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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tattoos, like manna

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Young woman: May I help you?

Me: Yes, I have a strange request.

Young woman: What's your strange request?

Me: I have a blog, and I'd like to talk with someone for a few minutes about tattoos, and take pictures.

Young woman: Sure! . . . Perry! This lady has a blog . . . .

I had recently met a delightful woman, who happens to have tattoo "sleeves." Not having spent time with anyone who had so much skin covered with art, hers has been rumbling around in my psyche. Suddenly in the middle of one insomnious night (that's about perimenopause, not tattoos), I knew I was curious to know more about tattoos, especially for people who see all their skin like a canvas. So on my lunch hour yesterday, I walked across the street from my university building and dropped in on Splash of Color. This is where I accompanied Lesley one year when she was 15 or 16 to get her eyebrow pierced. The next year her dad accompanied her to a different tattoo shop to get a tattoo on her back, which she wanted to wear with her magenta organza prom dress and bleached punk-spiked hair. If you're under 18, you must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for a tattoo or body piercing. Friends thought we were nuts. But we were pretty sure that conceding on these requests was a small price for maintaining openness and understanding with our teenage daughter. This is Lesley's pretty tattoo, at the right.



There were a few minutes waiting in the lobby while all the clients were being assisted that I had second thoughts and wanted to flee. I had never done anything like this (had I?), just dropping in and introducing myself to strangers for an interview. But as soon as I met Perry and Kris (the owner), they put me at ease with their gracious welcome.



 Perry introduced me to Sue, a visiting tattoo artist from Chicago.


Sue was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.

"When did you get your first tattoo?" I asked.

"I was 13."

Concealing my surprise, "Did one of your parents accompany you?"

"Oh. My mom looks like me. Everyone in my neighborhood looked like me. I would have been odd if I hadn't gotten tattoos."

Sue has been creating tattoo art since she was young and realized she could do better than what had been done on her. She takes her portable craft industry around the world. She has drawn tattoos in Barcelona, Milan, Puerto Rico, Manhattan, Chicago and now East Lansing.


Sue told me about one U.S. town where she worked, I forget where (I'm a blogger, not a reporter, dammit), where there was a state penitentiary. Most of the people who lived in town were on parole, and they came into the tattoo salon regularly for tattoos.

"These were big, burly, intensely macho types, and they weren't interested in having a woman tattoo artist paint their big art. There haven't been many female tattoo artists traditionally, and so it's hard for them to trust us. It took me years to build up a 'portfolio' that would show people that I was good at what I do. I watched while the male artists got the big jobs, and I was stuck with the $50 roses or hearts on teenage girls' ankles or wrists. Tattoo creation involves a lot of trust. I've also had to help young women understand that this is an expression of their own taste. They'll ask for a rose. I'll ask them, 'What color?' They'll ask, 'What color is it on the art I picked out?' I say, 'It's blue, but this is yours, and you can decide.'"

I said to Sue, "You're a tattoo adviser!" I told her I'm an academic adviser.


The writing on Sue's neck says, Die Trying. And here are her hands, with HOLD FAST.


After a few minutes Kris, the owner of Splash of Color joined us.



Kris told me about how she trains people in the tattoo industry on health and safety. More and more states now have certification and inspections, though the inspections are lax. Health inspectors don't know what to look for. These are the same inspectors who check up on restaurants and nail salons. There isn't a lot of specific training out there for inspecting a tattoo parlor. But Kris is helping to raise that standard and keeps her tattoo shop impeccably clean.



Kris and Sue explained that many of their clients have past lives they want to forget. Some have served time in prison and are moving on in a new job where gang tattoos or memories of prison are unwelcome. So some tattoo art that Sue paints is to cover up previous tattoos. In fact, she has gang tattoos of her own that she has had covered.

Shop owner Kris showed me her art. She is not an artist. Her wrist says Hang Tough.



I told Sue and Kris about the lady I had recently met, with sleeves, and how she sees her tattoos partly as reminders of life messages she wants to give herself, and not just to others.

"Oh yes," said Kris. "A lot of people get words written on their bodies to be like a mantra. They want to remind themselves to hang in there when life gets hard. There those encouraging words are, every morning when you wake up."

