Stick and Poke: F*** Yeah or Hell No, Bruh?

Xavier in Guides

By now, you'd think that more and more people are coming to their senses and actually get their tattoos done inside an actual tattoo parlor.

You sir, is honorably mistaken. Jail tatts, as some would call them, are only getting started in the freaking scene. For starters, it's pretty easy to make and the tools you need are sometimes just lying around at home.
cover: Handpoke (Photo courtesy of Vice Canada)

howtocatchaghost / Tumblr
howtocatchaghost / Tumblr

How is this thing done? First, you're going to need a needle and some ink. For best and safest results, people specifically use tattoo needles and non-toxic india ink. But really, it's best to use tattoo ink, especially if you're going for color. Use pen ink if you want a really awful blob on your skin and possibly, a disease. Thread is optional, this can serve as the ink holder. The more responsible thing to do when preparing for stick and poke tattooing is by making sure your materials are all nice and sterile and by wearing rubber gloves.

hand made tool
hand made tool

Methods vary, since DIY tattoos is far from new, there are many different ways of stick and poke tattooing. But the most basic way of getting it done is through repeated poking motions (hence, the name), creating pointillism designs. Before, those that came before us used wicked tools like bones and charcoal and in some cultures, they make use of the hand tapping technique. But these days, just keep it sterile and as tender as possible to prevent too much screaming and bloodshed in your apartment.

[Disclaimer: We are not totally encouraging nor discouraging you from getting a stick and poke tattoo. This process is very risky and not to mention, mostly illegal. The article only serves as an information to the stick and poke way of tattooing.]

tattooing by professional
tattooing by professional

Recent from Guides

The stick and poke method of tattooing has been around for years. It's the same thing as jailhouse and  homemade tattooing.  According to speculations, DIY tattoos are bound to be the 'thing' of 2015. It's already all the rage among the older youth and in other cases, high school students. Websites have been selling kits, which makes them all the more rampant. Some describe it as a Renaissance, referring to its fashionable return. So don't be too surprised when you see all these trendy kids flashing their new arm tattoo of a shark which they got done in their boyfriends' vans while toasted off their minds.

photo by Dave Wolfy
photo by Dave Wolfy

More and more people have been getting into hand poking and even licensed tattoo artists are doing this thing, shooting it into the mainstream. Notable people like Marc Jacobs and Ryan Gosling getting theirs done is helping erase the stigma of stick and poke tattoos as something done by very non-sober people who would wake up with a bad case of hangover in the morning and tiny dotted abominations.

courtesy of Heckler Spray
courtesy of Heckler Spray

In an ideal setting, hand poke tattoo sessions are an intimate exchange, carefree in nature and shared between close friends. And of course, true friends won't poke you with some dingy safety pin and then send you home, no. But the thing with this type of tattooing is that anyone can do it. And with that, since not everyone is qualified to actually make some good and safe tattoos, there are bound to be some really shitty stick and poke tattoos. The materials are cheap and it takes only a willing victim to get it done. The stakes are high.

Trippe & Trolf / Fecal Face
Trippe & Trolf / Fecal Face

Let's get things straight, not all unlicensed tattoo artists are scratchers. A lot of them are, but not all. Still, it's the best decision to go to a reputable one. But if you're down for a good friend's couch and some cheap thrills, go stick and poke. At your own risk. I repeat, stick and poke at your own risk. Concerning the laws, the regulation of stick and poke/homemade tattoos are still up for debate.

Andreas Laszlo Konrath and Biel Parklee / WMagazine
Andreas Laszlo Konrath and Biel Parklee / WMagazine

Many still argue that hand poked tattooing isn't an art form. Although the safer way may be to get inked these days is behind a machine in an established tattoo parlor, getting hand poked can be just as safe when done the right way with the right tools. Another thing is, long before there were rigs and rotaries, our ancestors are probably just as crazed with ink and got theirs done the hardcore way-- stick and poke.

photo by Trippe &Trolf
photo by Trippe &Trolf

All in all, all I can say as a personal opinion is that the way of stick and poke tattooing is unmistakably a precious art form. It's where all this started from. It shouldn't be disparaged as some shitty way of getting cheap tattoos by drunk people. Don't generalize all who patronizes stick and poke tattoos as knuckleheaded college kids who get stoned all day. It's an insult to those who actually had years of training to master hand poking and preserve it as well. But really, kids, if you have no idea what you're getting into please give it a pass.

Xavier

@Xavier

When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife

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