Me and my inkbirds.

by Ave

So I got a new tattoo yesterday. It’s another bird. The reactions I’ve got from various people prompted me to write this little half mental-note, half explanation. It’s a meditation on why and how, and again why.

On a side note I have to mention that since I’ve got a shoot 10am tomorrow morning, I’m staying in tonight. Yes, it is Valentine’s Day indeed. But I prefer calling it “friends’ day” like we do here in Estonia (direct translation). But on the other hand my dearest ones are always on my mind, don’t need a special day to praise them. They’re the most awesomez on the planet, 365 spin around the axis of the Earth, as well as the old Sun. I raise a glass of my surprise gin and tonic to them, precious ones. (Because of the tattoo business I can’t drown my evening in my usual poison of preference, aka vino. Not really used to drinking GT at home on my own, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Besides, isn’t it the loveliest when you find just enough cocktail’s worth of tonic from the fridge, and try your luck opening the freezer – maybe there’s something interesting there… and voilà! A wild gin appears!)

Anyhow, back to the “why I can’t drink anything fermented for two weeks” tattoo business. Chris-bro said he’s surprised it’s not a cat. Indeed, it’s not a cat we’re dealing with, but a massive peacock. Custom-made, custom-drawn, about 30cm tall and maybe 12cm wide in the widest bit, courtesy of the mighty Jarmo Nuutre / Le Moustache Tattoo Parlor. It also covers an old tribal I had (the tail bit is on the old tattoo). Nothing dramatic there, I just figured the tribal one doesn’t really go with the style of the rest of my tattoos. I’ve always had the idea of covering the better part of my leg with some ink. Originally I thought of possibly extending the tribal into something abstract, all lines and curves and swiggles, but a random peacock idea appeared from out of the blue. I didn’t exactly know what it should look like, but when I blabbered my incoherent thoughts to Jarmo, he came out with the most stunning little birdie sketch. Exquisitely detailed monochrome avian beauty. So we came to an agreement and I decided to take an extra day of holiday after a long-ass weekend trip to London. Preparation didn’t take too long, perhaps half an hour, but the tattooing process itself was 4,5 hours altogether. The tail, which covers my old tattoo, was the trickiest and most time consuming. The intricate lines of the feathers are a true masterpiece – in addition to looking good afar, the picture is incredible up close. Have to admit I haven’t seen many tattoos that look that great close up.

So now the part that a lot have been asking over the years. This was technically my seventh tattoo (there are three separate ones on my back, one on my side, one my wrist and this is a second one on my leg), so in addition to having had to sort everything out in my own little brains, I have had to explain myself to others, too. But I don’t mind. Maybe keying these words down on this metaphorical paper will help someone with their tattoo decision. Maybe it’ll help someone understand the decision, and perhaps not judge someone by their (ink) cover.

Why did I get a tattoo? There’s no romanticism behind this one. I just always wanted a tattoo. Got the first one quite young, had a few more ideas come to me, and I had to get more. An idea of a tattoo has always just… reached me? The idea has to hit me, brood for a bit, and then crystallise into something I’m absolutely certain of, both aesthetically and symbolically. I will take a rain check on explaining the birth stories and (individual) meanings behind all my tattoos separately, but if someone’s interested, I’m more than happy to explain over a glass of wine or GT. But I’ll say that none of these ideas have come “lightly” or without consideration. There’s a fair bit of deep and meaningful shit behind it, but putting it very bluntly – I also have to like how they looky-look. Regardless of the tenfold utopian dream story, the picture has to look great, be a piece of art, if you will. Damn, if I’m going to flaunt it for the rest of my life, better make it fabulous.

