I’m a big fan of tattoos and bodyart, yet I was raised to appreciate the beauty of natural skin, with every modification and mark that you make taking away from your natural self. Rather than defacing the body, I’ve grown to believe that tasteful tattoos enhance your journey through life, capturing the meaning and essence of what makes you an individual and they are the only thing you can take with you to the grave. I now have seven tattoo’s which I’ve acquired over the past fourteen years, and my most recent is a flying dove on my ribs by the very talented John Capasao of RedInk.
My tattoo journey didn’t start quite as well thought out as it maybe should have, as I had my first tattoo of a tribal lower back piece aged 14 during a somewhat rebellious streak when I had blue hair and over twenty piercings. I chose a tribal design because it was rather popular at the time to have barbed wire around the arm, or twirls, spikes and symbols in a solid black outline and I wasn’t a girly girl so dolphins, butterflies and flowers were out of the question. So I asked my tattooist to do whatever he felt like doing on the day. I’d never really experience pain at such a young age and as a result it hurt pretty bad, I remember sitting backwards over a chair clenching my fists and gritting my teeth trying not to cry as it went over my spine and the tender parts of the looser skin on my hips. It took a few hours and healed nicely and I absolutely loved it, but it had no real personal meaning to me.
I had my first tattoo at a time when I was very unhappy with myself, I was bullied badly for being an ugly geek and so I tried to change everything about myself in the hope that others would finally accept me instead of looking down on me and using me as a target for their taunting. Knowing I was too young to have a tattoo and multiple piercings made it all the more challenging for me to acquire it, and at the time I believed with all of my heart that in having a tattoo the bullies would instantly think I was cool and defiant of the rules which would make them stop targeting me for their abuse and taunting, providing me with the immunity to stop being spat at, slapped and having lumps of my hair cut out. Sadly, it didn’t work as they continued to be cruel to me, and instead they got tattoos to be cool because I had one and they didn’t.
Fast forward a few years and I got a Playboy bunny on my hip aged 16 to mark my love of rabbits, as I’ve always kept them as family pets and my parents gave me the nickname of ‘bunny’ from the tender age of a tot because of it. Despite not being a girly girl, I liked to collect Playboy items such as scatter cushions, lamps and clothes as at the time it was a symbol I felt drawn to and wasn’t necessarily associated with models as it is today.
Another couple of years later, and after having my heart broken I had a black heart tattoo’d onto my other hip which was possibly my first truly thoughtful tattoo, as I recognised that I liked the feeling of being in love and being loved, yet at the same time it was something that hurt me so badly. In having a small black heart on my hip it was hidden by my underwear, personal and a reminder that love is both beautiful and cruel.
Another couple of years on and at the age of 19 I gave birth to my daughter and felt so overwhelmed with love for her. I realised that I wanted to carry her with me wherever I went, much like having her photo in a locket, and so I decided to have her date of birth tattoo’d onto my left wrist under my watch strap. Again this is a very personal part of my body that not many people see as its covered the majority of the time by jewellery or clothing, but means the world to me. I decided to have her birth date in roman numerals which read VI.X.VII and balance nicely. Four years later when my son was born I very happily added XXX.IV.XII below.
Last year at the age of 26 I had an infinity symbol tattoo’d onto my wrist just below my childrens dates of birth to mark my transition of becoming a single parent and finding strength, courage and happiness in life. I had a dream one morning about swirling waters which made the shape of a figure eight and when I woke up I felt incredibly excited as if it were Christmas eve as a child. I never dream, nor hardly remember the dreams that I have, but the image was so vivid and my whole body was filled with adrenaline that I had to look it up to understand what it was, and I discovered it was infinity. Infinity to me means unbreakable, never ending, strong, consistent, unmeasurable and ever lasting which completely summarises the love I have for my children. I picked up the phone and booked in for my tattoo just a couple of hours later and my heart still flutters every time I look at it.
At the age of 27 I have now acquired my seventh tattoo and this time I had a flying dove on my ribs. I chose the left hand side of my ribs within my bra line because this is a part of my body that remains covered 99.9% of the time and is the closest area to my heart. In these past few years I have discovered the feeling of peace and contentment in life which has given me such incredible freedom and security to know that whatever happens in life there is always hope and love, new beginnings and the ability to spread your wings and fly. I’ve learned that whatever you can imagine you can achieve, and despite the darkest days there is always tomorrow. I had such a difficult time choosing between the idea of a phoenix or a dove for how I feel towards life; a phoenix is symbolic of rising from the ashes and living on, whereas a dove is starting over with peace and love. At once point I considered having a phoenix and dove entwined and soaring together, but because I wanted a small piece that could be concealed I decided the dove highlighted the opportunity of freedom and future rather than symbolising the pain of the past.
For the first time I captured my latest tattoo on film and am so excited to share this with you. John Capasao has done my last three tattoos and is such a perfectionist and incredible artist that I would never go anywhere else. I asked him to make my tattoo as realistic as possible, as up until now I’ve had font and symbols as opposed to actual artwork as such. It was important to me to have the dove looking like it’s flying, whilst remaining in my bra line without touching my breast implants because I didn’t want to cause any damage to them. John is very patient, calm, clean and professional and I had such a peaceful experience whilst having my ribs tattoo’d.
Over the years I’ve learned how to handle pain, and after childbirth, accidents, injuries and surgeries very little makes my eyes water anymore. Pain to me is a case of mind over matter, if you don’t mind then it won’t matter, and after asking if the ribs are a tender area to tattoo everybody told me it was pretty bad, if not horrible, but not the worst. Due to controlling the light, John used blackout blinds in the studio to position a spotlight over my ribs to avoid glare and bouncing light, as this way he could see my skin and the shade of the ink precisely. As I laid on my side with my top pulled down and breasts taped over, the dark quite room felt so safe and reassuring, with Tracy Chapman playing in the background, calming, peaceful and smokily melodic. As the tattooing began I expected the outline to be the worst and so settled my breathing and laid in the foetal position, but because of the buzzing and vibration I hardly felt it at all. The ribs were no different to any other part of the body for me, it wasn’t painful, just a rubbing sensation followed by the blood being wiped away and a variety of different width needles used for each area and finish.
In total it took just over three hours to complete my dove tattoo, as I watched John clean and wrap all of the equipment and prepare the needles in front of me. I took a picture of a dove with me which he used as a template to gauge the size and placement of the dove, marking it out on my rib, checking the angle, height and width before freehanding its body and wings, adding in a wider span to finish at a point and feathering the tail to make it more realistic in flight. I am beyond delighted with what John has created and I hope that you can see the time, care and effort that goes into a professional tattoo. If you ever feel that your tattooist doesn’t meet the same quality and standard of hygiene, patience or ability then please do not go through with the tattoo. Take your time, think about it properly and do your research into the previous work and results they have achieved. Ink is for life and forever is a long time to live with a mistake, scarring and poor work.
Whilst my tattoo is still healing I have switched my regular bra for a soft stretch sports bra and am covering the skin with cling film to prevent it from sticking whilst keeping it moist and free from dirt. I wish you all the best with all tattoo’s that you have and urge you to strongly to consider the meaning and purpose of each one. My body art journey started out immaturely wrong and irresponsible but has now found such strength and meaning which I shall cherish forever. I highly recommend John Capasao at RedInk for his work and welcome you to share your tattoo experience, thoughts and opinions on mine in the comment box below.
40b Cambridge street
Aylesbury, Bucks HP20 1RS