At Messiah, tattoos have a mixed reputation. Some students can’t imagine life without their ink while others would rather forgo the pain the artwork requires.
On campus, there are a handful of students who fall into the first category – including myself. To showcase the various stories behind tattoos on campus, this column will spotlight one student every Tuesday about their tattoo(s).
Before we share this week’s student’s story, I thought it would be appropriate for me to briefly summarize my tattoo experiences.
I got my first tattoo during my freshman year at Messiah. I saw Aaron at Stingray Body Art in Boston, a shop close to my home that was recommended by a friend. I received the rest of my tattoos from Aaron at Stingray because I admired how detailed (and clean!) he was.
After my first tattoo, I knew I wanted to get more. I got my second tattoo on my foot a few months later while home for spring break. This time, I knew what to expect and had a much more enjoyable process. Two months later, I was back in the shop once again for my third tattoo, but this time was different. A boyfriend from high school had passed away the week before, and I decided to get a piece in his honor on my ribs. Then, I took two and a half years off from getting more ink but got my fourth tattoo on my back during my most recent Christmas break.
The main theme behind all of my tattoos has been about recovery and a fresh start. I have been in so many different seasons of life while receiving my tattoos, yet they have all stayed relevant to me as I grow. Each has a spiritual component and symbolizes revival and renewal.
Since I know how much my tattoos mean to me and how they have allowed me to reflect on God’s faithfulness, I figured other Messiah students would have similar stories. I found this to be true while interviewing junior Zach Luman, who has several spiritual tattoos, allowing him to share God’s love with others in a unique way.
Jen Morgan: How many tattoos do you have?
Zach Luman: Seven – both of my wrists, my inner bicep, my right shoulder, my ribs, my chest and my half-sleeve.
JM: Where did you get your tattoos and who is your artist?
ZL: All but my first tattoo were done at Built to Last in York by Donald Patiscal (@piliauski6).
JM: Which tattoo hurt the most?
ZL: The one on my chest near the collarbone and the armpit area of my half sleeve.
JM: What is the most common question you get asked about your tattoos?
ZL: “Did it hurt?” or “Why did you get that?”
JM: What is the most common misconception about people with tattoos?
ZL: That if you have tattoos you’re a bad person, that you’re into bad things, that you’re trashy. A lot of people judge your appearance. My tattoos are spiritual, but people judge just based on the fact that you have stuff on your body rather than the fact that they can make an impact.
JM: Which tattoo means the most to you?
ZL: My half sleeve. I got it after freshman year, since coming to Messiah as a freshman challenged me a lot. It says Matthew 10:32-33 on the bottom and the verses have challenged me with my actions.
JM: What are your plans for your next tattoo?
ZL: I want to finish my half sleeve into my chest; I want to keep the same shading.
JM: Do you have a tattoo playlist? How do you handle the pain?
ZL: I listened to music the whole time, but only in one ear so I can talk to Donald, my artist. We talk a lot about faith and life. I like to listen to worship music because it keeps me at peace.
JM: Do you go alone or with friends to your appointments?
ZL: For my first one, I took my dad. Other than that, I like to go alone because I have music, and I talk with Donald.
JM: What advice would you give to someone considering getting a tattoo?
ZL: Give yourself time to think it over. I’ve given thought to each tattoo for six months to a year in advance to make sure it’s something I really do want. Make sure you’ve eaten enough before you go! Take a sugary snack or Gatorade. Also, if you need a break, just tell the artist. Be cautious when picking a studio and an artist – don’t pick just based on the price.
JM: What is one thing you wish everyone knew about tattoos?
ZL: Each person has their own story, and tattoos can portray that. It’s an art, and there’s a lot that goes behind it beyond just what you see. Beyond art, there’s extra meaning. I never say “that’s dumb” because there is still meaning behind it to someone. Get to know the person for what they are, and not just what’s on their body.
Stayed tuned next week for another edition of Tattoo Tuesdays! Have more questions about what it’s like to get a tattoo? Tweet me @JenMorgan94 – I’d love to answer your questions.
Jen is a senior journalism major from Boston. She loves makeup, puppies, cookies, tattoos and magazines, and will never turn down a trip to Sephora or Starbucks.