Now that I am 42, things in my life have come together in such a way that I was interested in symbolizing it in some way (much as my ear piercing was part of graduating from University and entering mainstream life). What about that tattoo I've always wanted? I told myself, once I got divorced, that I would start actually doing the non-mainstream things I've always wanted to do.
I figure I've had plenty of time to think about the permanacy of applying a tattoo as well. It was never intended to be a fashion statement or reaction to a fad. Come on, I've been thinking about getting one for over 20 years. So when putting together my design, I wanted something that would not be normally visible - one of the advantages of a tribal arm-band design. It was being applied for my pleasure and remembrance, not to show off to others. Though I must admit, it's quite interesting to see the reactions of people when the design happens to slip into view..
The dragons are symbolic of strength, in this case the inner-strength to get through my divorce, reestablish my family life, and starting a new career. Additionally, the dragons are symbolic of my travels and work throughout Asia during the last 4 years. This success culminated in an unexpected promotion this year.
The pairing of the dragons symbolize my two daughters who are my life and give me a reason for reaching for that inner strength to keep going, even when things seem their worst. The colors on each dragon match the birth stone colors for each daughter.
What made the timing for the application even more memorable was being in my home town of Chesterfield England for my birthday. When I was home in July on vacation with the children, I had an opportunity to spend some real quality time with my cousins. During the going away party, I got into a conversation with my cousin Michelle that eventually lead to a mutual interest in getting a tattoo. With my returning in November, we both agreed that if I didn't do it before then, we'd do it together. So between July and November, I planned out our adventure by researching shops, sending designs, and eventually having Michelle check out our choice: Celtic Art Tattoo.
The funny part is that Michelle was hoping that I would get it done while in the USA so that she could back out. Now that I had showed up there was no turning back...
First of all Gary Dawes, the artist, talked us through the whole process, explaining the equipment and how it would be used. He also went through great pains to show us that everything was sterile and that the needles being used had special seals to authenticate the fact that they were sterile. The Celtic takes great pride in the fact that their place meets or beats American standards.
Now I'm sure your first question is "did it hurt?" HELL YES!
It took Gary about 2 hours to apply the tattoo. It was done in 2 steps. First the outline was applied. Then the coloring and filling. Through out both steps, Gary constantly reminded me to keep breathing, in and out. It seems a lot of people hold their breath when the needle is applied. Well, if the artist has to draw a long line (stopping in the middle causes a dot) and you're holding your breath, you can easily pass out.
First a transparency outline is applied. This allows the artist to check the fit of the design before applying ink. And like a coloring book, it provides the artist with lines and areas to draw and fill.
The outlining was the more painful of the two steps, especially when Gary had to do the longer lines on the under-side of my arm. It felt like I was being gouged with a chisel at that point. After Gary had finished the outline I had to take a break. It turns out that one of the side effects (probably the reason most people do it today) is that your body produces large amount of adrenaline to act as a pain suppressor. As you can imagine, after sitting there letting someone inflict pain, my body was totally jacked up.
The coloring and filling took longer to do than the outline, but was much more tolerable. For the coloring, a series of small needles is used to allow the ink to penetrate over a larger area. But unlike the outlining, the pain increases depending on how long the artist has to apply the needle to fill an area. The larger the area, the more intense the pain build up. Remember, a tattoo is a wound much like road-rash.
Finally, the tattoo was complete and I was completely amazed that I'd actually sat through it.
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