Sue and Kris spent almost the entire lunch hour with me. Kris, who has a 13-year-old daughter who hangs out with her at the shop, said she has tried working in places other than tattoo salons, and she always comes back, because of the open, caring atmosphere. She's owned Splash of Color now for about 13 years (if I remember right, no notes).

"I love having my daughter grow up in this environment where people are accepted for who they are. I've never seen more accepting people than these."







I thanked them for their time and willingness to answer my questions, pose for my camera and be posted on my blog. On the way out, I stopped in one of the rooms where Perry was painting an American eagle on Russ, a Harley Davidson club member.




Perry showed me his arm, which has undergone four treatments of tattoo removal.




"Why are you having it removed?" Dumb question, and I was pretty sure I knew the answer.

"So I can get a new one."

Do you recognize that woman on Perry's left leg? Oh. I forgot to ask Perry what his new tattoo was going to be. Drat.



Even though I don't anticipate ever having art permanently painted on my body, it's fun to think about what I would get if I did. What symbol of my life? What words for a mantra to see fresh every morning, like manna, except that they don't rot overnight? I don't know, but I like knowing that these women keep on keeping on with a little help. Hang tough, Hold fast, or Die trying.



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75 comments:

Todd said...

Ruth,
This is an amazing commentary about a culture that our nation knows so little about! So many people stand in automatic judgement when they see a person "with ink", without taking the time to find out what the artwork actually means to that person. As you have alluded, sometimes the ink is a map, keeping them on track for the rest of their lives.
I got my tattoo after years of struggling to find the right symbol that exemplified my goal in life .. my mission. I wanted it to be something that would stand the test of time, and not look utterly ridiculous on an 80 year old sagging body! :)
While studying ancient Egyptology, I found my symbol, the Eye of Horus, which symbolizes harmony, both physical and spiritual. Adding a bit of my own artistic flare to the design, I now have "branded" myself with an icon that i see in the mirror at the start of every day, reminding me that I am meant to "sing with the voices around me", adding my own melodies to the harmony of the universe.
I'm so thankful for you today! Love.

Elisabeth said...

What a fascinating journey, Ruth. I can understand your curiosity. Maybe in 100 years people will not so readily assume things about those who choose to cover themselves in tattoos, but they do seem to represent something today, I'm not sure what.

Here in Australia many people go in for the odd tattoo on ankle or shoulder but few cover themselves entirely. It is a statement.

Someone somewhere must have done research in this area. If not, maybe this is your chance for a beginning or a continuation.

This is a terrific post. So enlightening. Thanks.

Raevyn said...

Tattoos have become much more mainstream and accepted by society in general. I have 4, 3 of them are small, and one piece is larger, and I have several others that I want to get, though I have no idea where they belong, so it is not time to get them yet.

Susan said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece! And it sounds so accepting of you. You are a wise woman to seek understanding. I learned something today...about tattoos and the artists who create them...and I learned something about my friend as well and it makes me love and respect you even more than I already do. XOXO

George said...

A fascinating post, Ruth. Poet, farm day planner, collage artist, now photo journalist. What will you think of next? I say this in a totally supportive way. I love your insatiable curiosity and your creative spirit.

Ginnie said...

This is something that's stirred around in me for over two years now, Ruth, because of the imp in me, perhaps, more than anything else. The imp is the little devil a rare few have seen in me who wants to connect all life's inconsistencies into something that is symbollic. A tattoo is such a thing. And as I have told you before, it will most surely be a windmill for me, connecting so many soulful dots. The windmill a block away from us here in Holland is Nooit Volmaakt = Never Perfect/Finished. If I chose words for my tattooo, those would probably be it. As Todd said, I wouldn't mind them on my 80-year-old sagging body! My only question would be where to put it. So, see, your post delights me to no end. :)

Anet said...

This was really great Ruth! I love how brave you were to stay instead of fleeing. Good for you!

It really is all about commitment when it comes to tattoos.
I have two nephews who are tattoo artist and keep telling I should get one. (a squirrel)
But I just can't commit... and I don't think it would be a squirrel.

