I got interested in tattoos when I was still a kid. Whenever I saw tattooed people, I always thought they looked so cool. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I decided that one day I’d get tattoos, too. During those times, I also got more interested in rock, metal and that sort of music, and the Ankh cross that frequently appeared in goth imagery was one of the first tattoo designs that I dreamed of.

When I was younger, I planned getting only small tattoos, but as I grew older, bigger tattoos began to fascinate me more. I don’t feel I should hide my tattoos. I think that since I have ink on my skin, it’s okay for other people to see it as well. After all, tattoos are such a big part of my own personality.

Still, I waited until the age of 24 before getting my first tattoo. It was this heart made by Tuula Aikioniemi. I waited for so long because of my financial situation, and on the other hand, I also wanted to give myself time to think about what kind of images I really want to have on my skin.

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I’m a Christian, and it felt natural to have my first tattoo linked in my faith somehow. I think graphic style with sharp angles fits the Lutheran view of life quite well. Difficulties are an essential part of human life, and for me, the sharp angles symbolize those difficulties and obstacles we must face. The cross is intentionally left light to remind of hope and faith.

Eläkäämme ja rakastakaamme (in English: Let us live and let us love) appeals to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s linked to my husband, since we have this same quote in Latin on our engagement rings.

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Secondly, the message of this quote reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Jarkko Martikainen. I think the same kind of basic tone appears in his lyrics as well, especially in his solo work. Of course this quote can also be interpreted from a theological point of view.

It’s an important thing for me to have my text tattoos in Finnish. I think Finnish is a beautiful language, and this way I’m able to carry little bit of Finland always with me, even when I’m abroad.

The floral piece under the heart is made by Luna Mila. I got this tattoo in Helsinki Ink convention. There’s no particular symbolism behind this tattoo.

I always choose my tattoo artist carefully. When I want to get tattooed, I never search for the cheapest tattooist, but instead I want to find a professional whose style I appreciate and who takes good care of hygiene and other essential stuff. Of course, it often means I have to travel a bit, but if I really like someone’s artwork, I’m ready to make the effort.

If someone compliments on my tattoos, I’m always happy to tell whose art I have on my skin. I think that’s how I can pay respect to a good artist. In general, I see tattoos as a piece of art. Whereas someone buys a painting on their wall, I support art by investing in tattoos. All my tattoos are made by Tuula Aikioniemi in Turku or Luna Mila in Helsinki.

The Matryoshka doll is a wedding gift from my husband and it’s also made by Luna Mila. I like the symbolism of maternity and family that associates with matryoshka dolls. But above all, for me, Matryoshka doll symbolizes humanity in general. I think every human being is made of several layers, and different people– friends, coworkers, family and yourself – they all see you in their own way.

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The tattoo is also associated with Neil Gaiman’s comic book series, Sandman. I was 13 years old when I borrowed my first Sandman comic in the library, and it was such an astounding experience that the teenager’s mind almost exploded. It was wonderful to realize you can find such philosophical and inspiring thoughts in a comic book.

I find Death the most appealing character in Sandman. I’m interested in the depiction of death in literature and art in general. Hugo Simberg, for example, represents death in an interesting way in his artwork: for him, death is like an old, warm-hearted friend who comes visiting. I think Death is depicted in the same way in Sandman.

I also wanted to include flowers on this tattoo. My idea was to unite life and death, in the same way as in Simberg’s The Garden of Death. I love the fact that the Matryoshka doll is smiling, which makes her a very warm-hearted character.

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The doll wears an Ankh cross, just like Sandman’s Death. Of course, Ankh was also one of my first tattoo ideas, so this tattoo is associated in my youth in that way as well.

Earlier, I used to think that my tattoos always must have some sort of symbolism, but nowadays I think every tattoo has some kind of story behind them; whether it’s the fact that I like flowers or that the tattoo was made during a certain event, they will always have a personal meaning for me.

