xGoboBeanx's Fairy Tattoo

I met Jill outside of Penn Station last week and she had this interesting creature on her left calf. I guessed it was a fairy, and noted (to myself) that it looked like one of the creatures in Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book.

I later learned that this was no coincidence, as the illustrator of said book is Brian Froud, upon whose work this tattoo was based.

Jill identified it as a cat fairy, which is supposed to grant protection while one sleeps. She had this inked at a tattoo shop in the Corona section of Queens about 6 years ago. Jill doesn't recall the name of the shop, nor the artist that inked this, one of her six tattoos.

Jill deserves a little cross promotion here, as she is a video blogger over at Some of her other tattoos, along with this one, make fleeting appearances in her video posts. Her YouTube channel is here.

Thanks to Jill for sharing her fairy here on Tattoosday!
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Tattoos from the Blogosphere: Mat's Take on the Sugar Skull

Everyone remember Mat? His ink has appeared previously on Tattoosday here and here. Well, he has been a lean, mean tattoo-accumulating machine. Remember the infinity symbol on his wrist? It has a new neighbor:

Well Matt hat some might awesome work, and this piece just adds to the oeuvre of his canvas.

This is what is known as a Mexican sugar skull (a common recurring element at Tattoosday - in fact I just shot a new one on yesterday that will make its way here next week). Since Mat is currentl residing in Texas, let's let him explain this piece (with my scant editing, of course)...

It is a sugar skull, yes. Any work done on my forearms is significant to my son [Jack], and that's about it...[Jack's name is tattooed on the opposite wrist]

Since El Día de los Muertos [The Day of the Dead] is celebrated November 1 & 2, and Jack was born on November 1, I thought it would be fitting as I mulled over more and more the significance of the first day in the Day of the Dead celebration. The strange part is that the celebration on the first day is meant to honor the deceased infants and small children, whereas the second day is in honor of grown-ups/adults.

Also, we've noticed Jack at a super young age responsive to non-existent beings, as if he was communicating or interacting with something that wasn't there. It is said that during the Day of the Dead, it is easier for the departed to visit and communicate with the living.

After learning that, and remembering how focused he was as an infant on these things that I really wasn't able to make sense of, it all tied itself together.

Since it basically wraps my forearm, it's kind of hard to see how it is bookended by a rose on each side, ocher-shaded, and footnoted by a traditional red rose with okra folds.

This was also another piece by Travis Stanley at 713 Tattoo Parlour in Houston, and was tackled as we went along. I enjoy working like that- researching with the artist and maintaining the level of comfort to develop a meaningful piece that sometimes only makes itself apparent after a day or so of life on the body.

The bizarre color scheme and the bluish brain matter seen behind the top of the piece, behind the red cracks in the skull, are meant to convey the playfulness of a candy skull, but also to introduce a slight feeling of discomfort or uncertainty when a closer look is taken.

Thanks to Mat for sending this along, and giving us a behind-the-scenes perspective of the piece. We can always rely on Mat to get us to look beyond the tattoo and come to a better understanding of the thought process, as well as the creative instincts, that helped craft his body art.
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Syndy's Windjammer in Honor of Nanny

It was the swallows on her back that I noticed. But they were covered partially by the straps of her top, so I was just going to give her a Tattoosday flier and go on my merry way.

But, Syndy, a first grade teacher visiting from North Carolina, blew me away by peeling up her shirt on the sidewalk in front of Penn Station to reveal this stunning black and gray Polish windjammer.

This tattoo was inked in honor of her late grandmother, with the banner inscription "Forever -n- Ever, Nanny".

Syndy says her Nanny was a remarkable woman who always encouraged her to "be free," and loved going sailing.

This piece was inked in two sittings by Craig Foster at Skinwerks Tattoo & Design in Atlanta.

Thanks to Syndy for sharing her beautiful tribute here at Tattoosday!
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Kurt Vonnegut Remembered. So it goes.

At the Seventh Avenue Street Fair in Park Slope on Sunday, there was plenty of ink. Amazing ink too. But I only stopped one person, Samantha.