Autumn has a beautiful bird on her back and a strawberry patch on her shoulder. She got her first tattoo at her graduation party. My nephew Dom was tattooing (18 and older) at her party. Yeah, we have strange parties in our family.
She's getting a heart with MOM in it for my birthday, now that's just the sweetest thing ever!

Cusp said...

Wow....a real change for the norm for you and isnt it great. Have to say that I'm really really unsure about tattoos for myself or my loved ones. It's such a string statement and virtually irreversible and if I see a pretty young person with tattoos on firm young skin I always wonder what they will look like when they are 60, 70, 80 and the tattoo has faded. However I have seen some tattoo art work that is simply beautiful and really enhances that particular individual.

We used to live in a town where there was an annual Pan-European Tattoo Convention. It was a very conservative and judgemental town ( I hated living there) so God only knows why they chose that place to have the convention but for 3 or 4 days in the year the place came to life with so many people exhibiting completely different lifestyles and I loved it.

I really admire you and your husband for supporting your daughter's decision to get a tattoo at such a young age. Really not sure I could do the same but I recognize and really understand your reasons.

Thanks again for another wonderful post. Will you be making more lunchtime explorations ? :O)

willow said...

Two of my three grown children have tattoos. My daughter designed a wonderful little symbol of her own, and my son has a gorgeous version of our family crest. Both tattooed their first year of college, without my consultation, but I must say, both displayed impeccable taste. I've thought about getting one of my own, but they don't look quite as nice on skin that is ever moving southerly.

Shari Sunday said...

Very interesting post. You make a very good photojournalist. Both my kids have tatoos and my daughter pierced her eyebrow as a teenager. She wore bangs and hid it for a few days before I noticed. I have gone from being totally horrified to thinking tatoos look cool sometimes. I would still prefer the decals that wash off. It is interesting to consider what I would put and where I would put it. Little mind puzzle. Thank you.

Judy said...

So interesting! You were brave to do this. I have always wanted to visit a "parlor"... just to watch, not to get one.... Although I have thought about it....but I'll just stick to temporary tattoos for the fun of it.

Gwei Mui said...

What a fab article. Great pctures and a very interesting insight into a "sub-culture". I always wanted a tattoo - MADE IN HONG KONG - but sadly because of my ezcema I can't :(

Loring Wirbel said...

The photos of Sue deserve publishing as a photo essay, wonderful.

Kate said...

I'm not sure on what to comment first! I watched the video near the top of your sidebar first, so I'll start there. Is he related to you? Did you just stumble upon him? I was so impressed with his recital. Wonderful.

I love this 'Tattoo' post. My wife claims to want one, but has never done so. She might after seeing this. The shop looks like an upscale beauty salon, and the people you met seem delightful and helpful. Joie spent a couple of summers applying airbrush tattoos to tourists here in our little village. Not the same, of course, but very much fun.

And what a surprise to find this here. And what a delightful treasure you have become for me.
Thanks so much for showing up on my horizons!

ellen abbott said...

I think tattoos are cool, the arty ones at least. And I admire, in a twisted way, anyone who gets themselves covered with them.

I was going to get one when I turned 50 but couldn't decide what to get. My daughter has two and want me to design a third for her. Her first is a hibiscus flower I drew. My SIL has three or four, I forget. His keep getting bigger. My son has one, the story of which I wrote on my blog (http://ellenshead.blogspot.com/2009/07/life-for-my-son.html) if you are interested. (forgive me, I don't usually plug my blog on someone else's.)

Bonnie said...

Very interesting post Ruth! Fun to get a glimpse inside a tatoo emporium. I was impressed with how clean and organized it is.

Tatoos have become very mainstream - as body art, a statement, jewellery of a sort. My son sported an eyebrow ring in his teens and we understood his need to be in the 'current' of things at that age. I have to admit I was relieved he never asked about getting a tatoo.

When I see people who have their entire body covered in tatoos I cannot help but wonder about addiction or OCD. It also has the flavour of self-mutilation - somewhat akin to the wave of young people engaging in 'cutting'. There is more going on there than body art.

