Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

The expressive art of tattoos

My first tattoo was done out of impulse. 

Don't get me wrong – I had wanted to get one for years, but I always pushed off the opportunity until I went to Uptown Tattoo with one of my friends my first year at Miami University. After seeing the result of their first tattoo, I scheduled my appointment for two days later with an idea I had in mind for a long time: a rose on my wrist. 

Photo by Kenneth DeCrosta | The Miami Student

It’s basic, yes, but it had meaning to me and it felt like the right time, so it was a good start. 

I loved the way it turned out. Tattoos, even small ones, are a huge confidence booster. It felt like I was finally starting to express my dark side, like – yeah, I'm the girl with a rose on her wrist

I have yet to decide what I want my next tattoo to be, but tattoos have remained a fascination to my spirit. To fulfill my curiosity about the tattoo culture, I went to Vertigo Uptown and interviewed the owner and my friend, Steve Cupp. 

Photo by Kenneth DeCrosta | The Miami Student

Cupp has been tattooing for 26 years. While we spoke, he made clear his stance on which tattoos he'll do and which ones he won't. 

"My policy for tattooing is this: if I'm going to be upset and embarrassed by the tattoo in a year, I’m not going to do it,” Cupp said. “Like anything related to hate — confederate flags and swastikas — we can't get tricked into doing something related to it. We don't wanna be the source of embarrassment for this town."

He continued speaking while working on his client.

"I guess I'm just so entrenched in the tattoo culture,” Cupp said. “I have friends that are tattoo artists, and we all hang out.”

I observed the illustrations on the walls, including the bathroom, which was covered floor to ceiling in drawings of The Joker. I had never actually been inside the store before, so there was much to visually process as we conversed.  

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

"So do you have any tattoos?" Cupp asked me. I replied that I have a rose on my wrist. 

"You're going to go to hell when you die," Cupp joked. 

If you or someone you know is planning on getting a tattoo for the first time, here are seven pieces of Cupp's advice: 

1. Do your homework. Don't get tattooed in somebody's kitchen.

2. Don't drink and get tattoos.

3. Don't get your throat tatted.

4. Be respectful (don't be late to your appointment).

5. Don't get the sides of your fingers tattooed. They age terribly. 

6. Do some research into the tattoo, where you want it and look up how it looks when it's healed. Never look up the word "tattoo" when searching for inspiration. 

7. The stigma is real. If a potential employer sees your forearm tattoo, you might not get the job. Then again, that's less common than it used to be. 

Photo by Kenneth DeCrosta | The Miami Student

Some get tattoos for the meaning, while others get them for the look. Brittany Wolf, sophomore psychology major, has three tattoos, one of them being a matching bear above her ankle she got with her best friend. 

Wolf shared her opinion on aesthetic tattoos, or tattoos just for style purposes.  

"I mean, people can do what they want but for me, there has to be some kind of meaning or significance to either a person or some kind of thing that means a lot to me,” Wolf said. “So, whether it’s my nieces’, which are my butterflies, or my best friend’s, which is a bear.”

I asked her if she plans on getting more tattoos. 

"I do, it's just that they're expensive and I really want to plan them out and really love the idea before getting them, because it is permanent," Wolf said.