Tribal Tattoos

Getting An Aztec Tattoo

Aztec Tattoo SleeveThere are many different reasons for wanting to get an Aztec tattoo, and you should be sure of yours before deciding as they carry a strong message.  Obviously you should do all the things you would normally do before getting a Tattoo with regard to checking out the Studio and the artist, especially if it’s your first tattoo.

Next you should give careful thought to your design.  If you have read the previous articles in this series on Aztec tattoos, you will know that there is a huge amount of symbolism involved, and that the tattoos are bold and bright.  If you want something that is truly authentic and has it’s origins deeply rooted in Aztec Culture then you need to look more in the realms of Aztec History for your inspiration.  Books, Libraries, and Aztec history sites would be your inspiration there.  This is particularly relevant if you are going to use something complex, like the Aztec Calendar, as it would be very easy to get it wrong.

Most Tattoo Artists have their own portfolio of designs to use either ‘off the shelf’ or as inspiration for your own personal adaptation.  Again, they should be able to give you the background on each design so that you can be sure that the Tattoo symbolizes exactly what you want it to.  You also need to check that they are experienced inthis type of tatto, the big, bold designs with their strong colors require a steady and experienced hand.

You may well be able to get the basis of a design from one of the online tattoo design sites that provide them for a small fee, then adapt that to your specific needs if it’s not just exactly what you want.  Above all, take your time and don’t rush the decision.  Once you have decided, double check it with some of the more academic sites and if necessary, get a temporary version done to see how it will look when it’s completed.

Aztec Tattoos are amongst the most striking of all tribal tattoo styles because of the bright colors and you want it to look perfect and say what you want.

Photos courtesy of Mez Love

Tribal Tattoos

Aztec Tattoo Designs Today

Modern Aztec TattooThese days, we choose to wear Aztec Tattoos for a number of reasons. Even though the Aztec culture and race were largely wiped out by the Spanish, there are still many people with Aztec roots.  They often choose to  wear them in order to honor their heritage, many others wear them to show a level of respect to past cultures whose philosophies they admire. Mostly though, people choose to have Aztec tattoos for the meanings they represent.  For example, people who believe in the afterlife and rebirth would choose the sun, because the Aztecs believed the sun was responsible for guarding the heavens and for renewal and regeneration.

A classic example of modern Aztec tattoos was recently featured in The Daily Bruin – Lorenzo Mata, Basketball Center,  was interviewed about his tattoos “…..this one’s an Aztec warrior with some pyramids that actually got added to it. It kind of represents me…… I’m Mexican and the Aztec warrior – I’m like a warrior on the court and I do whatever it takes to win. … Aztec warriors, they did everything for their people and I’m doing everything for me and my people – the Mexican people….. (the Aztec warrior tattoo) I got last summer and I just added the pyramids two weeks ago”

Many modern body tattoo designs have come from the intricate and delicate Aztec designs that you see featured in so much of their art.  Most popular is the sun but the Calendar, Eagles and Warriors feature heavily too.   Aztec designs are generally colorful and bold geometric shapes which lend themselves very well to Tattoos, making a real impact.  One thing to be aware of though is that the simplicity of the designs can be deceptive, you need an artist who is skilled to to get the full effect, and slight mistakes in bold designs can wreck the look of the whole piece of work.

The Aztec Calendar is really intricate and is filled with images, mostly representations of the sun with different facial expressions.  Choosing the right one to match your personality and the meaning you want to express is very important.  Talk to your artist before starting any work like this and do some research too, there is lots of information on the internet as well as local libraries.  Symbols from the Aztec language also feature heavily but as it has not been fully translated many artists will only tattoo symbols they understand fully.  Sometimes it can be worth getting a temporary Aztec Tattoo, just to see how it looks before you get the real thing done.  Most artists will be happy to help you do this rather than have a dissatisfied customer.

Photo courtesy of ehecatzin

Tribal Tattoos

Symbolism In Aztec Tattoos

Aztec tattoos were, above all, a symbolic representation of the devotion of a people to their gods. On a lesser level, they symbolized the status and tribe to which an individual belonged as well as their achievements in life.

