As a general rule of how humans work, if there's something that people like to do, there will undoubtedly be those who desire to come along and do it harder, bigger, faster or longer. In fact, our culture has dedicated entire publications and institutions to this practice – the Guinness Book of World Records is one of the most famous examples, and its pages are filled with those who transformed the mundane into the magnificent by carrying it to superlative levels.
In light of those who endeavor to grow the longest fingernails or the longest hair, it should come as no surprise that more extreme and intense forms of self expression have also found their way into the pages of Guinness' famous book. Entrants such as the world's most tattooed man are very attention-grabbing, but one lesser-known record has seen quite a bit of competition in recent years. For nearly the past decade, tattoo artists have been competitively vying for the ironman record of longest single tattoo session.
Art gets competitive
Tattooing has long been an expression of personal style, but that hasn't stopped many artists from adding a bit of a competitive edge to the practice. One of the earlier instances of the feat traces back to 2005, when Tennessee newspaper The Daily Times reported that a local area tattooist by the name of Verni Russell appeared to have set a world record over the course of a marathon tattoo session that lasted her from Friday morning to the following Saturday evening. The Mayville, Tennessee-based tattoo artist reportedly performed 178 tattoos over the course of a 35-hour session, completing 107 of them within the first 24 hours.
Not typically a group to quietly allow themselves to be outdone, tattooists around the globe quickly took up the gauntlet inadvertently thrown by Russell, staging their own attempts to immortalize their inky glory in the annals of Guinness. While sources seem to be somewhat inconclusive on who holds the official record, the attempts have been impressive nonetheless. The Huron County View described one Michigan tattoo artist who spent nearly 41.5 hours straight tattooing clients. According to Guinness itself, the current world record is held by a U.K.-based artist named Dave Fleet who spent an eye-bleeding 50 hours and 10 minutes administering a tattoo to a single person over the course of a weekend.
Not content to let trivial things like the mere limitations of fragile humanity stand in the way, WDBJ7 reported that Virginia artist Chip Thomas is planning on going for more than 48 hours without a single break, which would make it the longest truly continuous session on record.
Stating the obvious
While certainly an achievement for the artists to be proud of, the act of marathon tattooing can have serious implications for those who actually end up under the needle. The prospect of being involved with an historic tattoo session may be appealing, but the associated tattoo regret is sure to outlast the potential novelty or worse, the record being broken by another artist. As Wales Online reported, many of the artists associated with these feats find themselves feeling the strain of such continued operation. Sleep deprivation, dehydration and even hunger are very real possibilities, especially when artists are pushing themselves to the brink of their physical limits, and any potential tattoo recipient should think twice before agreeing to take part in such an experiment.
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