Kristi S., Office Manager, 43 Years (Albany, OR)

 

Kristi S. before...

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

Liberating

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

Last Tuesday – October 26, 2010

 

Pre-tattoo bonding over tarot cards...

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

I’ve always liked tattoos…I always wanted to get a tattoo. I wanted to do something in memory of my miscarriage…for closure, moving on, letting go and just being me…doing something for me without the approval of anyone or because someone else wanted me to do it. It was really important for me because even though other people forget my miscarriage, it was a huge thing in my life. I was not in a happy place and now I feel like I have this special reminder and I think I’ll be able to move on. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided to do this…this is something that I felt I needed to do. It’s extremely empowering because I’m sure people will judge me, but I don’t care. I know it was right because I was not nervous at all…

 

Luis making the final touches on Kristi's artwork...

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN?

Luis Vargas designed it. I struggled with what artwork I would choose. I’m not an artist and I don’t consider myself hugely creative. I had some ideas. Kauai is a very special place for our family…I feel a very strong spiritual connection to Kauai, so I knew I wanted something related to that. The colors, flowers, a sea turtle. I love sea turtles, but I also love owls. I emailed you about not having a clue and then when I went on Luis Vargas’ site I got even more confused. I got a little apprehensive because I kind of felt out of place. One day I was on a run and I was thinking about my artwork…it was getting closer and closer. I looked down at my shirt, one that I got in Hanalei [Kauai], and I said “Oh my gosh…that’s exactly the colors and everything that I want!” It was a turtle with fish, flowers and bright colors, and so I thought “Well, that’s it…I’m going to take the shirt [to Luis’].” At the same time, I was wondering if I was going to insult him if I brought it.

 

Voila!

I emailed him and gave him a brief background of me, my reasoning for the tattoo, and my likes. I told him that I love hibuscus flowers and turtles, but that I also loved his owls. I’ve always loved owls. He  said “No problem…I’ll work on some ideas.” I really didn’t have any contact with him until we went that day. Even though he had drawn something, he didn’t bring it out right away. He loved my [t-shirt] idea. I was so impressed with that…and, it wasn’t like a fake thing. It was like “I drew something for you, but I love this [t-shirt]…I love the colors…the turtle.” He asked me if I wanted to see what he drew. When I saw it, it was perfect…it was an owl and it had Kaber’s name. [The name] was the hardest part for me…I don’t know why I struggled with that. The font of the name was huge for me. I looked through books and Greg thought it would be good to have it in Hawaiian. Well, sometimes [the fonts] get too “gangy” and I didn’t want it to be harsh. The way Luis wrote it was kind of whimsical, kind of musical. It was perfect and I just chose to go with what he had drawn for me.

 

...and it begins.

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL EVER HAVE ANY REGRETS ABOUT GETTING YOUR TATTOO?

No. It might lose it’s shape…it might take on a whole different dimension…in 3D! 😉 No, but seriously…this has been the greatest trip for me.

 

Taking a short breather...

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL GET MORE TATTOOS AT THIS POINT?

I’m already thinking about it…isn’t that weird? Yeah, I’m sure I will…in fact, there is no doubt in my mind that I will get another one.

 

Kristi S. after...so beautiful

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Carla P., Sports Nutrition Supplement Consultant, 44 Years (San Diego, CA)

When a friend of mine heard about my tattoo blog, she immediately said “You’ve got to interview my sister!” Now I understand why…this is one vibrant woman who is living a passionate life. I look forward to sipping coffee and having stimulating conversation with her again in the near future…

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WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD ‘TATTOO’?

Beautiful

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST ONE?

21 years old

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

At the time I just wanted to do something different…it was 1987, and [getting a tattoo] was more different then that it is now. I went to one of those downtown “navy/old man of the sea” tattoo parlors 😉 …[the Gaslamp district] wasn’t cool then like it is now.

WHICH ONE IS YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

It’s a four-leaf clover…and, it’s on my bikini line.

HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

Because I’m a quarter Irish…my grandmother was 100% Irish, so I just always thought if I got [a tattoo] it would be a lucky four-leaf clover.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE TO PUT IT?

I didn’t want anyone to see it…and, it was kind of a sexy place. I thought [this place] was kind of “lucky”…like if you see it, then you’re lucky 😉 .

WHO WAS THE ARTIST? AND, HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THEM?

