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The first thing Ange and I needed to do was to look at the drawings and check if they were OK. Tattoo drawings are not the same as the actual tattoo; they are outlines which are transferred as a stencil onto your skin. The tattooist then fills them in to produce the final tattoo, so you never know quite what you’re going to get. My first tattoo was easy, since I had sent Ange the drawing myself, so she was just going to reproduce it. But we needed to look at the second and third to see if they were what I wanted.

When she showed me them I was delighted. The turtle was exactly what I’d imagined, wonderfully similar to my own little turtle. And the pine trees and lake were amazing. She’d produced a wonderful outline of a circlet of pine branches and leaves with two big pine cones, and framed within it a part of the lake picture which fitted perfectly, the silhouette of a small promontory with a couple of trees on it, the outline of the distant shore and the huge crescent moon above. We discussed the “colouring in”; the turtle was to be outlined in black with grey shading and the lake view would be slightly more misty than the circlet surrounding it and would be bluey greeny in its main tones.

I had three tattoos to do, the small symbol on my wrist, the turtle on my breast, and the large pine tattoo on my shoulder. Ange suggested we start with the smallest and then move on to the turtle and finish with the bigger one, which suited me fine. First she had to turn the drawing into a stencil (they have a special machine which does this) and then it was carefully transferred onto my skin by wetting the paper and pressing it on. The positioning was important and took a little while.

First Ange cut roughly round the shape of the tattoo and put it on my wrist dry so we could get an idea of whether it was in the right place. Once we’d decided she marked over the edges of the paper onto my wrist in pen so she could line it up correctly once she’d wetted it. When the stencil was on we looked at it again, and Ange encouraged me to look at it in the mirror to make sure I was happy. It was surprisingly difficult to line up that one little tattoo; the first go had to be cleaned off and we started again (fortunately the stencils can be used more than once) because I wasn’t happy with the orientation of the tattoo – I wanted the trunk of the tree pointing more down my wrist. However, the second go was perfect, and I sat down in the chair. Ange had all her inks and needles ready and pulled on her rubber gloves. We were good to go!

More tomorrow.

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