YORK — Dorie Heyer’s first tattoo was “an eyesore” for many years. Fulfilling a pact made with a close friend, the York Township woman got the tattoo on her 17th birthday. The tattoo artist insisted on doing the entire piece in single needle, which prevented it from healing properly. Heyer’s skin rejected a lot of the ink.
“This caused it to look very patchy,” Heyer said. “Also, the line work was shaky at best.” Since the tattoo, on her right hip, matched the one her friend had, “removing it was never an option,” she added.
Finally, after several years living with the bad artwork, Heyer and her friend decided to have their tattoos fixed. They celebrated their birthdays with each agreeing to pay for the other’s cover-up work, which Heyer said cost about $100 since the tattoo was small.
Today, Heyer sports a pair of hearts where the poor artwork once was.
“It wasn’t any more costly to get it fixed than it was to get the original,” she said.
Fixing bad tattoos, known as “cover-up work” in the industry, has skyrocketed in recent years. Reality TV shows like “LA Ink” and “America’s Worst Tattoos” are largely responsible, said Brian Stence, owner of No Regrets tattoo parlor in York.
“We do a lot of cover-up work,” he said. “When I started tattooing, that was part of the fun — trying to cover up some of these nightmares.”
For the artists, the challenge is making a new tattoo out of somebody’s mistake. That can limit the options, said artist Christi Clark, adding that she has developed her own strategy for fixing bad ink.
“Every cover-up is individual,” said Clark, who works at No Regrets. “I use movement and color. I’ll look at how your eye moves through the piece and you won’t even notice what is underneath unless you look for it.”
Often, it isn’t necessarily a bad tattoo that a customer wants reworked.
Kate Penn - Daily Record/Sunday News Dorie Heyer at her home in York Township. Heyer s first tattoo was poorly done and she had to get it covered up by a different artist later, but that didn t ruin her taste for ink.
“A lot of times it’s an old boyfriend’s name or a tattoo they got when they were drunk,” Clark said. “I’ve covered up a lot of names.”
As for her best fix, Clark cites a woman who came in with a purple rose that looked fine.
Clark turned it into a pink orchid.
“This was a very well-done tattoo, but the woman just didn’t want it anymore,” she said. “That was a little bit unusual for me.”
Stence, 31, opened his own shop in 2009, but has been tattooing for much longer. He recalled only one tattoo that he couldn’t cover-up: A man who came in to the shop with “Happy New Year” tattooed on his forehead.
Many people think laser removal surgery is a simple answer for a bad tattoo. Not true, Stence said, noting it is very expensive and often unsuccessful.
“I’ve seen tattoos that were actually worse after surgery,” Clark added.
A tattoo that is fixed can make a world of difference for someone with an attachment to body art, Heyer said. After her initial tattoo, Heyer took her time to find an artist she was comfortable with. He has since done several tattoos for her.
“I’ve always wanted tattoos as long as I can remember,” she said. “Every one has a meaning and I feel that they represent me, whether they embody a self-mantra or are simply a representation of a certain time, person, or place.”
Heyer advises anyone looking to get tattooed to exercise patience and find an artist you “click” with. If possible, hand draw the tattoo you wish to get.
“A tattoo is going to be on your body forever, so why not take the time to make sure it’s the best piece of artwork possible?” she said.