It was just an old “bail bonds” type tattoo guy in downtown San Diego. I’m sure that tattoo place is no longer there…for sure. I was driving with some friends of mine…we were kind of buzzed. We kept talking about it and then we’re like “Let’s go do it!”. I was with my best friend (she was 23) and her really good friend (she was 21)…she was a former Playboy model. She was Playmate of the Year that year.

WHICH ONE IS YOUR SECOND TATTOO?

My second one is the “tramp stamp” on my lower back. It’s just a design my friend (the artist) did.

WHEN DID YOU GET THIS ONE?

Many years later…in 2000.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO PUT IT THERE?

It was kind of becoming a popular spot, I guess…and, I kind of liked it because it was still out of sight and I wasn’t looking to show it off too much.

WHO DID IT?

A family friend…Louie Alvarez. His artist name is ‘Zodak’. He has a private artist loft studio in Spring Valley.

[You can read about Zodak in a July 2009 article in Lowrider Arte magazine.]

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR THIRD TATTOO…

The third tattoo was also done in 2000…in Cabo San Lucas. I was there with my boyfriend…he was a musician and he had a gig there. We went out one night and got matching tattoos. It was on my arm, but it’s been covered up…he probably still has his. It was a Celtic tattoo…a triangle with an embryo inside of it to symbolize a “new beginning”.

HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

It was on the wall and I thought it was very unique…I asked the artist in the shop what it meant and I really liked that meaning. I wish I still had it because it was really a cool design…because everyone would always ask me…”What is that?” It was really interesting…

HOW DID YOU PICK THE LOCATION OF THIS ONE?

I was getting a little more bold…and, I wanted it to show more.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR FOURTH TATTOO?

Number 4 was on my back, on my left shoulder. I don’t remember why I chose my shoulder…I just knew I wanted it on my back. It was my boyfriend’s name (“Robbie”)…he got my name done at the same time. I thought he was just the love of my life, but I covered it up.

WHO DID THIS ONE?

Another artist at the same shop as my tattoo artist, Louie. Louie wouldn’t do it. He said “No way…I’m not doing that.”

OK, SO YOUR FIFTH TATTOO…

Number 5 and 6 would be my son’s and daughter’s names. They were probably done in about 2002. And, then my seventh is my last name on my calf, which was done at the same time.


WHO DID THEM?

Louie…

YOUR EIGHTH TATTOO…

I covered a bite on my left leg…I got bitten by a recluse spider. I just couldn’t stand the red dot there. I didn’t even know what I wanted…I didn’t even care, I just wanted [Louie] to put something there. So he did a cross. That was in about 2003…

YOUR NINTH TATTOO…

Number 9 is the one on the back of my neck. I got it done a little after the cross…a couple months later. This one is the “Elements”…it symbolizes air, water and fire.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PUT IT ON THE BACK OF YOUR NECK?

I just kind of thought it was blank and it would look cool if I pulled my hair up.

DID LOUIE DO THIS ONE?

No…a guy in Pacific Beach. My friend was getting her tattoo done and I was completely in a distraught state and I said “ I just want to get a tattoo”. I wanted something to focus my inner pain…tattooing is definitely something that does that. Because it’s painful…you forget about your problems for that time.

OK, SO NUMBER 10…

Number 10 would be the wings on my back…this was a cover of Robbie’s name at the end of 2004. I wanted wings for a long time because they symbolized freedom…freedom from Robbie. Louie was very happy to do this tattoo. 😉

AND, YOUR LAST TATTOO…NUMBER 11?

Number 11 was another cover…of the embryo…because Robbie had a matching tattoo and I didn’t want anything to do with him. So, [in 2007] I asked Louie to put something that he thought would flow and look pretty on my arm…flowers or whatever. It’s a full sleeve…

SO, AT THIS POINT YOU’RE CLEARLY OVER YOUR TATTOOS NOT SHOWING… 😉

Exactly! I’m like “Go with it.” I couldn’t wait to get a sleeve…

WHICH TATTOO, IF ANY, IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

Probably the wings…

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF THEM?

Maybe the name…but, I knew there was an out. I wasn’t going to remove it, I knew I would just cover it…so, in a way, I did regret it and I didn’t regret it. I actually went into it thinking if I ever have to cover it, no big deal…I would love to have something really cool back there. I wouldn’t get someone’s name again…not unless they were my blood relative.

