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The Real Story Behind Stick-&-Poke Tattoos

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    Stick-and-poke tattoos are having a major moment. They made their way onto Instagram feeds last year: photos of tiny, puzzled Bart Simpsons above anklebones or delicate, pointillist planets orbiting spinal curves. proclaimed them the coolest tattoo style of 2015.

    These tattoos are exactly what they sound like: The technique involves dipping a sterilized needle in ink, and dotting it into the skin to create an image. It's a process that resembles particular traditional cultural tattooing practices, with a result less precise than electric tattooing. But to some, it can be more playful and authentic, even more meaningful. And unlike much of modern tattoo culture, women are at the center of the trend — and it's not the first time.

    Men may dominate the history of Western tattooing, but ancient Egyptian body art — which usually consisted of dots and dashes — was almost exclusively a female practice. Some of the oldest female bodies we've unearthed carried tattoos, like that of a 2,500-year-old Siberian princess who told her story through mythical ink animals running across her shoulders and fingers.

    The NYC (more specifically, Brooklyn) women profiled here are taking tattooing out of the studio and into their bedrooms. As unlicensed hobbyists (who all have other careers), who mostly tattoo friends or other artists looking to trade skills, they aren’t seeking to disrupt the industry. Rather, much like those in other slow movements, they're more interested in reengaging with the quiet, physical work behind a form we’ve mostly lost touch with.

    While DIY tattoo kits probably won’t replace kombucha starters as the latest homemaking fad, the aggressive trendiness of stick-and-pokes does have its pitfalls. Many professional tattoo artists have expressed frustration over this craft going mainstream — 16-year-olds poking starfish into their thighs at slumber parties may undermine this legitimate art.

    Whichever way you look at it, it’s not surprising that with the mainstreaming of tattooing — now basically a rite of passage among suburban U.S. teens — came a subtle backlash in the form of the rise of DIYers eager to practice the tactile, intimate technique.

    Ahead, meet five of today's most innovative female stick-and-poke artists.

    Ed. note: If you plan on getting a stick-and-poke tattoo, do your research! Home-tattooing operates in a bit of a legal gray zone, and while stick-and-pokes can be safe when done correctly, there are always risks.

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  2. Photo: Courtesy of Andie Enomoto. Designed by Abbie Winters.


  3. Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Kaclik.


  4. Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Kaclik.


  5. Photo: Courtesy of Designed by Abbie Winters.


  6. Photo: Courtesy of Josephine Heilpern.