A short guide to Stick ‘n’ Poke Tattoos

Siena Elliott

Stick ‘n’ poke tattoos, so underground that they don’t even have a wikipedia page, have become an increasingly popular phenomenon amongst teenagers. The age requirement for professional tattoos in most states is 18, leading teenagers to embrace the messy and dangerous feat of do-it-yourself tattoos. These amateur tattoos can range from a chaotic collection of dots to a piece of art rivaling work done by your typical professional tattoo artist (and some artists like Grace Neutral and Tatiana Kartomten have made stick ‘n’ poke tattoos their profession.)

The materials needed for a stick ‘n’ poke are simple but specific: a sewing needle, a pencil, tattoo or india ink, thread, a lighter, rubbing alcohol and unscented soap and lotion for aftercare.

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As basic as this process seems, it can be incredibly dangerous if done even a little bit wrong.  


 

DO’S AND DON’TS OF STICK ‘N’ POKE TATTOOS:

 

DO

Use a tattoo or sewing needle

Use tattoo or non-toxic india ink (brands such as Higgins or Speedball)

Sterilize the needle by either burning the tip until it glows red or boiling it for 20 mins

Wipe the soon-to-be-tattooed area with rubbing alcohol before breaking the skin

 

DON’T

Use a hollow piercing needle or safety pin

Use pen ink- pen ink is not sterile and if used can lead to infection

Re-use needles – sharing needles can lead to tetanus and hepatitis B or C


 

The employees at Liberty Tattoo are on the DON’T side of stick ‘n’ pokes or as they call them, tattoos done by “scratchers”:

 

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“The reality of it is that it’s dangerous health wise because if you’re doing that at home I’m sure you’re not sterilizing things…if one person bleeds and the next person comes in and gets exposed to that, and hepatitis can live on a surface for months…It’s kinda stupid ya know, for both the person doing it and the person getting it because you’re getting something by a non-skilled person because it’s cheap. My feeling on it is that it is what it is, it’s gonna happen, but it’s foolish and it’s dangerous.” – Tad Coleman (Artist)

 

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(L to R) Thomas, Funderburk, Mostrom

“What do I think about it? I think it’s completely ridiculous. When I was 17 years old I had absolutely no
idea what I was going to be doing at age 25 much less 35 or 45. Putting some s**t on my body that doesn’t even look good the day I get it when I’m 17 is a terrible idea.”
– Ben Thomas (Artist)

“When you’re 18 you have no idea, like you shouldn’t be making your own decisions about what clothes you’re picking out let alone permanently marking your body with s**t that your friend is doing in a room somewhere that you could easily get an infection from and that’s the farthest thing that could happen but you’re just gonna get something that look like crap that you’re gonna regret later in later in life.” – Stenvik “Sten” Mostrom (Artist)

“And guaranteed that if you like Green Day at 18, at 30 you’re not going to like Green Day and you’re going to go ‘why the hell did I let my friend stick ‘n’ poke this Green Day tattoo on me, I don’t even like that band anymore!’” – Alison Funderburk (Manger)