One thing people are usually surprised to learn about me is that I have tattoos. That’s right, plural. More than one. They are all pretty hidden, small enough that you don’t notice them at first.
Each of my tattoos stems from a different situation. The first one I got is a butterfly on my hip. It’s the size of a quarter and purple with a black outline. I got it at a parlor in St. Louis when I was visiting a friend. We walked by the place and we joked about getting one. I realized, “Hey, I’m 18, I could if I wanted to”, so I did. My friend and I thought we were so scandalous being in a tattoo parlor. I didn’t tell anyone about it. My mom has tattoos, but I didn’t tell my parents right away. I don’t think I thought they’d be upset, but it was fun having my own little secret.
I can’t remember exactly when I got the two small flowers on my right foot. It was at the same place in St. Louis, with the same friend. She drew one daisy and I drew the other. This is the only tattoo I slightly regret. I don’t mind that they are daisies – I don’t even mind that it was drawn by someone I’m not friends with anymore – but they are pink. They are so girly. They just aren’t me.
The next one I got when I was home from college for a visit. I had been thinking about getting a dolphin tattoo on the back of my shoulder. I found a design I liked and went for it. It’s small, too.
The next one was a few years later when I was studying abroad in Italy. I loved my time in Florence and wanted to commemorate it somehow. There were plenty of tattoo studios in Florence, I poked around a little and then decided on one. I wanted a fleur-de-lis on my ankle. The symbol, called a giglio in Italy, is the crest of the city of Florence. The symbol is everywhere. One of the rooms in Palazzo Vecchio has navy wallpaper with tiny gold fleur-de-lis patterned all over it. I love this tattoo. It’s on the inside of my left ankle and it is a simple outline with a few little petals around the stamen of the fleur-de-lis in purple. Whenever I look at it I remember what an amazing semester I had in Italy, and how much I grew.
My final tattoo is actually three…and they are big. Three butterflies on my left side. I’ve always liked butterflies, like I’ve always liked dolphins (hence the butterfly tattoo). When I was a little girl, my grandpa used to take me to Brookfield Zoo each summer. We would buy two sets of tickets for the dolphin show. We’d see one showing right when we arrived, look around at the other animals, then go back for a second showing before we left. It was my absolute favorite part of the zoo. Same thing with butterflies, although I didn’t realize I had such a like for the insect until I got a little older. I love going to those greenhouses with all the butterflies flying around. When I rode my bike in my hometown along a nature trail that wove through town, I always saw Monarchs during the summertime.
In college a lot of my artwork revolved around butterflies – either the physical shape of them, or the movement of butterflies. When I returned to Lake Forest after being abroad, I did an independent study and created a portfolio of mixed media pieces that combined the culture, color, and sights of Italy with the movement of butterflies. It was a lot of fun to make and I still love a lot of the work I created.
I also made this big installation one year at Lake Forest where I cut hundreds of butterfly shapes out of newspaper and strung them on thread. I hung them from a wall to different light beams in the studio. When the lights shone on them it created awesome shadows on the walls behind the installation.
I think my butterfly tattoos are a reminder of my time in college, my evolution from an 18-year-old to a 22-year-old, all that I learned, and the ways that I grew. Plus the general fact that I like the insect. I chose three different butterflies – a Monarch, a Big Blue, and a Swallowtail.
My best friend had gone to a tattoo artist in Chicago for his first tattoo, fireflies on his arm, so I decided I’d go to the same artist. She is amazing. (Check her out here.) I did the butterflies in two sittings. One appointment was all the outlining and the second was for color. It took quite awhile and was rather painful, but worth it. I’m not the skinniest gal, and I don’t wear mid-drift shirts, but whenever I take a shower I look down and see my beautiful butterflies and smile. They are for me and I like that.
I’ve had a small hankering to get another tattoo. The same artist that did my butterflies has done a few tattoos recently inspired by wedding bouquets and they are amazing. I loved my wedding flowers and I think it’d be a cool way to commemorate our wedding day. I’m just not sure where I’d get it done. I’m not brave enough to get it on a shoulder or place that is generally bare (and if I’m working in the corporate world…) but I do want it to be somewhere I can easily see it. Something to think about.
I think tattoos are pretty cool and I think they can be a great way to express yourself, or to keep certain memories close by. Plus there are some amazing tattoo artists out there. So we’ll see what comes next.