Monday, August 5, 2013

The Summer of Ink

The left arm
The letter: E for my niece Emina
The quote: I am a mountain / I am the sea - Biffy Clyro "Mountains". It's my mantra - the words that keep me with myself and my head above the waves when it is needed (I love you if you get the reference ;) ) 
The motif: Half writing quill (you are here so that's one for Captain Obvious ;) ) half lion (lovingly nicknamed "Kitty Cat"). The cover of "Mountains" shows two lions and my sister, my mom and several important people in my life are/were leos (zodiac) and it is a fascinating, powerful animal to me. 
Design & ink work by Mac / Kleine Welt Tattoos, Munich

The right arm
The letter: H for my niece Hannah
The quote: Light shall break and bring a bright sky - Biffy Clyro "Justboy". These are powerful words full of hope and they fit perfectly to Pittsburgh.
The motif: The winged horse and his twin brothers are sitting on top of the 16th Street Bridge (David McCullough Bridge) in Pittsburgh, which connects the North Shore with the Strip District. The skyline shape is based on a picture I took myself from even this 16th Street Bridge.
Design & ink work by Mac / Kleine Welt Tattoos, Munich

Both tattoos were made in spring / summer 2013 in a 5 hours session each, which is pretty much the maximum Mac and I can do in one go (each one of us from his / hers perspective).
And before you ask: Yes, it hurt. The inside of the lower arm is significantly more sensitive than the outside of the upper arm and shoulders where I have my other tattoos. In particular painful are the wrists and where you get around the arm to the outside (the feathers of the quill and the wing of the pegasus), but for me personally it was nothing I could not handle. 

My first tattoo tracks back to the year 1998 already. It was tiny but a big step for me. I chose the Three Snakes & One Charm cover design of The Black Crowes and it sits on my right shoulder. The symbol is at the same time related to the classic 45 rpm single adapter called puck (yes, the irony is not lost on me) as well as referencing the celtic triskel as symbol for the harmony of powers and elements. I chose it because the time the record was released was one of the best and then one of the worst times of my life. I very seriously fell in love but I had to learn that love is not everything - it is sometimes not enough to go your way together. I was emotionally shattered but survived and kind of felt the urge to make a statement for myself to remind me of my own strength
Up from then I added things every few years. A guitar symbol was the next one. Me and my lovely friend Gina had it designed for us by a tattoo artist on Long Island in 2001 symbolizing our shared love for music as one of the biggest powers in life. 

Again some years later I met Mac here in Munich and we started working together. Since then he is helping me to turn my rough ideas into designs and to connect them with the existing tattoos. I am happy he is still there for me because I'm really not an easy customer.
I am not the type of person who just gets tattoos because they are pretty (although they are in my eyes). Mine are always related to important things in my life which define who I am. I always think it through a lot because my life of course keeps changing, new influences are added, some others fade. Since a tattoo stays forever I can only go for things that will keep their meaning to me even if the acute situation is gone. This may be different for other people who are totally fine with just a beautiful design without a special meaning, but it is not my way.
While I am pretty good with defining the themes of my tattoos I am a total loser when it comes to visuals. I am a person of words (hence the quill), but I cannot draw or develop visuals. I can give the poor artist not much more to work with than my sometimes really weird thoughts and inspirations. Glady I have an artist who found a way to turn my brainstorms into stunning tattoo designs even if it cost him a good night's sleep more than once already.

This year finally was the year I decided to make quite some big steps forward. I think three things were playing into it. 
  • The first few years I intentionally placed my tattoos on the upper arm and shoulder where a regular t-shirt would make them invisble at work or other official occasions. At first I was really okay with that but lately I grew more and more unhappy with the fact that I barely got to see my own tattoos nor did anybody else. 
  • In Pittsburgh so many people are heavily inked and way more than here in Germany I was confronted with beautiful tattoos everywhere just being part of the normal life. I was a bit of a jealous, sad panda and remember one morning at Espresso A Mano I told my friend Gabi, that I at least want to have a shirt saying "I am inked, too." 
  • I am getting 40 years old this year and while I am not having a classic midlife crisis I am aware that my parents both got their deadly diagnosis not much later than that. I have no tangible fear that the same will happen to me (at least not more than everybodyelse) but it brings the finiteness of life more into the focus of conciousness. And with this conciousness I care less than ever if others think I am weird or what the so called society might expect from me. Instead I look more at what makes me happy - like my tattoos

So when I realized that I had collected already again some of those life defining things like the strong bond with Pittsburgh, rediscovering music as driving power of my soul or this blog that became part of myself, it was clear that it was tattoo time again and I knew this time I wanted it differently - significant in size (not that the others are small, but still ...) and more visible. The process is hard to describe - I almost can feel the presence of the tattoos before they are there or I even know the final design and this time my feeling was crystal clear ... at the inner sides of the lower arms. And here we are ... it is all done since last Thursday (see above). 

