Monday, February 14, 2011

Lucky Girl

The response I have had about my tattoos has been overwhelmingly positive.

I have no words to describe how happy this has made me.  I have only had one negative response, and that may have been due to my arm still being super fresh and still wrapped in saran wrap.  At least that is what I am going to tell myself.

Now obviously I thought about what I was getting my self into, and I think I over prepared for the negative instead of if I had positive responses which is typical for me. I am still getting used to it I think.

In other news, I am almost out of the itchy healing phase which is a huge relief because that has been the worst part for me so far.  I'm also starting to peel/shed which is another good thing because that means that the healing is almost done.

I will be posting pictures once all the shedding is done, but until then here is a picture of my itchy shedding arm.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Memorial Tattoos

People will get tattoos for a lot of different reasons.  Some have deep meaning behind them, and some are spur of the moment “I want to get a tattoo” pieces.  I would like to spend some time on one of my favorite reasons for getting tattoos, the memorial or commemorative tattoos.

These are probably the most meaningful and personal tattoos a person can get.  I have already written about my memorial tattoo, so I wanted to write about a couple of friends pieces.

My friend Chandra and her mother have matching tattoos.  They were actually Chandra's Mother’s Day gift to her mom.  They did not get flowers or butterflies, but matching Autism Awareness ribbons.  These serve as a dual purpose, to raise Autism Awareness but also in honor of Chandra’s brother who is autistic.

Chandra and her mom's matching tattoos
One of my favorite memorial tattoos I have been privileged to see is my friend’s mother, Vanessa’s piece.  It is in honor of her son Correy who passed away very unexpectedly in August of 2009.  Not only is this a fitting tribute to honor Correy, but I think it is incredibly special because this is Vanessa’s one and only tattoo.  And 
it is stunning for a first piece.

Vanessa tells us about her piece for Correy, "What the tattoo is.  Correy's favorite sea creature is a Corynactis, which is also know as a Strawberry Aneome (yeah now you know the connection of Correy and the Strawberry), so this is for his love of the ocean.  The wold is something Correy always loved.  Jarred's friend Josh did this version for me of him cuddling with his front paws tucked under his chin."


Full outline

Adding the detail and color

Vanessa's completed tattoo for Correy.
Correy's brothers, Preston and Jarred worked together on the design for their memorial tattoo together and decided to get matching tattoo's.  Preston's is placed on his chest, and Jarred's is on his upper arm.

Preston describes their memorial for Correy, “A tribal wolf moving through the ocean, tail becoming the waves, with a kanji reading “little brother”.




Preston's completed tattoo for Correy.
Here is Jarred getting his memorial piece done:

Checking the stencil.

Starting the outline.


Jarred's completed tattoo for Correy.

My Memorial Piece

My wave sleeve started out as a way to display my love of tattoo and also incorporate a few special events in my life.  I have been planning this piece for several years and was finally able to get it started this month and like 
everything else in life, my piece changed based on life events this year.

I had always planned on incorporating koi into my piece.  I have always admired their strength and determination to swim up river.  I fell in love with the Japanese legend of the koi, and how as they swim up the Yellow River, those that are the strongest and most determined can reach what is called the Dragon Gate.  These koi are rewarded by being transformed into dragons.  What a lovely reward!

In July of 2010 I endured what has become a very life changing event.  Because of this event, my tattoo has become more of a memorial piece. 

In 2007 I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and was told at the time that if I had planned on having children I would have to undergo fertility treatments.  Luckily my husband and I both agreed that this was not a priority for us when we were dating, and would discuss it when we felt we were in a better position, if ever.

July of 2010 brought on a pleasant but difficult surprise.  I found out that I was having an unexpected miscarriage.  I struggled with this for a very long time.  How does one get over something that was never supposed to happen on its own?  And how do you get over something that you had no choice in?  I was only a few weeks along, and had been completely unaware that we were expecting until it was too late.

I know that in life, everything happens for a reason, and found a bit of closure in that but in the months after the miscarriage I struggled with what had happened.  I began to have anxiety and panic attacks when I felt that I was out of control with whatever was happening at the time.  It was specifically bad at my work but I was able to find solace in the least likely of places.  I was working at a pet store at the time, and as I have written before, I would find myself going to the aquatic department any time my anxiety was beginning to get the best of me.  We had always had koi at my store, but right before the miscarriage we had gotten a shipment of butterfly koi.  They were beautiful.  I found myself returning to watch them swim about whenever I was having anxiety or panic attacks. 
Due to the calming affect they had on me, I decided to incorporate butterfly koi into my tattoo and also change the design a bit to make it a memorial tattoo.  

