Stories that go skin deep
sometimes it starts as the showcase for a favorite quote, memorializing a loved one or an important milestone. Wherever it begins, getting inked often becomes a compulsion, transforming skin into a walking work of art. Here are some local faces, all wearing a permanent record of snapshots from their lives.
Lisa Williams, Lowell
Megan is always drawing and bringing home artwork from school. One day, she brought home a drawing of a girl and it all came together. I was thinking about getting a sleeve done for a while but I wanted something meaningful. I went out and bought Megan new markers and asked her to draw herself. I put Megan’s self portrait, when she was 7, on my right arm. She also drew the black and white piece that’s on my left arm. We’re celebrating her 11th birthday March 27. People stop and ask me about the tattoo a lot. It’s really fun when they ask and she’s there. I think it’s one of her proudest moments.
Swallow tattoos have always been popular, but they started with sailors traveling far from home. Swallows are known for returning home to the same location every year to nest. My first swallow represents the time I lived in California, and the second, returning home to my friends and family in Lowell. For me, those tattoos will always be about travel, returning home, and a sense of loyalty to the people who you love and always come back to. The artwork on my right arm is inspired by an Audrey Kawasaki painting called, The First Time. Her work is simple but still captivating, and it really speaks to me. I get a lot of positive responses to my tattoos but my older family members, being very traditional, had a hard time understanding why I did it. But they’re just for me and I enjoy them. Every time I look at them, I think, this is who I am and it keeps me grounded.
Krista Patronick, Dracut
I was running the marathon and was stopped between mile 20 and mile 21, unable to finish because of the bombs. I got my tattoo a couple weeks after. It means a lot to me because as a runner, Boston is like The Holy Grail of marathons and you spend five months training for that one day. I was heartbroken about being unable to finish and I went through a lot emotionally. The tattoo reminds me that even though I’m not sure why, I lived that day and was unharmed, and I’m lucky that I lived to run another day.
Masada Jones& Diamond Jones, Lowell
Masada: Our tattoo says, “She believed she could so she did.” My sister told me she was going to get the tattoo, and I loved the quote so I asked if we could both get it. We have each struggled with doubt and various insecurities so getting the tattoo was empowering. It is a constant reminder that we are capable of doing great things.
I started getting tattoos when I was 22 and living in Japan. I had always wanted tattoos since I was a kid. Once I joined the Navy I found myself in the right spot, with the right people, to start getting them. The first tattoo I ever got was the crossed anchors on my right hand. That’s the insignia for a rated Boatswain’s mate (naval term for a deckhand). It’s somewhat of a tradition for people who do my job in the Navy, and those who are good at it, to get it. This way everyone knows you’re the go-to guy. After that first tattoo, I was addicted. Most of the tattoos going up my arm, with the exception of two, have some kind of sailor folklore or meaning to them. All of the tattoos were drawn by the same artist — Sailor Jerry Collins, who wasn’t a sailor at all actually. He was a tattoo artist in Hawaii during World War II. He became famous because as sailors were passing through Hawaii, they all wanted tattoos and he happened to be the go-to guy. I have 17 tattoos total and can honestly say I don’t regret getting a single one. It has always been a way to express myself, a great ice breaker for conversations, and something I can look at and remember the many things I’ve gotten to do with my life and am continuing to do.
In total, I have 11 tattoos. I enjoy getting inked because I’m an artist and I think of my body as my canvas. I like to fill my canvas with colorful images I love, and I do it without any regrets.
On Megan’s left arm: This is a drawing I worked on when I was in Iraq. It was originally a drawing of a hand grenade surrounded by symbols that are meaningful to me. When I took the drawing to an artist, he recreated it to better fit my arm. Some of the symbols included in this tattoo are an om, the phoenix, a heart, the healing snakes, the third eye, the rising sun, the peace symbol and the yin-yang. This piece, and all of its symbols, express my experience in the military, in Iraq, and the support I got from friends and family. On her chest: This piece is a coverup (a bad tattoo experience in Korea). I originally had two nautical stars on my collar bones. In 2009, I came to Lowell Ink and told Eric I wanted a heart on my chest. We designed this piece together, with his artistic ability and my emotions. It resembles the Claddagh, but zombified — before zombies were popular. I wanted roses because they’re a symbol of love.
Roland Cartier, Lowell
I enlisted in the United States Navy before I was even supposed to, at 17. It was important to me to serve my country. I got my first two tattoos in 1970, in Newport, Rhode Island when I was 18. They represent the two things that held the most meaning to me. On my upper left arm, an eagle holding an American flag and a ribbon with USN. On my opposite arm, a tribute to my mom, who, naturally, didn’t want me to go. The cross on my left arm, I gave to myself when I came home from the service in 1973. That is “death before dishonor” for my country.