I remember the first morning with Kitty Cat without the plastic wrap. I took the normal morning shower and my arm felt almost shockingly strange. I looked down on it like "Who you belong to, arm? What do you mean with you are 'mine'?"  It is a very significant change to my appearance, a new me and it is really nothing that should be underestimated, but I totally love it. I am sure my cat and my pegasus will be my friends and guardians for the rest of my life.

You are considering to get some ink, but did not get started yet? Then you may like my little guide to become happy with your tattoo(s):

  1. Take your time. You are changing your personal appearance forever. And I mean f.o.r.e.v.e.r.. There is nothing wrong when you have doubts, rethink it several times and maybe end up abandoning the idea. I personally prefer every person that conciously decides against a tattoo over a person that gets one without thinking about it seriously. In this sense tattoos are nothing for kids at all. It is good that you need to be at least 18 years old (older is better in that case).
  2. Think about your motif and get yourself informed about tattoo designs. There are a lot of different styles and techniques and it will be very helpful when you are choosing and working with your artist when you have a relatively clear picture of what you want and how you want it to look like.
  3. Make it your own! A tattoo should have nothing to do with fashion and you should really stay away from motifs that are "en vogue" - at the moment stars, infinity signs (I make an exception for the ones that come along with a pounding and shining heart ;)) and dandelion seed heads. And if there is really no way around for you and it HAS to be one of those let your artist personalize it at least a bit for you. A tattoo - anyway if it has a special meaning or is just supposed to be pretty - should be part of who you are if you want to be happy with it for the rest of your life and not just a few years. 
  4. Listen to your artist! Even if you are a super talented artist yourself and show up at the studio with a ready made design, you should let your artist do the likely necessary changes. Your body is no piece of paper. Positioning and sizing along the natural forms of your body are important for a great tattoo and your skin condition plays into it as well. I have for example super tricky, thin skin at the crook of the arms and at the wrists, while my shoulder is like leather ;) 
  5. Choose your studio carefully. Is  the place clean? Do you feel comfortable? Is there a good atmosphere? Are there books with designs of the resident artists you can look at? Are you treated nicely and with respect even if you are not yet covered from head to toe in ink? Have you asked friends or people with great tattoos for recommendations? All this helps to find the right place like in my case Kleine Welt Tattoos
  6. Choose your artist carefully. You will spend some pretty intense hours together and it is significantly easier when you like the person. And like I described above creating the perfect design needs your input as well as the artist's understanding of your ideas and his / hers design talent and technical experience. Good artists often have a waiting list and some patience is needed. If he / she is the right one for you then wait and use the time to safe some money. A good tattoo is not cheap. 
  7. Be aware of the pain. Lots of people give me a wink and say stuff like "Eh, you enjoy the pain, do you?" Like getting a tattoo was clearly hinting to a certain sexual orientation while it has really nothing to do with it. Sure, it hurts and you need to be aware of that. How much it hurts depends on where the tattoo is located and even more on your personal tolerance of pain. I for myself do not exactly like the pain but I embrace it as part of the process. You are changing yourself for good and it's just right that it is not THAT easy.  
  8. Allow yourself time to heal and deal with it. Getting a tattoo especially when it is a big one will cost you a lot of physical and emotional energy. Make sure that you have time to rest the day(s) afterwards. 
  9. Take care for your tattoo especially when it is really freshly done. Your artist will give you advice how to deal with it (wrap, cream, clean) and please do yourself a favor and listen to him / her. A fresh tattoo is a wound and needs to be treated as such to prevent infections and allow a quick healing process. It will take a while until it is fully healed and the skin is back to normal. Make also sure that you use plenty of sunblocker in summer. 

Enjoy your tattoo and your inked self! 


  1. again wonderful article! so much joy to read it! Gabi

  2. totally love your new ink. talented artist you have there! it is wonderful how together you incorporated each element into a magnificent piece. well done! xoxo