Another visit to Sacred Knot

The third time I saw Sean was in his hometown of LLundudno, Wales. Sean has set up shop there and along with his tattoo business (with two apprentices Broc Ó Diolúin and Gloria Notarangelo) he also has Nordic based arts and crafts available.

I received two pieces from him this time, a Vegvisir on my hand (an Icelandic magical symbol if when carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known) which was an extension of the sleeve he previously completed on me, and the mask of Tyr (the Norse war god who presides over matters of law and justice) under my right armpit. Out of all the tattoos I had received so far, the armpit was the most difficult area for me to endure. It is extremely sensitive and the linework had me feeling a pain I have never experienced with any tattoo previously. This was also the only tattoo where both Sean and I agreed that instead of pushing to complete it in one sitting, to rather call it day and see him another time. I had my hand done by him on the previous day and once again this was a case of me trying to push the limits of my endurance. A week later I was back and with the help of numbing cream we managed to get the job done.

There is quite a debate about the ethics of using numbing cream in the tattoo community. Some would argue that the tattoo needs to be earned and that the pain is part of that process, and for the traditional tribal tattoos that most certainly is the case. From a technical standpoint there are reasons why numbing cream should be avoided such as it tends to make the skin not absorb the ink very well, the tattoo needle can slip more easily, there is more pain afterwards etc. The two methods I am aware of are either a numbing cream or a spray. For the cream it is applied to the area and saran wrapped for about 45 minutes to numb the area. The second method is using a spray, but for this to work the skin must first be broken so this is usually applied after the initial linework is done. Both methods do not guarantee 100% pain free tattoos, but they can significantly take the edge off the discomfort for long enough to get through any difficult areas.

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