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET ANY MORE?

Yes…more flowers or vines. I kind of want to do something that says “I’ll never settle”…like in Latin. That’s my mantra…it has multiple meanings for me. Like settle down, settle for someone, settle for something I don’t like…

Karin C., Aesthetician/Salon Manager, 30 Years (San Diego, CA)

Immediately upon meeting Karin C., we were on intimate terms. I was lucky enough to find her soon after I realized that at 43, it was still within the realm of possibility for me to get my first Brazilian. Karin minimized potential “pain” and maximized potential “pleasantness” – both physical and mental. She recently moved from the salon in Coronado where I first met her, to EnVus in Pacific Beach where she pampers (and occasionally reluctantly pains) her clients and now gets the bonus of doing some bossing. During several of my horizontal chats with her, she mentioned her desire to cover up her old tattoo with a bigger and better one – and, to replace bad memories with happy ones. For months, the time wasn’t quite right. In June it was…for both of us! We drove up to Northridge together and showed up at Luis’ door for one long day. Karin is now graced with a vibrant work of Luis art on her body…and, a part of Luis forever in her heart.

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WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD ‘TATTOO’?

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Personality

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HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU GOT YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

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I was young…under aged!

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WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

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I was living in Germany and my girlfriend, a Chiloquin [Native American], and I wanted tattoos. We were just best buds and wanted something fun…tattoos was the way to go.

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WHERE IS IT AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT LOCATION?

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It’s on my top left shoulder…my friend’s put hers on her back in between her shoulder blades. [My shoulder] was a place that I thought looked feminine and could be covered up easily.

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HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE DESIGN?

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We picked a Chiloquin tribal symbol that meant “cherish”.

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DO YOU REMEMBER WHO DID IT?

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No. It was in Germany at the first place we found…it wasn’t anywhere special.

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TELL ME ABOUT YOUR SECOND TATTOO…

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I was in the Navy…in Bali. I was pretty intoxicated, to say the least. We had been surfing and afterwards I was drawing on a napkin. Some guy came up to me and said he’d tattoo the design on my ankle for $20. I thought he was talking a henna tattoo or something, I don’t know. Then he went to town and started tattooing. Next thing I know I wake up in the morning, put my flight boots on, and there was a tattoo on my ankle. I like the tattoo…I think it’s a cute little beachy wave, but it’s on my ankle so it’s always there. I’m a flip flop/shorts girl and it’s just feels kinda trashy. Luckily it doesn’t go all the way around, but it’s a color that I can’t really get rid of…a certain type of ink. I don’t remember what he used, but I do remember he literally lit the needle on fire, put thread around it, and went to town with ink.

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HOW ABOUT YOUR THIRD TATTOO?

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That’s the one in progress with Luis Vargas…I found him through you. I wanted to cover up my first tattoo – first, because it was old and getting faded and, second, because it very much resembled a biohazard symbol. A lot of people gave me crap about it looking like a biohazard and I always had to explain. Because I always had to explain, it kept bringing up bad memories. My best friend who I got the tattoo with passed away of cancer when she was 19 years old, so I wanted to start putting things into the past and cover it up with positive energy.

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HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE DESIGN FOR THIS ONE?

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I kind of knew what type of things I wanted beforehand. Obviously, Luis put it all together and drew it all out. He just started drawing away, no problem. I wanted something very positive. I’m a water girl, so we have the waves on there resembling the beach. We have the plumeria. We figured out my number is four, so we have four flowers – three plumeria for good fortune and the hibiscus, which is the femininity flower. All in beautiful, bright colors. I’ve always wanted the koi, but I could never find one that I liked. I was debating back and forth about having one, then Luis pulled the one down from his wall and I said “I want that one!”. It turned out to be perfect. The water is pushing the koi up because the koi swims upstream. Also, it represents more of the masculine side, so you got a little ying and yang going on with the flower (hibiscus) and the fish. Good fortune, good luck.

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TELL ME ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF GETTING YOUR LATEST (AND BIGGEST) TATTOO…

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I was starting to forget, girl. 😉  I remember being nervous…it was a very patient trial. It took a lot of patience and a lot of zoning out. Thank God for Luis and his music, because that was amazing…his music zoned me out. And, his touch is amazing…he always knew where to touch my back and it made me feel connected to him, so I wasn’t just feeling some guy scratching my back with a painful needle. What was it…like 3 hours, 2 hours?

