CINCINNATI - Among the throngs of muscular men covered head to toe in ornate colors and designs at the Gambling Rose Tattoo convention, Erin Henschen stood out. The bubbly 18-year-old was a clean canvas, on a mission to find the best deal for her very first tattoo.
"This is like the third place that we've come to," Henschen said. "The first place, they charged me $200 and I didn't want to pay that much, and the other place wanted $180."
After wandering the convention aisles for nearly an hour and a half on Saturday, Henschen landed at the booth of Grade A Tattoos and Body Piercing.
"This place charged me $120 so I'm like alright, that's probably as low as it will get".
With boyfriend Mason by her side for emotional support, Henschen faced tattoo artist Jeremy Nielsen. First, Nielsen strategically applied the transfer to the left side of the teen's waist. The anchor, nearly six inches in length was barely visible on Henschen's deeply tanned skin.
"It says I refuse to sink," Henschen said, smiling. "I've been through a lot of stuff in my life and I just figured it means a lot to me, so I'm going through the pain to do it."
Moments later Nielsen flipped a switch and the needle began to buzz.
Mason reminded Henschen to breathe, and Nielsen cracked jokes to relax his visibly nervous client.
"If you freak out I'll freak out and I don't think that would look too good," he said.
A few other customers stop by to see how Henschen is handling the pain. One of them assures her it will be worth it in the end. With hands covering her eyes and a blue bandana in her mouth to muffle her frequent cries of anguish, the tattoo newbie did her best to endure the pain.
Work In Progress
Nearly 30 minutes later the tattoo was all but complete.
"We're just about done," Nielsen said, using a towel to wipe the sweat from his bald head. "Nothing left but a little more shading."
While the finishing touches were underway, boyfriend Mason proudly displayed his own tattoo. "Est. in 1994," is boldly inscribed across the teen's chest. Within 20 minutes Nielsen was wiping away the excess ink and applying a paper towel to the fresh new design, which is directly below her hip and extends to the top of her pelvis.
The artist advised his customer that the tattoo site was going to be pretty sensitive for about a week. Henschen was still shaking from experience.
"That hurt like hell," Henschen said. "I can't stop shaking, but I'm glad I got it done and it's over with because like now I feel like I'm just in shock."
She described the pain as a burning sensation, unlike anything she's ever experienced.
"I mean I planned on getting a matching quote but after that experience I just cant. It hurt way too bad."
So Worth It
Boyfriend Mason paid Nielsen and thanked him for his work, as Henschen gradually began to calm down from the nearly one-hour ordeal.
"This represents my life and what I've been though, like the saying I refuse to sink means a lot."
With purse in one hand and Mason's hand in the other she smiled.
"Looking back I think I will be happy I got it."