I’ve been going on about my New Year’s Resolutions for a few posts now, and unfortunately I’ve been absolutely awful about keeping up with them (incuding the one on blogging once a week!). One of the New Year’s Resolves was to finally get this tattoo I had been thinking about for a long time. I’m not sure when the concept first popped into my head, but not long after Mom had died, I had wondered about getting a tattoo to commemorate her.
I’m not too terribly thrilled about needles (although, I can’t say I know anyone who is a fan of them at all), and I don’t even have my ears pierced, but I thought a tattoo representing Mom made sense, as she has always been so important to me all my life. I think about her all the time, and the impact of her sickness, death, and the after-death has been huge in my life.
Mom has a beautiful Chinese name, but while the calligraphy would have been pretty, I felt something more abstract would be needed. Her name is a homophone with the word “vase,” so I began considering a tattoo of a Chinese styled vase some time last May. I remembered that, because when I suggested that I get a tattoo, friends, bewildered, told me to slow down on the big changes, as I had just decided then to also move to HK.
So I went ahead and moved here, and then the concept of the tattoo had come up again. I had gotten close to someone I met my first weekend here who had a few tattoos. When I first saw them I wondered what they were about and why he had gotten them. At first, he was none too willing to reveal anything about any of them, but then one day he let me choose one, and he’d tell me the story.
There was this tattoo of a rabbit smoking a pipe, which stood out to me. It was not necessary cute per se, but definitely seemed out of character from the rest of the artwork. He began to tell me the story behind it. He got the tattoo to commemorate his late grandfather, but the story revealed so much more than that.
He had to start from the beginning, as most stories start, and explained who his granddad was. His granddad was an amazing man, who in spite of physical disability, and therefore much social adversity, managed to accomplish more than anyone could expect. He really was one of those people whom movies are made about.
Then came to the part of the grandson – and my friend explained how his granddad had to take care of him from an early age, because his parents effectively abandoned him. I could feel such an intense depth as he told the story — all emanating from this very simple piece of art, now permanently imprinted on his arm.
Once he finished, I felt such a beauty and calm. And that’s when I knew this tattoo would be right for me.
In what I believe was either October or November, Vineet and I, looking for something free and fun to do, read about an art opening in HK Magazine, an excellent resource for what to do, both free and not free. We figured, no matter the art or crowd, at least the wine would be free.
The artist is actually a local HK-born tattoo artist with her own independent studio somewhere where Soho and Sheung Wan meet. The art work was interesting (a series of water-inspired oils depicting a scale pattern), and we met a bunch of cool people (including a doctor who may have gone to school with Vineet’s grandmother!), but more interesting to me was learning about this artist’s tattoo work.
She gave me her card and suggested I look at her website to see if I liked her art or not. Her work is incredible! I appreciated her artistry and capability, and more, that she understood Asian artwork – which would be important for my case.
I also began to think more about the tattoo concept, and began adding other elements (I won’t actually delve too specifically on it, as it is just as personal to me as the pipe-smoking rabbit is to my friend), and then I contacted Sze about a consultation. In December we met up to discuss my ideas and how she worked. She would be the one to render the art (she is a true artist and rarely does any copied work), and that I essentially had to trust her – although my input would, of course, be valued.
Considering all the design elements I wanted, the piece would end up quite large — anywhere from 9-12 inches in height! I was not really ready for that, plus, the location I’d initially imagined would not be terribly suitable either. So given this information, Sze suggested I just take some time to think it over and get back to her whenever I felt ready.
She knew I would be travelling soon after this meeting, and that’s exactly when I proposed to think it over. In New York I did much more research on images that would match my concept, and also looked at sites and forums about tattoos. Before I left for India, I used a dark blue sharpie to draw a vague shape representing the tattoo over one of the secondary proposed areas on my body. It seemed weird. I’d have this permanent image on my body, and I had to really want it!
In any case, I noticed that every time I looked at this amorphous figure (which was not too frequent, since we’d chosen a fairly discreet place), I’d feel happy, knowing that one day there would be this image that would always remind me of Mom.
And so, I figured it was time to move on.
In late January, once I got over the second transition into HK life, I contacted Sze for a second consultation. There we actually got down to making a rough design that would really help me to visualize the tattoo on my body. We also worked out a better location to place it, and I left feeling satisfied. I put down a 20% deposit (tattoos are NOT cheap, and in this case I was paying her an hourly rate for her work, but not charged any design fee).
I learned at that meeting how serious Sze was about her art. Under no circumstances would she ever coerce anyone into a tattoo, nor would she go forward if the client was not herself 100% committed to keeping it. This was serious business! But after talking to her this second time, I really felt she understood what I wanted and my concerns well, and was able to work around it.
We settled on a date – March 3rd. I was really doing it! Fortuntely, Oliver, one of my best friends from college, would be in town and could be there with me. To be honest, I was kinda scared of what kind of pains would be associated with the tattooing process, and there was just no way I could really guess how it would feel from any website I read.
But there I was. I met Oliver at the corner of Wellington and Aberdeen, and I would shortly have my body completely changed forever. And here I end part 1 of this two-part post, so that I can devote a whole entry to the tattoo process in part 2.