Monday, November 28, 2011

My tattoo

I have always had a somewhat detached fascination with tattoos and have said I wouldn’t mind getting one if I could ever find something I would want on my body for the rest of my life. I had passing interest in a few different designs but nothing ever stuck so I never gave serious thought to having one done.

In the last year though the fascination became less than detached and I decided on what I wanted for a tattoo. I thought the rest would be simple.

Starting in July of this year I contacted the first tattoo artist and before this whole process was done I went through a couple of different tattoo designers. Mostly they wanted me to have the tattoo they would like rather than what I wanted. Or they told me they didn't do the design I wanted. Almost all of the tattoo artists I worked with were very talented but it just did not work out for one reason or another.

A couple of weeks ago I scheduled an appointment with a local tattoo guy whose work I had seen online and I had a feeling he had potential to complete my design. On the way I stopped to fill my car with gas and while I was at the pump the battery died and the car would not start. Since the mechanic would not get there for 45 minutes to an hour I called and canceled the appointment.

As I went in to pay for my gas there was a guy in line in front of me and he had the most amazing tattoo on his left arm. It was a black and gray full sleeve tattoo with a cross and a dove. The cross was made from his natural skin color and the dark ink surrounding it was shaded and had a depth that made it stand out. The dove had intricate detail and it looked like it could fly off of his arm. Maybe it was a symbol of a divine appointment?

So I asked, “Who did your tattoo?” He looked at me and then turned around. I thought he was ignoring me which is not all that unusual around here. He paid for his gas and when he turned back around he handed me a piece of paper with a web address on it –

He said, “It is by appointment only.” And then he was off without another word.

I looked online and was impressed with Moon’s work and liked the feel of his web site. The overall vibe I got was good so I called him right away and made an appointment to sit and talk with him about my tattoo design.

Andrea and I went to his studio. It is in Little India and you would not notice it if you were not looking for it. He has a room on the fourth floor of a building. It is clean, well lit and has a computer, a drawing table, a tattoo chair and tattooing equipment. He had jazz playing in the background. It is not your stereotypical tattoo studio.

Andrea and I sat and talked with Moon for over an hour. He listened as I told him what I wanted and he asked relevant questions. We talked about my tattoo design but we also talked about culture and the things we like about Singapore and travel and food. He gave Andrea and me a recommendation for a Paranakan dish called Ayam Buah Keluak to try at Nancy’s Kitchen in Melaka on our anniversary weekend. The dish and Nancy’s are really good and you should try them both if you get a chance. Moon did a really good job of capturing the essence of what I had in mind in the design.

On Sunday I went to Moonstruck Tattoo Studio and Moon inked the tattoo in the photo on my upper right arm.

Here is the basis for the design:
I wanted a black and gray tattoo – no color.

We have been to New Zealand three times over the last year. On two of the trips Jakeb and I ran Christchurch marathon. On the last trip the girls walked the 10k. See the posts here and here. We were all drawn to Maori art and symbols. Maoris are the native population of New Zealand. My tattoo is a Maori / Samoan mix. I like the flow of the Maori tattoos (called "moko") and the geometry used in the Samoan tattoos. The cultures are very closely related.

In the center of the tattoo is a Koru. The Koru is a Maori symbol that represents an unfurling fern frond. The symbolic meaning of the Koru is new life, growth, a fresh start, new beginnings, strength and peace. The circular shape conveys perpetual motion. And I like perpetual motion. The Koru used in a tattoo has spiritual significance.

The Koru symbol is also made into jewelry and given on milestone occasions in a person’s life. A good friend of Jakeb’s and her family from New Zealand gave him a green jade Koru necklace at his high school graduation. The Koru was given to him to mark the occasion of his graduation and thank him for his help raising funds and awareness with his friend for victims of the Christchurch New Zealand earthquakes.

See Andrea’s post about the Koru on our family blog here ---> link.

I am a Christian and I am a runner. I have quoted this verse quite a few times here on the blog. In fact it is where my blog name comes from. Although it is hard to pick a favorite verse(s) in the bible if I was forced to this would be it:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

I wanted my tattoo to include a runner and a cross. I wanted the runner and cross to be a subtle part of the design and not too overt. I think Moon did a really good job of incorporating it into the Maori design. The symbols on the top left of the tattoo represent the witnesses to the life of faith. And the runner has a choice to run towards the cross or to take his own path downward. Like in life I can pick the path that represents the weights that slow me down and sin that trips me up or I can look up toward the cross and run with endurance the race of life.

There is a stigma related to tattoos. It is not as bad as it once was but it is still there. The reason I got the tattoo only on my upper arm is so I can cover it up when I am in situations where I could be wrongly judged by it. I put a lot of thought into getting this tattoo and I obviously do not think there is anything wrong with having it on my arm forever. Tattoos are amoral. They are ink embedded in skin. People sometimes make bad choices with the way they choose to permanently mark their skin but in other cases the ink is completely okay.

Overall I like my tattoo a lot. I would not have done it if that were not the case and I am proud to wear it the rest of my life.


Adrienne said...

Neat tattoo! Sounds like you learned a thing or two in the process.

While I may never get one myself-I do think it's really cool when one tells a story.

Anita said...

Pops said it does look good. We love knowing how you went about choosing who would do it and the meaning of the design. The meaning
of all the different things in the design is awesome! Everytime I look
at it I will think of what it means! We love you bunches!

Jenny Hintze said...

It's great! I really like it. And I'm not all that surprised that you could take the pain. Running marathons has to be more painful than that. Maybe soon I'll join the tattoo club! - Jenny

Tommy said...

Thanks everyone.

Jenny I think you should get a skull tattoo ... okay maybe not.

The pain was different from marathon pain. It was more of a constant irritation. When he was filling in the black on my shoulder it hurt.

The mentality it took to get through the pain was kind of the same as in a marathon. I kept telling myself I will be glad I did it when it is over.

Jennifer said...

Looks great! The story of all the different parts and what they mean is really cool. Thanks for sharing!

crockerdile said...

Tommy, that's really awesome! I appreciate how thoughtful your approach is and I am not surprised. :). Thanks for sharing all the great things involved in your tattoo.