Samantha had this simple quote from the late Kurt Vonnegut on her back. This simple refrain (used 106 times in Slaughterhouse-Five, according to Wikipedia), came to be synonymous with the Vonnegut philosophy.

Samantha had this inked on her birthday at Hypnotic Designs in Sunset Park by Dru. Her boyfriend Igor also had a Vonnegut quote inked, but on his left leg:

or, from a different view:

This quote is from God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian...
My epitaph in any case? "Everything was beautiful. Nothing hurt." I will have gotten off so light, whatever the heck it is that was going on.
Thanks to Samantha and Igor for sharing their Vonnegutian ink here on Tattoosday!
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Pin Up Queen/ Sabina Kelly

This is a flick from the vault. She came thru and got her knuckles blasted.
-SA Studios
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Olvera St./Old Memories C.C.

Here are a few flicks I just found from the Old Memories C.C. car show a couple weeks back. This car show is Dope. This is the second year that its been held here. They blocked off the streets and low lows were layed out.... -Sal

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Last week I ran into a guy near work who had, by his best estimates, approximately twenty tattoos, all of which, he told me, were inked in different places, as he traveled. He had a stack of worn business cards from all the tattoo shops he had patronized in his wallet.

Identifying himself only as Soul Thief, his DJ name, this musician seemed slightly reluctant to participate, and wasn't exactly forthcoming about his work. However, he did allow me to take a shot of the above piece, from his left bicep. Actually, it's three tattoos, but the focus was on the top piece with the skeletons.

The piece consists of two quotes from songs that meant a lot to him at the time of the tattooing. On top is the phrase "Dreams like this must die," which he cited as a lyric from Andy Wood, who I recognized as the late singer from the Seattle band Mother Love Bone. I later realized the song from which the lyric came is the beautiful "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns".

The bottom lyric is "But they'll never tear us apart," which, when he cited Michael Hutchence, I knew to be the words from the INXS hit "Never Tear Us Apart".

The piece was inked by Tom Barrier at Raz-a-Tat Tattoo in Bennington, Vermont. Soul Thief indicated that Tom is the only tattoo artist that he ever went back to for a second piece. Tom had also done a back piece, but that he couldn't show me that on the street.

When I asked him for any further significance of the skeletons encircling one another in their arms, he was a little elusive, saying that tattoo meanings change, and they are constant reminders of where one has been. I took Soul Thief's level of elusiveness with a grain of salt. He didn't know me from Adam, and not everyone wants to share personal stories with people they just met. Plus, what he said made sense, tattoo meanings do change.

I thanked him and went on my way.

Later that evening, I received an e-mail from Soul Thief, with a clarification:

"I'm the guy with the skeletons tattoo on my arm. By the way, my name is Nate.

When you stopped me on the street today I was a bit wary (which I usually am when someone stops me on the street.) Also, I usually don't like being asked to explain my tattoos because I didn't get them as a conversation piece, but I checked out your site and I liked what you do- so I thought I might add a couple of things...

When I started getting tattoos I was 17 and I wasn't really thinking about it, I just wanted tattoos for some reason. I even got a fake ID to say I was 18 because I couldn't wait. They started out being souvenirs of a time and place, so at the time they pretty much didn't 'mean' anything. Since then I've gotten more and put a lot of thought into them, but I've kept the idea that tattoos are 4th dimensional in the back of my mind the whole time. These are the 4

1. The Idea. It's whatever possesses you to do such a thing in the first place. Being struck by a piece of art, having a change or new experience in your life, boredom, etc.

2. The Image. It's whatever you feel in a given time that you HAVE to have permanently scarred into your body.

3. The time and the place. Because tattoos last your entire life they will always be a reminder of where you were and what you felt like when you got them- If you don't remember either of those things, that says something about you too.

4. The Life. Your tattoos live right along side you. As your life goes on, you change and but your tattoos really don't. The only changeable thing is what you infer upon them. This is the part you need to reconcile when you get tattoos- I think of the Norman Rockwell picture of a sailor in a tattoo parlor- you may love whatever it is that's going onto your skin right now, but will you in the future. Are you that committed?