As with anything, moderation, respect and dignity are key. While I can understand and enjoy the appearance of a tasteful piece of body art, as a therapist I am very curious about the deeper motivations that result in a permanent disfigurement of the entire body.

A stimulating read.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

We have several friends whose daughters have gotten elaborate tattoos. I worry a bit about how they will survive the aging process. A lovely young woman with her arms covered in tattoos is one thing. A seventy year old just might be another.

As for me, nothing permanent. My ears aren't even pierced!

deb said...

It's intriguing really. My son got a family crest type his first year of University , on his hip, and it's fine.
But I would be crushed if I saw my children display their heart on their sleeves , no pun intended . sort of .

but to each their own. We went to Miami Beach a few years ago and the first place the kids wanted to go see was the popular Miami Ink location.

Great post, and I love it more for it's non reporter style. :)

Astrid said...

This is so fascinating, when I was a kid, my sailor-captain Granddad had a few tattoos even in colour, I always had to touch the skin.
My son of 22 has two tattoos, one is the Chinese symbol of the Dragon and the other is a J&A, Jaap and Astrid, his tribute to his parents after he heard about our divorce.
I already know what I want as a tattoo, an Amazone Woman, but the same as Ginnie, where do I like to put it.
I think you are very open-minded, instead of running away from it, you 'study' the subject, that is in my eyes very brave.
When Jeroen had his tattoo, people came asking me 'how could he?', ha...wrong address, when I saw what that tattoo did to him, it was worth it, I even was there when he did the other tattoo, supportive as I could be.
Ruth, thank you for showing this 'unknown' part of pure art, it is amazing how much art-work is 'walking around'.

Terresa said...

I like the Die Trying mantra.

Me? I got the $50 red rose while in college. I've wanted another tattoo since, but haven't gotten around to it. Maybe it's time...

Ruth said...

My dear Todd, what you felt and wrote means a lot to me. Reading and rereading what you wrote, I now almost feel that each of us should have a marker on us, our life message to get us through what it is our lot in life to get through. I can totally see that seeing your Eye of Horus would be deeply personal, connecting you with the ages, with humanity and civilization, and aligning yourself with it in harmony. I've watched you do just that, my dear, and I couldn't be prouder. But that sounds patronizing (matronizing maybe?), but I mean it in the most affectionate auntly way, recognizing that you have gone before me in understanding. [Hand on my heart.]

The Bug said...

I'm entirely too squeamish to get a tattoo - or to watch someone else get one. Yikes! Maybe if they offered general anaesthesia...

But I loved this post because of what you said at the end - about the women keeping on keeping on. We should all wish that for our fellow human beings.

Ruth said...

Hello there, Elisabeth. Two days ago, I had assumptions about people who wear tattoos, a presumed superiority, if I can be so honest, because I would not cover my skin that way. It's just like anyone or anything I encounter that I don't understand, I bounce myself off it in order to understand me in relation to it. But maybe what matters is that anyone in any group wants to be an insider.

Ruth said...

Hello and welcome, Raevyn, it's nice to meet you. Choosing where you put a tattoo reminds me of naming a child. It lasts forever.

Ruth said...

Susie, my darling friend, there is light in us that wants to come out. We keep covering it up via ego and mind and society crapola. What if I were an alien, and I'd never seen a human before, and a person walked up to me covered in colorful art. Would I not be amazed and delighted?

Ruth said...

George, I very much enjoy visiting my favorite blogs, some of which are consistent in form, and I look forward to the rest in that. As for me, most of my life, my curiosity was dormant and limp. Since it awakened, it seems to be gaining speed and momentum, so that sometimes I feel I'm going to explode with it. This blog is one way I get to express it, and you, my faithful friend, will be dragged through the barn doors, down the stone stairs, out the old dilapidated window, sloshing through the pond, and back again. Just like my comment at your current play post, I am all over the play-ous.

Ruth said...

Boots, I think there is not a thing that passes through your life unnoticed. What a lesson that is. What you wrote reminded me of the Amish, who create quilts and intentionally include something imperfect in its design, because only God is perfect. Maybe your perfectly placed windmill will be a perfect "imperfection" on your body, completing and making you whole.

Ruth said...