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OH, I THINK IT WAS LONG…DEFINITELY 3 HOURS.

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And, you were rubbing my legs. I was screaming, just letting it come out. 🙂

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DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO GET ANY MORE TATTOOS?

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No. I just one more session to finish this last one…it will get done someday. All [Luis] has left to finish are the hibiscus, the plumeria and a little bit of the waves.

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HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

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I regret the one on my ankle.

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OUT OF THE THREE TATTOOS, DO YOU HAVE ONE THAT IS MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

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Definitely the new one. I’m older now and it brings my whole life together…how I live my life, how I look forward to my life, and how I want my life to be. It’s vibrant, beautiful colors. It’s not something I’ll ever get tired of…

Eric R., Hiking Tour Guide, 34 Years (Hanapepe, Kauai)

I’m at a point in my life where I absolutely treasure quality people…and I know when I meet one instantaneously. Eric R. is one of my favorites…authentic, hard-working, cool, funny, sweet (in a manly way ;)), honest, and so much more. He knows exactly who he is and has created a life where he can express it wholeheartedly with passion. I do believe I was meant to meet him…besides the Universe, I have Google to thank! I was planning my latest trip to Kauai (last May) and was determined to find a “non-haole tourist” hike to go on. I Googled to see what was out there and, after bypassing all the hokey-sounding ones, I found Eric’s site (www.hikekauaiwithme.com). I emailed him with my request (a moderate hike with no Mid-Western tourists or whining kids!)…and he responded almost immediately. Within minutes I had two half-day hikes scheduled. It was clear he knew the island inside and out, so I put myself into his very capable hands only concerning myself with packing the right hiking gear.

It only took minutes to feel like I was hiking with a buddy (so much so that I almost forgot to pay him!). Of course, I eyed his tattoos immediately and coerced him into an interview. 😉 I snapped most of the pictures on the top of Kahili Mountain, right after the rain stopped and the blustery winds blew away the white-out (I was wet and a tad chilled and the sun was now shining brightly, so it’s not my best work…life is not perfect, but it’s exciting!). I was so distracted by the consummate Kauai experience on top of the mountain (and in the lychee orchard at its base) that I completely forgot to interview him when we got back to the cars! In authentic male style, Eric emailed concise answers to all of my questions…

I am so thankful for Facebook, which has allowed me to keep a lifeline to my island through one of my newest friends. The best part…I was able to be a small part of his recent journey to the Phillipines where he became engaged to his finance! I’m so looking forward to my next hike this August…

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

Expression

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

I was 22.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

The first one was mostly because I could.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

A Los Angeles Dodgers hat on top of a globe (i.e, Dodgers are on top of the world!).

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN?

I discussed it with an artist and the brainchild was formed.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT IT?

To me, the arms are the best spot for a tattoo. I decided on my upper arm because it was most visible.

WHO DID IT?

Some dude in Portland, Oregon.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE HIM AND HOW DID YOU KNOW HE WAS THE RIGHT ONE?

I just went into a tattoo parlor that a friend recommended and used the artist that was available.

AND HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN OF YOUR SECOND TATTOO?

It was my favorite band’s logo – the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT THIS ONE?

I liked the idea of having one on my inner wrist.

WHO DID IT?

An artist in Ft. Worth, Texas. I used the first artist that became available at a shop that I found down the street from my house.

AND YOUR THIRD TATTOO…HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

My favorite number is 10 and I used it in a design to look like a ring. The same artist that did my Chili Peppers tattoo did this one.

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN & LOCATION OF YOUR FOURTH TATTOO?

I drew a design that was representative of my lifestyle – palm trees on an island at sunset that states “No bad days!” Again, upper arm is one of my choice spots…very visible to me and others.

WHO DID IT?

An artist in Portland, Oregon. I returned to the same shop that did my first tattoo, but I used a different artist this time (one that was available).

AND YOUR FIFTH TATTOO?

I wanted something that represented the beauty of Hawaii. The hibiscus is so Hawaii and I didn’t feel like it was too “girly” by doing it in black. 🙂

YOUR SIXTH TATTOO?