Although I will never be entirely sure, I have reason to believe that at the time of the miscarriage I was actually carrying twins.  This is why in my sleeve I have two butterfly koi, each one representing the babies that were lost.

Butterfly Koi 1, named Autumn
Buterrfly Koi 2, named Sun
The other aspects of my tattoo also have a reason as well, as I have mentioned before.  The peonies in my piece represent the frailty of our existence and the beauty in our lives.  They were also the flowers used when my husband and I were married.

My husband Tim and I on our wedding day

My bouquet of peonies

One of my peonies in my sleeve
Even the rocks and the waves in my sleeve have meaning.  Although they are rough and crashing against each other, they still have their beauty.  They represent the things life will throw at us.  Some are expected and visible as we travel through life.  Some are unexpected and rest just below the surface and it is only when we are almost upon them that we must alter course.

Please feel free to message me or email me at if you have any questions about my journey.  And as always comments are welcomed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let the healing begin..

Quick update.  My sleeve is healing beautifully.  I am happy to report that the outline has not been very difficult at all.  It is starting to get a wee bit itchy, but other than that, I have not had any real issues.  I have had a couple close calls, my dog pawed at my arm trying to get my attention, but no harm was done.

It has been kind of surreal and anticlimactic on all honesty.  I think I spent all this energy thinking about what the worst out come would be that I glossed over it healing with little or no trouble at all.  This is after all my first really big piece.  Once again I really feel like doing it in sections is helping it heal faster and also not be so dramatic.

The only "ow" spot has been the inside of my upper arm.  Here is my one and only bruise from the outline.

I hope that my next session goes as easily.  I hope that the itchiness does not get any worse in the next few days.  I will be sure to update if anything changes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tattoo Aftercare

Tattoo aftercare can be very confusing, especially for someone getting their first tattoo.  Luckily there is plenty of information available online, but with almost anything you can find online there is almost too much information.  Some of it is very contradictory, so here is my advice in regards to tattoo after care.
  •  Keep it simple stupid – Your new tattoo is basically an open wound.  The less you put on it, and the more you let it breath, the better.  Only use simple antibacterial soaps and lotions.  The less ingredients the better.
  •  Follow the advice of your artist – Your artist has probably been doing this for a while, and they typically know what they are talking about.
  • Listen to your body – Everyone heals differently.  Something that works for you might not work for someone else.  Be aware of the products you use!  If you have had a negative reaction to A+D before, please do not use it on your new tattoo.
  • Keep your tattoo moist, not drenched - Remember, less is more with tattoo.  Apply A+D or Auquaphor in a very thin layer for the first day.  Then apply any unscented gentle lotion such as Eucerin, Lubriderm, Nivea, Curel, or Aveeno.  These companies all have unscented versions of their lotion.  Use whichever one your skin likes best!
  • Resist the itch! – As your tattoo is healing, it is normal for it to be itchy.  Do not succumb to the desire to scratch your tattoo as hard as it can be.  When mine get super itchy, I usually wash it gently and reapply lotion.  It helps soothe the skin and also the task helps take my mind off the itchiness.
These are some basic but very important tips:
  • Do not re-bandage your tattoo
  • Do not apply Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly to your tattoo
  • Do not apply Neosporin to your tattoo
  • Do not use rubbing alcohol or peroxide on your tattoo
  • Do not apply Purell or any other antibacterial gel to your tattoo.  These are usually mostly alcohol which will dry your tattoo out.
  • Always wash with warm water and a gentle antibacterial soap
  • Always pat dry a freshly washed tattoo with paper towels
  • Never rub, scratch or scrub your tattoo
  • Do not pick at your tattoo
  • Do not expose your tattoo to direct sunlight until after at least 10 days
  • Do not swim or use a hot tub or sauna for at least 10 days.
The healing time is typically 10-14 days for tattoo, depending on your body and the care your tattoo receives.  It is very important not to let your tattoo to dry out completely during this time.  This can cause excessive scabbing and irritation, which can lead to loss of pigment.  It is normal for the tattoo to develop a protective layer of dry skin.  This will shed after the skin underneath has healed and it is important to let it fall off naturally.  Do not pull or cut these bits off as it may affect the skin around it.

