Thinking of inking?

I remember being at a family gathering once, wearing a sleeveless top, when one of my bossy Aunts came up and said “You’re so pretty. Why do you have to go and ruin it by getting tattoos?”.

I’m sure she didn’t mean to do any harm, but that comment is singed in my memory – not because it has made me feel regretful or stopped me from getting more ink, but because I’ve often wondered why myself.

Although they have been around for eons, there is still a certain mystique surrounding tattoos that continues to lure people in.

For me, it’s partly about expressing something profound that I haven’t been able to say with words. It’s also because I would rather collect art on my body than hang it on my walls (although I do love art on walls too).

 For others, it’s about honouring a lost loved one, remembering a moment in time, or marking an initiation into another chapter of life.

 If you are thinking of inking, I would suggest taking your time to research artists you like (most are on Instagram), and then talking to them about any ideas, questions or concerns you have.

 The good news? I’ve done plenty of the work for you! I sat down with Sydney artist Megan Oliver to talk tips, reality TV and the fraught relationship between tattoos and fashion.

RG: What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting their first tattoo?

 MO:  Like many things in life, the anticipation is the worst part - the actual experience is really not that bad. Yes, it does hurt a bit but it is a totally tolerable sensation (otherwise everyone would only have one tattoo - or half a tattoo).

 Have a good night’s sleep the night before and eat a decent meal a couple of hours before your tattoo appointment. Usually the only time people find it a struggle is if they have skipped their breakfast! 

Avoid drinking alcohol before your appointment, besides making you bleed more, if you’re not sober you won’t be able to sit still and if you can’t sit still we can’t tattoo you!

RG: What impact do you think shows like ‘tattoo nightmares’ have on the industry? Do you think they raise greater awareness of tattooing as an art form, or is their impact negative?

 I’ve never seen “Tattoo Nightmares” but I guess you mean the impact of tattoo themed TV reality shows as a whole?  (I did watch the first episode of ‘Miami Ink’ just to see what everyone was on about but other than that, have never watched any of them, reality TV is not really my thing.) 

 I think there have been both positive and negative effects on the industry from these shows.

 On the one hand, now that Mr and Mrs Average have got tattooing featured on the TV in their lounge room, it is no longer seen as something weird or taboo.

 However, this universal accessibility also means that some of the very special, dare I say magical, ambience of tattooing has worn off somewhat. Entering the world of tattoo used to really feel like stepping out of your mundane reality and into a whole new arcane realm on the edge of society, whereas now it is not that different to any other service industry. 

 The TV reality shows, combined with the internet and easy access to prebuilt equipment and ready mixed inks, have also meant an explosion in the number of people wishing to become tattooists - again with mixed results for the industry.

RG: Whilst having a tattoo is now fairly mainstream, it’s rare to see someone with ink in the media, particularly women in fashion magazines. Do you think conventional beauty standards are accepting of tattoos yet?

MO: Tattooing and fashion have a strange and fraught relationship. The vulture of fashion has well and truly swooped down and picked up the idea of tattoos being ‘cool’, which is then used commercially to sell a huge range of products.

However, the two will never be comfortably integrated. Fashion is all about change, whereas obviously tattoos are permanent. I don’t think tattooing will ever become truly ‘conventional’ as there will always be two types of people - those who love their tattoos and those who would never in a million years get tattooed. 

For booking enquiries with Megan, visit Little Tokyo at or follow @_megan_oliver_