What is a Hand Poked Tattoo?
A Hand Poked Tattoo is created without using a tattoo machine. Hand Poked Tattoos are less painful and heal quicker than machine tattoos, but they take a bit longer. Almost all of our clients say they prefer getting tattooed by hand rather than with a tattoo machine.
Why should i get a Hand Poked Tattoo at Indigenous Tattoo?
A Hand Poked Tattoo is great for:
- People who already collect tattoos and are interested in a new tattoo experience.
- People with no tattoos who are looking to get their first one, but are intimidated by the noise of the machine, the normal tattoo studio environment etc.
- People looking for a spiritual experience, a rite of passage, something connected to meditation, yoga, or other spiritual practices.
I want to know more about Hand Poked Tattooing?
Tribal Tattoos were traditionally created by cutting designs and symbols into skin and rubbing pigments (ink, ash, dirt etc) into the wound. Other Indigenous Cultures started tattooing by Hand Tapping ink into the skin using sharpened sticks, animal bones or thorns. This is the root of modern Hand Poked Tattooing which hasn’t changed that much over the centuries.
There are different techniques for creating a Hand Poked Tattoo. We use the method (often refered to as Stick and Poke Tattoo) of using the same sterile needles and inks as you use in a tattoo machine and manually pushing the ink into the skin’s dermis, the layer of tissue under the epidermis. The ink is dispersed through the epidermis and upper dermis where it is engulfed by the phagocytes in the immune system.
During healing, the damaged epidermis flakes away with much less skin trauma than with a machine tattoo. Deeper in the skin granulation tissue forms, which is converted to connective tissue. This repairs the upper dermis, (where pigment remains trapped in fibroblasts) concentrating just below the dermis and epidermis boundary where the ink is stable. Long term, the pigment in tattoos tends to migrate deeper into the dermis, accounting for the loss of detail on old tattoos.
Traditional Japanese Tattoos (Irezumi) can also be hand poked. The method is known as Tebori, where the ink is inserted beneath the skin using longer hand held tools with needles of sharpened bamboo or steel. In Thailand, Sak Yant Tattoos are created using a similar method to Tebori. They also use longer hand held tools to tattoo, but the style of tattoo is very different in terms of design, colours and significance.
Traditional Polynesian Hand Tapped Tattoos (Tatau) are another form of hand poked tattoo. There are many styles of Polynesian Tattoo, each with their own significance, history and culture. The tools are hand carved from bone or tusk and the tapping sound forms a rhythm which is integral to the process. The term Tribal Tattoo has almost lost it’s true meaning. There are many tattoo artists who are happy to tattoo a big black squiggle on their client and call it a Tribal Tattoo. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the client is happy with their tattoo, so each to their own. Still, it would be nice if there was more respect for the real art of Tribal Tattooing.
For those who are interested, there are diverse styles and symbols from the Marquesan, Samoan, Niuean, Tongan, Cook Island, Hawaiian, Tahitian and Māori cultures. The tattooing process is considered a sacred rite of passage rather than an application of artwork. A true Polynesian Tattooist creates a design based on the wearer’s history and genealogical information, which symbolises their personal responsibility and role in the community. We don’t try to replicate the rituals of these communities, but we like to approach the tattoo process in a similar way. Respect to the wearer, the artist, the process, the history of tattooing and our worldwide brothers and sisters.