My buddy and I decided to think of two words that perfectly represented what was important to us in our lives…”Love & Leisure” (on a compass). I always wanted one on my forearm and this was the time. The same shop that did the previous two in Portland did this one.

OK, NOW FOR YOUR SEVENTH…

That’s the hiker on my arm. This is a silhouette of me doing what I do best. I had the artist use a picture of me.

AND, YOUR LAST (EIGHTH) TATTOO!

The island of Kauai on my chest…pretty self explanatory, my favorite place in the world over my heart. Kauai is very dear to me…

WHICH TATTOO IS MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

The most meaningful is the picture of myself hiking because it’s an actual shot of me doing what I love most.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

Never. I always love what I finally choose after much thought.

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET MORE?

If I get any more, it will most likely have to do with my fiance. She will love that! 🙂

Lora H., Hairstylist/Salon Owner, 30 Years (San Diego, CA)

I have a friend – one of my BG’s, in fact (I’ll let you guess what that stands for) – who always used to show up with the chicest hair. I suffered from serious hair envy…until one day I asked her if she would share her stylist with me. Of course, she acquiesced…a BG would do nothing less. That’s when I met Lora H., an amazing stylist who had just partnered with Tera C. (see the previous interview) and opened up Blush Creations Salon in San Diego. I was with Lora for several happy – and stylish – years…until I contracted a case of “island-itis”. That’s when you move to a small island, walk almost everywhere and develop a serious aversion to driving motor vehicles (with the exception of golf carts…but, I refuse to to do that ;)). Thank goodness for Facebook, which maintains those kind of connections that might otherwise just fade away. I was thrilled she agreed to be interviewed…

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

Art

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO? HOW OLD WERE YOU?

I was 21…it was for my 21st birthday. I had wanted one since I was 14. I could’ve gotten one…we knew people and all my friends were getting them. (We used to hang out with the tattoo artist.) But, I didn’t want to be one of those people who just got some tattoo. There was nothing that I really wanted…I wanted to be sure what I wanted it of before I decided to get it, so I waited a long time.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

I just always liked the way they looked. I liked the fact that you could have a symbol on your body permanently. For me, personally, it’s things that represent something…a kind of constant reminder of something.

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN FOR YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

It’s actually just a star, but it was during a really dark time of my life and the only bit of faith that I had was in the stars. So, it represents a real turning point in my life.

WHERE IS IT AND HOW DID YOU DECIDE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT IT THERE?

It’s on my lower back. At that time, it was really the only option. I had seen a star that I really liked on a wrist, but I thought “No way could I do that…I’ll get sick of it. What if I want to hide it?” So, my back just seemed like the only option.

WHO DID IT? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE HIM/HER?

I don’t even know. I drove up with friends to L.A. [Los Angeles] and went to some shop my friends went to. They knew the shop, but I don’t even think we had an appointment…we just walked in.

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN OF YOUR SECOND ONE?

My wrist tattoo…that’s my “Trevor Tree”. [Trevor is Lora’s little boy.] I knew it had to be something to represent my son because it would be a constant reminder of having him. I was all over the place with what I wanted to get…all over the place. I didn’t want to just get “Trevor” across my wrist. The tattoo artist came up with the idea of the tree. It was something I could afford and get done now.

WHEN DID YOU GET IT DONE?

Just about two months ago, I think.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO PUT IT ON YOUR WRIST THIS TIME?

The funny thing is that I went out with some girlfriends – we went out dancing. We were eating afterwards and I had a stamp on my wrist and I said “I really want a tattoo there!” I’m 30 now and I’m going to be in this career – doing hair – so there’s no impact.

WHO DID THIS ONE AND HOW DID YOU PICK HIM/HER?

Ron Stan…he’s in El Cajon. Witchdoctor’s Tattoo Emporium is the name of his place. I saw a girl (she teaches swim to Trevor) with a tree tattoo on her back and she gave me his website. I checked it out and I really loved his philosophy…he’s an artist with a private studio. So I emailed him and I got scheduled in about a week later. It was quick…I wanted it done!

WHICH TATTOO IS MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

That’s hard to say because [the tree] is of my son, but the other one really represents the beginning of my belief in a God and my whole life how it is now. It looks just kind of like a sticker tattoo, but to me it definitely reminds me of a lot.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING YOUR TATTOOS?

No…absolutely not.

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET MORE?