For example, the tattoo you photographed today was one that I got when I fell in love with my girlfriend of the last five years. The lyrics were from the music I was listening to at the time and the image just popped into my head us dying in each other's arms. In one way it means something because of the feelings I had at the time and the place when I got it, but in another way it can't mean anything because it means nothing to those outside of me. My tattoo is my life not yours.

For everyone else it's something intangible without my explanation or without them projecting their own life experience onto it.

Anyway, before I ramble on too long, I attached a picture of the stuff tattooed on my back in case you're interested. It reminds me that death is sneaking up behind me, so it helps me make the most out of the time that I'm alive.

-Nate aka Soulthief

A little more detail:

The inscription on the skeleton's scroll reads "In death I may find peace, but in life your love is all I need."

I've reprinted Nate's entire e-mail because it is an intelligent, well-crafted expression of the idea of tattoos and why people choose to get ink.

Thanks to Nate for sharing his tattoos, as well as his philosophy behind them!
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Loyal To the Game..

This is Ruben B. who came into the studio with no Tats and a gang of ideas... He wanted to pay homage to the Phillipines. As you can see he has done plenty of research and knows what he wants. "That.. goes a long way." He blasted the islands on his ribs on his back is a Phillipine princess and icons of the culture surrounding her. Mix that with Cartoons signature style and you have just invested in a one of Kind piece of art. Ruben has since been back numerous times and is covering ground.
"Loyalty is a good Quality to posess" -Sal
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Kali Takes Manhattan

Ronda J. is a painter/musician from New York City who wears this beautiful tattoo on her left bicep.

This is the Hindu goddess Kali, who is often associated with death and destruction, although she more accurately represents change.

This tattoo is a traditional image of Kali, with one significant exception. Whereas she is usually pictured standing upon the deity Shiva, this incarnation has her standing on a city aflame. Ronda J. points out that the burning metropolis is New York City.

It should be noted, she points out, that the flames reach highest behind the two twin towers in the lower right section of the tattoo:

This is of course the World Trade Center, but the piece was completed in 1997, four years before 9/11. This makes the tattoo that much more haunting.

This remarkable work was inked by Elio Espana at Fly-Rite Studio in Brooklyn. Work from Elio and Fly-Rite has appeared on Tattoosday previously here and here.

Ronda J. is a self-described Kali-initiate. Hindu mysticism takes on many forms, and I got the distinct impression that her faith in Kali was multi-layered, and by proxy, her connection to this tattoo and its meaning was exceptionally complex.

Thanks to Ronda J. for sharing her tattoo here at Tattoosday!
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Ellen Lives on in Kate's Ink

Last week I saw this tattoo walking down 7th Avenue. I handed a flier to Kate, to whom this tattoo belongs. She e-mailed me later that day to say she liked the blog and expressed a willingness to share her tattoos here. We met the next day to talk about her ink.

Her first and second tattoos were actually inked on the same day last June. First was this piece on her left wrist:

"So," I asked Kate, "who's Ellen?"

"That's my sister Ellen's actual signature," Kate replied, "I got this a couple of days before her funeral."

Hold on a second.

"What?" I was shocked.

And then she told me what happened.

A year ago today (June 16, 2007), Ellen Aquino died tragically in North Carolina, from injuries sustained in a car accident. She was killed by another motorist who fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the center divider, and hit her head-on.

Two days before the funeral, Kate and two other friends went into Physical Graffiti Tattoo Studio in Rochester, New York, and each had the tattoo inked. Kate got it on her left wrist, one of her friends got it on the ankle, and the other got it on her foot.

The piece replicated Ellen's signature, along with a heart, and is a poignant memorial to Kate's sister.

But she did not stop there. At the same time that the signature was inked, Kate had four lines from "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes inscribed above her outer right ankle:

I've embedded the video here so one can hear the song:

"It's typically a love song," Kate says, but the lyrics are particularly resonant:
Yours is the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you...
as Ellen's face would have been the first one she saw in this world. Because, Kate explained, Ellen was her identical twin, born ten minutes before her.