Aztec TattooA large part of any Aztecs daily routine was devoted to pleasing the gods and ensuring success in life and in battle so to carry symbols of that devotion on your body was thought to be essential. The positioning of the Tattoos was not left to chance either and depended very much on the god whose favour you sought. Wrist, chest and stomach were popular locations as they were seen as ‘seats of power’ within the body.

The traditional Aztec Tattoo designs were highly colored, as is much Aztec art and very stylized. Culturally the Aztecs were a sophisticated race, as is demonstrated by the quality of their architecture, sculpture and textiles. This sophistication extended to their tattoo designs which were often complex and must have taken many hours to complete.

Tattoos were applied from an early age to both boys and girls and were a part of the process of growing up. As the children grew to adulthood, they would have more, carrying their life story with them as a constant reminder.

The main influence on Aztec life was the Sun, they developed an accurate calendar which was beautifully illustrated. The effect of the Sun, in it’s constant rising and setting was seen to be the certain proof of an afterlife and consequently the Sun god was most highly revered. The Aztec language, Nahauti, was pictorial and the symbols for the Sun were, and still are, used as Tattoo designs.

Traditional Aztec Tattoos designs are deceptive in their simplicity. There is little of the fine shading that we associate with some more modern styles. They are bold and make a statement or declare an intent. Animal and Bird images such the Eagle, a symbol of strength, were often used but most common were representations of the gods.

The god of warriors, Tezcatlipoca, with his fierce face was a popular choice. He is often depicted with his tongue sticking out, also a common warrior image amongst the Maoris.

Uitzilopochtle, the god of the Sun was represented in many different forms, and also the Calendar was used showing the importance placed on the observance of rituals at their proper time.

My own personal favorite is Quetzalcoatl, the feathered Serpent, god of weather, fertility and creativity. His was a unique place in the hearts of the Aztec people as it was on his benevolence that they depended for food, shelter and beauty in their lives. This beauty was demonstrated in the many variations of his image in Aztec Tattoo designs.

Tribal Tattoos

Aztec Tattoos

aztectattooAztec Tattoos are one of the most easily recognized Tattoo Styles because of their bright colors and highly stylized nature, but where do they come from?

The Aztecs were one of the most powerful peoples in history, dominating the area we now call Mexico in between the 13th and 15th centuries, until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors heralded their destruction.

The Aztec society was highly structured and had a strict social and religious code which dominated their daily lives.  Aztec tattoos, as we refer to them, formed a part of that culture.

The thing that most of remember from our schooldays are the bloodthirsty images propagated by the Spanish Conquerors.  These depicted a barbaric society that was only interested in appeasing their gods by spilling blood in horrific ways.  It is human nature to judge other peoples and cultures by our own standards and in doing that we miss many important aspects of a society.  The thing that went missing here was the incredibly beautiful artwork of the Aztecs, and Tattoos were an important part of that.

The nature of Aztec society was such that almost everyone had some training the arts, even if it was just creating simple, but beautiful, pots and utensils.  The architecture was stunning and the buildings were decorated and carved on every available surface to express the emotions of the people and their devotion to their goods and their tribe.

Aztec Tattoos grew from both the religious and cultural aspects of their society.  In common with many tribal societies Rites of Passage from one part of your life to another were marked with ceremonies of many different kinds, both boys and girls would have Tattoos to mark their coming of age and other important milestones.  Tribal affiliation was also demonstrated visibly by the type, style and colors of the Tattoos.

Religious devotion to a particular god was also shown by the Tattoos, particularly those of the Warriors.  Tezcatlipoca, the god of Warriors, was a popular choice.  The driving force of the Aztec religion was the Sun, they developed an accurate calendar which was beautifully depicted in much of the artwork.  Many Aztec Tattoos are based on this calendar, also honoring the Sun god, Huitzilopochtili.  This is probably one of the most popular Aztec Tattoo designs used today.

The next article in this series on Aztec Tattoos will look at those designs and their symbolism.


