In big black bold letters, “Constance” is etched onto the upper back of senior psychology major, Tyler Mills. The gothic lettering has a deeper meaning to him. On the outside Mills looks edgy but with this hidden tattoo, he shows his softer side with the story behind it.
“Constance”, Mills’ late grandmother, lost her eyesight, but before she went completely blind, Mills had something to show her: her name permanently written on his upper back.
Mills has five tattoos. They are mostly on his upper body, covering his back and shoulders.Another one of his tattoos also dedicated to a family member is of a Roman soldier. Within the soldier’s armor are the initials of his grandfather.
Mills received the solider for free after he entered a contest via Instagram. He reposted a picture from the tattoo artist and tagged the post with the artist’s name.
The Roman solider appears to be ready for battle, holding a spear and shield in front of a blue and green background.
Mills sat for about six hours for the tattoo, which is on his right shoulder, to be completed.
The whole experience of getting a tattoo can be a very intimate process. Students like Mills may have some kind of relationship with their artist.
Mills is looking for a new tattoo artist he says. His usual tattoo artist left the tattoo shop that he regularly went to. When Mills called in for another appointment, they gave him the bad news.
“He left the shop that I go to and they say he’s just not coming back unless he need to finish something or maybe a special appointment,” Mills says.
“I found a new artist who’s finishing my shoulder. He’s a graphic designer and a close friend of mine.”
Mills also has a stick and poke tattoo. Based on the ancient styles of tattooing, like the Japanese Irezumi, stick and poke has become popular among teens and young adults.
Its modern adaption has been become a process of repetitively jabbing a sewing needle, dipped in ink, or whatever is on hand attached to a stabilizer, like a pencil or pen. The final product is typically a scarred outline of a simple image. At times, the tattoo may need to be gone over several times for the color to stick clearly.
Despite the risk of at-home tattoos, its convenience and minimalism seem to keep the trend going.
Mills has an Egyptian eye stick and poke tattoo on his right inner ankle. He says it was the product of a memorable night out with friends, after which they convinced him to get the traditional tattoo.
Taylor Tenenbaum, a junior anthropology major, loves stick and poke tattoos as well. She has five on both of her hands which she did herself.
“It’s fun. I like giving them to my friends especially and practicing on myself helps me get better,” Tenenbaum says.
The simpler the better she says. When thinking of different designs, Tenenbaum usually sketches them out first, then on skin she outlines the design with a blue or red pen so that it is more visible.
Tenenbaum has one stick and poke she did herself located on her inner left ankle. Keeping it simple, Tenenbaum decided on a silhouette of a naked woman raising her arms.
Tenenbaum’s favorite tattoo, which she recently got, is one dedicated to her professor and
adviser. The two share a close relationship and Tenenbaum never hesitates to speak to her about anything.
In Spring 2017 Tenenbaum became very ill. Her adviser was very accommodating and Tenenbaum was grateful for it. She showed that gratitude in her tattoo, which is an ancient hominid skull named Lucy, by embedding the initials of her adviser within the design the skull.
Other Southern students appreciate classic tattoo styles, like husband and wife Mike and Melanie Taraskewich.
The two met in elementary school. Mike Taraskewich says he knew from the moment he saw her, he was going to marry her. The two held their reception in North Carolina.
“I still have the notebook from middle school where I wrote her name in hearts all over,” Mike Taraskewich says.
Mike Taraskewich is a first-year physiology major and Melanie Taraskewich is a second-year social work major. The two both took at least three years off before starting classes at Southern.
Before even thinking about school, Mike Taraskewich was in the Marine Corps for three years. One of his tattoos on his inner right bicep is in memory of his company. He stuck with the Marine Corps theme for other tattoos, with an eagle, ship, and two cannons pointing away from the center of his stomach.
With his shirt on, Mike Taraskewich’s vast collection of ink is almost completely covered. No one would notice the clash of brilliant bold colors across his chest. The entire front piece of his chest took nine hours of sitting.
His shoulders are covered as well. There is a snake on one arm and traditional mom and dad heart tattoos on the other, which took about five hours during a different appointment.
“It’s really a great way to express yourself and I really love it and it’s totally becoming more acceptable.”
Mike Taraskewich is planing on covering his entire stomach with sharks and a star, just the outline took about four hours to complete.
“It’s [all] been done by the same guy down in North Carolina. I hope to go down there soon so I can finish up,” Mike Taraskewich says. “One thing I told him was I wanted two cross cannons because that was my job in the Marine Corps.”
Melanie Taraskewich has a tattoo of a traditional style woman holding a rose on her upper right thigh, done by the same artist.
Other than liking the style of traditional tattoos, it has no meaning, she says, not like some of her other tattoos. Her first tattoo, a piece on her left shoulder blade that says, ‘She’s somebody’s hero,’ was dedicated to her mother.
“I lost my mom to cancer when I was 13 years old, so when I turned 16, I got this tattoo for her,” she says.
She was never a fan of multi-color tattoos and has a realistic bear done in black ink on her upper back. The bear, whom she calls Koda, is named after the forest dweller from the Disney movie, “Brother Bear,” which she and her mother both shared a love for.
Both Mike Taraskewich and Melanie Taraskewich appreciate the art and skill that goes into each of their tattoos.
“Down in North Carolina, you see women with full sleeves and I see it as art,” Melanie Taraskewich says. “It’s really a great way to express yourself and I really love it and it’s totally becoming more acceptable.”
By Megan Grabowski