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A second coat of ink

01/24/2011

Drove up to Indianapolis yesterday to have brunch with step-daughter #2 (wedding planning!) and to get a second coat of ink on the newest section of tattoo. Dina, the tattoo artist (artisan?) at Voluta said that the additional application makes the colors really pop. The blues will be bluer, the purples purplier, the little red leaves more irridescent. Right now, I’m smearing Curel on my arm 4 times a day to help with the aftershock of the procedures and to keep things moist & happy. Tattoos do involve needles, but the healing process feels a whole lot more like you burned your tongue on really hot coffee than the annoying ache of a simple flu shot.

The first tattoo machine was patented in the 1880s (give or take), and isn’t much different in principle than those used today: mechanical metal needles imprint ink into (onto?) the dermis (the layer of skin below what we touch, where reside sweat glands & collagen fibers) all powered by a hand-held, electrically powered dentist-drill-like gadget.  The needle moves up and down anywhere from 80 – 150 times per second — which is why the process doesn’t feel even vaguely like any other needle experience (think: muted bee sting).

This round of inking was different than the last: I kept thinking ouch, she’s working on my arm. Not: ouch, she’s creating my tattoo. That’s when I realized that this tree of life/spiral/truth tableau finally feels part of me, not some imposed show-piece (like fancy jewelry). It has become an organic & integrated part of who I am, and that’s what I was shooting for all along.

I leave you with a quote about truth, for no good reason at all, from Pablo Picasso:

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria H. Bedford permalink
    01/24/2011 6:18 pm

    I feel a generation gap here, although I know people older than I who have been drawn to them. I think of the tattooed numbers of concentration camp victims. I think of all the ways women’s bodies have been mutilated. I think of all the surgeries, tests, and skin invasions of cancer victims (e.g., yours truly). Why oh why the tattoos? Of course yours is an attractive one at least. I wish I could think of more positive things to say.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      01/24/2011 10:55 pm

      What can I say? Tattoos aren’t for everyone. However, body ornamentation is found in cultures around the world and across time — so it must resonate in a way that isn’t only about mutilation or invasion.

  2. Victoria H. Bedford permalink
    01/24/2011 10:58 pm

    I’ll try to open my mind and learn something new.

  3. 02/02/2011 10:55 am

    Your tattoo really is gorgeous. I love the way it makes you into a kind of scroll.

    Also: did you see this? http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2011/02/blog-exclusive-show-us-your-ink.html

    • sue swartz permalink*
      02/02/2011 11:49 am

      A scroll. Exactly. My original thought, way back when, was to tattoo a “shin” on my left arm so that I could be a mezuzah. This is way better.

      And I’m going to check out the tattooed poets. I want to see who’s on there…

  4. Dan Price permalink
    02/03/2011 3:37 pm

    I look at your left (I think) arm and I see a marvel of biomechanical engineering. It’s an instrument unequaled by the most sophisticated technological gizmo ever devised, but it is also beautifully shaped and packaged in a way that adds grace and elegance to your entire body. A body which itself is not only pleasently formed, but which houses an even more marvelous soul; an entity that exceeds the understanding of philosophy and bristles with potential.
    I look at your right arm and I see a tatoo.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      02/03/2011 4:52 pm

      You look at my arm and see a tattoo. Fair enough. In truth: so do I.

      I see, engraved onto my skin (bound on my arm) that which is holy to me — the truth of our mortal lives, a “tree of life” (Torah in the broadest sense), and a spiral (mystery and dialectic of God, however defined). I direct you back to Picasso — there is more than one truth.

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