Body Tattoos – Stay Safe

Once you have decided that you are going to get a body tattoo, you need to make sure that all you get is the tattoo. Whilst most tattoo artists are incredibly careful about health and hygiene the ultimate responsibility is yours. Just by adopting a few simple precautions you can make sure that getting inked is an experience you won’t regret and you will be proud of your tattoo for many years. Don’t be tempted to skimp on these steps – it is your body and you will be the one who suffers if it isn’t right.

Check out the Tattoo Artist and the shop before you go. First and foremost – ask around, check with friends where they go and what they think. If you see someone with a design you like and that is well done, ask them where they had it done

Getting A Tattoo Talk to the Artist – and talk to more than one. Go and visit a couple of studios and get a feel for the place and the artist. Do they think the way you do? Are they interpreting what you want properly? Will they customize a design for you or only do ‘off the shelf’ designs. Any reputable artist will take the time to talk to you, and will be happy to demonstrate their drawing skills as well. When you speak to the Artist, ask about tattoo after care. They ought to give you detailed instructions and you should follow these to the letter. Also ask about ‘touch ups’ should they be required.

Most good Studios display evidence of training in sterilization and hygiene procedures. It they aren’t obvious, ask about them and ask to see the certificates if you are not happy with their answers. No good artist will mind – in fact they will welcome the fact that you are prepared to take the time to make sure their work will be cared for properly.

Ask about training, particularly if the shop is new to the area. Most artists serve a fairly lengthy apprenticeship and are proud of the fact that they are well qualified. Certificates are usually displayed prominently. You should also check that insurance documents are up to date – again they are generally on public display.

The Tattoo Studio itself should be clean, tidy and well organized – it’s not going to be like a hospital but you should feel confident that floors and walls are regularly washed and cleaned, as should the windows. Any soft furnishings should be cleaned frequently and there should be no soiled rubbish around.

When you have chosen your studio, and you go for your tattoo you should find that all the equipment is well kept and cared for. The Artist will wear disposable gloves – make sure to tell them if you have a latex allergy so that the right ones are used. The guns should be covered in a clean plastic film and the needles will be in a sealed packet which will be opened in front of you. If that doesn’t happen – don’t have the tattoo!

If it doesn’t look or feel right to you – go somewhere else. If you are not comfortable that everything is just right then you won’t relax and that means your tattoo will hurt a great deal more than it would otherwise. A body tattoo is an investment for life and you should take just as much care in choosing where it is done and who does it as if you were investing in a piece of art for your home.

Tattoo After Care

Tattoo Boost – The Key To Looking Good

It is a fact of life that Tattoos fade but with good care you can keep them looking good. I came across Tattoo Boost following a recommendation from a friend, and I have to say the tattoos were looking good Designed originally for the Biker community, it has crossed over to the mainstream user who wants to keep their colours bright and the skin in good condition. The worst thing for any body art is for the skin to dry out, it makes your ink look old, tired and unappealing which is not what any of us want.

They liken it to keeping your bike in good condition – not sure about the analogy but I am impressed with the product – to quote:-

  • Makes your old tattoo look brand new
  • Brings back luster & color to faded tattoo ink
  • Helps preserve color on new tattoos
  • Saves money by eliminating the need to be re-inked
  • Developed in an FDA-approved lab
  • Invisible barrier helps keep ink fresh looking
  • Protects skin when used with our
  • Lightweight, fast-acting, non-greasy formula
  • Won’t clog pores

They do issue a warning notice which made me smile…. “Tattoo Boost works so well that applying it to a cover-up tattoo may bring out parts of the older tattoo”

Foot Tattoos

Butterfly Foot Tattoos

Butterfly Foot TattooIf you are going to get a foot tattoo this is probably the best time of year to do it. Foot tattoos need as much air as possible to help them heal well so summer is definitely the best time. It is important to keep them clean as well so make sure that you wash them carefully and apply plenty of cream to keep out the dust and dirt during that all important early tattoo after care.

