Tool and style of homemade tattoo

The style of homemade tattoo can be rightfully called simplifying, as basic components of homemade tattoo on both sides of the needle are required to be as primitive as possible. Of course, this will not be the necessary requirement for the tattoo to be called “homemade”, it rather is conditional and depends on the available supplies. However an ideal example of this kind of body modification is made with a hand built tattoo machine (Fisher 2014). The attitude towards the tool among homemade tattoo enthusiasts is quite earnest, there exist hundreds of videos and articles on the Internet about how to build homemade tattoo machine. Sometimes it is referred as a “prison tattoo machine” or “prison tattoo gun”, which is partly true, though tattooing had been practiced in criminal sphere for centuries, and that is why no surprise that the reinvention of a tattoo machine happened in prison. To be able to tattoo behind bars, “ink slingers” (prison slang for tattooist) (A Prisoner’s Dictionary 2003) had to evade the prohibition of tattooing and design machines from the materials available at hand. In most cases they used electric motor from a cassette player as a drive for future machine, pen as a needle tube and sharpened string as a needle itself. This design was successful enough to start to spread beyond institutions of confinement and first being tested by street gang members of a different kind found itself in hands of young people passionate about tattooing and ignorant in theory of how to do it.

In fact, the lack of experience is something that is welcomed in contemporary homemade tattoo (Anziperova 2012), for this point there might exist several parallel models of explanation. First, the search of authenticity might be the case, as people willing to practice this form of body modification and accepting the spontaneous character of it in terms of equipment and design, which can be seen as a question “what if…?” and the fact that the tattooer will possess little experience only makes this question more vivid and the process more “primordial”. The second way of seeing this unscripted homemade tattoo requirement is the role-play the participants agree upon tacitly, without which discussed above liminal vision of the phenomenon will be impossible. The practice of tattooing has to be something extraordinary for both participants to ensure the presence of the excitement and mystification. Hence, homemade tattoo given to a heavily tattooed person by a professional tattoo artist will have little symbolic value as compared to the case when homemade tattoo will be given to a person as first tattoo ever by someone who doesn’t even possess sufficient drawing skill. In other words, if the roles the participants will have to take in the process will be same or similar to those they perform on everyday basis, the liminal component of the process as well as connection’s establishing will be questionable. From this point springs up another very important side of homemade tattoo concept – the design. The design of homemade tattoo is usually simple, basic cartoonish shapes, linework and letterings are usually most popular ones (Anziperova 2012). Most of the times just one color is used, and gradients are shades can be rarely seen in home-made tattoos. The fact of design simplification is ambiguously caused by both strive for primordial originality and the limitations that equipment and finite skills of the tattooer impose.