Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I spent some time recently having some work done on my body. I've been doing a lot of work on my internal stuff, so it seemed time to decorate my outside. Here's what my arm looked like early last Friday afternoon:

I had booked an appointment with Jennifer Moore at Sanctuary Tattoo in Portland, Maine back in July? August? It was months ago, I know that much. The economy is in the toilet, but she's booked solid for months ahead. Go figure. I made a second appointment at the same time, knowing that we'd need more than one visit for the work I wanted done.

Regular readers here know that I am attending seminary with designs on becoming a minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition. Luckily, it's a rather non-traditional tradition. The symbol of the UU faith tradition is a chalice with a flame. There are lots of versions of it out there, some official, some not, some ornate, some simple. I found one that was made in the style of a Celtic knot and decided I wanted it on the inside of my right arm. Like so:

The placement of this tattoo is purposeful. It is for me to see, not necessarily for me to show the world. I want to be reminded, always, that every time I reach out my hand, I am a representative of my faith tradition. I am that UU that someone might remember, and I want to be mindful of that in my interactions with people. How do I want them to remember that UU minister? Yeah. So that's there for me. The picture above shows the original transfer of the design. Jennifer and I wanted it to be taller, but to do that would have meant the wings of the chalice would have wrapped much too far around, so she free-hand drew longer flames. Here is what it looked like by the time she got done inking in the outline:

See the longer flame? It ended up being more trinity-ish than I had intended, but that's ok. I am not as fearful of the Trinity as some. Christianity is part of our tradition, even if the Unitarians rejected the notion of a god with three parts, the Universalists had less issue with it. I like to grumble on occasion that UUs will celebrate the holidays of every god but three. We'll do solstice, we'll do Hanukkah, we'll do Kwanzaa, hell, we'll do things that one member might remember from childhood in the old country even though none of the rest of us have ever heard of it, but look out! Don't we freak out a bit when someone mentions baby Jesus on December 24. Look, I know that the UU church is a faith tradition of many refugees who have been treated badly by other churches, and that many of those other churches were Christian. But I won't give the guy called Jesus a hard time. He was a man after my own heart: loud-mouthed, opinionated, prone to pissing off those in charge, a champion of the oppressed. There is a fair amount of mythology built around his life and teachings, including the belief that he was the son of god, the second arm of the Trinity. I find that idea no more or less ridiculous than believing in tree spirits or the gods of water and air. It works for some. Good for them. It doesn't work for others. Good for them, too. But no hitting, kids. There is value in all faiths. Sort out the bullshit that mankind has built up around each faith and you're likely to find very similar things inside. And that's good. End of sermon for today. I have a trinity flame on my wrist. I like it there. And here is what it looks like shaded in:

The heart is important in a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons. A Celtic knot of interwoven hearts is a beautiful thing. I liked this design:

Minus, of course, the rosary beads. But really, that's the image I liked best. Jennifer did amazing things to that design, stretching it here and there, squeezing it in other places, to make it so it would translate well on a three-dimensional irregular cone that is my forearm. Oh, and one that moves and will twist in interesting ways. Here is what it looked like in process:

We decided that the spaces in the knot would be black, so Jennifer set about filling them in. It was a long process, and when we took a break and she snapped this next picture, we'd been at the actual tattooing stuff for about 5 hours:

Yeah, I was tired. For the record, five hours is about when the endorphins just completely run out. The last hour was brutal. But here's what it looked like when the voids were filled:

and here is what the chalice looks like overlapping the edges of the heart knot:

You can see at the bottom of the chalice where we left the two ends of the knot open. Jennifer is going to connect them with some custom thing she'll draw for our next appointment. I was done after this session. I was exhausted, and I am sure she was too. She smeared me with gooey salve stuff, wrapped my whole arm thrice in plastic wrap, taped the edges and sent me off into the night with aftercare instructions and a hug.

The tattoo is healing well. It was really sore for a couple days, but now it is at that awful itchy stage where all I want to do is take at it with a green pot scrubbie. Aaaarrrrgggghhhhh. I won't do it, but DAMN it itches.

I will go back next month to get all the colors done, plus to fill in a couple gaps and to finish that knot across the underside of the chalice. I expect that date will hurt as much as this one did. Oof. Still, it's going to be very, very, VERY cool when it's done.

1 comment:

unmitigated me said...

That is one gorgeous piece of tattoo art, even more so because it means so much. That's why this woman's time is booked solid, eh?