Tattoo Stories

September 26, 2013

I love tattoos because it is such a great form self expression. Someone can learn a lot about you just by looking at your skin. And it is the ultimate commitment to art.

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I love tattoos because it is such a great form self expression. Someone can learn a lot about you just by looking at your skin. And it is the ultimate commitment to art. It’s also a solid investment, because wherever I go in life, whatever I might amass or loose, my ink will be there til the day I die. It puts me in a different category, or sub culture and people do make assumptions, for better or worse. I do find that other artists and people with tattoos have a different approach to me or unspoken connection now that I have ink on my arms. I got my tattoos because I love them and I will decorate my temple as I see fit, but I do enjoy being apart of the culture that surrounds it. People say to me, “what about when your 80 and they look like shit?” I say, who gives a fuck, my skin will look like shit anyway. Besides, Lyle Tuttle, a famous tattoo pioneer, who I was fortunate enough to meet, is 81 and his tattoos still look awesome. So there you go.

I always wanted tattoos. I started tattooing before I was legally able to get one myself. I had a teacher who taught me in exchange for my bass guitar. The first tattoo I did was my own design. It felt so cool to connect with someone like that.

My first tattoo was a little kanji symbol for fire behind my left ear. When I graduated high school I hit the road with some friends in a van. We went to Lake Tahoe and we had made faerie wings out of wire, panty hose and spray paint to sell. We took them to Circus Circus, which is a casino there, and sold them on the floor. I’m sure it wasn’t allowed, so we sold them as fast as we could discretely. To our surprise they were instantly popular, people swarmed around us and they were gone in minutes. We made more than we had expected, and staying in the van, we could spend the money having fun. So Helen and I got tattoos. She picked it out, Kanji symbols were all the rage back then, they might still be, but we didn’t care, we just wanted matching tattoos and liked the idea of fire.

The tattoo on my upper back is my favorite. It’s a celtic pagan symbol for goddess. The three moons represent the three stages of a woman’s life in relation to her fertile cycle. The maiden, before her child bearing years, the years of innocence, the full moon represents the mother, and the last moon is the wise woman, or crone. On that trip to Tahoe I had a vision of getting that symbol with a raven in the center as I had a real connection to ravens. I got the tattoo from a shop that would eventually become my teacher, when I was learning to tattoo. I was 19. At first i just got the raven and the outline of the moons. I didn’t have enough money and I had to spread it out. Joe, the tattoo artist, who has been a close friend ever since, suggested I get it much bigger than I had planned, and I am so thankful he did. I think if you are going to get ink, go big, and bold. I went to a party that night at a friend’s house with bandages and plastic covering my upper back, blood and excess ink seeping out. Everyone wanted to see and I had to try to keep it wrapped up but I let them peak. I had the shakes trying to sleep that night. Part excitement, nervousness and maybe a fever, I knew I was changed and there was no going back. I hid it from my mom, but one day she came in my room when I had a tank top on. Her eyes got HUGE and she said “Oh my god is that REAL?!” She was so mad.

The griffin on my right ankle I got at a tattoo convention. I was actually there working the both for the tattoo shop I worked at. I always loved griffins and thought a stone gargoyle would be cool and the guy who did it, Angel, was known for doing great textures, like rock. He didn’t speak english very well at all but we communicated through drawing. He would draw some and I drew some. His friend translated for him and I remember him explaining a lion with an eagle head in spanish. Though I couldn’t think of how to say it, I could understand what they were saying.

Below the griffin is some viking runes that Joe did. Runes are were the shapes and sounds of our modern english letters come from. I was wanting to connect to my heritage, though we are all so mixed it’s hard to say what it is, still america being so young doesn’t have it’s own heritage and culture yet. So I learned all about runes, both as letters and symbols. I don’t tell people what it says, my opinion is if you can’t read runes, too bad. Learn them, then you can read it.

The tattoo on my left ankle is a Heartagram, which is a symbol from a band called HIM. They are a fairly obscure band and I find that people either really love them or really hate them. Its endearing to meet other people who have the same symbol tattooed, it is like an instant bond, like being part of an unnamed club of metal lovers. It was tattooed on my 22nd birthday by a woman who I was teaching to tattoo. It’s not perfect, she dug a little deep and the lines are uneven, but I felt like it was my turn to get a tattoo from a novice, so many people trusted me and gave me space to learn. It was my turn. That and I will never forget her, so long as I live, we have a connection.

The snowflake on my write wrist was inspired by a book called Messages in Water, by Dr. Emoto. He had buddhist monks meditate with water in their hand and they would meditate on different feelings and emotions, then they would freeze the water and look at the crystals. Amazingly, the crystals for love all came out very similar, very complex and beautiful. When they thought of hate, the crystals came out disfigured, disjointed and ugly. It is a repeatable experiment, and they tried different variations. They concluded that our thoughts and emotions have an effect on water that can be observed. The implications of that are huge, especially since most of our bodies are water. I never want ed to forget that, so I got a snowflake tattoo on my right wrist where i knew it would remind me often. I got the tattoo at Super Genius in Seattle after being recommended by my friend Angel Ibarra who played in a Seattle punk band called Aiden.

The sea horse on my arm is something I always wanted. When I was young and working in the tattoo shop we used to read all the tattoo magazines on our down time. We knew all the names of the famous artists and looked forward to seeing our favorites in each new issue. My favorite is a famous tattoo artist named Judy Parker. She is known for doing ocean themed tattoos, mermaids and octopi are her specialty. I had seen these sea horses in the fountains in Italy, and loving horses and the ocean I thought they were so cool. I had to have one, and only Judy could do it. I drew it on my left arm over and over. It wasn’t til I was 26 and living in LA that I got it. Her shop is in San Deigo and I took the day off to get it right before she left for the Sturges bike rally. That weekend was also Comic Con, so I stayed in a hostel and went to the Con sporting my fresh ink.

The big interlocking triangles on my back is a sacred geometry symbol, well it’s a simplified version of a greater more complex symbol. I chose to get just the tetrahedrons to keep it simple for a tattoo. It’s part of The Flower of Life, which is found in nearly every culture across the globe, it is also found in math, science and nature. The fibinocci sequence is found with in it, as well as a three dimensional drawing of all of the platonic solids. Like Da Vinci, I find it fascinating the way science, biology, art and math are connected. To be honest, I have a lot of ache scares on my back and my strategy is to cover it with a big tattoo. Turn something i’ve always hated into something beautiful that I would be proud to show. I chose to add the clouds and will add outer space eventually because i was inspired by the work of Guy Aticheson, who is known for psychedelic geometry tattoos. His color work is legendary. This tattoo is a working progress, it takes a lot of time and money to complete a back piece, and it’s not as fun because I can’t see it.

The most recent is my angel tattoo on my upper right arm. It’s from and Offspring album cover. I have always had a connection to them. They were my first concert and first mosh pit. I was just 13. This particular album, Rise and Fall Rage and Grace came out at a time I was living in the outback of australia with my dad. We went through some hard times and I drew this album cover and hung it on the wall. She became a symbol and inspiration to me. When I told my dad I was getting it, he thought the angel looked tied down, restricted, captured. Though he shares my love of The Offspring, he didn’t understand until I emailed him my interpretation of the art. I always saw her as breaking free of her chains, though her heart has been pierced she is strong, her arms are up in rebellion and she is taking off into the sky. Like saying I might be wounded, but you can’t keep me down. In a way similar to the phoenix, the name sake of my new desert home. Maynard, of Tool, says we come to the desert to heal. I think that is so true.

Tracy S.

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