Inked and enrolled: Students decorate with tattoos

Since thousands of years ago, people have made their bodies into art canvasses. Tattoos are a form of expression that allows people to communicate the messages they wish to. Each tattoo is important, whether it’s a reminder of religious beliefs, affirmations of love, or simply a funny character.

The oldest surviving record of tattooing was found on a mummy discovered in the Ötzal Valley, located in the Alps. Named Ötzi the Iceman, the mummy was dated all the way back to around 3,250 B.C., according to the Smithsonian. Ötzi had 61 tattoos located all over his body.

The practice of tattooing is still very popular among other ancient cultures, such as Greece and China’s early centuries. Some historians believe that tattoos were used to signify high priestesshood in ancient Egypt.

Roman soldiers were also fond of tattooing. However, once Christianity emerged, Emperor Constantine banned the art form because it was thought to ruin God’s image.

Tattoos were still stigmatized. Christian missionaries attempted stop Maori women from having tattoos on their lips and faces. However, the Indigenous New Zealand community carried out their customs. Other Indigenous groups all over the world were subjected to similar prejudice and violence as well based on the art form being deemed “barbaric.”

Young people today are discouraged from having tattoos because they fear that it will make them less employable in the future. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, getting a tattoo won’t hurt future job prospects.

A poll by Ipsos found that 33% of Americans have at least one tattoo. It was an increase of 30% from 2012, when 21% had a tattoo. A further 40% of those aged 18 to 34 have at least one tattoo.

Ohio requires tattoo recipients to be at least 18 and have the written permission of a guardian. Many people are tattooed in college because of this law. A sense of independence and freedom can foster a sense of bodily autonomy.

Zelda Thayer Hansen, a sophomore majoring in studio art, has had eight tattoos. The first was given to them by a kind friend at 16 and then they got their first professionally done tattoo in high school.

While their first tattoo shows a smiley expression, their second is much more meaningful.

“The first professional tattoo I got is a skull,” Thayer-Hansen said. “It’s for my grandfather who died when I was in freshman year of high school.”

Thayer-Hansen’s grandfather was owner of the Smiling Skull Saloon, a local biker bar located at 108 W. Union St.

Thayer Hansen stated that their grandfather might approve of the tattoo.

Thayer Hanssen views tattoos, as an artist, as a means to express oneself and recall key memories. Thayer Hanen plans to make their own tattoos or use others’.

“I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be an artist,” Thayer-Hansen said. “Knowing other people with tattoos that have significant meaning to them is the main reason why I get them and why I love the idea of tattooing.”

Sam B., a senior studying Criminalology, has had five tattoos. In August 2021, he got his first. Sam B. follows a specific policy when it comes time to get his tattoos.

“I told myself that for every year I made it through something hard, I would get a tattoo to represent it,” Sam B. said.

He has a tattoo that includes a tribute to a friend and words of encouragement. A cracked pattern was also a gift from a friend.

Joee Green is a professional tattoo artist who has worked for over three years. She also owns Magic Tattoo at 26 W. Stimson Ave. Joee and Thomas work at Magic Tattoo.

Joee stated that the shop is open now for just over one year. These two artists can create anything from floral designs to skulls and even portraits for the famous Pink Panther or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Artists said that they often see college students because they live so close to Ohio University. Joee explained that while this is great for regular customers, it can also be difficult when they move.

“It’s wonderful as far as clientele goes,” Joee said. “We get a new batch every year. For the first time, people are able to be away from their families and do some thing for them. Sometimes it is hard because you become close friends with people, large groups of people, who have been here four years and then move on. It sucks because you make friends with people and then you kind of lose touch with people.”

Joee stated that there is some hesitation in committing to permanent body artwork when you are young.

“I hear ‘My mom’s going to kill me’ all the time,” Joee said, laughing.

Joee said that owning her own business has been “fantastic” and that the community has been very supportive. Joee said that the community helps foster friendships among local businesses.

“We’re friends with a lot of the other shops in town,” Joee said. “I don’t care if my customers go get tattooed by other people. Everybody’s got a different style.”

Joee advised first-timers to trust their artist and be unique. Additionally, the internet isn’t always the best place to gain inspiration.

“I would say to tell them to try to pick something more unique than they see on Pinterest,” Joee said. “At the end of the day, just put your own spin on it because you’re going to have it for the rest of your life. Go for something more unique.”

Thomas claimed that some tattoo trends will no longer look so good.

“The fad in the last couple years is the super fine line, no shading. It’s just not the way it works,” he said.

Thomas also stated that tattoo photos on the Internet have been digitally altered to look more attractive. Photoshop makes the tattoo look crisper, and in the long run, the tattoo won’t end up looking like that.

“People see it on Google and they’re like ‘Oh, that looks great’ and we’re like ‘That’s not real,’” Thomas said. “And it’s not five years old.”

Thomas and Joee agreed there were many variables that affect pricing. The price of a tattoo depends on the size and detail, and the cost and experience of the artist. Larger projects, such as sleeves require lots of supplies and take time.

Specially since COVID-19 has seen a rise in prices for medical gloves. This forced tattoo artists into raising their prices.

Thomas and Joee both love what they do and want the best for the customers, despite the fact that there is a shortage of critical supplies. Joee even said it’s the best job in the world.

“People like to express themselves, whether it’s through clothes or body art or whatever, people are just dying to tell you who they are,” Joee said. “And if they can do that from across the room, all the better.”

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