On Tattoos and Storytelling

“You are not going to love that ink as much when you’re old and saggy and wrinkly.”

It’s funny what people will say to you about tattoos. I just always write it off as people who just don’t get why people get tattoos. Now, there are a lot of people who just walk into a tattoo parlor and pick a Butterly Flash (“Flash” is what they call the pre-drawn tattoos on the wall or in the book at the tattoo parlor.) to get inked on their ankle. That is exactly what I did when I was 18. I walked to a tattoo parlor near my dorm and got just that – a butterfly off the wall. But most people with bigger, ornate, EXPENSIVE tattoos do it for bigger and personal reasons. You don’t spend 12 hours and $1500 on something on an impulse. And you have most definitely considered how it will look when you’re old and wrinkly and you most definitely do not care.

I look at my tattoo like a wall in my home that I just found the perfect piece of art for. I love to show it off just like I love people to see art in my home. My tattoo is something beautiful that I invested in to decorate my body and bring me joy and inspiration FOREVER.

It’s funny. I had always wanted a few more tattoos but I hadn’t decided what or where yet. I also knew I wanted to coverup the bad butterfly on my shoulder that was not a great design (I was not brave enough to voice my thoughts on that) and was a terrible ink job. So, I just went to my tattoo artist – whose work I had been following for YEARS and who I therefore trusted as an artist – and told her things I liked and things I had considered getting inked on my body. She took a picture of my old tattoo and my arm and drew this beautiful phoenix and I have been in love with looking at myself in the mirror ever since. And that means a lot coming from a woman who has gained 30lbs in a year and kinda hates her body some days.

But why NOW? Why did I decide to get the tattoo now? Partly because we have extra funds now for tattoos. (Donnie is next in line.) But mostly because I have been desperate to do something that says to the world, “I am different.” I found myself worried after the election everywhere I went, “What if someone mistakes me for a Trump Supporter?” And not that being a Trump Supporter is necessarily bad, but I disagree with the man on just about every policy decision he’s made since he’s been in office and the idea that someone might think the opposite – EVEN FOR A SECOND – bothered me a lot. And while I didn’t really put it into that concrete of an idea when I set up the appointment, I have parsed it all out since.

But the art itself means nothing, honestly. I chose my tattoo artist based on her skill as that – an artist – and I trusted her to make something beautiful I’d love. Once we decided on this beautiful blue phoenix I built my head cannon around it. I’ve always known I was a Ravenclaw so now my story is that my wand is powered by a feather from the rare blue phoenix which is a magical connection to the blue of my Hogwarts House which runs so deeply in my veins.

#Dork

But tattoos are powerful and I love talking to people about them. Which is why my brother’s new project touches my heart SO MUCH. It’s called StoryInk and he loaded the first episode last week and I’m SO in love with it. My brother has no tattoos, but he’s a storyteller and loves helping people tell their stories and felt like tattoos were a great source of stories. This one is beautiful.

I’ll post the others when he loads them but I know he’s got two others in the works and I’ve seen some of the footage and it’s just lovely to hear people talk about this really personal art and have my brother create a film out of it. I am truly so in love with this project I can’t even put it into words. I think it’s because I’ve talked to people about tattoos a lot in my life and those conversations are always so fascinating and interesting and I love that these people have those stories preserved in a beautiful way now. If you want a tattoo in Denver, hit him up. He’ll follow you to the study he works with and build your story. I’m trying to decide what I want to get so I can go out there and have him do one for me.

I have more tattoos in the pipeline already. This is just going to be my thing now. I found an artist I trust and I’m just going to slowly get her to put my soul on my skin in the form of permanent ink until I feel like my body tells it’s own story.

6 thoughts on “On Tattoos and Storytelling

  1. LC says:

    Ah, I am totally going to watch that video later!

    I love my ink and the ones I have hold meaning to me. I am anxious to get my next one once I finish my tri season!!

  2. Janet says:

    I totally identified with this: “What if someone mistakes me for a Trump Supporter?”!!! I went through this recently when I had to drive a car for someone who is a Trump supporter and has a sticker. I told my husband and he just didn’t get it. I know you will!

    Also, it’s funny we both have a blue phoenix on our arm <3

  3. Lucy McConville says:

    Hahaha! The “#Dork” after the Harry Potter bit had me almost spitting out my coffee! So funny. Especially for me…because I am 20 years older than you and so don’t really “get” the Harry Potter obsession…it wasn’t part of my world. So I was all, “Wait…what…?!” Haha. I do understand, though…it would be as if I was talking about the kinship I feel with the musicians who where hanging out in Laurel Canyon in L.A. in the ’70s!

    I’m excited to follow your brother’s show and to think more about all of this. Thanks for sharing. My daughter is starting to tatt up now, and I want to understand. I would love to get one, but can’t make a commitment to WHAT, or WHY…so maybe this will help me. (Also, now that my skin really IS old and saggy…where do I really want to draw people’s attention…or DO I want to do so…?)

    Great post, as ever!
    Lucy

  4. Michelle says:

    This is beautiful, Kim. I spoke to you recently about my own recently acquired tattoos and how I was embarrassed to wear short sleeves now because the people in my town are very conservative and most likely will judge me. I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said about the tattoos setting you apart from them and their beliefs. Your words have helped me more than you realize. My tattoos are very special to me; they have meaning and are a visual representation of what is in my heart and soul. Thank you for sharing your story!

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