Eventually I want to get a big back piece done. That was originally my goal when I lost weight…before I had Trevor. Well, then I had Trevor and I gained all my weight back. So, when I lose it again that will be my reward!

Tera C., Salon Owner, 37 years (San Diego, CA)

Tera C. is a co-owner – and manicurist – of my former salon. (I moved…to an “island”…where everyone becomes too lazy to drive a car.) One of the things I miss most is hearing her laugh…it’s infectious!

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

Love (I love them)

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

When I was 18…two months after my 18th birthday.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO…WAS IT ANYTHING CULTURAL OR JUST SOMETHING YOU WERE INTERESTED IN?

It wasn’t anything cultural…it was two girlfriends on a whim. I’ve always liked adorning my body, like with jewelry, so I figured that would just be another adornment.

WHERE IS YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

On my ankle.

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN?

I went through a book at the [tattoo parlor and chose a sun]. I didn’t want anything that took very long because I was afraid of the pain…I’d never experienced it before.

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE PAIN IN THE END?

I thought it wasn’t that bad. I was really happy because I knew that this thing on my body was forever. Nobody could take it away…nobody could make me take it off.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT IT? DID YOU KNOW AHEAD OF TIME YOU WERE GOING TO DO IT ON YOUR ANKLE?

No, when you’re 18 you don’t really know what you are going to do or where your life is going to go, so I wanted to put it somewhere it would be easy to conceal.

WHO DID IT? AND HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THEM?

I don’t even know. It was in Alameda. [The guy] did all the sailors’ tattoos at that time…there was an Alameda military base. That’s where I lived at the time. There was no research gone into it at all. It was just like “Okay…I don’t care, let’s just do it!”. I just saw the shop and went in. I was 18! Totally different than my other tattoos.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR SECOND TATTOO…

My first one [on my ankle] was actually small [the sun] and my second one was actually a continuance of my first one. I got the Universe…all the planets. I came up with that idea. When I got my first tattoo [at] 18, everyone said “You’re going to regret that in 10 years.” So, I literally waited 10 years, and got my second one (the completion of my ankle) at 28. I’ve never regretted it.

WHO DID THIS ONE? AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE HIM?

His name was Kahlil and he was at Ace Tattoo in Ocean Beach. He was my tattoo artist for [all but the first tattoo], but he moved away. He was phenomenal. I was in Ocean Beach one day and I saw this girl and she had sleeves and the color work that he did was just insane. Everything was great about his tattoos…the lines, the color, the shading, everything. So we found out who he was and then made an appointment. It took us 10 weeks to get in with him the first time.

YOUR THIRD TATTOO…

That one is on my [lower] back.

WHEN DID YOU GET THIS ONE?

It had to have been 2002, eight years ago, so I was 29.

HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

Lora and I went to Paris, France, and we went into this church that I was completely taken by…it was called Saint Chapelle. They have all this stained glass. And, it’s of the circular rose stained glass window.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT IT THAT TIME?

Again, because I’m not ballsy enough to stick it anywhere [I can’t conceal it]. For me they’re private. Some people do sleeves and stuff and that’s great, but they are private for me. I get enjoyment out of them.

WHERE IS YOUR FOURTH TATTOO?

My upper back.

HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

Well, my tattoos are all kind of similar. The one on my ankle is the Universe, the stars and planets. The one on my lower back is the rose window, [which] represents the beginning and the end. The alpha and omega. God. And, then the one on my upper back is a Celtic cross. So, it ties in with that whole theme and my spiritual background, my religion. Everyone has their own cross to bear…I’m not going to judge you. I literally wanted to put it on my back to symbolize the cross.

WHICH TATTOO, IF ANY, IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

My cross [because of] what it stands for…my religion. My relationship with Christ and my empathy…well, I can’t say empathy because I’ve never had to carry a wooden cross through a town. Just so sometimes I can be humbled and realize I am here for a certain reason.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

Never. I regret not having more. I regret not being where I want to be with my body image, where I would probably have a half a sleeve. That’s what I regret.

DO YOU THINK YOU WILL GET MORE?

I would love to get more. I need to talk to a tattoo artist because I want to continue with my theme…but I want two big Gerber daisies on each shoulder. I don’t know how that will look with my cross, so I need to talk to an artist. And, I need to convince my husband because he’s not into tattooing, body mutilation, whatever you want to call it. He’s very conservative.

