Why I Let a Ten-Year-Old Tattoo Me

Gangplank’s guest-blogging series illustrates the array of personalities and experiences embodied by our community. All invited participants – past brownbag speakers, anchors, new members, City of Chandler employees and others – share their Gangplank stories. Interested guest posters should send a draft to our Director of Operations.

By Chris Conrey, Human to Geek Relations for Integrum and ‘Don’t Sell Me Bro‘ podcaster

“You guys are crazy man.”

That’s what the professional tattoo artists from Tabu Tattoo told us when we said that five of us were going to let kids put real tattoos on our bodies at the “Making Your Art Permanent” Gangplank Jr event. Confidence inspiring for sure.

“Nasty” Nate Houtz, along with Adam and Chris, led the class for 12 kids ranging in age from 4 to 14. Beginning with some basics about how a tattoo machine works, followed by a practical demonstration on a grapefruit, the kids were ready to rock and roll. They started by drawing on their own grapefruit with a sharpie, then took turns using a real tattoo machine to make it permanent, just like they would do on a person. After a few butterflies, smiley faces, skulls, and other pieces were added to various members of a healthy breakfast, Greg Taylor, Derek Neighbors, Laurie Neighbors, Mike Benner and myself geared up to be put to the real test – a kid with a tattoo machine aimed at our skin.

Derek, Laurie and Mike can at least say it was their own kids, to justify letting a kid ink them up. Greg and I lent our bodies to be the canvas for Susan Baier’s two kids. Emma, who was turning 11 the next day, asked me no less than 4 times if I was sure this was ok before she applied the stencil to my arm in preparation for the tattoo. There were probably three more reassurances before the needle first touched my arm, but once contact was made she was off to the races with a big grin. Just a few minutes later I had a Gangplank Jr skull logo on my left bicep that would go home with me forever (pending amputation of course).

But why would I let a 10 year old have the chance to permanently scar me? What sort of crazy person would do that?

My thoughts on it are simple – you only live once, and so do the kids. What better way to show them that taking risks can be done in a safe environment with people who can help teach and guide you? This was an opportunity to give those kids a chance to do something that no one in their peer group will experience for years, if ever. I am proud to be a part of it. Conventional wisdom says to go to a professional like Nate, Adam or Chris if you’re inclined to get inked – but that’s the same conventional wisdom that tells you to not let kids take risks or learn about dangerous things.

The dozen kids who got to handle a tattoo machine that day will never forget it, and I’d be willing to say that their curiosity has been tickled. Who knows what sort of artists or creative minds we jumpstarted that day? I can’t wait to find out.

5 thoughts on “Why I Let a Ten-Year-Old Tattoo Me

  1. Chris,

    Thanks for letting me tattoo you on the day before my birthday, it was really fun, and it was a great experience for me. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside when my mom ( above comment) told me you had made a blog post on the Gangplank website. I hope you’re satisfied with your tattoo, and that you DON’T get your arm cut off, because that would suck. A lot. Thanks, Chris!


  2. So cool, Chris! And so inspiring for the kids. That’s the sort of thing that will push those kids to take risks in the future.

    Well played, my friend.


  3. Chris, I am so grateful to you and Greg for allowing my kids to experiment on you that day! They’ll never forget it, and I love that they saw the strength of your belief that they would do a great job.

    And I think you’re absolutely right — what an extraordinary way to show them that being creative and trying things “out of the box” can be fun and safe. I’m a pretty protective mom (I know my son — especially — would argue that I’m OVERprotective. Gangplank JR Tattoo Day taught me a lesson about letting go, as well.

    Thanks again for a great day and a great memory!

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