Did it hurt? Fuck yes. But the real pain kicks in about 3,5h in, when your skin is a fair bit sore from scraping up and down in it with various sized needles. Different parts of the body hurt differently, and it’s also very individual. On a rather perverse level, I enjoy the pain. I’ve also had a fair few piercings in my life, so I’m down with a little hurty-hurt. As long as it serves some vain purpose, of course. How painful is painful? Well, it’s kind of like pinching. Try pinching different bits of your skin, see how it hurts less in some parts. I think the most painful tattoo I’ve got is the tree on my back. It’s right on my back bone, not much skin or meat there. Generally it hurts less where there’s more muscle and skin is rougher. Jarmo said legs (shin/calf/side) are perhaps the best part of the body to tattoo, because the skin is quite forgiving, takes the ink well. Apparently one of the trickiest parts is the side – both in terms of pain and ease of working for the artist. For me, the side was a piece of cake (drool.. cake). It was actually quite ticklish (had to pay extra attention not to elbow the tattoo man in the head, because oh my days, I am ticklish as hell). Lower neck was unpleasant, so was the inner wrist. Leg, as I said, no biggie, just the shading part gets quite sore as your leg has been in the works for more than three hours and the shading needle is a fat bastard (made of, what like, seven tiny little needles?), also the motion is quite ruthless – looks something like a kid drawing a colouring book with crayons.

Doesn’t it ruin your skin? When taken care of properly, tattoos heal well and shouldn’t cause any problems. It’s important to keep it healthy, moisturise and clean it properly, and not drink any fermented drinks while it heals. Sunshine is a rather big NOPE for tattoos as it fades the colour, and can cause pretty bad irritation when you burn yourself. But hey, all the more reason to stay out of the sunshine and stay skin cancer free (or at least lower the risk). Sunscreen!

Oh you meant when I get old and wrinkly and ugly? When I’m old and wrinkly and ugly, I’m going to be all that anyway. What I have noticed is that tattooed old people look pretty fucking badass, though. Because tattoos are definitely a feature of vanity, I like to think that perhaps they’ll force me into being a little more considerate and working out until whenever I can’t work out any more? Of course they look nicer on perky and smooth and fit skin and bodies, but that’s a rather general observation. Young people are more aesthetically pleasing anyway. Maybe. I don’t know. There are some super cool and pretty old peeps, too. Anyhow. Hey, it’s all a matter of taste. I’d rather be a superbike-riding, skydiving, raving tattooed old lunatic cat-bird lady, than someone who sits around doing nothing, regretting the chances they never took when they were young. Live a little, maybe helps you breathe easier at an old age. But again, it’s a matter of personal preference. I prefer to become a foxy tattooed grandma. Let’s revisit this particular issue in 40 years.

But don’t tattoos symbolise prison life etc? Hearing these kinds of remarks, I’d quite happily (and graciously) like to tell the people to have an intimate intercourse with themselves, if they’d be so kind, please. Tattoos are an ancient part of human life, and symbolise way more than a life on the inside of the cell. Prison tattoos tend to be pretty specific, and as far as I know, none of mine emerged from behind the bars. Tattoo history is actually pretty awesome, read up about it, if you have time. Tattoos are spiritual, tribal, markers of a community etc, as well as just a plain vain decoration. Worth being careful with the meanings and stuff, though. Never know what that hieroglyph might actually mean. Sweet and sour chicken and rice, maybe? Oh, and good old spelling. Way too many Tumblr blogs are filled with terrible-terrible-teeerrrible tattoo ideas, as well as execution. Worth remembering also they’re permanent. I’ve heard laser removal is a real bitch and might not even give great results.

But how can you think it’s beautiful? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As far as my body is concerned, I don’t anyone else’s opinion than mine (and the tattoo artist’s, to an extent) really matters. If you don’t like tattoos, don’t get one. I got a fair few, because I’m vain as hell, and I like them. Bitches need (sparkles) and tattoos.

But it’s so big! Yep. The bigger the better. Well, that’s not always the case, but cover-ups can get pretty massive, as the new image needs to cover (duh) up the old one and trick your eyes into thinking there’s nothing underneath. And I don’t think a tiny peacock would have been as fabulous. I like my birds grand.

Now that I’ve had my explanatory little rant, I’d like to bow down to the man who inked me. Jarmo is an absolute star for taking me on, drawing this stunning (yes omg it’s so big, and omg, it’s so dark, too) peacock for me, and using my skin as a canvas. I am honoured to carry this piece of art – because that’s what I consider this being – and to anyone who dislikes the ideas of tattoos in general, just look at this like a pretty picture, regardless of the fact that it’s on my (now a little swollen and red) skin.

Peace, love, and ink!

And now a little skin.

Image

Photo & image copyright Jarmo Nuutre. Leg courtesy of Ave Tampere.

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