The culture of Amateur Tattooing on College Campuses

hand-poke flash sheet by Devin Cronin

I wake up and my skin is burning. At this point, does it matter whether I got it in a professional tattoo studio or a college dorm room? Well yeah sort of. Amateur tattooing has been around for centuries however it has recently become a trend, especially on college campuses. So you’re probably thinking, what exactly is amateur tattooing? Amateur tattooing is a tattoo done by somebody who is not a licensed professional. There is more than one type of tattooing stick n’ pokes are usually done with India ink and a sewing needle (yeah it feels incredible!). Hand pokes are most often done with India ink and a tattoo gun needle.

photo and tattoo by Devin Cronin
photo by Jenna Ring

Often stick n’ poke and hand poke tattoos are referred to as “jailhouse tattoos”. Some people in prison find materials such as ink from pens, magnets, pencils and, razors to give one another tattoos. There is speculation that stick n’ poke culture and hand poking has originated from jailhouse tattoos. So are they safe? They can be! Just because they are an amateur doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing. Lot’s of people who do amateur tattooing have been apprentices before to professional tattooist. However it is something you should defiantly be careful with. I wouldn’t recommend letting just anyone tattoo you and, I also wouldn’t recommend doing it to yourself if you have not the slightest clue what you’re doing. Make sure you watch the person take out a new needle and have them sterilize it in front of you and, defiantly make sure they’re using proper ink like tattooing ink or, India inks are fine too.

tattoo and photo by Devin Cronin

So how is this relevant to college campuses? If you’re between the ages of 18–24 and you use social media, there is a fairly high chance you find a few #sticknpoke photos, flying through your feed quite often. Maybe it’s the starving artist needing to feed their income. Or maybe college kids everywhere are just dying for their friends to brand them with their zodiac sign. Seriously though, all jokes aside there is a real art to tattooing especially by hand. To see someone carrying your own art on their bodies is a pretty neat concept. And whether you agree with the ethics and safety of amateur tattooing, everyone does have to start somewhere. I myself have a couple hand pokes and I cherish all of them. It’s very personal and intimate type of art.

photo by Jenna Ring

Though everyone of course has their own opinions. Many way see it as an “angsty rebellious action”, however I’d like to challenge people to that statement. Amateur tattooing is deeper than that, figuratively and literally. It’s letting a person you know visibly mark a moment in time on your body.

photo by Jenna Ring
One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.