His Canvas…Your Body

A Q&A with Tattoo artist “Little Mike” Tarji, co-owner of Addicted to Ink in White Plains (warning: these tattoos are permanent and won’t be a selling point at a job interview.)

Have you had any formal training in tattooing?
I’m self-taught. I’ve always been an artist, working with oil painting, airbrushing, charcoal, etc.

What equipment do you use?
A tattoo machine with a needle; over the years, they’ve improved, so now they’re a lot safer and more sterile. And all our ink is acrylic and hypoallergenic, and made especially for tattoos.

How long does the process take?
A small heart or star takes about twenty minutes; larger designs can take anywhere from three to eight hours over several sittings.

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We’re chickens. Does this hurt?
It is painful, but it’s not excruciating—it feels more like a scrape or burn. I have had times when I’ve had to stop working on someone, but they always come back.

What kind of post-tattoo aftercare is recommended?

You should keep it clean and moist with a healing ointment like Aquaphor. It should be covered for one hour or until the bleeding stops. After that, you can get it wet, but you don’t want to soak it under water. A small tattoo will heal completely in about seven to ten days.

How much does a tattoo typically cost?
Our minimum charge is fifty dollars for a small tattoo in black and one other color. For larger tattoos, we charge one hundred fifty dollars an hour and will give you an estimate about how many hours it will take.

Is there any place on someone’s body that you would refuse to tattoo?
I refuse to tattoo someone’s face—I’m not going to be the guy who’s going to ruin your face. And there are places on the body where tattoos don’t work out so well, like fingers and toes and the instep of a foot—they don’t heal well in those spots.

When did you get your first tattoo?
I was seventeen and all my friends were getting them. I got a rose on my upper arm as a tribute to my mom. She wasn’t happy, but she has learned to live with it. Now, I have more than twenty, covering about fifty percent of my body. They’re mostly on my arms, chest, legs, and back.

What words are frequently used on tattoos?
‘Breathe’ is a popular one; also ‘love,’ ‘loyalty,’ and ‘respect.’

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What’s the most unusual tattoo you’ve ever done?
A logo for a gun company on the top of one guy’s head. We had to shave his head first.

Is there any type of tattoo you’d strongly recommend not getting?
Your current boyfriend or girlfriend’s name. If it’s not your parents or your children, a name is not a good idea.

Can tattoos be removed?
The ink is permanent, so the only way is with laser surgery.

Has the stigma against tattooing lessened among the general public?
It’s definitely becoming more accepted. Ten years ago, we weren’t getting parents coming in with children. Now it can be a family thing; they get tattooed together or keep each other company.

Has it become more accepted to show your tattoos during a job interview?
I don’t think so. I still think the person without the tattoos will be the one getting the job over you. My advice is to wear a long-sleeved shirt.

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