The power of ink: Students share the meaning behind their tattoos


Owner Jay Miller works on fine arts major and apprentice Eliza Miller’s arm piece at Crucible Tattoos on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Eliza first got the piece when she started her apprenticeship there.

Jamie Brian

We may have been born into this skin, but those who decide to get a tattoo are making a choice that is entirely their own. Tattoos can be as unique as the person who wears them, and each tattoo has a story beneath its vibrant ink.

According to a 2012 Harris Poll, one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo, and 86 percent said they never regretted their decision, and 21 percent said their tattoo makes them feel attractive or strong.

Despite of the social stigma that is often associated with tattoos, students prefer to show off their ink with pride.

“I think this tattoo should have been there my whole life,” Gisel Martinez, a junior psychology major, said. “I like the way it is now — it’s a representation of who I am.”

Martinez has a Scorpio zodiac symbol on her rib cage with two roses. She said she identifies with the Scorpio sign and chose roses because they’re the most passionate flower, a trait she sees in herself.

For some, getting a tattoo is a chance to have their body be their canvas. Ashley Dearing, a freshman magazine journalism major, designed and drew her own tattoo.

“I have a seven-inch arrow going down my back,” Dearing said. “Making big life decisions always makes me nervous, so the arrow doesn’t have a bow. It could go in either direction, which I feel represents who I am.”

In other cases, tattoos can be symbols of empowerment. 

“I have a little quote on my right shoulder in Latin that reads, ‘I will write my own fate,’” said Breese Reidling, a junior integrated health studies major. “I think it represents independence and strength.”

Jessica Clemons, a sophomore public health major, draws a more personal meaning from her tattoos. Her wrists bear the image of a sun and moon with the words “You need to get lost before you get found.” The quote comes from “A Rocket to the Moon” song, a personal favorite of hers that helped her through a difficult time in her life. She also has a symbol of Hermes wings on each ankle that stems from her love of Greek mythology.

“I want to join the Peace Corps someday, and I hope they won’t make that (my tattoos) a factor in whether I get in or not, but I don’t regret them,” Clemons said. “I’m hoping that times will change, and tattoos won’t be associated with bad work ethics.”

Even though tattoos are becoming increasingly more common, those who have them continue to face discrimination in the workplace — but there’s more to professionalism than appearance.

“I went to meet an employer for the first time for an interview,” said Mallory Klein, a freshman environmental conservation biology major. “I talked to my roommate about the tattoo on my foot and asked if it was OK. She said, ‘No, put a band aid on that.’ I feel like it holds me back a little bit in the way other people view me, but I don’t regret it.”

Ryan Fishley, from Defiance Tattoos in Downtown Kent, has seen just about everything in his eight years as a tattoo artist. He learned from watching other artists and trying out new techniques on himself.

“This is one of the only places where I can do art everyday,” Fishley said. “It’s about the reaction of the client, and seeing them walk out with something they’re really excited about and that they’ll have forever.”

Contact Jamie Brian at [email protected].