Anet, I've told you before, I wish I had you for a mom. Autumn's grad party must have been the most memorable party ever for her friends (and her of course, but then she has you for a mom, as do lucky Noah and Caleb). WOW! She's getting a MOM tattoo! Have you heard about the Most Interesting Man in the World (the Dos Equis ad) -- his Mom had a tattoo painted on her that said: SON. Hahahaha. Autumn is the coolest pin-up girl ever. I hope you and Brad and the kids are doing great.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Anet, looking back at my comment, I didn't mean anything against my own mom, who was quite amazing. But I think you know what I mean. I just honor who you are in your children's lives.

Ruth said...

Hi, Cusp. There is a huge divide between my generation (and yours?) and our kids'. It's like growing up with technology. It's a norm.

It's funny you mentioned the conventions! I asked Sue and Kris if there were tattoo conventions, haha. And Kris proceeded to describe the ones she'd been to, good and not so good. People would go to them so they could more easily get access to the best artists.

As for Lesley and her punk ways, raising kids is like trying to hold onto wet soap, as someone said. If you hold them too tight, they'll slip through your fingers. Lesley was so sweet and didn't do any of the risky behaviors that so many did! And I kind of understood, because in my day, I looked like a hippie, even though I didn't do all the dope. For some of us, there is a real appeal in certain edgy fashions.

Ruth said...

You know, willow, after reading your comment, and the others, I'm beginning to think that my blog is my tattoo! An expression of me. It's all about me. But will it be permanent?

:)

I wonder how that little sepia girl would look on my calf . . .

Ruth said...

Hey, Shari, you know what you made me think of? People could try fake tattoos for a while, in the spot they think they want it, and see if they like it. That's like how some women try prosthetic breasts before getting implants, to see how it affects them psychologically. I remember reading one story about a woman who tried that, and she did not like how she felt more powerful with a bigger chest. So she declined the implants.

Ruth said...

Judy, hahaha, now I feel like such a dolt. I just told Shari we should do temporary tattoos to see how we like them first. And I guess they are already out there. I only knew about the kids kind.

I confess that it was brave of me to do this. I was freaking out for a few minutes there. All alone too. :|

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, that would be perfect! So you could settle for a t-shirt instead?

Ruth said...

Thanks, Loring. I really like looking at her. I watched Sue over the course of the hour open up. She didn't smile in the first 30 minutes. I'm sure I was revealing my ignorance, and she was sweetly answering my naive questions.

Ruth said...

Kate, your warmth and connection are wonderful, thank you.

That boy in the video reciting Billy Collins was a gift to me from Lesley's best friend on my Facebook wall, for my birthday. I waited a day or two to watch it, and when I did, I was stunned. I think I've watched seven times now. How do you suppose they got him to memorize it?

It sounds like many people are like your wife and contemplate a tattoo for a long time before finally getting it done, if ever. It's a big decision. Maybe though, like many things in my life, it's all about the design and the speculation. What would I want? And where? Maybe for some, the actual tattoo is not necessary. (Kind of like, what would I do with a million dollars, heh.)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Bonnie.

I had so many opinions. Before I talked to Sue and Kris. Just 30 minutes into listening to Sue, and the stories of so many clients, and so many reasons for tattoos, and where people were going, what their personalities were like, I recognized that there are as many reasons for tattoos as there are people. For some they are like altars, to something important they learned, or a message they want to repeat to themselves. No doubt there are some for whom they are an addiction, and they can't stop. But I can't assume there is anything true across the board about those who get them.

Ruth said...

Sorry, Ellen, I got out of order.

It's ok, you can plug your blog any time. It's fun to make connections. But in this case, your son's story is one of those that hits you in the gut. His reason for getting a tattoo was powerful. And thank God nothing happened to him in Iraq. I would love to compile a book of tattoo stories. I think those of us who don't relate to tattoos would be surprised, and learn something about what we've made assumptions about in the past.

Oliag said...

