Tattoos. Some love them, some hate them, but whatever the opinion, the act of permanently inking works of art into one’s skin has become quite the phenomenon in recent years. Tattoos have given people the chance to retell stories and have them live on more than just in memory especially here at LCCC.
Twenty-year-old Hayden Lowstetter, a journalism major from Elyria, sports two tattoos that for him have two very different meanings. His first, a smiley face with X’s for eyes on his right middle finger, he says “was just for fun”, but his other, a black and white ghost on his left inside bicep holds a deeper meaning like most tattoos.
He says of the tattoo, “Growing up I was called “boo” because I was very clumsy and would get scrapes and bruises all the time which my family called boo-boos.”
Lowstetter wanted to carry the fond childhood memory with him by memorializing it in ink back in September.
This wasn’t always the case, however.
When the practice first began commercially in New York in the mid-19th century, popularity lay with sailors, particularly those that had traveled to the Polynesian islands because of the artwork they experienced there.
First, it was tattoos of anchors or ship names, mixed with tribal designs from Polynesian work. After news of King Edward VII, then Prince Edward of Wales, getting body art on a trip to Jerusalem in 1862 and later his sons getting tattoos of dragons in Japan, Americans were keen to follow in their footsteps.
Soon, Martin Hildebrant opened the first commercial shop in New York where he gradually saw his clientele change from fishermen and sailors to the general public, particularly women.
While women in the 19th century would not be seen at parlors, tattoo artists would often make house calls to ink the cheeky ladies, promising them that their tattoos were as fine as extravagant gowns and shiny jewelry. The women would late go on to perform at circuses, letting their body art tell tales of mysticism and adventure in the late 19th century.
In the early 20th century, tattoos continued to gain popularity as a way to express freedom and liberation for men and women alike as well as continue the storytelling. Celebrities like Janis Joplin, one of the first to sport tattoos, readily picked up the torch in bringing the storytelling to life.
Today, tattoos are seen everywhere and on everyone from nurses to music stars and the average college campus like
LCCC is no different. According to comparecamp.com, “36% of US citizens ages 18 – 29 have at least 1 tattoo”. Of those numbers, “30% of US college students have tattoos” and “32% of higher education have tattoos”.
But why all the fuss still? Well according to local tattoo artists Jay Spaeth and Matt Cirino of “Tried and True Tattoo” parlor on Abbe Road in Elyria, “it’s all about the stories.”
When Cirino first started in the business over thirty years ago, he said “it used to be pictures on the wall and now it’s their own artwork.” For Cirino, tattooing can have intense moments, “but it is a very rewarding career,” and he “always loves seeing people’s reactions” when he finishes one.
While Spaeth and Cirino will get requests of the most common tattoos like flowers, skulls, and clocks, they also get many requests for the more meaningful designs. Cirino says, “I’ve had people with meaningful tattoos that are brought to tears when they see it.” Spaeth quickly agreed, saying, “I think most meaningful is a card with “love mom and dad” and something like that with the actual signature”. For Spaeth and Cirino, the memorial tattoos tell the story better than words. As for who’s asking them to help spread stories, Spaeth and Cirino said that it’s the everyday American.
According to Cirino, “when I started it was bikers and sailors, but now you get nurses, police officers, doctors, lawyers, basically the same people that you would see at your local supermarket, including college kids.”
On LCCC campus, there is no exception.
Journalism major Ethan Lindenberger, 21, from Norwalk follows suit with Lowstetter in meaningful tattoos. Lindenberger has four tattoos ranging from his lower left leg to his right outside bicep. His first, a tiny stick and poke tattoo of the symbol from Pierce Brown’s Red Rising acts as a fond reminder of a good night with his friend. He says of the tattoo, “it’s a good memory of a fun time my friend and I had once. It’s definitely good for the memories.”
Lindenberger continued the Red Rising love with his latest tattoo, the infamous skull and snake from the series, on his right bicep. For him the art “lets me connect with my want to be a writer.” Lindenberger’s third tattoo also aids in his quest of writing, a suit-clad couple with TV heads from Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”
Finally, Lindenberger’s first tattoo, a Hermes’ Caduceus on his inside right forearm symbolizes the vaccine work that he’s done, while also serving as a good reminder of the craziest story of his life back when he was 18. For Lindenberger “tattoos are a form of art, one of the most expressive, you can’t take them off or change, instead you are wearing your heart on your sleeve. I just think self-expression is beauty.”
For those that have never gotten a tattoo and are nervous to do so, Matt Cirino assures that “you’re not gonna die, it will hurt a little, but more annoying than pain really” and that the old saying of “once you get one tattoo, you will want more” definitely rings true.