The first time I ever tattooed someone, I was so nervous I barely dared to hold the machine close to their skin. I had only tattooed fruits and "fake skin" up to that point, so this was truly scary to me. Fruit don't hurt, right? This was back in early 2015 and I had been apprenticing in a studio in Taiwan. An apprenticeship I got by sneaking around different studios, begging them to take me on. It was a studio filled with only males, of which only two spoke English (I didn't speak much Mandarin at the time), so you can imagine the struggle we had with the language barrier whilst I was trying to learn how to tattoo.
Anyway - I was sat next to a guy called Awei, who was going to be my first "customer". He was already covered in tattoos of, shall we say, varying quality and had assured me he wasn't bothered by how the tattoo came out. The only problem was that he had asked to get an absolutely TINY pair of nunchukas tattooed, on the SIDE of his lower wrist. I had no idea on how to place his hand on the armrest so I could reach properly and I probably ended up almost twisting his arm off, just so I could reach around with the machine I was lent from another of the guys there. As I was holding the machine, getting ready to tattoo him, I broke out in a cold sweat. I felt almost ill and the machine, an old Micky Sharpz (coils, of course), felt like a brick tied to a violent vibrator in my hand.
I leaned forward and tried to remember what I had been taught about where on a stencil to start the tattoo. I reached in there with the machine and pulled back just as the needle was about to hit the skin. This would mark Awei for life, if something went wrong, that would be on him forever (I thought, completely forgetting the fact that you can do both lasers and cover ups on crappy tattoos)! This probably happened for another three times, all the whilst three other guys stood behind me and laughed. I gathered up the courage and finally pierced his skin. I new that if I couldn't do this, my dreams of being a tattooer would and there and then. So I had to.
It probably took me 2hrs to finish that tiny tattoo, lines, shading and all. Today it'd probably take me 15 mins, haha. I felt terrible and proud at the same time, afterwards. Terrible because the tattoo wasn't perfect and proud because I had FINALLY done a tattoo. Somebody trusted me enough to let me put something permanent on their skin. In a sense, I still feel that way when I tattoo people. Not the sweaty, apocalyptic nervousness, but that people give me the trust to permanently put a piece of artwork I created on their body makes me feel so happy.
It sure was a life-changing experience for me. If you're a tattooer reading this, I'd love to hear the story of your first tattoo! And if you're not, but you have a tattoo, how did it feel getting your first one?