I think I have always had a fascination with tattoos...like my fascination with graffiti...In the 70's I seriously toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo but couldn't decide what statement I wanted to make...and the tattoo parlors of the day were not the nice places of today. On my 50th birthday, accompanied by my daughters and husband, I got a tattoo of a waning moon. By then tattoos had become acceptable and my goal to be a unique nursing home resident in my old age was no longer valid...but it was still fun:)

Pat said...

Very interesting post and pictures! Good for you for just winging it and asking strangers for an interview. It turned out quite well.

mystic rose said...

What an unusual post, Ruth! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And that girl with all those tattoos, its obvious she enjoys them totally. Well done!

This week both my girls wanted me to 'tattoo' their hands with henna :) Which I did. it was fun watching them both comparing and deciding on the patterns, such a 'sisters' thing. Brought back memories of my childhood summers.

I cannot think of getting a tattoo. It sounds painful, besides what if I didn't want it anymore? Here are some nice designs for you:

http://www.yvonnedevilliers.com/?p=143

rauf said...

This is an excellent coverage of a topic not well known and discussed. This article deserves to be published in a magazine with large circulation. You shine as a photojournalist as well Ruth.

i see tattoos mostly on foreign tourists. Can't be seen on locals or perhaps tattoos don't look good on darker skin. i have heard of some medicinal tattoos which include snake poison as one if its ingredients. None in the cities, it is not a fashion. But in villages you can see tattoos on women mostly to ward off evil. They hardly have any artistic value.

i can hardly imagine any one having such a business establishment making a living out of only tattoos. i have never heard of any tattoo parlour here. Believe me Ruth, i find tattoos very scary.

Ruth said...

Pamela, if you had been my friend in high school, you could have had your ears pierced with me, by my sister Dee Dee, with an ice cube and a potato behind to catch the needle. It would have been fun!

I can't decide if tattoos would be a good distraction away from old sagging skin, or garner more attention to the sags. Hmm.

Ruth said...

Deb, I think I need to look into the history of this, when the next generation (our kids') began desiring tattoos. What celebrity started it? And what started her? Was it Madonna? I wonder if there are any books on the subject. It's incredible, really, to go from a freak show subject, to sailors and truckers expression, to a normal teenage rite of passage.

João said...

Today if I had a tattoo done on me it would read : "You don't know yourself coming and going", but I guess I'm not a tattoo person and that's probably because I change so often...
Obrigado Ruth for another good lesson : "When in doubt go and ask".

Ruth said...

Astrid, I am so touched by Jeroen's tattoo! Like he wanted to preserve his parents at that moment, before the rest of the story unfolded. Or to honor you both as you move into different stories. I would love to hear him talk about it.

Thank you for saying I am brave. I admit I like to confront something I don't understand, head on. It is against my nature to avoid it. But sometimes I just need a good kick in the pants to begin. :)

So much I don't know!

Ruth said...

Terresa, and will it be . . . on a shoulder? :)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Dana. You don't know how grateful I am for those 45 minutes with Sue and Kris. It was as if little doors were popping open all around me, and I could walk through any of them into another person's world. Every story they told was an opening. I find that when I judge someone, from a distance, if I just sit with them for an hour, just ONE HOUR, and hear a little of their experience, it is much more difficult to judge them after that. Well, until I go into distance again.

cathyswatercolors said...

Hi Ruth, Interesting post. Tattoos are really an art form.So many talented artists involved. My kids don't have any tattoos but i do enjoy looking at other peoples tattoos. It's interesting to think about what motivates them to do it. Funny thing my girlfriends daughter said to her mom,"hey mom just because someone has a tattoo doesn't mean you can go up and touch it." Ahh the life lessons are children share with us:)

Jeanie said...

First of all, this is a well-written, beautifully photographed post. I learned a lot (and frankly, seeing the office, which looked more like a corporate headquarters, I was very surprised!). And I'm also impressed you had the guts to walk in and ask! Very cool indeed. I can't say I want one. But I have a great respect for the artists who create them after reading this!

Carol said...

Tattoos - fascinating topic - my daughter started her inking journey at 16 (I signed off) and now has a dragon on her arm, full colour octopus on her thigh, "Let Go" "And Breathe" on her wrists, a celtic knot on her back, Japanese character for dance on her ankle and the original character for love just above her left breast. We have talked endlessly about the meanings and importance in permanent art on your skin. I am a blank canvas so far, but intend to have the Let Go & Breathe in my own calligraphy on my wrists too. Wonderful piece, as usual, Ruth!!

