Now, if you’re interested in my views on stylish tattoos, check out this older post. And here‘s a discussion of when I and my readers think it’s appropriate to consider new ink. But if you’re interested in how I chose my five tattoos, why I got them, and what they mean to me, read on!
By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew I’d eventually have at least one tattoo. But I thought about it for a damn long time, and it wasn’t until I was 23 that I took the plunge.
SYMBOL: This simple blue crescent was my first. I got it in San Francisco about two weeks before I moved back to the Midwest. The symbol itself is from The Mists of Avalon, a book that influenced me philosophically, spiritually, and as a writer. The priestesses of Avalon had sideways-set blue crescents tattooed on their foreheads. I have mine on my right shoulder, the shoulder of my dominant hand.
MOTIVATION: I got this tattoo as a seal on a really horrible time in my life. I was miserable in San Francisco, and embroiled in a miserable relationship. This symbol and the act of getting it tattooed on my back both served as reminders of my strength and independence.
STUDIO: Sacred Rose Tattoo
TIME AND COST: This tattoo took about 20 minutes and cost me a whopping $50.
I moved to Minneapolis in 2000, and after about six months, felt ready to get another tattoo. Another symbol that is deeply, personally, and spiritually significant to me.
SYMBOL: This is a North American badger, my totem animal. I identify with badgers as earth-based animals (I am a double Capricorn with Taurus rising, and very, very strong in all things earthy), loyal and protective creatures, and physical manifestations of the phrase “small but mighty.” Badgers are all about self-preservation, defense of what is theirs, and standing up for themselves when confronted. Badgers are surprisingly fast and agile, defying their chunky, awkward bodies. I love ’em.
MOTIVATION: I got this piece because I felt like I had finally become self-sufficient, self-aware, and adult. I wanted to commemorate that subtle rite of passage, and felt that an image of my own totem was the perfect way to do so.
STUDIO: Some random joint a block from my old apartment that was closed within the year
TIME AND COST: This tattoo took about 4 hours and cost me $350. Placement is on my lower back, on the left to balance out the moon on the upper right:
Another couple of years passed, and I knew I wanted my third. At this point, I had met but not married Husband Mike.
SYMBOL: I drew this symbol in pastel within weeks of moving to Minneapolis, sitting in my little studio apartment in Uptown, dreaming about my future. It hung on my wall for years, and a few months after I started dating HM, I made an appointment to get it inked onto my right calf. Unfortunately, the person who did the work really effed it up, and the green crescent looked like an unripe banana and the whole thing was disproportionate and dorky-looking.
MOTIVATION: I left it in unripe-banana state for years, unsure how to fix it. And although I had always felt that the symbol itself represented new growth, the process of getting it fixed cemented its entire meaning.
I talked with Doug Hardy at the Ink Lab in Uptown, and just told him I wanted it “fixed.” We talked about adding some more scrolly vines, and he said he’d make sketches. I came in for my appointment and he’d left his sketches at home … so he just drew freehand all over my leg and went to town. And it was PERFECT. Collaboration and trust, the value of revision, allowing myself to rely on others for input and help … these are the things this piece symbolizes to me now. All part of growth, but a little more complex and rich.
STUDIO: Don’t remember the initial studio … it was at Lake and Lyndale in Uptown. Touch-up and renovation by Doug Hardy at the Ink Lab
TIME AND COST: The first round was two sittings of about an hour and a half each, but only cost $125. Second round was one sitting of about two hours and cost $200.
Up to this point, all of my tattoos were acquired to commemorate events, changes, things that had ended. Over the past year, I decided I wanted some pieces that would serve as gates to new avenues, symbols of what’s to come instead of what had already passed.
SYMBOL: This is a compass star. Earth is my element, and north is my direction, so a compass resonated with me. It’s as simple as that! I created this design using stock art and Photoshop, and collaborated with the artist on the final touches.
MOTIVATION: I felt that I was entering a phase of life in which I needed guidance. What better for guidance than a compass? What better place for a compass than on your foot, which moves you from place to place?
STUDIO: Jon Sweet at Uptown Tattoo. I cannot recommend Jon enough. He is kind, smart, funny, talented, and equally passionate about tattooing and fishing. That man loves to fish.
TIME AND COST: This piece took about 40 minutes and cost $65.
And because I have a weird thing about odd numbers and balance, I knew I needed a fifth.
SYMBOL: My legal name is Sarah, which roughly translates to “princess” in Hebrew. (I am half Jewish.) For years and years, I HATED that, feeling like my very name was linked with tutus and Disney and all things pink and foofy and over-the-top girly. But within the past 7 or 8 years, I have found myself wanting to embrace my inner princess – allow my inner woman, strong and decisive, to emerge and flourish. And the crown became the symbol of this change. Hence my crown ring, and 15 billion crown necklaces, shirts, and paraphernalia. It is red because red is my favorite color, and has been since birth.
MOTIVATION: This piece is also a part of my “opening doors” idea, and since it is linked to my name I feel the tattoo is linked to my acceptance of my whole self.
STUDIO: Cecelia at Warlock Tattoo. Cecelia is pictured in the first photo up top, working her magic on my neck.
TIME AND COST: This piece took about an hour and a half, and cost $125
Thanks for allowing me this self-indulgent little post! Hope I didn’t bore yas with too many details. In case you’re curious, I have no immediate plans for more tattoos, but am not closed to the idea should more symbols and associated events present themselves.
And yes, my mom was utterly APPALLED when I got my first. And second. And third. I’m actually not sure she noticed the fourth and fifth. Maybe she’s just developed tattoo immunity …