I’d always wanted a tattoo, but when I was a young woman, you just didn’t do that!
Tattoos were frowned upon at that time, and only rough, tough men got them. They were unheard of for women in my world. I always thought they were fascinating, and some of them were quite beautiful. Tattooing and its artwork has come a long way in the last few years. I didn’t want anything big, but I always thought I’d like to have a small one. The members of my family heard me mention many times I’d like to have a small tattoo. But I never could seem to come up with an idea of exactly what I wanted. I never really saw anything I’d consider wearing on my body the rest of my days. That outlook was about to change, and this is my story of a tattoo for Granny.
Why I Decided On A Tattoo
I was 72 years old at the time of this tattoo, a time when few women decide to get their first one. I had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so why did I want the pain of a tattoo? When I was a kid I had very bad teeth and was constantly at the dentist. I’ve given birth to four children, experienced two collapsed lungs, had numerous surgeries, and had two heart attacks. It’s not like I don’t know pain. I won’t bore you with the full litany of my aches and pains, but that’s enough so you know where I’m coming from. Pain is relative.
My only sister passes away
My only living sister, Becky, passed away in 2010. I’m the last of our original family. When our Mom passed away in 1995, my sister and I planted a pink dogwood tree in my sister’s yard in her honor. Since Becky died, that dogwood tree and the yard belong to someone else. I decided that I wanted to do something different to honor my sister. I had no idea what I wanted, just that I wanted something that couldn’t be handed off to someone else.
Becky collected ladybug items
Becky collected ladybug collectibles, and was known in her community as “The Ladybug Lady.” Her house was loaded with ladybug teakettles, rugs, dolls, knickknacks, etc, that had been given to her by me and her kids, grandkids and friends. We all tried to outdo each other year after year with coming up with the most unusual ladybug items. She also wore ladybug clothing and jewelry, so she always had her ladybugs with her. I wanted some way to keep her close to me. I didn’t even live in the same state with her, so it had to be something portable, something I could always have with me. I came up with nothing, until one day the idea of a tattoo occurred to me. But I didn’t want to have just her name tattooed, I wanted something more, a kind of memorial in ink. Then the idea struck me: a Ladybug, with her birth and death date. That would be with me forever.
One morning my partner took a day off work, and took me to breakfast. After breakfast, we drove around and I asked where we were going. “Oh just driving. I want to see where I’m supposed to turn to go to a hiking friend’s house.” But after going up and down the same stretch of Boulder Highway for some time, I really began to wonder!
Shortly, we pulled into a parking lot and pulled up in front of a tattoo business, Studio Tattoo. I’m thinking we’re turning around but the ignition was cut and “Surprise! and Happy Birthday!” The Tattoo was given to me as a gift, to be done here, and the owners/operators Anji and Ryan were expecting me! I was so excited I could hardly speak, because I’d wanted this a long time.
Getting down to work!
I picked out the ladybug design I liked. I had several to choose from, some on a leaf, some flying, some on a flower. I chose the one flying, from the poem “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home!” Shown here, I am relaxing in the chair, with Ryan having transferred the artwork to my left leg, he’s now beginning the actual outline of the design with the needles. The pain wasn’t bad at all, a little uncomfortable sometimes, but nothing to scream about!
Note to anyone trying this for the first time: be sure your tattoo shop opens brand new needles in your presence and that they provide comfortable seating and if they’re working on your leg, a pillow under your knee. These are all things my shop did. And below you will see each step in the process.
First Step, The Drawing, Painless!
What you see in the photo below is the drawing of what will become the tattoo. One of the owners of Studio Tattoo, Ryan, did the work. This part doesn’t hurt at all, it’s just a drawing transfer onto your skin, no needles. Piece of cake!! I could’ve stopped at this moment and backed out of the entire thing if I wanted to, and just gone home and washed it off! But I didn’t do that. I was determined to have this tattoo.
Second, Laying in the Outline, Not Bad!
Ryan began laying in the black ink and I could feel the needle. It wasn’t actually painful, just uncomfortable. I wondered if it was going to get worse as it went along. I figured it was bound to, because I’d heard people talk about the pain of tattooing. So I waited for that agonizing pain…and waited….and waited, and it never came. I thought to myself, maybe we talk ourselves into pain, because we expect it. Yes, there was some pain, but not so much I couldn’t bear it. Perhaps it was because it was on the lower part of my leg next to my ankle bone, and not in a more sensitive spot. Whatever the difference, I was just fine; chatting with Ryan as he worked. The photo below is how it looked as he outlined the shapes and put in the dates of my sister’s birth and death.
Fourth, Filling in the Black Ladybug Spots
Ryan outlined and filled in the black spots of the ladybug in the photo below, so we are almost there. You can see the dates clearly, and the wings and body of the ladybug. Now that the black outline and spots are done, the next step will be to fill in the red ink body of the ladybug. By this time, I was feeling like an old pro at this whole thing! No screaming, no crying, just delighted with the image.
Filling in the red artwork…ladybug is almost done!
As shown in this photo below, Ryan is filling in the red part of the ladybug’s body. I’m still fine! He kept asking me if it hurt. I almost felt obligated to say, “A little,” like he’d be disappointed if I didn’t. Once I said that, he’d turn back to his work. He told me I was the coolest woman he’d ever worked on. I’m sure he just said that to make an old lady feel good, but I took that as a distinct compliment just the same.
Voila! We are finished…and the artwork is beautiful!
Below is another finished photo of my beautiful ladybug. We did not put it exactly on my ankle, but further to the front of my leg where it was meatier. I thought that might be better than hitting my ankle bone with the needle. As it turned out, it looks beautiful and the placement is perfect.
Tips for Care of the Tattoo
Ryan provided me a printed pamphlet with a list of tips for how to care for the tattoo to achieve the best results.
- Wash only with soap, water and your hands for the first 24 hours, no washcloth.
- Put a thin film of Aquaphor healing ointment, available at most discount stores, on the tattoo 2 or 3 times a day.
- No swimming or soaking in a hot tub and no direct sunlight for at least a week.
- If the tattoo scabs, do not pick off the scabs as it will pull the color. However with proper care, scabbing should be minimal.
- After the tattoo has fully healed, 30 days or so, if there is any need for touch up due to normal healing, the touch up will be free.
- However, if it’s because you’ve picked at it, there will be a charge.
I’m Happy With My Tattoo!
Have you ever considered getting a tattoo? Did you go through with it or back out? What do you think of tattoos? Leave comments letting me know your thoughts.
If you’re not sure of a permanent tattoo, why not have some fun with temporary ones? Here are a few to choose from.
If you’re more serious about getting a permanent tattoo; here are tattoo patterns to help you choose a design.