What was your worst client/tattoo experience?
Astrid: Almost everyone I've ever worked with has been wonderful. I think I only experience difficulty with clients who are particularly controlling or demanding, usually people who don't understand the limitations of tattooing. This behavior usually comes from a place of anxiety, and I can empathize with that. The only way to combat these situations is to trust your artist. They are making decisions based beyond aesthetics. They have to think about how the design will work on your actual body and if it will age well. It's not just about how it looks on paper.
Mars: I think I've been really lucky with all of my clients! Since for the most part everyone finds me through Instagram, I think generally my clients are pretty self-selective; I don't really have anyone come in that I don't really vibe with.
Unfortunately that doesn't always extend to their friends/boyfriends (usually boyfriends). I think probably the worst thing you can bring to a tattoo appointment is another person who's going to be questioning your decisions the whole time. I'll always give my professional opinion based on how I think the piece will age, fit with other pieces you have, etc, but ultimately the only opinion that really matters is your own. I hear a lot of, "That spot is gonna hurt too much, get it lower/higher/smaller/less visible," from people not getting the tattoo, and it really bums me out because it's not their body. Don't let anyone else make you doubt yourself or get in the way of you getting the piece you're really excited about!
Astrid: Yes, please leave the boyfriend at home. And leave behind the friend that doesn't want to be there or the friend that wants to talk to you like your artist isn't there. I don't only have an investment in the tattoo, but an investment in getting to know you. It's still a privilege to put art on someone’s body and I appreciate having the opportunity to bond with clients.
If someone wants a tattoo and is not in NYC, will either of you be traveling and doing guest residencies? If so, where?
Astrid: Definitely! I made a permanent travel "highlight" so people can check in on it as I add destinations. My biggest issue is that I am terrified of flying, so I haven't been traveling as much as I could. And I'm sorry about that. I wish strangers were more down to hold my hand during taking off.
Mars: I travel pretty frequently, but also unfortunately not as often as I'd like. I have a lot of guilt around the frequency I'm able to get to other cities, but the truth is I have a family, including two dogs here, that I hate to leave. It's really hard to balance time at home, time working, and the time actually spent on vacation. Realistically, when I'm on tour somewhere, my only days off are travel days. That being said, I always post about cities I'm going to as soon as I know I'm going, and there will definitely be many more in the future!
What advice would you give someone getting their first tattoo?
Astrid: These days, my advice would be to get a little tattoo first. Something simple and small, just so you can understand how the process works and what it feels like. Fear is challenging. Fear will hold you hostage and force you to get an awesome tattoo that is too small in a place where you didn't want it. Choose an artist whose work you love and make sure you see the kind of work you want reflected in their portfolio. The number one rule is that if you don't like the design, or you feel uncomfortable with the artist, don't get the tattoo. Yes, you will lose your deposit, but you don't owe it to anyone to go through with a situation where you don't feel seen, respected, or safe.
Mars: I think the most important thing is to trust your artist, and a big first step towards that is doing your research in finding someone whose work you value. I'm honestly so jealous of anyone getting their first tattoo now, in a post-Instagram world. When I got my first tattoo, I had no understanding that artists could have different styles or specialties, or that you could even be specific about the type of person or space you wanted to work with. Now it's so easy to find someone who does exactly what you're looking for, and at the same time get a little bit of an idea of who they are as a person before going in.
I think if you go into it trusting your artist, and being open to their interpretation, you'll end up with a really rad tattoo that you're both super stoked on! But that trust also extends to knowing you can assert your needs at any time. They know what's going to be best in terms of what's realistically possible, what's going to heal well, etc., but you know your body. Like any other situation, make sure whomever you are with can respect your boundaries. If you need a break, you can take a break! If you need to adjust how you're sitting for comfort, talk to your artist, and figure out how to do that. Don't be embarrassed to ask questions at any point in the process, because you're both relying on each other to communicate and make something awesome.