To help you, at least a little, we got some design suggestions from Sean Dowdell, co-owner of Club Tattoo, which has locations in Las Vegas, as well as Mesa, Tempe, and Scottsdale, AZ. Dowdell's team has inked celebs like Slash, Miley Cyrus, Amar’e Stoudemire, Blake Shelton, Steve Aoki, and Keith Sweat. We asked him for suggestions on the most popular types of tattoos today—and ones that will look good with time, instead of feeling dated to a certain decade.
Tattoos used to be the preserve of criminals and toffs. And sailors. In the 1850s, the corpses of seamen washed up on the coast of north Cornwall were “strangely decorated” with blue, according to Robert Hawker, the vicar of Morwenstow – initials, or drawings of anchors, flowers or religious symbols (“Our blessed Saviour on His Cross, with on the one hand His mother, and on the other St John the Evangelist”). “It is their object and intent, when they assume these signs,” says Hawker, “to secure identity for their bodies if their lives are lost at sea.”
Compasses were traditionally tattooed on sailors and boating enthusiasts. They symbolise not only been at sea but also finding direction in your life or a particular journey you embarked on. Nowadays they are popular for aesthetic value as well as for people such as backpackers who have done a lot of traveling and want a compass design. Some will even have the compass face the direction of their home from where they have moved to so as to have a reminder of where they came from.
The length of an arm provides an incredible canvas for a tattooist. They have a lot of space to work with, and it gives them the opportunity to explore complex imagery that reads like a story on the skin. Or if they prefer abstraction, sleeves are the chance to create a collision of patterns. The conceptual possibilities are endless. Some artists completely cover the skin, like Little Andy who transformed the lower half of his client’s arm into a swirling galaxy. But for those that favor the minimalist approach, La Malafede showcases the impact of a single line as it traces the inside of the whole arm.
According to George Orwell, coal miners could develop characteristic tattoos owing to coal dust getting into wounds. This can also occur with substances like gunpowder. Similarly, a traumatic tattoo occurs when a substance such as asphalt is rubbed into a wound as the result of some kind of accident or trauma. These are particularly difficult to remove as they tend to be spread across several layers of skin, and scarring or permanent discoloration is almost unavoidable depending on the location. An amalgam tattoo is when amalgam particles are implanted in to the soft tissues of the mouth, usually the gums, during dental filling placement or removal. Another example of such accidental tattoos is the result of a deliberate or accidental stabbing with a pencil or pen, leaving graphite or ink beneath the skin.