Students use stick and poke technique to create body art

Lauren Serge | Staff Writer

There’s nothing to poke fun at when it comes to stick and poke tattoos.

For many, the process of stick and poke appears frightening: personally etching temporary designs onto your skin; however, many Mason students have found the method to be an appealing alternative to traditional tattoos.

Junior Ty Kirssin was first tattooed back in 2016 and despite many speculations towards the process, Kirssin said his inclination for real tattoos influenced his curiosity in this makeshift method of inking.

“I really want tattoos and since you can’t get them without a parent signature until you’re 18, this is like the next best thing,” Kirssin said.

While prejudice thoughts towards the seemingly absurd procedures have ensued, Kirssin said the materials are accessible and the steps are easy to execute.

“You have to get a needle and India Ink–which is non-toxic–and then you take sewing twine, and you wrap it around the needle until there’s about a millimeter left,” Kirssin said. “You have to tape it in place so when you dip the needle in the ink, it’ll remain stable as you begin poking the skin.”

After poking with the needle multiple times in the desired spot, the ink will form dots onto the skin. The dots are translated into lines, which can slowly form images, shapes, and words.


The needle used to make the stick-and-poke tattoo enters through the epidermis skin layer. The ink stays in the dermis, creating the tattoo just beneath the skin.


In October, Junior Taylor Burton was tattooed by Kirssin–who frequently tattoos without charge–and said her attraction to the method generates from an aspiration to outwardly convey art.

“I would always draw on myself with sharpies anyway, so getting a stick and poke was just a way to keep those drawings there for awhile,” Burton said. “I think it’s something really unique and fun to have designs on your body.”

Burton said she became engrossed in giving herself tattoos, and now has around seven personally crafted designs. With a method that most would find great fears in, Burton said she finds enjoyment.

“It’s odd because I’m unsure whether I will get a real one when I turn 18 because the idea of actually getting a tattoo scares me,” Burton said. “But I do these to myself all the time because they’re a lot of fun.”

Since stick and pokes are not professionally crafted, the tattoos merely last a few years. Depending on the area, friction from clothing can force the sketches to fade. After being tattooed by Burton, junior Maddie Miller said the temporary nature of the tattoos is what piqued her interest the most.

“Since it doesn’t last forever I feel like that makes it more intriguing rather than getting something that’s permanent,” Miller said. “It’s a way to test whether I like it or not.”

Miller, who has four tattoos each placed on her ankle, stomach, arm and wrist, said the size, location and complexity of the tattoo can widely affect the pain a person will feel.

“The rose I have on my ankle hurt really bad because it had many intricate lines and curves,” Miller said. “The more complex the drawing, the longer the tattoo will take, and of course, the more pain the person will have to encounter.”

Through fashioning such improvised techniques, many assume that there would be a great deal of unsanitary results. However, Burton assures that those who give the tattoos must sterilize the utensils to create a clean product.

“I make sure everything is sterile,” Burton said. “ I pour some of the ink out so it’s separated from the rest of it and I don’t dip the needle into that same ink, that way the tattoo can be done properly.”

Despite the reputation the stick and poke attains, people are continuing to compose various sketches, and sharing their ink talents for free. Miller said her fondness towards the method is spawned by her appreciation for immediate results through the self-expression.

“It’s a great way to express yourself without it being permanent,” Miller said. “Plus it’s kind of a funny story to tell people how you got each one.”