Kent State ink

Brittany Wasko

Life experiences, family traditions and art behind tattoos’ personal meanings for students

Jessie Preisendorfer, sophomore fine arts major, said the inspiration for her tattoos comes from a combination of family tradition and her love of art. “I really like it when people get a certain kind for themselves,” she said. Beth Rankin | Daily Kent St

Credit: Ron Soltys

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The tattoos of butterflies and Japanese flowers covering Ben Chambers’ right arm may draw attention while walking across campus, but he doesn’t care. Chambers said he got the tattoos to remind him to always be who he wants to be.

Marissa Cesarz, Jessie Preisendorfer and Chambers are passionate about the tattoos they have on their bodies. Their ink symbolizes more than just the images seen on their skin. Although each one of them has separate inspirations for their body art, they all agree that tattoos should have personal meaning.

Having their skin punctured up to 30,000 times a minute with the injection of permanent ink is something that these three students have voluntarily experienced more than one time.

Cesarz, a junior business management major, said she loves her tattoos, especially because she likes to stand out.

“I love being different from everybody else,” she said. “That’s the main reason why I started getting tattoos, because none of my friends had them.”

Cesarz’s said inspiration for her tattoos is crucial for every visit to the tattoo parlor.

“I love ink. I love people that have it, but mine more is just because they mean something to me,” she said. “I want them to represent something that I’ve been through, something that I am.”

Because they are permanently inked on the skin, tattoos should be planned, Cesarz said.

“Unless you want to spend the money and get it lasered off, it’s going to be with you for a long time,” she said. “You really have to take that into consideration before you get something on your body.”

But she hasn’t always felt that way. At the age of 19, she accompanied her brother and his friends to a tattoo parlor. Without much thinking, she decided on a wiener dog tattoo for the inside of her left ankle.

“It was some random spur of the moment little dog,” she said. “He doesn’t really have meaning, but he’s just the cutest little thing.”

Although the dog was not a planned tattoo, Cesarz said she has no plans to laser him off.

“If I had to do it again, I probably would get him again,” she said. “I kind of contradict everything I say with that guy, but I still love him.”

Cesarz also chooses to put her tattoos in places where she thinks they would not affect job offers after graduation.

“That’s one of the main concerns when I get them,” she said. “That’s why they’re all on the back, so clothes can cover them up easily.”

With almost $700 invested in tattoos, including a Polish eagle that represents her heritage, the wiener dog, a cross and flowers on her back in memory of her grandmothers, Cesarz has no intentions of stopping any time soon.

“Until the point where I have no room or I grow out of the phase, I’m going to keep getting them,” she said.

Family inspiration

Jessie Preisendorfer, sophomore fine arts major, said she shares the same opinions as Cesarz. She said the personal meaning behind the ink is what makes someone’s tattoo his or her own.

“I really like it when people get a certain kind for themselves,” she said. “I don’t see any other reason of really getting a tattoo.”

Preisendorfer’s inspiration for her tattoos comes from the combination of family tradition and her love for art. The tattoos that her grandfather and brother have gave her a positive opinion of tattoos, she said. In fact, the pin-up girl tattooed on her leg is the same art that her grandfather and brother have.

“It just didn’t seem like a bad thing to me at all,” she said. “It just seemed like art.”

Preisendorfer said she chooses her tattoos based on her personality.

“I want something pretty and something that attains to how I am,” she said.

Preisendorfer said she loves all six of her tattoos and does not regret getting any one of them. They include two small birds behind each of her ears, the outline of California on the side of her palm and the pin-up girl on her leg. She also has copies of professional art on her left arm.

“I have a story for each one, and that means a lot to me,” she said.

Preisendorfer said she does not worry too much about the spots where she gets her tattoos.

“I’m sure it will become a problem down the road, but I think it will just weed out the jobs I don’t want,” she said. “I really want to work for a place that will think of it as a unique trait instead of a problem.”

Preisendorfer has spent about $550 on the tattoos that she said represent her perfectly.

“I think if people know me, they definitely know why I have them,” she said. “I’m not going to be fully covered, but I plan on having a lot.”

Inspired by life

Sophomore psychology major Ben Chambers also said that tattoos should have meaning. The difference for him though, is that his financial investment and number of tattoos are much greater than Cesarz or Preisendorfer’s.

“If it has a meaning, if it goes deeper than what you see, you’re not going to regret it in 10 or 20 years,” he said.

Because he has spent more than 60 hours getting inked with over $2,000 worth of tattoos, Chambers said his inspiration comes from his life.

“It comes from everywhere,” he said. “Things I’ve seen, things I’ve done, things I am and things I’m not.”

Chambers said because of his tattoos, people look at him differently everywhere he goes.

“The people who are going to judge me for that, I don’t want them in my life,” he said. “It’s kind of like a filter for the people I have stick around.”

Chambers said his tattoos do not make him abnormal.

“It’s just me — I just want to be looked at as a normal dude,” he said. “Some dudes like to pop their collars, I like to get tattooed.”

Some of Chambers’ more unique and favorite works are the tattoos covering his neck. He said because of the location, it bled and vibrated during the whole tattooing process.

“I like it just because it’s really bright,” he said. “It sticks out a lot, and you don’t see many people with their throat tattooed around here.”

Although Chambers does not have an exact count of his tattoos, he can pin-point 11 locations covered with ink. He has tattoos on his left wrist, collar bone, ribs, stomach, back, both feet, both shins, inside lip, right leg, neck and covering his entire right arm.

Chambers does not regret any of his body art.

“As of right now, I can safely say that if I live to be 80 and sit around in my rocking chair talking to my grandkids, I’m not going to regret anything that I’ve done or any tattoo that I’ve gotten so far,” he said.

As for job searching, Chambers said his tattoos may create problems, but it is not an issue for him.

“I’m sure it will in certain instances, but those are the types of jobs I’m not going to be looking for,” he said. “So I could care less.”

Chambers said his tattoos have personal meaning to him.

“They’re kind of just me, I guess. It’s a little bit of the inside on the outside,” he said. “You only live once — you might as well make sure it means something and you won’t regret it.”

Generation Gap

Eric Starr, professional tattoo artist and owner of Arkham Tattoos in Akron, said that meaningful tattoos are more common among college students than they were 20 years ago.

“I think it’s definitely more of a generation thing. More college kids get tattoos for personal meaning,” he said. “I think that most people come in with a solid idea of not exactly what they want, but why.”

Starr, who has been tattooing for 14 years, said that students come to his shop every day with reasons for tattoos. Although his tattoos do not have much meaning behind them, Starr said that he understands students’ inspirations.

“The personal meaning behind a tattoo is just that — it’s personal.”

Contact student life reporter Brittany Wasko at [email protected].