Tattoo #7 is actually #7 and #13, as one element was added eight years later. We'll focus on #7 now, which is the flower on the inside of Erika's left wrist.
Erika, in her own words, went through what she calls "an experimental phase" in her life, during which she began dating women. To show her "true colors" at the time, Erika and her cousin, who was also dating women, got the same tattoo...a rainbow-petaled flower above a doubled female sign, to proudly display her alternate lifestyle.
The flower was inked at a shop called Murda Ink Tattoos, in Jamaica, New York.
Flashing forward to the Summer of 2006, Erika was having a cover-up done (see #8 and #12 below) and asked, as an afterthought, if the artist could cover the interlocking female insignia, as well. Erika's fiancee (now husband) didn't like the "advertisement" of the prior lifestyle. The leaves were added under the flower at Triple X Tattoo, now known as Red Rocket Tattoo on 46 West 36th Street in Manhattan.
Tattoo #8 was a boyfriend's name, inked along the front of her waistline, by Joe at Between the Lines. This name was covered up (see below) in 2007.
Tattoo #9 is a Chinese dragon on the middle of Erika's back. Her dress at the company holiday party afforded me a great opportunity to photograph it without her having to remove any clothing.
Joe at Between the Lines did this piece as well. Erika recalls just hanging out at Joe's shop and talking about how she wanted a big piece for her back. Joe was happy to oblige, and drew up the dragon free-hand.
She said that it took about ten weeks and three sittings to complete. The reason for the multiple sittings? The pain. To quote Erika, "I'll never forget how much that shit hurt."
The other elements of the tattoo are the kanji. When I asked Erika what they meant, she said, "Well, one of them is supposed to mean "to love life":
and the other is supposed to acknowledge that former lifestyle and say "to love women":
Erika, when she told me this, seemed to have her doubts, and was receptive to the idea of me looking into their actual meanings.
I went to my resident Chinese language expert, who quickly debunked their meanings. They do not mean what she thinks they do, he said. Because they don't make much sense. The best translation he could give was "good girl" for the top and "born/appear" for the bottom.
If you look at the kanji for "love,"
you'll notice it's not similar to any of the kanji in the tattoo.
Tattoo #10 may look familiar, as it is the first one I noticed on Erika which started out this whole business. Despite "never being crazy about tattoos on arms," Erika inked this in the Summer of 2003, while on a date. She doesn't recall the name of the shop, just that it was somewhere in the East Village. Of course, the East Village is likely one of the few places in the U.S. where tattoo/piercing shops outnumber Starbucks.
So, Erika still had a soft spot for little girl things, unicorns and fairies and such, so she designed this fairy, using several different drawings to create a composite she liked.
She designed the wings and changed the outfit color to red. Why red? As a tribute to her younger brother, who was in the Bloods, a gang whose colors are red. I, for one, appreciate the irony of a pixie sporting gang colors. This is definitely a tough, New York fairy, not some wimpy woodland nymph!
Tattoo #11 also has a pretty interesting story. Erika got married in the Spring of 2007, but she met Lance, her husband-to-be in February 2004.
They dated for a couple of weeks, but she knew he was still dating another woman. Erika thought that this other woman, who had been seeing the guy first, was going to be a problem and that, as long as she was still in the picture, their relationship wouldn't go anywhere.
Erika made a conscious decision to "steal him away" once and for all. Because he had kids from a previous relationship, she plotted to surprise him on Father's Day with a surprise trip to Florida. He had never been to South Beach in Miami and she wanted him to experience it. And so she did.
The day before they were set to return to New York, they were walking around South Beach and they stumbled upon a tattoo shop. Lance already had one small tattoo with some kanji, so Erika suggested that he go in and get a new one. The subject of tattoos had come up before (how could it not when you already had 10 pieces?), so they went in and he got a new piece on his
arm, a huge lion with a crown, representing his last name in Hindi.
It's incredibly hard to be an inked person and watch someone get a tattoo and not want one for oneself. Therefore, Erika found a piece on the wall that she liked and had it done on her back, below the bluebird, above the dragon.
Sorry, the name of the shop and the artist are not recalled.
Tattoo #12 came in the early Summer of 2006, around late June/early July. She and Lance were engaged, and she wanted to cover up the name of an ex-boyfriend tattooed across her lower abdomen.
A co-worker recommended Red Rocket Tattoo, and it was there that she had this lotus inked on her waistline:
Yep, no name anymore!
Now, for some disclosure. Erika is the first Inked Person to let me photograph her stomach for Tattoosday. I did have a mutual friend present, Sephora, who was the first person who hosted a tattoo here.
Erika wanted the lotus for two reasons. In addition to wanting something pretty to cover up an old name, she had heard that the lotus was a symbol of fertility, and she hopes to have kids some day. She hopes the lotus will be lend good luck for future procreative purposes.
There are over one hundred various types of lotus, so I can't pinpoint the exact one this is modeled after.
Once this cover-up was done, Erika asked for the leaves on the flower mentioned above to cover up the double female insignia.
Well. a hearty thanks to Erika for her participation here! She definitely holds the record for most tattoos offered up to the Tattoosday masses. Her ink is closing out the year for Tattoosday. Here's hoping that her lotus will spawn a healthy blossoming of tattoo posts here in 2008!
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