But, I love it….it’s just that it is not so much of a priority any more. We need something for the salon…for $200 I could have easily gotten another tattoo. But, things always end up coming up that take precedence over a tattoo, which kind of sucks because I really want more. I just never can find the money to allot for that.


Dante R., Construction & Catering, 34 Years (Coronado, CA)

Dante caught my attention one day while I was working out at the gym. He can’t help but be noticed…he’s quite fit (in a way that tends to turn most female heads ;)), he has captivating eyes, and his massive arms have several eye-catching tattoos. As I was pondering how I could tactfully ask him for an interview without coming off like a cougar, he walked by and said something friendly. I never waste an opportunity! Before he could get away, I told him about my project and asked if he would allow me to interview him. I’m not sure what was going through his mind when he said yes…is this just a smooth line, is it even legit, oh man…how do I get myself out of this awkward situation? I can only imagine. It was during this brief conversation that I noticed the scars on his upper chest and arm, partly covered by tattoos. I was enthralled and so thankful he agreed.

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

Art

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

I was 16. I was a gang member when I was a kid and [a friend of mine] gave me this first “W.T.” [meaning “Wop Town”] on my back. When I got it done, I came back home and I was sleeping on the couch and my dad just happened to pull my blanket down and he’s like “What???”. He got really upset.

I don’t know if you’re familiar, but [“Wop”] is what they used to call the Italians back in the old days. I grew up in Little Italy [in San Diego]. So, back in the day there was a little gang called “Wop Town”. Still is.

YOU’RE HISPANIC THOUGH, RIGHT?

Yes. But, when I was like 12, 13 and 14, I lived with an Italian family. It’s a long story, but my mom had kicked me out, I couldn’t live with her, and they took me in.

WHAT WAS THE REASON BEHIND GETTING THIS TATTOO?

When you’re part of a gang, you want to people to see where you’re from. It’s stupid now, but…

DID EVERYONE GET IT ON THEIR BACK?

Mainly, yes…that’s one of the main spots, but they don’t get it that small. The only reason I think we went that small was because the ink was limited. It’s what we had around.

WHO DID IT?

It was actually a friend of mine [Character Tattoos]. He just recently did the ones on the front right here. He did the back and he did this other side. We were both 16 [at the time he did the “W.T.”].

DID HE KNOW THAT HE WANTED TO BE A TATTOO ARTIST AT 16?

Yeah, that’s what he is. He’s trying to get a shop going, but because of the economy [he’s holding off]. For me, its works out really well because for what most people pay $300 for at a shop, I get for like $150, depending on what I want. He does good for what I want.

WHICH ONE WAS YOUR SECOND TATTOO?

My second one might have been this [‘W.T.’ on my leg]…same thing (“Wop Town”), but I think I did this myself with a little home made gun. ‘V’ stands for ‘varrio’, which means ‘neighborhood’. And, the three little dots means ‘Crazy Life’. It’s kind of faded now.

YOUR THIRD TATTOO…

This might have been my third one…[this ‘W.T.’ on my arm]. As you can see, it’s a little faded. I don’t really care to cover it up…it reminds me of when I was a kid. That was the extent of the tattoos I got as a kid…everything else came later.

DID YOU DO THIS ONE YOURSELF?

A friend of mine did it first, but it faded, so I went back over it again with another machine.

WHICH TATTOO WAS FOURTH?

It might have been her…[the lady’s face on my upper left arm].

TELL ME ABOUT THIS DESIGN…

There’s nothing special about it. After a long weekend hanging out with my friends – I might have been 26 or 28, I don’t know – we were all drinking and went out and a bunch of us decided to get tattoos. Normally I’m not too picky about my tattoos. You know how some people say it has to have meaning? I guess I don’t think like that. So, I went over there and I picked something off of the wall. Of course, she doesn’t look anything like what I picked. Because I went back some other time and they really didn’t look anything alike. I was pretty drunk at the time.

WHO DID THIS ONE?

This was a guy in Chula Vista on Third Street…I can’t remember his name.

THE FIFTH TATTOO…

When I went back to the same guy [in Chula Vista], I got this one…[the girl’s face with the teardrop and half a man’s face]. People kind of trip out about this teardrop. If you look a little lower, there’s a guy with a fang sticking out of his mouth.