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I’m a visual person, and I gain inspiration from all the beautiful things I see. For me, tattoos are a good way to express myself. Of course people interpret images in a different way, and since my tattoos include many personal things as well, people won’t see them in the same way as I do. Which is actually a good thing, I guess. As I grow older, my tattoos might get some new meanings as well. I find that a very fascinating thought.

I’ve always found the lyrical work of Jarkko Martikainen very inspiring. I also love Moomin books, and Ninni and Vilijonkka were absolutely those characters I wanted to tattoo on my skin. These two tattoos are again Luna Mila’s artwork.

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Ninni also reminds me of a particular event that happened during my time as a group leader in confirmation class. We organized a little quiz about us leaders to the confirmands, and my question was “what is Minna’s favorite Moomin character?” Just when the question was asked, the priest walked by, then stopped and said: “Ninni… It was love that made her visible.”

I think it was so well said that the idea has stayed in my mind ever since. My husband and I have been traveling the same path for 13 years, and I still think love is the force that makes me visible, too. I wanted to get a tattoo of laughing Ninni because it was love that taught her she could be herself and she didn’t have to be afraid anymore. Love makes you free.

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The name of the song by Jarkko Martikainen, Huolenhukkaaja (in English: The one who makes troubles vanish), was a natural choice for this tattoo. The same song was also the first one we heard on our wedding day after leaving the church with my husband. Every time I look at this tattoo, it makes me feel so happy.

Vilijonkka joka uskoi onnettomuuksiin (in English: Fillyjonk who believed in misfortunes) was again one of the most mind-blowing things I’ve ever read. I was surprised to see how Tove Jansson was able to tell stories for children that included deep, philosophical insight for adults at the same time. It is a great and symbolic story about the storms you must face in life.

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At first, I thought I’d include a quote from the song Myrsky (in English: A Storm) on this tattoo. However, I couldn’t pick a quote that would’ve felt right, but then I realized the name of the song Normaali katastrofi (in English: A Normal Catastrophe) fit perfectly in the same theme. After all, that’s what life is all about: just a normal catastrophe with its good and bad moments, ups and downs. Diversity is the thing that makes life so great.

My tattoos seem to be placed so that my other arm is the arm of joy and life, whereas the other arm contains more negative imagery viewed from a positive angle. This has happened quite unintentionally. My dream is to have both of my arms full of tattoos, but there’s no rush, and in a way, I think it’s better to wait until I’ve grown older – in that way, the different life phases and memories could be seen on my skin.

At work, my tattoos have never been a problem. I almost think that as a youth worker, tattoos might actually be a benefit – at least young people always seem to get more interested when they see a tattooed person in school or youth center, as tattoos are not very usual in that kind of environment.

People ask quite a lot of questions about my tattoos in general, especially young people. Mostly they are just basic questions like does it hurt to get tattooed. Some people have also asked if they can touch my tattoos, and usually I have given them a permission.

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Once there was a situation when someone touched my tattoos without a permission, which I wasn’t happy about at all. Even though my skin is tattooed, it doesn’t mean I’m a showpiece and free for everyone to touch.

For me, faith is above all a feeling of being safe and secure. I tend to be a restless soul by nature, and Christianity brings peace to my life even in times when everything seems too overwhelming.

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It took years to search my own place and build my personal relationship with Christianity. Nowadays I feel relaxed about it and feel free to be whatever I want, whether it’s about my faith or any other thing.

I guess some people might think tattoos would be an issue for someone who does church work, but in reality, I think I’ve heard most of the compliments considering my tattoos there. For example, a while ago, one of my friends who is studying as a priest asked who has made my tattoos since they look so nice. There was also one sexton who really fell in love with my heart tattoo. I’ve had lots of great encounters because of my tattoos.

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Maybe me and my tattoos will also be able to shake off someone’s preconceptions about religious people by showing that there are many ways to be a Christian. No matter what the thing is – whether it’s religion, tattoos, or sexual minorities, for example – I think it’s always better to look a bit further and get to know different kinds of people as well. Even if you disagree with them on some things.

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