I really got interested in alternative looks during my teenage years. Up to a certain age, I was an ordinary girl with blonde hair, but then I started to feel I want to express myself with my appearance. I was fascinated by different kinds of body modifications but still wanted to keep my own looks somewhat moderate, so I started collecting piercings. Tattoos, in turn, made a natural continuum for piercings.
I got my first tattoo as an 18th birthday gift to myself in 2005. I wanted to include some important thought on my first tattoo, so I considered the theme for a long time. Finally, I ended up getting a Latin phrase Humanum Amare est which means “It is human to love”. It’s a small guideline that I have tried to live by during the years.
The mid-2000’s was still the era of lower back tattoos and tribal tattoos. Many people got tattooed at music festivals and such events, where tattooers had their own tents or buses. Later many of those festival tattoos have been fixed or covered up since they often have faded during the years and may have looked pretty harsh in the first place.
My first tattoo was made by a home tattooist from Porvoo, who had already made a couple of tattoos for my older sister. I think this tattoo has remained quite good-looking despite its age.
The same tattooist also tattooed stars behind my both ears. They have faded during my pregnancies, so apparently it’s a hormone-related thing. Sometimes hairdressers may still notice these, but otherwise, these tattoos are nothing but memories anymore.
I’ve been thinking about getting some new, bigger tattoos behind my ears at some point. I have many tattoo ideas, but luckily I also have lots of bare skin and time left.
On my back, I have tattoos of the names of my four children. The names of my two older children have been made approximately eight years ago at a tattoo parlour in Raahe. The tattoo was made after my own design, and the tattooist Speedo added his own touch by changing the colors and adding some flowers. The tattoo was continued after my two younger children were born. This time I let the tattoo artist design the tattoo herself. All of my newer tattoos are made by Elina from Bad Eggs Tattoo.
At first, we tattooed only the names and hearts, but I felt the tattoo still needed something more. So, we added some blue flowers and later the brown garlands to the sides of the tattoo. I often forget that I even have a tattoo this big on my back. I guess you somehow become blind to your own tattoos during the years. Still, I’m very fond of this tattoo.
I had my first child when I was 19 years old. I absolutely love being a mother, and parenthood has given me so much, but still, I guess I wouldn’t encourage my children to have kids of their own at a young age. Even if you’d feel yourself ready to become a parent, the society isn’t always very receptive towards people who have children at an early age. As a young parent, you will surely face lots of prejudice because of your age.
Nowadays I see myself as a quite a normal-looking person, but still, my tattoos and piercings seem to provoke discussion every now and then. There are still times when I struggle with being taken seriously as an adult. Even though attitudes change over time, the state of mind still often is that in order to be treated as a respectable adult, you must be able to fulfill the right standards.
Especially in the smaller towns many people still seem to think that after a certain age, you must forget about the nonsense and adapt to your place as a reasonable adult.
Although I’m small, I might look young and I don’t fill every possible adult standard, I’m still a grown-up person who can take care of her own things. The fact that people want to express themselves and look like whatever they want to look like doesn’t make them any less respectable or valuable as human beings.
I got my David Bowie tattoo after Bowie’s death in 2016. The star segments that form the word Bowie are from the cover art of his last album, Blackstar. The background is designed after Bowie’s No Plan -ep.
David Bowie is a significant character in my life. Originally, I got familiar with his music because of my mother who happens to be a die-hard Bowie fan. David Bowie is a huge thing for our family in general – all of us women seem to be more or less crazy about him. I’m a friend of old music altogether. The music today feels so disposable, whereas there’s really something special in the past times.
I’m especially fascinated by how David Bowie was always able to transform himself into something new. He boldly experimented different music styles and cleared the way for many artists and people of his era by his own androgynous style. In addition, he wasn’t just a musician, but a multi-talented artist. He was a painter as well and acted in both theatre and films.
Bowie is also one of the reasons my husband and I ended up together. We were introduced many years ago at a party, where our mutual friend got us together and said to us: “This is Elisabet, this is Juhani, you both love David Bowie – now talk!” I still remember how Juhani looked at me with a wine glass in his hand, remained silent for a moment and then said he cannot discuss such serious things while being drunk. I just thought phew, what an arrogant guy!
Years went by and we both carried on with our own lives. After many phases, we learned to know each other better, started dating and eventually got married. Our youngest child was born in the same year when David Bowie died. Since Bowie had been such an important part of our lives since the beginning, we wanted to include his name in our child’s name as well. Finally, we decided to name him Mio David.
During the pregnancy, I already called him Thursday’s child after a Bowie’s song, and he was indeed born on Thursday. In the naming ceremony, my sisters sang him the very same song. It was a truly touching moment.
I’m originally educated as a graphic designer, and even though I’ve never done graphic design for a living, I still love drawing and other graphic-related things. Later I got re-educated as a nurse specialized in children and youth health. My arm tattoo was again a gift to myself, and I got it after my graduation.
My other arm is covered with animals from the children’s books called The Golden books of Tammi (In Finnish: Tammen kultaiset kirjat). My parents used to read those books a lot for us children, and I still remember reading stories together on the sofa or how I loved listening to bedtime stories before falling asleep.
I want to pass the same lovely memories for my own children as well. I think reading is one of the greatest gifts parents can give to their children. It only takes ten minutes to read a short children’s story, but that brief moment can give so much to a child.
Many children have recognized these as the characters from Tammi’s books, and adults have, too. My tattooist and I knew from the beginning that we don’t want to tattoo the characters with black ink. The emerald green is the same shade that has been used in the book covers as well. I’m not worried about the fading of this tattoo – the most important thing for me is that I know what these characters mean to me.
My next tattoo will be a portrait of David Bowie. I’ve also been dreaming of getting a tattoo of the Latin phrase Si vis pacem, para bellum – “if you want peace, prepare for war”. The phrase is mostly related to my own inner struggle and history of depression. I still have troubles to accept myself as I am, but at the same time, I’m ready to fight for my inner peace.
Every now and then I still feel a certain sadness for not becoming the ideal girl I maybe was expected to become. Even though I was good at school and a pretty decent human being in many other aspects, I have felt guilty for not being able to fulfill the expectations of being and looking like a certain kind of person. In a way, it feels very contradictory to long for being a part of the group and staying as your own, individual self at the same time.
People who struggle with themselves rarely want other people to see it. For me, tattoos are one way to let others see the person who I really am. There’s no message hidden in my looks, this is just my own way to get along with myself the best I can. This is who I am.