THE SIXTH TATTOO…

My [sixth tattoo] is the Aztec serpent. A lot of people like the way it came out. This was done by a neighbor of one of my buddies [from National City]. The guy was not too good at doing shading, but I think he captured it pretty well.

DID YOU DO THIS ONE FOR CULTURAL REASONS?

Yeah, a little bit. At the time, I wanted to get something Hispanic/Mexcian.

THE SEVENTH TATTOO…

This might have been [seventh]…the eyes. I picked [this design] out of a magazine. It had a full face to it, but I decided to eliminate everything else and just stick to the eyes. The guy [from Mark’s Tattoos] did a unbelievable job on the shading.

THE EIGHTH TATTOO…

“San Diego” was my eighth tattoo. This was done by Grafix Tattoos in Imperial Beach.

THE NINTH TATTOO…

And, the ninth was [the wizard], which was a recommendation from a buddy of mine. This was done by 1904 Tattoos up on Adams Avenue…the name of the guy might have been Jason. Personally, I think [he] did an unbelievable job on the shading of the hand. The hand is one of the most difficult things to draw or tattoo and the way that he broke it down makes it seem like it is coming out at you. You can even stretch the face and it doesn’t even look off…the guy did an unbelievable job.

THE TENTH TATTOO…

The tenth was the topless girl on the back. Same thing [on picking it off the wall]. I changed it up a little bit…it had some different stuff on it, I can’t remember exactly what it was. This was done by Mark’s Tattoos again.

THE ELEVENTH TATTOO…

The skulls. I went back to the guy who did the eyes [Mark’s Tattoos]…I went back to this guy like four or five times.

THE TWELFTH TATTOO…

After I got the wizard done, I fell in love with shading. I started getting into skulls. This one right here [on backs of shoulder blades] was actually part of one big tattoo [design], but I cut it in half and did part of it [on one shoulder] and the rest on the other side. I wish I went higher on one side and dropped it lower on the other side…I kind of regret going this high because it hurt a lot. I just really should have thought about it twice. Next time I know, right? I didn’t know if it was because of my plastic surgeries.

WHO DID THIS ONE?

My friend [who did my first three tattoos], Character Tattoos.

I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR SCARS…IF YOU WERE COMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUT IT. WHAT HAPPENED?

So when I was a kid, I was a huge pyro. I burned a lot of mattresses, I burned a bathroom down…I was fascinated with fire. And, when I was eight years old, I had seen these older kids playing with fire and doing a trick that you see down in Mexico. In Mexico, you’ll be at a stop sign and you got adults coming up to you just blowing fire out of their mouth. So, anyways, I was doing that, but I guess I used the wrong liquid. I was doing it for so long…I thought I was a magician. I thought it was unbelievable. After a period of time doing it, I was drooling [the gasoline] down my mouth onto my shirt and the wind was blowing the opposite way and I just caught myself on fire.

DID YOU HAVE A LOT OF SURGERIES?

Yeah, actually to this day. In the last 10 years I must have had like four or five surgeries. I went to a doctor for a consultation to see what they could do and they put tissue expanders on my neck. That’s part of the reason, I think, that my shoulder was really sensitive. When they put tissue expanders, it’s actually like a balloon and they put liquid into it and it expands it. That’s what they did on my shoulders and that’s part of the reason it was really tender.

I THOUGHT YOU COULDN’T TATTOO ON TOP OF SCARS?

That’s what me and my buddy [from Character Tattoos] were experimenting with. Basically, this scar actually comes all the way out here, so we did a little coverage here and you can see the lines are actually pretty well drawn. My buddy told me he had tattooed somebody else that had a scar on his arm or hand and he said it came out really well, so I said ‘What the hell…we’re going to try it.’

WHICH ONE OF YOUR TATTOOS IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

Maybe the first ones, because that was part of my childhood. I wished I would have stayed friends [the guys I was in the gang with]. I wanted to get older, hang out, barbecue, and this and that. My teenage years meant a lot to me, I guess.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

Not really…no. I keep mine above my sleeves…I never go down below that. Sometimes there are occasions when I dress up and I’m in a place where I don’t want them to show.

YOU MENTIONED GETTING MORE…WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE DONE?

I want to connect both of my back ones together…my shoulder blades. I don’t know what I want yet…every time I just leave it up to my buddies to come with drawings. Let them be creative…

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