I’ll be live painting at the Kendall Yards night market tonight at five!
there’ll be a Livestream going on my Facebook for anyone out of town.
When you’ve lost someone close to you, tattooing is often a tool you can use in your grieving process. I do many memorial tattoos and I know from my own personal experience of getting them, that it can be really emotional.
The best thing to do, first of all, is to contact the artist and set up a consultation. Every artist is different, and what I do may not be what all artists do. So check in first, before assuming anything. That said, I deal with memorial tattoos by taking my cues from you. some people are light hearted, remembering good things. others are in mourning and need to cope with that. I’m not a therapist, just a person, so here is my take on memorials and how I set things up for you if you want one.
You might want your own soundtrack. This is fine- the shop doesn’t need to change their music for this to happen. The shop music is for the people working in the shop and we don’t change it- however I’m more than happy to work on you while you listen to your own calming music or meditation tracks on good headphones. If you don’t have good noise reduction headphones, let me know- I have over-the-ear ones that are amazing, and will keep out the hustle and bustle of the shop for you, so you feel safer. I’ll let you borrow them.
I’ll put up a screen if you’d like to have more privacy. Crying and feeling emotional are common things when we get memorial tattoos so please don’t feel worried if you need a moment to let it out, or if you get overwhelmed during the tattoo.
We can take breaks as needed. I usually charge for a break, if it’s one you need and not one I need- but in this case I stop the clock. i don’t charge for that time. It can take some minutes to calm down, to refocus. I respect that need and I want the tattoo to come out perfectly, so a little break for you to cry or breathe it out is OK. It’s not unusual and I’m not thinking poorly of you. There’s no need to get embarrassed about it. Everyone on earth loses things and people they love, and I have been through it too.
Bringing along comforting objects like books, photos or a pillow can help, especially if you have sensory issues. A familiar (clean) blanket and pillow are always ok. A photo for you to look at, a book, or videos through headphones. this can also help you remember the good times, and make your tattoo a celebration of the person’s life instead of just a sad moment thinking about the loss.
You’re welcome to bring a friend or loved one who is sharing in your grief, so that you can have someone to talk to, who really understands. I highly recommend this. Bringing someone along who also knew the person, or who is very supportive of you in your life, can really help. it’s difficult for me to both commiserate with you AND do the tattoo perfectly, so having that friend along to hold hands, tell stories, or just vent to, will help you get through things and still walk away with a good tattoo.
I do a lot of lettering, dates of birth and death, names, as memorials. This is very classic and totally ok. It’s just fine to do a memorial that’s simple and understated. I also do a lot of meaningful images related to the person who died. If there was an in joke between you, a pet name, or something you both loved, using an image of that as your memorial is a great idea and a really good way to remember the person going forward- as someone who had a positive impact on your life in an active way.
think of your loved one as a star. what were their greatest hits? what was their joy in life? did they create something wonderful, do something valuable? these are all good ways to think of images to memorialize them, rather than just letters.
I’ve also done tattoos that include cremains. This involves several steps- you’ll have to sift the ashes to get the lightest, finest ash. I’ll only need a tiny bit (the ink cup I use to pour out your ink into is very tiny, think a few drops) so a little sprinkling on top of that tiny cup is what we will use. You’ll need to bring them in the day before your appointment, so I can sterilize them for use and let them dry out. Then we will dust a small bit of them on top of the black ink we will be using. Cremains in tattoos is a debatable issue and a lot of tattoo artists will refuse to do this, and the do have good reasons. you may lose spots of ink during healing, since the ash has larger particles than the ink. However by sterilizing them ahead of time, we avoid any possible bacterial contamination of them and any other risks.
If your tattoo is a memorial don’t be shy about telling me or asking about these things. I’ve got memorial tattoos. I cried during a few of them. I wore headphones, hugged someone’s t shirt that smelled like them, I took breaks and I felt miserable. The process itself, though, seemed to help me work through my more awful feelings- and having someone there to discuss the good times with, seemed to help me the most.
we all grieve differently. if you’re getting a memorial tattoo, we should have a consult before your appointment, just to be sure we get everything settled for you, so you can use the process instead of feeling worse. Again, my concern is to do a good tattoo on you, that will give you positive feelings as you wear it over the years.
I’m not a therapist and I can’t help with the grieving process on that level. all I can do is give you a hug, and schedule you at the end of my day so I’m not bringing the weight of that loss in to my next appointment.
I’m not going to include many photos in this post, to provide my clients with some privacy.
side note: this information applies to most any kind of scar, not just self injury.
I’ve got some scars from self harm. I know a lot of people do. it can be really embarrassing, or feel shameful to have them seen. if they’re in really visible areas, it’s even worse.
I’ve had mine covered with tattoos (I stopped cutting years ago, when I was still fairly young). I’ve gotten images that remind me of what I’ve been through and of what I’d like my future to look like. I want you to know you’re not alone with this, first of all. I also want you to know that not only are you not alone, I have seen and tattooed worse scars than yours- burn wounds, surgical scars, all of it. yes, you may have done serious damage to yourself, but no- it’s not impossible to tattoo over it.
If you want to do this, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
- you have to stop cutting in that area and adjoining areas for at least a few months before we can start working on it. the skin can only heal so much at once, so nearby open wounds will mess up the healing process of the tattoo. if you can’t entirely stop SH/SI, try to go lighter and in a completely different area for a while before you come for a tattoo.
