Thoughtful tattoo advice from Matt Marcus, owner of Three Kings Tattoo Parlor in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
For many, summer is the time to relive fantasies of that first/next tattoo. If you’re thinking of getting your first tattoo, good for you! If your decision is spontaneous, you might want to balance it with some research and reflection.
I got my first tattoo in the summer, a stick-and-poke on my back, and totally forgot to lotion and protect it from water and direct sun. After a week, a friend was like, Girl, you better take care of that, it’s a healing wound you know? I did and it turned out fine.
I talked to Matt Marcus, one of the owners of Three Kings Tattoo Parlor in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for some guidance on how not to mess up that spontaneous summer tattoo. As a high-end tattoo shop frequented by rock stars as well as punks visiting from out-of-state, with over 15 artists and sometimes long waiting lists, Three Kings Tattoo Parlor is one of the most respected shops in Brooklyn.
Do you have more business this time of year? And is it a different crowd than people who come in during the winter?
Summer is usually the busiest season for tattoos. This is why shops in places where it’s hot year round tend to be busier. Here in New York, we do see more walk-ins in the summer, but being a reputable shop we stay busy all year. Many of our artists have waiting lists of a month, three months, some even close to a year. There are more tourists among the clients – who doesn’t want to visit New York in the warmer months? – but all the local clients are the same.
What advice do you give to people getting their first tattoo?
Do your homework. Really try and educated yourself and ask questions. Make sure you go to a reputable shop. With the internet and all the tattoo enthusiasts out there it’s no longer hard to find a good shop.
The biggest mistake people make is price shopping. People spend thousands of dollars on clothes, shoes, and electronics but want the cheapest option when it comes to something permanent on their body. So find a reputable shop, look at portfolios, ask questions and then let your artist do their thing. Everyone has an idea of what they want in their head but when you give a real artist the freedom to create something original out of your idea, that’s when you get the best tattoo. The more you try and control it and be in charge, the harder it is for us to create, because you’re limiting severely what we have to work with.
How can you tell when someone’s making a poor decision?
I don’t know if it’s as easy as telling when someone’s making a poor decision... People get tattoos for all sorts of reasons and a poor decision for me may be completely different than a poor decision for you. The way I look at tattoos is, even if you end up regretting it later, you still have to respect the fact that you were that person at one point. You can look at it and remember that moment in your life. We should never forget all the different stages of our lives and how we grow as people. Tattoos are great markers for that.
If a client seems to be making a poor decision, what do you do?
I am an enormous advocate of education. The general public has no or very little knowledge on tattooing, how tattoos heal and grow over time. I always try to educate them. Once I have done that, if people still want to go ahead with their idea, then that’s up to them. I cannot be responsible for other people’s decisions. All I can do is guide them as best as I can and hope they make a good decision for themselves. Every now and then you get someone who wants something that will end up looking so terrible you have to pass on it, because putting your name on something like that would do more damage than good. But those times are very few and far in between.
You obviously shouldn’t get a tattoo right before going camping, to a festival, or swimming. Are there other things people don’t realize are bad combinations with healing from tattoos?
I would say the worst things are pools and extreme sun. Once a tattoo is in, it’s in. It is pretty hard to mess it up, but if it does get messed up, chances are it was something the customer did afterwards. I have heard all sorts of crazy things people have done to make their tattoo heal. For the most part, if you stay away from the few major no-no’s in aftercare, you’ll be fine.