Once your tattoo is fully healed, remember some simple long term care for it.  If it is ever exposed to the sun, make sure to use sunscreen.  This will help the color last and also in general help protect your skin.  Also keep it moisturized.  There is nothing worse than having a dulled tattoo due to dry skin.

Here is my personal after care kit.  Remember, what works for me might not work for you.

Antibacterial soap, simple paper towels, A+D ointment, and my favorite lotion, Aveeno.
You just made a pretty big investment of time and money into your tattoo, make sure to care for it correctly so it will last a lifetime.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Sitting - Water Sleeve

Today marks the first sitting for my sleeve.  After three hours, with minimal breaks, we have a pretty fabulous start if I do say so myself!  I can not wait until it is completely colored in.

Here is a picture of the outline Mark drew up for me:


I fell in love with it the moment I saw it.  It was just what I was wanting and luckily when he placed the stencil on my arm, it fit perfect.  The stencil was actually a little small for my arm and we ended up having a whole section we will need to fill in of empty space.  (My arm was fatter than he anticipated!)

Empty space...
Here are some pictures of the finished outline.  I will write about the actual process shortly...

Here are some detailed shots:

Butterfly Koi number one

Butterfly Koi number two

Peony one

Peony one with Peony bud

Peony two

Peony two
Mark and I decided that we would go for the full sleeve, instead of the 3/4 sleeve he had mentioned at our initial consultation.  He is confident we will be able to work my existing pieces into the sleeve without it being awkward.

Overall, the actual process of the tattooing was not nearly as bad as I had expected.  I think only sitting for three hours was the key.  I think if I had sat for four or even five hours it would have been too much.  We covered a lot of space in the three hours, all things considered.  Mark is wonderfully fast and has a fairly light hand which definitely helped!

Some of the areas that hurt the most were the areas I least expected.  I anticipated the inside of my arm would hurt, and my elbow crease.

Elbow crease
The top of my shoulder hurt more than I anticipated, as well as the small section that went over my wrist bone:

Top of shoulder

The section that did not hurt nearly as bad was my elbow:

Elbow waves
Now I have to wait for the healing to begin.  I am anticipating some swelling and bruising, but so far it is not that bad.  I think tomorrow will be the worse day as far as the "aftermath".  So keep an eye out for updates.  I will be posting info about tattoo aftercare, updated pictures as my work heals, and more information about upcoming pieces.  Night all!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Water sleeve

My first piece on my tattoo journey will be what I have been calling my "water sleeve".  I decided that I wanted to use the traditional style of Irezumi, but also incorporate some personal elements.  My water sleeve is also serving as a memorial tattoo.

I had a very unexpected miscarriage in July of 2010, and I have reason to believe I was carrying twins.  It was a pretty devastating experience and I found solace in a very interesting place.  At the time I was working at a pet store that had pretty well stocked aquatic department.  When I returned to work, I found myself calmed by watching the butterfly koi we had there. (I used to get anxiety attacks pretty easily in the weeks after the miscarriage.)  Because of their calming affect and their beauty I decided to incorporate butterfly koi into my water sleeve and let them serve as a memorial to the events in July.

Butterfly or longfin koi

Koi are traditionally used in Japanese Tattoo/Irezumi because they represent perseverance in adversity and the ability to overcome obstacles.  There is a Japanese legend stating that if a koi was able to swim up the Yellow River to a point called The Dragon Gate, the koi would then be transformed into a dragon.  This is one of the reasons koi are typically tattooed swimming up the body versus down.

Another aspect of my water sleeve will be the incorporation of peonies.  They are my absolute favorite flower and I had a bouquet of them for my wedding.

My bouquet of peonies.

Traditionally the peony represents wealth, prosperity, and good fortune in both Japan and China.  In tattoo, it is usually paired with lions, to help balance the ferocity of the lion with its delicate nature.  In Japanese tattoo specifically, it represents a "devil-may-care" attitude towards life.  It is also a reminder of our fleeting and fragile existence.  I chose the peony for my tattoo because of the personal link it has in my life and also its delicate timeless beauty.

I am also incorporating the traditional wave depicted in Irezumi, but I have found some non-traditional sources for my ideas.  I have done a ton of research and found various pieces of old artwork to use as inspiration.  I think this is one of the reasons my artist Mark is so excited to work on my sleeve.  Instead of using other tattoos as reference, a lot of my material is actual art work.  Here are a couple of the "wave" pieces I love.

I will be posting more as the tattooing day approaches.  I can hardly wait!