I belong to the generation who were young adults during the tribal tattoo phase – and who also saw the time when tattooing became common even in small towns. I got my first tattoo after my best friend committed suicide in the year 2000. I had just turned 18 back then. Her death came as a surprise for all of us, no one expected it to happen. The writings that were found from her home, though, revealed it wasn’t an accident. That’s when I decided I should honor her memory in some way, so I got a Chinese character which means ‘heaven’. A little later I got three more characters, and all the characters together form an expression which means “going nowhere”. Sometimes it seems like everything’s a never-ending journey. Some may believe my friend is now in Heaven, while the others might say she is nowhere.
My tattooist once said to me that one tattoo won’t get you hooked, but three tattoos will. After the first tattoos I got many small pictures that are located here and there. I have over 20 tattoos on my skin in total. If I had enough money, time, and interest, I’d like to combine small pictures into bigger, unified pieces. I currently have a large tiger tattoo on my back. I got it when my back started to show symptoms and I wanted to have a tiger to reflect the strength that I had to find in myself to cope with the pain. I dream that someday I will cover the current tattoo with a raven that would cover my whole back. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe is the greatest thing I have ever read. If I could decide what to put in a time capsule for the forthcoming generations to find, I would definitely have The Raven there. It’s just so magnificent and captures the nature of humanity so well.
There are always two sides in life, everything has its good side and bad side. I understand it may sound like a cliché, but yet it’s true. It’s your own way of thinking that makes you choose either the good or the bad. The side you choose will be the one defining what kind of person you will be. I find the same idea behind The Raven. For those who don’t know me, I may give an impression that I’m a positive and easy person to deal with, but there is the darker side in my own mindset, too. I find it important to recognize both sides of the human nature.
These tattoos may look old, but I have no interest in upgrading them. I think a slight roughness suits them, and that’s why it’s okay for them to look a bit worn out. After all, life is not flawless in itself. I find myself lucky that I was a young adult at a time when it was still okay to do your own mistakes and be incomplete. The young people today face completely different pressures of being perfect when the social media, celebrities, and bloggers make it seem like life has to be flawless. You must have certain kind of eyebrows, certain kind of lashes, certain kind of shoes… Of course there were beauty standards back in my youth, too, and it was important to know what was in and what was out. But they were nothing compared to the pressures young people face today. I guess it would be awful to try to fit into that certain image. Maybe someone will think that my tattoos should be fixed prettier, too. But this is my body, and I’m the one wearing these tattoos. I’m completely okay with these.
Our late dog, our beloved Pimu. She was our first dog, and she was the one that got us into this current hobby of ours in the first place. Pimu was originally meant to be in a temporary care only, as my workmate needed to find his dog a place to stay. I said it would be fine if she stayed with us for a while, as we had a good opportunity for keeping a dog. Well, in the end, she stayed with us permanently, and that’s when we really got into this lifestyle. As we got our second dog, Vilma, I swore that I would never become an owner of a show dog. But well, what do you know!
If someone asked me what’s it like to attend a dog show, I’d say it’s super conservative and super British. Of course there’s more than that, but yet a certain etiquette exists. No matter how hot a summer day it is, I always wear a jacket suit or a sheath dress when I’m attending an international show or specialties. Naturally, they’re supposed to judge the dog, not me, and my looks shouldn’t have an impact on the judge’s decision. But still, I always wear long sleeves and tights so that my tattoos wouldn’t draw too much attention. I don’t know if it’s just my own way of thinking. I think that as the judge has traveled from across the world to attend the show, it’s respectful towards him or her if I’m well dressed.
I’ve been thinking that my other arm would be the place where I want to get memorial tattoos for my beloved ones as the time comes. I have this one tattoo that also has the letter A hidden in it, referring to my husband. Even though we wouldn’t stay together for the rest of our lives, this relationship is one of the major things that has shaped my life the way it is today. I think that things that have been meaningful to me at some point deserve their place on my skin.
On my arm, I have a memorial tattoo for my father, and I also have a tattoo of a stubbed fish-hook, as my father was a sailor and died at sea. There’s a half of a heart on my hand, and my friend, who is now deceased, had the other one. Her half was white, and mine is black.
On my finger, I have a bat tattoo that I got in my twenties. In some religions in Middle America, the bat is considered to symbolize family, health, and a good fortune. Of course it’s associated with fertility, too. Many people carry some lucky charms with them, and this is my personal lucky item. People always ask me as a first thing if this an old engagement symbol, or does it bother me that I have tattooed my ex’s engagement ring on my finger? Then I always have to answer no, this has nothing to do with engagement at all. I find it more like a Christian thing that this finger should be for a wedding ring only. I don’t practice any certain religion, so for me, it’s fine that my tattoo is on my ring finger, and the location doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything.
My first and last tribal tattoo carries no special meaning. It was made in a tattoo festival for a competition. You can see the overgrown scar tissue here, as the colors have faded, and if you try this tattoo, you can clearly feel the scars underneath. I suffer from keloids, which may have an impact on my tattoos over time. For example, those Chinese characters occasionally get swollen and can look quite nasty. The keloid disorder runs in my family, and my mother and her mother also suffer from the same problem. Because of my disorder, I can’t have any small detailed tattoos. If my scars didn’t grow, I’d like to have a mandala tattoo, the kind that you can nowadays see everywhere. I think they are so neat and super beautiful. But mandala tattoo requires such a detailed work that in a couple of years it would just be nothing but a blurry stain of ink on my hand.
Tattooing techniques have developed so much during the recent years, and the old artists can nowadays tattoo in very different styles compared to the limited possibilities that the old equipment allowed. I think people should really remember that before judging other people’s tattoos. Sometimes I see pictures of old tattoos shared on Facebook, and people post negative comments there. For me, that way of thinking just seems so narrow-minded – just because something doesn’t look good in my eye, I’ll put it in social media, so we can have a good laugh about it together or something like that. There are times I just feel like saying hey, that tattoo is 30 years old, did it ever occur to you that tattoos were made in quite a different style back then? And as years go by, it affects your skin too, so tattoos won’t always be the same they used to be.
Sometimes I feel like some people think that being tattooed makes you free for everyone to judge. That your tattoos are something people can freely comment on or ask all kinds of questions about them. I haven’t noticed that kind of behavior on other aspects of life. You can hide everything else behind the façade. People don’t tear other people down in public when someone is in the middle of a divorce or when someone hasn’t paid his power bill, so why should tattoos be judged in public? They are a part of life, all the same.
For me, it has been obvious since my first tattoo that they are permanent. You can always cover tattoos, but my idea is to have tattoos so that they can stay like that for the rest of my life. The only exception is the tiger tattoo, which I want to cover with the raven in the future. Back in the day, I used to have close to 30 piercings, with septums, three piercings in my tongue and so on, but I’ve taken them off over the years. Every now and then someone asks me, whether I feel regret as I can’t take my tattoos off in the same way I did with my piercings. But why should I? After all, they all reflect the things that have happened in my life.