Choosing a foot tattoo design is something to give plenty of thought to – you want something that will look good when viewed from above when on a heavily curved surface so the perspectives need to be carefully considered. Flowing designs lend themselves to this very well, as do designs with a natural movement. Stars are very popular but you do need to be careful with these as the hard geometric shape can be badly distorted if they are too large. If you really want stars perhaps a sprinkling of small ones is the best way to go. My personal preference is for something natural such as butterflies and flowers – which can wind across the foot and ankle and even up onto your leg if you want something fairly large. My favorite has to be Butterflies – large or small. They look really good when placed well – across the top of the foot for a larger one, or just two or three little ones floating up the side of your foot and ankle if you want something a little more discrete.

A good artist will be able to give you a Butterfly foot tattoo that looks as if the wings are gently fluttering in the breeze, and the wings will be almost iridescent in the sunlight – so cool and cute!

Tattoo After Care

Tattoo After Care – Antibacterial Creams or Not?

One of the hotly debated topics in Tattoo After Care is whether you should use an antibacterial cream or just a light moisturising cream.  The argument rages around the effect of the different creams on the skin.

A newly done tattoo is an open wound and should be treated with great care – the care you give your tattoo at this point will have an effect on how it looks for the rest of your life.  The last thing you want to do get an infection.  Most tattoo artists have extremely high standards of hygiene and with the coming of more regulations and health and hygiene inspections are happening more often.  Never be afraid to ask your Tattoo Artist what procedures they follow – they will always be only too glad to tell you.  They will also give you guidance on good tattoo after care.

If you keep your tattoo clean and follow the instructions you should be OK but what if you feel you want more – should you use an antibacterial cream or not?  The danger is an allergic reaction.  The fewer unsuitable substances that go near your open wound, the better.  You need to care for that Tattoo and keep the skin supple so  moisturisers are necessary and in the early days you also need to put something on it to prevent water damage whilst it heals.

Do a skin test before you have your tattoo done and just check out if you have any reaction – better safe than sorry!


What Tattoos Mean To Me

Gil's TattoosI browse the net – a lot. I find all kinds of things, some good, some bad. Some things I’m interested in, some I’m not. I was looking around the other day to see what kind of things people said about Tattoos that were personal to them, about what they mean and why they have them. I came across something I want to share with you. This site Gil’s Tattoos, is a page on Squidoo by their development engineer, and is about his view on Tattoos – he is a self-professed fanatic. More interesting though are his views on why he has Tattoos and the meaning behind his choices.

What struck me was the deeply personal nature of both the page and his tattoos. The Raft is a testament and tribute to the thought that he gives to each piece of body art – go visit, it will only take a moment – and it’s worth it!

Tribal Tattoos

Tribal Tattoos – In The Beginning

Tribal TattooEver since Tattoos were done with sharp sticks and a mixture of soot and god knows what, they have been used as a symbol of unity and belonging – a mark of identity to show who and what you are. In the dawn of time they were used for many reasons, now the term ‘Tribal Tattoo’ tends to refer to one or two colour designs that are very stylised, going back to the time when they were used to represent events or to symbolise deities or even bring good fortune.

A Bronze Age man, who died over 5,000 years ago was found in a glacier in Northern Italy, his body was covered in a series of complex and intricate designs that probably represented his beliefs and how he viewed himself. We still use tattoos in the same way – as an expression of who and what we are to the world at large. Tribal tattoos today come from many cultures, Maori, African, Polynesian, Celtic, Asian, Native American and more but their use is not limited to people of that ‘tribe’.

Typically they are done in black ink, with occasional shading in another colour, usually grey. If colour is used, it is just a touch here and there to highlight an element or a shape. Of all the styles of tattoo these are often thought of as the most sculptural, particularly on a well defined body.

More often than not, tribal designs are done on the back or arms though there is a growing trend to have them on legs, especially now that they can be shown off out of work when wearing cut offs or shorts, and covered in the workplace if necessary.

Tribal designs are widely available and can be combined with many other styles to give a unique effect. Any good tattoo artist will be able to help you meld one or more designs into something that will look good on your body. They can also be used to link tattoos that have been done at different times to produce a piece of work that is absolutely unique and a true expression of your personality.