Poked on a farm

Looks safe

Stick and Poke

No, not a new way to get arrested for indecent exposure, Stick and Poke (SP) is tattooing with only a needle, some ink, and old fashioned elbow grease. To be honest, this ain’t new. SPs have been around ever since early man grabbed a pointed stick and wondered what he could do with that left over plant dye.

Due to the extortionate prices that a lot of tattoo studios seem to charge these days, SPs are enjoying a well deserved renaissance as it’s the cheap option for getting inked.

Keep it clean

If you’re thinking of getting this done, make sure all equipment has been sterilised and you’ve applied rubbing alcohol to the area you’re getting inked. No-one wants to see an infected skin rash trying to pass itself off as a butterfly.

How it works

You hand draw or transfer the design you want onto said body part. Your needle of choice can range from the classic sewing needle all the way through to professional tattoo needles. Take needle, dip it in some ink (Chinese, Indian, professional tattoo ink, the world is your oyster). Once ink is on that needle, you’re good to start the poking. The needle should go around 1/8 of an inch into the skin.

It is pretty much that simple. Check out the countless YouTube tutorials where people are jabbing themselves silly with their mum’s sewing kit.

She’s good

My Stick and Poke experience

Me being a fan of team cheap, I was always going to be susceptible to this method. That is how I found myself sprawled out on a cinderblock sofa in the cabin of a Bulgarian farm, my t-shirt rolled up to my chest like a fourteen year old girl trying to get some attention.

A tattoo studio

I looked down at the freshly drawn monkey and ice cream that had been penned onto my hip and thought it looked good. I prayed my tattoo would come out as a recognisable representation of that artwork.

My tattooer was a beautiful French girl who I’d been travelling with around Bulgaria. She was studying at one of France’s premier art schools and I’d seen the quality of some of her sketches, so I trusted her to deliver.

On the other hand, or foot maybe, she’d only completed one stick and poke before; a mixture of lines and curves on her own pied that kind of resembled a flower? Or an astronaut? It wasn’t clear. Maybe it was some of that abstract French shit that people gawk over in galleries, pretending that they “get the artist’s message.” The message I was trying to convey telepathically to mademoiselle was “Please don’t fuck this up.”

Lying on the wood of the sofa, she went over to her Ipod and connected it to a speaker. Now, many tattoo artists say they’ll put on some soothing music to make the process more relaxing. My eardrums were hit with the opening licks from heavy metal band, System of a Down. It was clear this would be no zen-like experience.


She tied a heavy duty needle to the tip of her pencil, offered me a swig from the bottle of Rakia (potent Balkan fruit brandy), and asked if I was ready.

In life you have moments when you debate if it’s the right to trust someone you’ve only just met.

This wasn’t one of those moments.

Whether it was the Rakia, the herb I’d smoked earlier, or those soul-fishing big brown eyes of hers, I trusted this young lady 100%. I told her to let the poking commence.

To my surprise, the pain was way less than my last conventional tattoo.

I felt each poke, and occasionally she’d go in deeper than was comfortable; now whenever a woman says that I have a frame of reference for their discomfort.

I’m no sadomasochist, but an hour in, and I was enjoying it. The process was slightly hypnotic. Maybe it was the absence of the grinding whine of the tattoo gun. Maybe it was the very intimate feeling of letting another human repeatedly stick a needle in you. Or maybe it was just a relief to lie down after three days travelling. Who knows? The one thing that became crystal clear in my mildly hypnotic state was how unique each Stick and Poke is, and that’s where their beauty lies.

The thing I wasn’t prepared for was the length of time the tattoo took: eight flippin’ hours.

Bare in mind all I had tattooed was a monkey, an ice cream and the words: ‘Le singe a manges touts les glaces’ (Brucey bonus if you can figure that out).

When I saw the finished work, I was very happy.

A monkey and an ice-cream

My faith in the young lady was righteous. She’d delivered and after eight hours poking, she went off to enjoy some well earned sleep time.

As the sun stretched over the mountains surrounding the farm, I finished admiring my tatt and went off to join mademoiselle. My attempts to get into the spoon position with her were thwarted by the fruits of her labour. The tattoo was now sore as fuck and I couldn’t let anything press against me; even a set of sumptuous French hips.


It’s worth mentioning that aftercare of a SP is super important. They have a tendency to fade more than regular tattoos because the ink doesn’t go in as deep. So make sure you keep it covered and clean.

For you?

If you’re thinking of getting inked and you’re on a budget, Stick and Pokes are well worth considering. Just make sure the person doing it has some artistic skills and all the equipment is thoroughly sterilised.

The experience of having your own Stick and Poke will stay with you long after the tattoo has faded.

Tell us about your Stick and Poke experience, below.