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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Creative Expression through Body Art

Sep 08, 2010 01:28AM
Tattoos Tell Unique Stories by Lisa Moore photos by Meredith Jones Photography

For over 5000 years, humans have used tattoos for a variety of reasons – as marks of status, pledges of love, symbols of spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures, for protection and more. Today, tattoos are part of everyday society with over 60% of all Americans 18 to 30 years old having at least one tattoo. Sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, tattoos are almost always personal to their owners.

Hayley Moran Lakeman, an artist at Fu’s Tattoos in Charlotte, says tattoos allow people to actively express their passions and enable the witness of their personal evolution.

“Tattoos help people creatively express themselves by allowing them to make an investment in themselves- a permanent, personal statement- whether or not the world knows about it,” says  Lakeman, who says she is well on here way to being mostly covered. “People not only want to be adorned, they want to commit to something; they want to choose something with fervor and go through pain to get it.”

Nicholas Hughes owns Saints and Sinners in Cornelius and says

the tattoos he does are as varied as the people who turn up: dates of birth of children, parents and friends who've died, family crests, portraits of favorite pets, yoga symbols and various designs that have a particular meaning to the person getting them. He thinks tattoos are a simple way for people to express themselves.

“A picture's worth a thousand words. If you had to tell everyone your story it would take forever, the tattoo says it all in a brief glance.”

Some of our soulful readers jumped at the chance to share the meaning behind their beloved tattoos.

Audrey Baran, 28, yoga teacher and dancer

I have seven snowflakes beginning at my left shoulder blade, down over my ribs, to just above my left hipbone. I think snowflakes are one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in existence - for their individuality, delicate form, and impermanence. Like every unique human being, sometimes you have to look close, but there is something special and beautiful about each and every one. But just as quickly as they appear, their unique design vanishes as it melds with others to create a breathtaking landscape.  So even when they're "gone," the essence of each snowflake is still present.

And why seven?  For luck, and the seven years my husband and I have been together, since he is one of the best things to ever "drift down" to me.

Mark Brown, 42, computer graphics

I think most people get tattoos at pivotal times in their lives. At 23 I got a traditional Chinese dragon holding a heart that says ‘10 ‘til midnight’ on it. I was starting a new career and dragons are a symbol of rebirth in Chinese philosophy. The time is a reminder that life is fleeting and you shouldn’t waste it because you never know how much you have left.

Last year, I got a blue moon surrounded by clouds and stars. It signified the committed relationship I had entered into with my girlfriend. We met under a full moon and it was love at first sight.”

Asia Vereline, 25, esthetician

I have a sea turtle on the top of my left foot. I love turtles and have two pet turtles at home. There is a gemini zodiac sign on my right inner wrist, because I totally fit the gemini mold. I have a music note behind my left ear. It stands for art in general because it is my gateway to express my creativity and music just enhances life in general. I’ve got a small red heart on the upper inner part of my left wrist. I wanted this in a spot where I could always see it so I could remember that when things start to get crazy in my life that love is the only thing that’s real out of all of it. Down on the inside of my left forearm I have the lyric "...and in this moment I am happy..." from the song "Wish you were here" by Incubus, my favorite band.

Don Byer, 51, metal work/jewelry designer, yoga teacher

I had a small Star of David put on my left shoulder when I was 17. I wanted to show my dad that I made a commitment to being a Jew if not spiritually, then genetically. I showed him and he said. "I'm glad you had the courage to do that but you should know that now you can't get buried in a Jewish cemetery." Dad's been gone some time, but it does make me reflect on all the crap I tormented him with.

Sonya Nuri, 34, Autism specialist

I have eight tattoos, all meaningful. My first was a turtle with a squash blossom: the turtle represents will power, perseverance, that slow-and-steady mentality. The squash blossom is a Native American symbol for feminine strength. I have primarily Celtic ancestry, so my Celtic knot tattoo is a reminder of my past. Traditionally knotwork had purposeful mistakes to remind us that no one is perfect. In mine, the width of the lines fluctuates to remind me that it's not only ok to not be perfect, I'm not supposed to be perfect. My bison tattoo is a reminder to keep everyday things sacred - like the Plains Indian tribes; buffalo was their staple for food and houseware, but still sacred to them.

Meghan Tartamella, 24, sales rep and yoga teacher

I wanted a phrase from a vedic text that meant ‘I create peace in all situations,’ but was too scared about the placement and how painful it would be to get it. Then I had a dream one night of myself with a peacock tattoo. Later, on the spur of the moment, I got a tattoo of a peacock feather on the back of my arm. I found out afterwards that peacocks represent creating peace in all situations as they survive off poisonous plants. So it was the same meaning, but two totally different tattoos and I didn't even know it before getting it.

Brian Lucchesi, 33, Physical Educator

I have a sun/moon yin/yang circle on my left shoulder - without either we could not exist on this planet. Within the circle is a wave of light blue water that is countered by a tree (I am an earth element.) Stitched within the black night sky and bright white sky are the roman numerals XVIII (18). This number is symbolic to many happy times celebrated by me (18th of the hour, 18th day of the month) since I was 18. It’s almost a daily thing with me, so the number holds everything together for me.

I have three triangles placed on my right shoulder in three different colors. Each represents a special person in my life and my son's birth date is on his green triangle. Within is a magical mountain scene with snowcaps, trees, a river, the sun beaming through the clouds above the mountain.  A Red Tail Hawk, a bird that follows me on my path, flies above the triangles. I have visited 20 countries and hawks are always around. The four directions placed in shields represent my wondering ways. This pristine nature scene is the idea place I’d like to be.

Amee White, 30, full time student, mother

My hands are tattooed with a compass and hourglass to help me remember its time to find my way. After being tattooed, my life has taken a turn for the better. I feel its helped put into action what I was looking for.

Nicholas Hughes, 49, tattoo artist/martial arts instructor

I have a tattoo of a tiger and a mountain. The tiger has the qualities I, as a martial artist, aspire to: speed, grace, power, ferocity. The mountain represents immovability. On each side are two Japanese sayings in Kanji - "Bushido" (the way of the warrior) and "Manen Cho Ho" (always a beginner.)  Falling across the piece are cherry blossoms, another samurai reference. And the water at the bottom represents "Ronin" the wave man, a master-less warrior who is moved by the whims of the tides and currents.

I've been a protector my entire life...as a bouncer, a martial arts instructor teaching others how to protect themselves, and as a body guard to the rich and famous. Hence, all the samurai references in my tatoo. Samurai comes from the Japanese word meaning "to serve."

Choosing a Tattoo Artist

Get advice from friends about artists they’ve been satisfied with.

Visit the shop. Observe cleanliness, attention to detail, organization, etc. Make sure the artist has a state issued tattooing permit and the shop is clean and sanitary. All artists have a legal obligation to maintain a high standard of practice by using sterile autoclaves and needles.

Browse portfolios to get a broader view of the artist's work. Discuss your design idea with the artist and gauge their feedback and professionalism. Seek out a tattoo artist who specializes in the style of tattoo you want.

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