Marcie said...

This is just terrific..on so many levels. Having a son who has tattoos (none done by any 'artists')..I've found it difficult to understand what it's about. But these tattoos are beautiful!!! Not for me..but for some who see their bodies as canvases for personal expression and art!!!

Ruth said...

Dear Oliag, a waning moon is a winsome image, and it seems just right for you -- not that you are waning, anything but. I suppose it was symbolic, that you had upped and overed the hump of the first 50 and were now on the downswing for the next 50. I am vastly joyous that women like you and me have found our voices after 50 (or close to it). I'm grateful for you.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Pat. I guess if you're motivated enough, as I was, it gets you through the hesitation. Now that I've done this once, maybe I'll move on to the old timey barber shop.

Ruth said...

Hi, Mystic! It's so nice to see you. Oh, henna is romantic, and it would be such a treat to have it done (while wearing my sari :). Picturing you as a child with sisters or friends having it done, and picturing your girls, is just the sweetest thing! That web site, with the henna designs on guitars, is FAB U LOUS. Oh man. Don grew some gourds he was drying for me to carve and draw on to make lamps. I wanted to design intricate Indian-type patterns, then drill holes for light to shine through. I've seen beads inserted in the holes too, making them colorful when lit. Sadly, only one gourd didn't rot. But it's big, and I guess it will be a special one. :)

Ruth said...

Thank you, rauf. I enjoyed this spontaneous project, once I started conversing with these women.

I didn't ask, but I thought of asking, about darker skin. It seems that it would be a waste, since tattoos would not be very visible. I'm a little surprised Indians in the city aren't getting tattoos, since so many film stars (Western) have them. But maybe there is a stigma, associated with village/tribes people, so it hasn't caught on there as it has here.

I wonder if you mean you find getting a tattoo scary, or if seeing them bothers you. Doing this post has gone a long way to open me up to those who have them. For myself, I have never once had an interest in a tattoo.

Ruth said...

João, you could have the first part "You don't know yourself coming . . ." on your front and " . . . and going" on your back, when you're ready to stop changing, hehe. And when and why would anyone want to stop changing?

Ruth said...

Ha, Cathy, that's so cute. Lesley's tattoo is a little raised, because the artist was heavy handed, I guess. Who knew? I noticed as I was browsing through the art while I waited at the outset, what a difference there was in quality of artwork. And some of it was pretty racy. :|

Ruth said...

Jeanie, I was surprised at how large and beautifully kept the place was too. These artists work pretty fast. When I left and saw Perry doing Russ's eagle, I was amazed at how far he'd gotten in just about 30 minutes. Sue told me that her sleeves took years, getting a little done at a time.

Ruth said...

Hello there, Carol! Thank you for sharing the details of your daughter's interesting art. She has East meets West, with Japan and Ireland. I don't know what the original symbol of love is. Is it Chinese? Japanese? Celtic? Prince's symbol, I wonder?

Doing your own design, your own calligraphy, and seeing it on your skin, would be gratifying, I think.

Ruth said...

Yes, Marcie. When I back up and look at it without the baggage of society, it is more intriguing and attractive. So, I wonder if your son designed his own tattoos.

westcobich said...

Whoa - hot topic!!!! And all about art. How very cool that you did the interview and took pictures. I am fascinated by the art, by the willingness to make a mark and a statement...I have NO idea what I would have as a tatoo. But like you, I have accompanied both our kids as they got a piercing (daughter) or tatoo (son). NO, wait, I didn't go with our son - I think HM did.
Walking art. "Sleeves." Amazing stuff.

And now, I'm looking forward to your next story/interview. You rock!

Ruth said...

Oh, hey, Hot Topic was a store where Lesley used to work, with lots of edgy stuff where people with tattoos liked to shop. :)

Don't you love that term walking art?

Thanks so much for your support for another interview. It might be the old fashioned barber shop next.

Dee Dee said...

