Monday, November 23, 2009

putting the "ink" in 'milk and ink': history

1998:my first tattoo was definitely an exercise in asserting my independence--it was almost immediately after my 18th birthday and was simple cursive "L" (for my name) done at Uncle Bill's Tattoo Parlor in Bend, OR. i had no further plans at that time for tattoos so putting a tiny tattoo on the large surface area of my lower back seemed fine to me. (later i discoverd it best to save the large areas for larger tattoos, and the smaller ones for small spaces.)

2000: next just before marrying blake, i had the word "Grace" in traditional letttering applied the space just above the elbow on the back of the arm, a spot that i still find to be a very sexy place to have a tattoo--i had that idea when i spied a girl in the library at OSU with a word tattooed there (it said "vegan.") the concept of grace means a lot to me--not in terms of elegance, but in decency, generosity, and gratitude, and later it was given to mayan for her middle name. a well-known artist did it for me, really for blake as a favor since its probably the smallest and simplest piece he'd done in ages but i'll never forget the look the two of them exchanged when he (the artist) asked me if i planned on having any other tattoos done in the future and i said "no, i don't think so." it was like a "yeah right. you're young. just wait." exchange of glances.

2003:then when mayan was a year and a half, i knew i wanted to honor our romantic beginnings and mayan's conception story with a tattoo of the ruins where we were wed. at the time, our good friend tracy, a piercer, had begun a new studio with her partner nate, a gifted artist and tattooist, called optic nerve arts. i had met nate at their home 6 weeks after they had their baby, isabella, and he was a kind and soft-spoken man that had pulled himself out of a troubled past and was beginning a new life. i knew immediately that i wanted him to do the work. i brought him photos of our trip to mexico and specifically the temple of kukulkan, the tree under which we were married and the view of the yucutan jungle taken from atop the pyramid. i also brought an example of a chrysanthemum, my parents wedding flower and our wedding flower to incorporate into the piece which was designed to be on my left forearm. we drove to portland to have the outline and shading done which was stunning on its own. nate and i discussed whether or not to keep the piece black and gray, or to make it full color, and decided to wait--we'd schedule another session soon for completion and decide then. a few months later i found out i was pregnant with isadore so everything was on hold--i didn't think i'd be ready to be tattooed again until she was at least a year old. but when she was 7 months old, tracy called to tell us the awful news: she'd found nate that morning in the bathtub--he'd had a heart attack. he was only 31 and apparently had had an undetected heart defect. i could not imagine her devastation, and listening to nate's friends and family share their favorite stories at his memorial it was clear what a giant hole his passing left in thier lives. and like others there i felt honored to have a piece of his work on me, even if it was unfinished.

2006: i struggled with that fact, since i knew that tattoo needed some closure but i didn't want anyone else to touch it--also i still hadn't made the decision to go color or black and gray. but a year later, as the anniversary to nate's passing approached, something fell into place that felt right. a tattooist friend, hawk (and his dear family) had relocated to bend from san francisco, with our encouragement who had a gift for bold color work. i asked hawk if he would finish the piece that nate had begun and he kindly obliged. color brought a whole new life to the piece, a perfect balance of pinks, yellow, greens, and blue--while leaving the centerpiece, the temple, flesh-toned. people comment on my arm everywhere i go and i point out the location of our ceremony and tell them how i was 24-hours pregnant with our daughter at the time, and named her Mayan Grace. it brings me much pleasure to gaze at the finished work everyday.

2007: the time came cover my first tattoo, my babies were weaned, i had been working hard on my fit, yoga body, and i had our good friend hawk at my disposal. i told him that i wanted to cover the "L" with something big and bold, but to avoid the common "lower back piece" shape. i didn't have anything meanful to incorporate--i just wanted to use styles that i'd always liked and reflect my own taste and personality. it had to be fun and sexy! i decided on traditional sparrows at the top and cheery, clean japanese style flowers. hawk drew it all out so that the sparrows met on my lower mid-back (masking the old tattoo) and then the flowers cascaded down, following my curves, all the way to to the bottom of my bottom--so really it was two tattoos flanking my backside and not meeting in the middle. a few starbursts drew the two styles together. we broke it up over five sessions--the outline, then four quadrants--and it was so much fun to see it develop, plus working with someone i knew outside of the shop, whose family we spent so much time with made it more relaxed--good thing too since it was my bum that was exposed the whole time! here is the post about getting this done. (ps: hawk still works in bend, at 932 tattoo!)

tune-in tomorrow for part two--putting the "ink" in 'milk and ink': the new ink!

is there a tattoo that you've been wanting?? do you have story of the greatest or worst tattoo you ever got??

4 comments: said...

A lot of people are going to want tattoos after this. What a great history and story though.

Lee said...

I also thought my first tattoo (a tiny star) would be my one and only. Ha ha. But it worked out perfectly -- it turned out to be the start of a whole series of tattoos that flow together for a story.

Joi said...

I have always thought I would someday be covered in tattoos. I have never imagined myself any other way.

The Marketing Mama said...

How fun to read this! I have one tattoo, on my ankle. It's a lizard. I honestly have no desire to get another one. Most of the time I forget that I have one. I was just dumb and young and rebellious when I got it - the lizard doesn't hold any meaning for me...