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

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…

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’.”

1. Janet D., Homemaker, 42 Years (San Diego, California)

Photo taken by Luis Vargas

This is me, the blogger! I figured it was best for me to go first so I could show everyone else what they were getting themselves into…

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

Freedom

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

December 6, 2009 (42 yrs old)

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

I first experienced what it felt like to have a tattoo about six years ago when I had a henna design applied around my belly button. I absolutely loved when the henna was still on my skin making the design stand out boldly…I remember being so disappointed when it flaked off the next day and when it completely faded away over the next two weeks. That was the first time I thought about getting a permanent tattoo, but I wasn’t quite there.

In 2009, I went through a significant life shift…pretty much a total change in mindset. I realized that for the past 30+ years, I had been forcing myself into a box that I didn’t fit into and I busted out. For the first time in my life, everything felt authentic and I finally achieved that elusive state – happiness – I had been searching for in all the wrong places. In September 2009, after a solo trip to Kauai, I knew it was time…I was fully ready to have an outward expression of my inner change and completely separate myself from the world I was leaving.

IS TATTOOING PART OF YOUR CULTURAL HERITAGE?

Not really….there is definitely no tattooing no matter how far back you search through my very Caucasian family tree. But, there was a day I looked down at my completed tattoo and had an overwhelming feeling that it was always supposed to be there. Must be a past life thing…I can’t shake the feeling that there’s some tribal in my soul.

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN?

If I was going to have something permanently inked on my body, it had to have deep meaning to me. While in Kauai, I had an incredible moment swimming with sea turtles and almost considered getting a turtle, but it didn’t feel completely right. Then, I remembered my henna tattoo and I knew that’s what I wanted…it was connected to belly dancing, which was the first “out-of-the-box” activity that started me on the path toward my recent life shift.

Photo taken by Luis Vargas

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT YOUR TATTOO?

I knew for sure that I wanted to see it, so the lower back was out. I debated between my foot, ankle or hip. The vision of me being in a classy black dress and sexy black heels was a bit marred by a tattoo on my foot or ankle, so the hip it was. I’d originally planned to have it on the smaller side so that it would be hidden in a bathing suit, but my artist had other plans. When I looked down at what he had drawn – about five times larger than I had planned and following the curves from just below my naval, around my hip, around my back to the top of my buttocks – I fell in love.

WHO DID IT?

Luis Vargas from Northridge, California

HOW DID YOU FIND HIM & HOW DID YOU KNOW HE WAS THE RIGHT ONE?

It seemed like I looked at the online galleries of every tattoo artist in San Diego and I was seriously concerned. No one had a picture of anything even remotely resembling henna and I was not about to be a test case. While I was contemplating going to an artist in Belgium, I saw an ad in the newspaper for Tattoopalooza on Halloween. I talked my husband and teenage son into going with me. After walking down several aisles and seeing more of what I had seen online, I was about to give up. I turned down the next aisle, heading for the exit, when something made me walk over to the nearest table. I started flipping through the artist’s binder and gasped when I saw a photograph of a beautiful woman, close in age to me, with the most artistic tattoo I had ever seen. My husband and son gave me the thumbs up. Luis quietly approached me and offered me his card. A few days later, I visited his website and knew without a doubt that he was the one…a spiritual and independent artist with nearly two decades of experience.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING YOUR TATTOO?

Not yet…and I can tell by the way I feel about it now that I won’t. Everybody thinks they are so original when they say… “But, won’t you regret it when you’re 70???” My response…when I’m 70, everything will be sagging and I will always see my beautiful tattoo as a symbol of that special time in my life when I achieved deep happiness & fulfillment.

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET MORE?

No…but, I’ve learned never to say never.