You never cease to amaze me. Your post just caught me somewhere between my throat and heart. I still can't decipher how I feel, not uncomfortable but this subject is catching my attention, something to work over in days to come. Ben, Lela and Becca all have tattoos. They got them without my knowledge, I threw a fit with their knowledge. Now they are grown adults with beautiful grand babies for me and that's all I see, not a mark anywhere. I love you and that I'm still proudly wearing the marks you put on me in that Grand Ledge kitchen so many years ago.

Babs-beetle said...

I've been talking to my great niece recently about just this subject. I think she will wait until she is older before making her decision though. She is just 15, and very young for her age.

Great post, and you are braver than I to walk into a tattoo parlour :)

mystic rose said...

Yes, that gourd is a special one :), my kids have always wanted me to carve pumpkins for halloween, and I haven't been able to. I will definitely try this year. I'm curious to see how your gourd will turn out. I expect we will see a pic or two here, if not, do keep me posted on that. You've inspired me to write something on the henna thing, its forming in my head...

mystic rose said...

Well, actually, Ruth, (reading your reply to Rauf), we Indians do get tattoos, but its more prominent amongst certain tribes, villagers, castes, and there are traditional marks. They actually use a greenish dye, and so its visible on the darker skin as well. Women have it done on their chins, temples or arms. For men, I have noticed on the upper arms. It's usually done when they are little, so I'm expecting it is some sort of a family/ tribe mark. Some of them do look decorative (especially when on women and on the face), and I think one of the purposes is also to ward off any envious eye. But not at all common I expect, nowadays.

Tamara said...

Love this post. I'm not confortable with the 'inking' thing, but I have admired some amazing art. When I was 30 I was bold enough to get my first piercing (never did the ears). I thought lots about a Tat or another piercing at 40 but it didn't feel like my body was in a good place so I moved on. Still wouldn't mind another piercing (maybe 50?). I do like to concept of finding your motto and living with it daily - but I think I would choose jewlery to do this. Thanks for having the guts to cross the road and ask the questions.

Montag said...

Absolutely wonderful post.

Makes me think that people are turning into icons... there is so little we can say, and so few to listen, that we become the images instead of creating them.

Fascinating.

I am going to brood over this, too, for quite a while.

Ruth said...

Babs, good that your great-niece will wait to decide. The way I have evolved in my life, if I had gotten a tattoo at any point, I would have to get another to show the next thing, and how I'd changed. I think I would be covered by now, if my skin was a story of my life changes.

Ruth said...

Mystic, thank you so much for coming back and explaining about those from certain groups in India who get tattoos. Some would be getting tattoos against me, for I have green eyes! :|

I will share photos here or with you when/if I succeed at the gourd lamp. Maybe I'll find design ideas from your henna site. I do hope you will post about it. It never ceases to intrigue and allure me, to see a woman's hands covered in those designs. I think it is incredibly attractive, in a deeply feminine way.

Ruth said...

Tamara, it is interesting that you said that about finding jewelry to speak your daily statement, for I just saw some on a website. It was jewelry with just a letter or two, for when you don't know how to say what you want to. But wearing a custom necklace, ring, bracelet or ankle bracelet would be very cool.

Ruth said...

Montag, thank you for your comment, which means a lot to me. Your perspective is very interesting, about people not listening . . . we and others not listening to each other. I'm glad this post is about listening. It's very important to me in that way.

Julie said...

Die Trying! I LOVE IT! Ruth, thank you so much for letting me know about this post. The artwork is amazing! I got so excited just reading about it and looking at the pictures. What a great idea for a blog post, and your writing is awesome, even if you aren't a damn reporter...haha!

I don't know why people get so hung up about tattoos or piercing. The same people I know who put it down are the ones who dye their hair or wear earrings. It doesn't seem any different to me. It's just an expression of individuality. The woman I met who was a tattoo artist was such a beautiful person (and very talented), as are the folks you interviewed. Great post! Thank you again!

Ruth said...

Hi, Julie, thank you for coming and reading.

I confess I needed some mind-opening, and this hour with Sue and Kris was just the opening. I find that when I just sit with someone for one hour, just one hour, judgments slip away. Why do I forget?