Alternative Ink: How Emily Nogood got her start in tattooing with stick and pokes

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Most people who opt to get a tattoo wind up in a dentist chair, watching a machine drill into their skin until it bleeds. However, there are alternative, more archaic methods for those who want to decorate their bodies with permanent art that have been around since 3000 BC.

Stick and poke tattoos involve a sharp point, like a sewing needle, and ink and do not require a visit to a traditional tattoo parlor. Even though the laws pertaining to this craft vary by state and are not clearly delineated, they have without a doubt become more popular in recent years — notable figures like Demi Lovato, Rihanna and Hayley Williams have stick and poke tattoos.

While the vast majority of tattoo artists use machines, there are anomalies who specialize in stick and pokes. Management senior Emily Nogood, also known as @nogoodtattoo on Instagram, has been doing stick and poke tattoos for the past two years. With no formal art background, Nogood said she never imagined she would pick up tattooing as a hobby. In fact, she only has one tattoo.

Nogood’s stick and poke story started when she was on a waitlist for two years to get a traditional machine tattoo from a Czech artist, but by the time she was at the front of the list, the artist’s style had changed.

When Nogood came home disappointed and tattooless, her roommate brought home a DIY stick and poke kit. Instead of settling for another artist’s work that did not match her vision, Nogood took matters into her own hands and gave herself a moon tattoo with clouds on her ankle.

Despite this being a relatively new hobby for the young artist, Nogood has done tattoos for over one hundred people. Nogood said this hobby only took off about a year and a half ago when she started doing tattoos on her friends.

“I started posting pictures of each tattoo (I did) and started getting people on my Instagram asking me to do specific pieces and commissions,” Nogood said.

Nogood said she enjoys stick and poking as a creative outlet because it requires precision and attention to detail, which meshes well with her obsessive attention to detail.

“Tattooing has been good for me,” Nogood said. “It allows me to be a super perfectionist and (for) that not to be weird.”

Nogood also loves stick and poking because it allows her to create collaborative, meaningful art that will stay with the recipient forever.

“I enjoy that (the person I’m tattooing and I) can make something together that they can feel really great about and really love in the end,” Nogood said.

Although her specialty is stick and poke work, Nogood also owns the equipment to make machine tattoos, like those done in parlors. However, she prefers the intentionality and intimacy of stick and pokes.

“A machine seems almost kind of brute to me,” Nogood said. “It’s just drilling into your skin. It doesn’t seem as intentional as something hand poked.”

Those who have received tattoos from Nogood said the same. Kat Massock, an ink aficionado covered in twenty different tattoos, had one of her eight stick and poke tattoos done by Nogood.

“I think the connection between you and your artist is more intimate with a stick and poke,” Massock said.

Despite not planning to become a tattoo artist, Nogood fully embraces this shtick as a creative outlet and said it drives her to continue expressing her creativity in other forms.

“With any creative endeavor, it’s about finding this little niche that people really like and are drawn to,” Nogood said. “That really seems to be stick and poking for me.”