Tattoos may be more popular in America than ever. Television shows and YouTube channels showcasing tattooing attract millions of viewers. A Pew Research Center survey found that 40 percent of Millennials have been inked. But choosing a design for a permanent image on your skin, especially for a first tattoo, can be daunting. A recent trend in tattoo culture is “Get What You Get”– where, typically for a discount, those who dare can receive a randomly chosen tattoo design.
WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports on one local shop that is putting a new spin on one of the hottest trends in tattooing.
There’s a gumball machine just inside the door at Resolute Tattoo in Delmar, New York, near Albany. Stephanie Chard walks inside for her appointment and is handed a token.
“All right, here we go. No time to think about it…”
But she isn’t turning the handle for gum. It’s for her next tattoo.
“You won’t even believe it…”
Printed on a piece of paper inside a plastic capsule, is a drawing of a baby in a washbin with a snake. A classic, traditional design. But Chard doesn’t want a tattoo of a baby.
This isn’t her first tattoo or even her first random tattoo. Chard was here last month, too. She chose a purple and orange dragon on her left leg. It took her four cranks of the machine to decide on what to get. While the first spin is $100, rerolls are $20 apiece.
She spins again, and gets a snarling wolf. It’s cool, but not perfect.
“I mean, hey, if we can really get it up a notch why not? Let’s try it…”
It’s a swallow and a rose. A traditional design by the late great artist “Sailor Jerry” Collins.
“Oh! Now we’re talkin’.”
That brings the price of this tattoo to $140, a bit of a discount from the $160 per hour shop rate.
As tattoos explode on the Internet, boosted by social media sites like Instagram, Get What You Get machines have appeared at neighborhood tattoo shops across the country.
But what sets Resolute Tattoo apart is it donates all proceeds from its game-of-chance.
Resolute Tattoo co-owner Holly Robinson says when the shop opened in February, she wanted to do a lot for charity. But beyond supporting a good cause there are two other reasons why she decided to bring in a Get What You Get stocked with classic designs.
“I was trying to keep the negative Internet opinions down, and I felt like if we did it for charity would be less prone to throw out their negative opinions on it,” said Robinson.
And two, Robinson has an affinity for traditional-style tattoos.
“Traditional tattoos are beautiful and it’s a great way for people to try them who might not otherwise give them a shot.”
In June, all donations will go to Street Soldiers, a volunteer homeless outreach program based in Albany, Troy and Saratoga Springs.
Renee Fahey of Street Soldiers says her organization was tagged in a Facebook post made by Resolute Tattoo looking for charities who may be interested in getting involved. Fahey says in the days since Street Soldiers has been featured at the tattoo shop, interested people have been reaching out.
“Actually we’ve gotten numerous inbox messages asking how they can involved and help,” said Fahey.
In May, proceeds went to Upstate Underground Rescue, which adopts and fosters dogs. In April, the first month of Get What You Get at Resolute Tattoo, donations were made to the Autism Research Institute.
So far, daring tattoo collectors have raised about $4,000 for charity.
Stephanie Chard decides to place her new swallow and rose in the same spot on her thigh as the purple dragon on her other leg as artist Carlos Gonzalez gets ready to tattoo the design.
“OK, you ready?” asks Gonzalez.
“Let’s do it!” says Chard.
“Get what you get.”
“Yup, getting what I got.”
Around an hour later, it’s finished.
“Oh yeah, totally worth it. I’ll be back next month.”
“For another?” asks Gonzalez.
“Oh yeah, it’s, like, addicting.”
And Resolute Tattoo may not have to look far for next month’s charity. Also visiting the shop was Nell Schmitz, who works for the Albany VA Stratton Medical Center.
“So I talked with them about possibly getting some of the veterans’ programs in on it. I think it’s cool. I couldn’t do it. I’m not that bold! But I think it’s a great idea," said Schmitz.