- make a consultation time with me first. that way we can figure out the pattern and texture of your scars and skin, what areas are “ripe” for tattooing and which may need more time. scars should be a little bit settled in before we tattoo on them, so the ink will hold properly. a consultation gives us a chance to also meet up and discuss what your goal is with the tattoo itself.
- it’s OK if your goal is ‘hide these’, it’s OK if your goal is ’emphasize these’, it’s OK if your goal is to stop SH/SI and it’s OK if your goal has nothing to do with stopping. I won’t judge. I won’t look down on you. I know that you have your own reasons, and you don’t have to explain that to me or go into detail. you don’t have to relive your troubles just so that I will tattoo you. my goal is to make you happy with your tattoo- that’s all. I’m just here to make something positive happen for you.
- minimal, crisp, geometric, thin-lined, pale, wispy art doesn’t cover or hide scars. if your goal is to camouflage the scars, we will likely end up doing painterly, saturated, textured organic shapes of some kind. branches, trees, flowers, plants, animals. things that have volume and texture. if your goal is NOT to hide or cover the scars, let me know, so that we can work out what you do want to do.
- scars that are fresh, still healing, or very livid usually don’t take ink very well. usually, moisturizing often with vitamin e and/or a good scar reducing lotion for a few months will fix this. this is yet another reason to stop harming the skin in the area you want tattooed and the surrounding area. we need to give your cell walls a chance to regenerate, to hold the ink in.
- don’t be afraid to email me or contact me EVEN IF you aren’t coming to me for the tattoo. I’ve been through some shit and I know how intimidating it can be to walk in to strangers and talk about this stuff. I can always answer questions, possibly suggest understanding artists in your area, or even just listen. I think everyone deserves a good experience when getting tattooed, and I’m here for that if you need it.
- you’re likely to get an endorphin high during or after the tattoo, similar to what you’d get from shallow cuts or abrasions. getting heavily tattooed was part of how I broke my cycle of self harm- I realized I could get that sensation in other ways. it’s almost the same chemicals released as a “runner’s high”- so just speaking from personal experience, running and getting tattooed are both good ways to get that little kick, without doing more damage.
- come prepared to comfort yourself. your favorite blanket, pillow, headphones, dress in comfy clothes. self-soothing is totally welcomed in my space, I will never mock you for making sure you’re comfortable and feeling safe. bring a snack as well, or something you like to munch or drink (no booze!) you can bring a friend or come alone- whatever makes you feel safer.
if you need further information, email me, or, preferably, comment below. I’ll try to answer any comments I get here as quickly as I can.
it goes without saying that SH/SI is dangerous and you shouldn’t do it. we all know that. but I know, and you know, that sometimes it’s a thing we do to cope, and we can’t just stop until you find better ways to cope with all the bullshit life throws at us. I hope we all find better ways to cope, I hope everyone reading this is able to find things that help. I did-and if I can do a thing I am damn sure that you can do the thing.
I understand that it takes time and work so again-don’t feel ashamed. It’s just a thing some of us do. Be as safe as you can be.
(sterile saline wound wash, steri-strips, and clean hands help a lot)
I had an interview in the inlander, which was great. They were very easy to talk with and they quoted me correctly!
also, a reminder; I’d like to do more works like the following images.
painterly flowers, solid black heavy rough edges, and high contrast works. winter is a good time to get a tattoo, mainly because it’s easy to heal this time of year. I’ll be at mom’s in Spokane (and in Eugene for the evergreen convention in March)
if you are capable and willing to defend someone who is being harassed or harmed, this is a great idea. I’m fully in support. there may be some naysayers but I think expressing this willingness to help others is a good thing.
you shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t help others or may be victimized yourself; but if you are able and willing to step in and stop others from being harassed and harmed this is a good way to express that, just in case.
because I support this idea, on November 20 I’ll be doing safety pin silhouette tattoos (visible places only, wrist/hands/neck) or semicolon tattoos (any place on ya) for $50 (below our minimum.) first come, first served, from noon till five.
for each tattoo I do I’ll also donate ten bucks to the Southern Poverty Law Center to aid in their efforts to stop racism and misogyny.
I’m doing the semicolons as well, because not every person is able to step in and help others. some are not physically able, others are likely to get targeted themselves, or have other reasons.
bullying is often a contributing factor to suicide and suicide rates spiked in vulnerable populations this past few days, so I’d like to support those who are struggling with that, as well as those who are allies willing to step up and defend others.
feel free to share.
in other cities/areas, for safety pins,
Brent Schlemmer , (Indiana)
Kimber Teatro, (Portland, Oregon)
Curby Dickens (Salem, Oregon)
Club Tattoo Scottsdale (Arizona)
Suzen Tattoozen-Tanton (Eugene, OR)
Denise Gardner (Corvallis, OR)
Jessica Parrish, Ink Dreams Tattoo (TN)(will be donating to local soup kitchen for each tattoo done, the 21st)
George Long (Seattle, WA)
Premium Tattoo (Oakland, CA)
Steph Burnside (San Diego, CA)
I don’t know if they’re donating to anything, what day they’re doing this, or what they’re charging but you can look them up to find out.
if you’re a tattoo artist or shop doing something related, please comment- I’ll add you to the original post. then we can all share it so people in different regions can find someone who’s doing these.
xox #safespace #support #ilovemyclients #safetypin #semicolon #spokanewa #spokanetattoos #solidarity