UV inks, for black light tattoos?

A: Florescent ink contain colors that exist outside the naturally occurring visible spectrum, and therefore are completely artificial as well. They contain (PMMA) Polymethylmethacrylate 97.5% and microspheres of fluorescent dye 2.5% suspended in UV sterilized, distilled water. Although there have been some successful experiments with florescent colors, there have also been some harsh reactions & cases of severe dermatitis.

All our ink is organic & non toxic. Most pigments are mineral salts & chemicals that your body already possesses, like black pigment is simply carbon, & we are carbon based life forms. This is why tattoos work, & stay trapped in your skin. UV & florescent inks are synthetic, & are unproven.

We also do not trust the manufacturers of UV tattoo ink. Our other suppliers are all tattoo artists, & stake their reputations on the finest quality products available. The makers of gimmicks like black light ink are not; in fact, the UV ink was originally formulated as a dye used to allow scientists to study the breeding habits of fish in UV environments, not for humans at all. We cannot utilize them safely with assurance.

Q: Doesn’t the Bible forbid getting tattoos?

A: Lemme tell ya a story,... this is a piece I wrote for our old fanzine, and will explain the answer in full.

“Do you read the Bible, Ringo?”
Jules, ‘Pulp Fiction’

So, we’re crammed into the Continental, sweaty, tiny, punk rock dive bar that has been picking up a lot of the slack left over after the closing of Coney Island High, & leaving an entire crew of change begging gutter punks wandering aimlessly around St. Marks Place, & I finally get to see hometown crusties Furious George, playing openers for Boris the Sprinkler, & a dozen bands doing yet another Ramones tribute night. For some reason, I always miss seeing local bands, for example, I spent four years living in Tampa Bay, & never managed to see the Pink Lincolns. So it was cool to finally get to see Furious George Tabb, after reading his whiny columns in Maximumrocknroll & the New York Press for years, & after his appearance in Spike Lee’s ‘Summer Of Sam’ movie that summer. I had visions of how cool it would be to tattoo George & maybe the rest of the band, I could see big glossy photos of them onstage, maybe at CBGB’s, stage lights glistening off of fresh crazy punk rock tattoos on their extremities, blown up & hanging at a booth at a convention,... yeah! Punk rock baby,... so I flip George a card as he lugs his amp off stage, & joke about how it could make my career to have the honor of tattooing a big time rock star like him. He laughs & looks at me, & shrugs his shoulders & tells me he can’t get tattoos, when I ask why not, he tells me, “I’m Jewish!”

What?! Punk rock, getting drunk & rowdy, fights, drug usage, lap dances, promiscuous sex,... these things are well & good, but suddenly you get this overwhelming batiston of morality when it comes to TATTOOS? Go figure! So,... that’s just what I did, I set out to try to figure out where this whole ‘tattoos are so ungodly’ thing comes from, & if there is actually any sort of theological backbone to the whole premise, or just more puritanical holdovers from the days of witchburnings & inquisitions. If you’re into the body modification professions, you may want to print this out & keep it on hand as reference the next time you get into a heated debate on the subject.

“Do not cut your bodies for the dead, or put tattoo marks on yourselves.” Leviticus 19:28. This is the scripture that will appear in various tattoo magazines from time to time, & everyone seems to think that this means that tattoos are just plain forbidden. In context, many of these commands given were for a very specific period of time, & for very specific reasons, to ancient Hebrews living in a desert. People were worshipping demons with cutting & bloodletting, cannibalism, blood drinking, child sacrifice, all night orgies, & other practices that were either spreading fatal sexually transmitted diseases or were just out & out murder. 26 " 'Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or sorcery. 27 Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. 28 Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. 29 Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness. 30 Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD. 31 Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."

They were living in a time, 3500 years ago, when someone actually had to sit down & write a law saying that child sacrifice was BAD! Again, this is a book written to have spiritual significance to ancient Hebrews. Many of these regulations were specific to the time & place that they were written. A prime example in Leviticus are all the laws concerning slaves, up to & including penalties for sleeping with another man’s slave, laws we can thankfully do without in this day & age. Necromancy, a form of sorcery for speaking to the dead, was a forbidden practice, & the tattooing cited in Leviticus singles that out. These tattoos had a hell of a lot more meaning than just getting a New York Yankees logo. “Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead for you are a people holy to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 14:1. Clearly the passage says, "I don't want you practicing IDOLATROUS DEATH MAGIC", not "Do not get a MOM heart or a hula girl."

It’s obvious that body art isn’t the issue here, the issue was the nation of Israel, rather literally, prostituting herself to pagan gods, & betraying all they stood for. In fact, there was plenty of 'godly' body art throughout the Bible. Nose rings were used as engagement pieces, to the extent that when God himself is speaking allegorically of her chosen people, He mentions betrothing her with this piercing,.... “I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms & a necklace on your neck, & I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears & a beautiful crown on your head.” Ezekiel 16:11-12 (also in Genesis 24:22, Genesis 24:30, Genesis 24:47, Genesis 35:4, & Exodus 32:2-3). Piercings & all manner of body arts were used in the most sacred of the rituals, marriage, which was instituted by God as an earthly analogy of what it would be like to commune with him in Heaven.

In fact, I would venture forward to say that God himself is adorned with markings not dissimilar to tattoos,... “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaac 49:22. And like Father like Son, let’s not forget the physical description given to a resurrected Jesus Christ,... “On His robe & on his thigh he has the name written: KING OF KINGS & LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:16. I can take it to a further extreme, & say that when Jesus rose from the dead, his wounds were not healed, He still bore them,... His hands, feet, side & scalp were all pierced, & were still there, as we can see when Thomas doubts the whole thing & demands to put his fingers in the piercings. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands & put my finger where the nails were, & put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.” John 20:25. Those piercings were the most significant act in all of human history, changing everything about society as we know it for millennia.

We must keep in mind the Bible’s perspective on flesh, it’s flesh that we try to separate from whenever fasting is spoken of, it’s flesh that dies off & is laid back to the dust, & it’s the flesh that we are asked to crucify every day. Whenever some ignorant right wing Pat Robertson drone is blathering on parroting some mindless garbage out of context about your body adornment or attire, they have other issues or some other human agenda, because that kind of judgmental idiocy not only is not in the Bible, but is also forbidden BY the Bible:

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outer appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

“Stop judging by mere appearances, & make a right judgment.” Jesus Christ, John 7:21