If I was stunned when this young woman of twenty-six told me she had just buried her sister last year, I was even more shocked when she told me it was her twin. I can barely imagine the grief of losing a sibling, but an identical twin? It was unfathomable to me.

Yet here was a vibrant young woman, talking to me in Greeley Square, showing me these tattoos based in tragedy, yet I could sense the strength that they gave her.

Her third tattoo was the heart with wings (pictured at the top of the post). It was tattooed at Extreme Graphix Tattoo Ink in Rochester. People always told her that Ellen was her guardian angel, and this piece represents the manifestation of that ongoing relationship.

Kate had shown me three tattoos, but she had told me she had four. I was thinking it might be one that I couldn't photograph, as I didn't see any other visible ink. Then, another Tattoosday first, she unveiled her fourth tattoo:

I was certainly not expecting an inner-lip tattoo. Kate joked, "Yeah, it's pretty hard-core". Wow. "Did it hurt?" I asked. She shook her head, "Not at all". So what's the deal with the word "LIVE" tattooed inside her lower lip?

As if she hadn't made me think enough, she continued to give me chills. "I got this on my last birthday," and I knew immediately why it was significant. Kate and Ellen had celebrated twenty-five consecutive birthdays together. And this one was the first that she would spend without her twin, for the rest of her life. Again, I cannot begin to imagine the emotions she was experiencing on what is supposed to be a happy day.

This was done at Love Hate Tattoo, also in Rochester. "It's a reminder to myself that I'm still here," Kate explained.

Via a series of e-mails I gleaned some additional details.

First, Kate offered up a link to Ellen's online obituary here. I also came across this tribute at a camp for handicapped children where Ellen worked for many summers. Her short life showed an amazing commitment to kids with special needs and a selfless commitment to helping educate others.

I was curious to know what Kate's parents thought of her tattoos and she replied:

My parents like my tattoos, they think they're nice, but would never want any for themselves. The only thing they told me in the beginning, in the midst of their grief was "don't get anything on your face." My grandmother however (she's in her 70's) *loves* my tattoos, and cried the first time she read the one on my ankle. I actually took her to get her own memorial tattoo (her first & probably last tattoo) in October, and she's quite proud of it.
I must say that Kate was amazingly resilient a few days shy of such a tragic anniversary. I cannot even begin to imagine the difficulty she and her family have undergone over the past year.

I thank Kate for sharing her and Ellen's story here. Tattoos are transforming, therapeutic emblems that not only help one heal, but also help one live beyond the healing.

I hope that Kate continues to find strength in her ink, and I look forward to her checking back in with us here at Tattoosday. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family. Please know that it is and will continue to be an honor to host Kate's tattoos (end Ellen's memory) here.
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Repost for Father's Day: Memorial for a Father

It only seems fitting that, on Father's Day, I repost a special tattoo for a father. I had several to choose from (here and here), but settled on this one, from December 4, 2007:

On a cold morning in the beginning of November, I spied a tattoo on the bare left calf of a guy at the corner of 31st and 7th in Manhattan. He crossed the street, walking the same direction I was headed and, lo and behold, headed into the Starbucks in my office building.

He was ahead of me in line and after he ordered, I expressed admiration for his tattoo:

Obviously, it's a memorial tattoo. The host's name is Jim and, as he explained, his father had passed away 3 years ago. I didn't notice until later when I uploaded the picture, the dates 1961-2005, making his father 43 or 44 when he died. The inscription reads "In Loving Memory James R. Frederickson".

Jim explained the tattoo for me. His father wanted to be cremated, so the tattoo is an ersatz grave site. He also added in the cheap, wooden cross, because his father always had been critical of people who spent a ton of money on grave markers.

Jim explained that the piece took him 2 1/2 years to design and get just right, so it must have been completed in the past year. It was inked at Lake Geneva Tattoo.

Thanks to Jim for sharing his tattoo with me!
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