By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Love is forever and, for some couples, so is the outward symbol of their affection in the form of a wedding band tattoo.
Two local tattoo artists, Brandon Love and KD Artman, have experience inking wedding band tattoos for customers.
“It is a lifetime commitment but it appeals to all ages,” said Love, owner of Embassy Ink and Gallery at 1016 Tiffin Ave. “We’ve had newlyweds between 20 and 23 come in to get them done, and we’ve had people that are well into their 50s come in and get them done.”
He said a few years ago, wedding band tattoos were very popular.
“We had a little wedding boom. It seemed like everybody wanted to get married and it was a big thing,” he said. “But as more people came in and we explained the whole tattoo process and what would happen, it did start to die down a little bit.”
Artman, who owns Gypsy Tattoo at 220 S. Main St., said the decision to get a ring tattoo is a big one.
“Obviously, it’s going to be forever,” she said.
The artists said prospective customers need to know that finger tattoos fade faster than those inked on other parts of the body.
“You use your hands a lot, so you lose skin there faster,” said Artman. “People usually do have to get them touched up a few times.”
And while a ring tattoo may be a good option for someone who uses their hands, they can expect the tattoo to fade even more quickly, she noted.
“There’s a lot of mechanics that have to take them (a ring) off for work, or doctors. And they said they got a tattoo done because they kept worrying about losing their rings. Now they can just leave their rings at home,” she said.
Simple symbols of love
Tattooed wedding rings come in an array of designs. Some are simple, like a plain line to symbolize a band, while others are more elaborate like an infinity symbol. Couples may also choose their spouse’s initials or the date of their wedding.
“The space is small, so there’s not a lot of room to work with,” said Artman. “You can get kind of intricate with it, but since it is a small space and it does fade and kind of blur out over time, we try and keep it simple. It’s the best way to make it last longer.”
Most of the time the design is on the top of the finger and does not wrap around like a traditional ring would, she said.
“You touch even more stuff there (with the bottom of the finger), so I try not to let people wrap it around. Most of the time, it’s right on top of the finger,” said Artman.
Love agreed that a less intricate design is usually the better choice.
“But even if you bring us something intricate, we can usually look at the design and, like, OK, we can pull off the same look but make it simpler,” he said. “And usually most people are pretty happy with that.”
A tattoo done with black ink will also last longer, said Love.
“Color tattoos actually fade faster than black tattoos. Anything black and gray will stand longer than anything colored,” he said. “They are making a lot of advancements in the ink so the inks we use are top-of-the-line inks, the best you can get, so they do stay a lot longer.”
Both shops do a lot of custom work for customers.
“We really try to consult with people and do something unique for them so you’re not walking down Main Street and look over and like, ‘oh, that guy has the same tattoo I have’. If it’s going to be on you for life, it should be unique,” said Love.
He said some couples opt for matching or similar tattoos instead of inked wedding bands.
“A lot of people will do a king and queen. They’ll do a king and queen card on their wrists, or they’ll do, like, two little birds together, or they’ll do something that kind of matches,” he said.
For example, the man might get the word “Together” tattooed on his wrist, while the woman has the word “Forever” inked on hers. When the couple puts their hands together, it reads “Together Forever.”
“We do little things like that, try to suggest something that’s not going to look like crap in 10 years or you won’t be able to tell what it is,” said Love. “Because you use your hands so much, it tends to fade the tattoo out. It’s like a snake peeling its skin. After so many layers it starts peeling the ink out. That’s why they fade over time.”
He suggested that couples not get one another’s names as part of their tattoo.
“Other than your kids, you should never really get names,” he said. “Your kids are one thing because they will always be your kids, but a significant other … we had a guy come in here and tattoo a quarter of his arm with his wife’s name and a big Indian feather and stuff, and he ended up getting a divorce after 30 years.”
A wedding date actually works on the ring finger, Love added.
“We do a lot of guys actually, because of the workforce, auto mechanics, factories, construction, instead of wearing wedding rings, they’ll come in and get the date they were married. Then they don’t forget it,” he laughed.
All about the art
Artman said some couples come to the shop, talk to an artist and pick out a day to have their tattoos done. Others just stop in and ask if anyone is free to do a tattoo.
“It’s usually after the wedding they come in,” she said. “I’m sure they’ve tried being married for a while first. I don’t think I’ve ever tattooed, like, a fresh newlywed couple even, or before the wedding. It’s usually people that have been together for awhile who get the tattoos.”
“It’s our job to give people advice and not let them regret the decisions they’ve made,” she added. “So if it’s a really young couple that’s all doe-eyed and about to run off to the altar, I’m going to tell them to come back in a year or two. That’s one of my favorite parts of my job, being able to tell you, no, that’s a terrible idea.”
Love said he’s actually had a few couples come in prior to their wedding.
“We kind of joke with them, this is a curse. It’s kind of like seeing the bride in her dress before the wedding,” he said. “But most of the time it’s after the wedding. They’ll come in and plan it out.”
The actual time it takes to tattoo a wedding band isn’t more than 20 or 30 minutes, the artists said.
“Most of them that I do, like just a simple wedding band, is like, 15 to 20 minutes. I still have to set up and stuff, so that takes a minute, but it doesn’t take very long,” said Artman.
People need to remember there’s aftercare involved with a tattoo. Love said the healing process usually takes about a month.
“Usually the first two weeks are the most critical,” he said.
“You can’t be soaking it in water. There’s no tanning,” said Love. “You’ve got to be real careful of what you touch, what you’re around like pet dander, sticking it in anything dirty, because we’re essentially opening up a wound on your skin because we’re poking it with needles, millions of times, so then you’ve got to be real careful.”
Prices at both shops begin at $50.
“Some people go for the tattoo bands because financially, who wants to spend thousands of dollars on a ring that you’re going to lose or ruin at work or whatever,” said Artman.
Love said the best advice he can give couples who are thinking about getting inked wedding bands is to do their research.
“Some people are good at bigger tattoos. Some are great with small scale. You’ve just kind of got to look at the artist’s work and pay attention to the details. Pay attention to line work. Pay attention to what you’re going for,” he said.
Talk with the artist and ask to see examples of his work, Love suggested.
“You have to think you’re going to be sitting down with this person getting tattooed, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour or six hours,” he said. “Make sure you’re comfortable with them. Make sure you’re happy with what’s going on. Make sure you see your design before you stick it on your body.”
Artman said it’s her job to lead customers through the process and help find the best tattoo for them.
“You don’t want an artist that’s just there to make the money,” she said. “You want to make sure it’s about the art.”
If need be, tattoos can be removed, the artists said, but the options are painful.
“I don’t think people realize that tattoos are literally forever,” said Love. “It is something you should think deep and hard about when it comes to something like that.”
He suggested couples take extra time to make their final decision.
“Is this really what you want to do? Make sure. It is ultimately still your decision. We’re just here to make sure you get it done correctly and safely,” he said.
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