Eileen B., 45 Years, Licensed Aesthetician/Manager-Laser Skin Care Clinic (Hermosa Beach, CA)

NOTE FROM THE BLOGGER…When I was firm about my decision to get a tattoo, I began to search for an artist who could do exactly what I wanted – a henna-style design. After visiting the websites of what seemed like every tattoo artist in San Diego (and even some in Europe!) and not finding a single one who showcased any work even remotely resembling henna, I began to lose hope. On Halloween Day 2009, I dragged my husband and teenage son to the Tattoopalooza in downtown San Diego. I was thoroughly discouraged after walking down two aisles and, again, not finding a single artist who dared to be different. I started walking faster and looking less. As I started down the third aisle, something drew me to the first table. I opened the artist’s binder, flipped through a few pages and froze on a page with an incredibly beautiful woman with the most unbelievable henna-style tattoo I had ever seen. The photo resembled a “Vargas girl” (Note…irony coming!). At that moment, I was pretty certain I had found my artist. That woman was Eileen B. and that artist was Luis Vargas (So she really was a “Vargas girl”, go figure.), the one I chose to ink his art on my body. As I left Luis’ studio the day he did my tattoo, I glanced up and saw Eileen’s picture on his wall…“Be sure and tell her that she was my inspiration,” I said. The next day, I had a Facebook friend request from Eileen…I now consider her a real friend.

WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN I SAY ‘TATTOO’?

Liberation

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST TATTOO…

I told [Luis] I definitely wanted ‘Wild at Heart’. I really did my research and I thought about it for a good six months. When I first said I was going to get a tattoo my mom was like “[Ohhh]” because I had just come out of the 24 year relationship and my mom was like “Please, give yourself at least six months.” Everyone kind of freaked out around me…my mom, my older sister, a couple of my friends. They were like “Wait, wait, wait.” So, I did…I said I would wait six months, which was good. I’m glad that I did wait because at that point I knew for certain that it was something that I definitely wanted and I was able to pick [designs] that were meaningful to me.

WHEN DID YOU GET IT?

Last March [2009]…that was my first sitting.

WHAT IS IT THAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

People have been piercing, adorning, marking their bodies basically since the beginning of mankind. So, I think it’s just a way of expressing yourself. I think body art should tell a story. Not all of it does and I don’t like all body art, but there’s a lot of it that I do like. I guess I just needed to say something…and I said it really loud. One of the girls at work who is pretty sensitive and in tune to things said “The first time you came in and I saw that, I thought, she’s marking all this pain on her body and this is where she’s telling the story.” And, this guy [Luis Vargas] has kind of helped me through it all.

Marking your body should be somewhat ceremonial…look at ancient man and societies today where they’re still pretty primitive, like in the Amazon. There is something instinctual in us that wants us to be able to express. We were at Spaghettini’s the other night and there was this family leaving the restaurant and there was this jazz band playing. We were sitting right there and this little teeny tiny child just starts dancing around. Expressing ourselves is just instinctive.

SO, AGAIN, YOU KNEW THAT YOU WANTED ‘WILD AT HEART’ WHEN YOU WENT IN…SO REMIND ME WHY YOU CHOSE EACH DESIGN?

[‘Wild at Heart’] really reflected my state of mind. I wanted a woman morphing into a phoenix because, of course, the phoenix represents this ability to be reborn. I basically wanted the lotus for the same reason…because it’s a flower that comes out of a murky dirty environment, rises above it all and manages to be clean and beautiful. And then I wanted an ‘ohm’ for peace. Because my good friend, Nina, at the time, was going through a really difficult time and she’s very much Hindu and spiritual…it was kind of in honor of her, too. Her and I are very, very different, but as an emotional rock to lean against, she’s just solid…she was there when I really needed her.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON THE LOCATION…YOU SAID YOU WERE A LITTLE HESITANT AT FIRST [ABOUT THE LOWER BACK] BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T WANT IT TO BE VIEWED AS A ‘TRAMP STAMP’?

Well, I like the way they look. If you only have a tattoo there, part of the stigma is that it’s a [“tramp stamp’]. And, for me it really wasn’t. Because I’m Irish and I have a temper, I didn’t want anyone to view it as a joke. This meant something to me, so I didn’t want it to look like…I’m 44 years old, suddenly going to get a tattoo, and I end up with a “tramp stamp”. That wasn’t the message that I was sending.

But, [Luis] was ready for all of it, so when I came in, I said “I like that second piece over” and he said “Well, I’m glad you like it because that’s your girl.” And, I’m like…perfect! So that first day I was here, [Luis] said “I want to place both of them on your back today, if I can.” I said ‘Let’s go for it.’. So, the first session was like three hours long. [“And she didn’t move…she didn’t move at all, didn’t complain,” said Luis. “And, then when I started working here, I know this part is very painful and she didn’t ever move. She just took the pain and it went right through her like a river and it came right out.]

HOW DID YOU FIND LUIS [VARGAS]?

I was at the Muse Ink Expo last February. His was the second table that we walked up to. I knew exactly what I was looking for and I knew as soon as I saw it.

WHEN I SAW YOUR PICTURE, YOU BECAME MY INSPIRATION…DID YOU SEE A PICTURE OF ANYONE THAT INSPIRED YOU IN THAT WAY?

The thing that struck me the most was just the amount of work that he had done, the big huge bold flowing pieces, which have to be original. They are not anything that’s transferred…you can tell by the way they move across the body. He really uses the body as a canvas. So, right then and there, I said let’s book for the ‘Wild at Heart’. Because he was getting ready to tattoo somebody he said “When you come in for that, I’ll have the other piece ready for you.” When he put it on, I wanted it to move and flow a little bit more, to kind of wrap a little bit around to the front, but I didn’t want to do too much tribal. So then, once again, my friend Nina was my inspiration. I said let’s do some mehndi art, which is the art form that they usually henna on, which is just temporary.

SO, THE SECOND TIME YOU CAME IN, YOU GOT AROUND YOUR HIPS DONE?

We did all the mehndi art pattern. And, then each time that I would come in he would add something…because he free hands it on. None of this is transferred. He just draws it right on and inks right on the top. Some of it’s been added to a little bit here and there. I wouldn’t mind doing some more dotting and stuff today. [When I said I might do the same some day, Luis looked at me and said…“Yeah, you’re going to keep growing, because no one stops. We don’t end. You’re evolving.”]

SO THE FIRST SESSION, [LUIS] DID BOTH THE ‘WILD AT HEART’ AND THE PHOENIX. THE SECOND TIME YOU CAME IN WAS ALL THE MEHNDI ART. AND, THEN, YOU’VE COME BACK HOW MANY TIMES AFTER THAT?

Today will be my eleventh session.

DOES ONE OF YOUR TATTOOS HAVE THE MOST MEANING TO YOU…A FAVORITE?

The phoenix, definitely. She is the center. Everything else revolves around that.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

Absolutely not. Not at this point in my life, no. There have been a couple of people who have judged, like a doctor who wanted to go out with me, but he said he couldn’t because he couldn’t get past my substantial tattoo. I had a little moment of psych-out there when I was walking by the mirror…a tattoo like mine is major, it’s huge. So, I was looking at it like…I do have a substantial tattoo. [When I was having it done], I really just identified with the art itself and I wasn’t really looking at it the way somebody else would look at it.

IS THIS IT OR DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET MORE?

[Luis said…“She can never stop. She’s addicted. She’ll come back even if we have to add a dot. There’s something about it…it’s like a therapy. Like getting a massage, acupuncture.”]

You know, it’s like giving birth…you forget the pain. But, in that moment, you think you’re never going to forget. When [I’m] getting tattooed, I’m like “I can’t imagine doing this again.” But then 30 days go by and you slowly start to forget…you don’t remember until you’re sitting under the needle again.

[Eileen went on to describe what she plans to be her final tattoo…] “I am having ‘Awakenings’ tattooed on my right shoulder in Sanskrit, which is an ancient language that comes from India. The translation into Sanskrit is ‘Bodhi’.”

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