Tattoos. Expression or accessory?

21 Apr

{ personal: }

Tattoo of Borneo scorpion design
Tattoos number 3 and 6

Recently, a fellow blogger posed the question as to whether tattoos were the ultimate accessory. Arash often puts a topic out there for us to ponder and create dialogue around it, something I really appreciate about his style. This topic piqued my interest for the obvious reason, I have tattoos. Six of them at the moment, to be exact. What is my relationship with them? Are they an accessory or am I just expressing myself overtly for the world to see? I got my first when I was nineteen. I’m forty-three.

Do I have any regrets?

No, I don’t have any regrets. To be truthful, they sometimes act as an accessory but that’s incidental. My tattoos are personal, they tell my story. Each is significant. I’m no stranger to queries, I have no qualms about sharing those tales to the those genuinely curious. We each carry our history in the manner that is most comfortable, mine is visual. I’m a visual person, it’s the easiest way to communicate and convey information to me. By the time I turned seventeen I had already doodled and sketched out my future tattoos. Thankfully the law in California states that you must be eighteen. This gave me time to change my mind numerous times and drop the idea of getting a butterfly on my shoulder; it also gave me the opportunity to survey every tattooed adult I met. The result was unanimous. Those that held personal significance had no regrets. Those that got them when they were drunk had another story to tell.

Over the years, certain passages of time were significant enough that they deserved their moment in the sun. Enter the tattoo. It’s a personal choice for me. I find them beautiful. I’m drawn to the drama of ink. I like the permanence, I have no problem with it; it’s reminder that life always leaves its mark whether we’re paying attention or not. The scorpion featured on my back was done in 1989 before the tribal tattoo trend hit the spotlight. I remember the day I saw the Borneo design in Research Lab’s Modern Primitives book. I was intrigued and fascinated. I’m a graphic designer. I like symbols. And I’m a Scorpio. I identified with the death and rebirth associated with my astrological sign.

There are very distinct phases in this sign, if you are to subscribe to this line of thinking. The scorpion is young, vengeful, aggressive, dominating, intense. It can be incredibly destructive. The scorpion dies and is reborn into the eagle, scrutinizing, watchful, discerning. The evolution is starting. The cycle of death and rebirth continues. At last, the phoenix. It seeks fire and flies into it nightly to die and rise from the ashes, a continual process of implementation, evolution and regeneration.

Tattoo, further to fly, photo by david gartner
Number 4

Feel free to strip all astrological references, the core belief of personal evolution still stands. I believed in my strength, I believed that I would eventually become the person I wanted to be. I was nowhere near it but I never once doubted that I would shed the skin of my past behind and evolve. I didn’t even have a vision yet, I only had faith.

Discipline of the Scorpio’s darker shadow eventually transcends into love and compassion.

I’m in that place now, I’m proud of who I’m become. I’m even more proud of that twenty-two year old who knew she had to change and believed in her strength to do so. That is what the scorpion on my back means to me. Tattoos are personal in their expression. They can be works of art, they can act like an accessory or make a statement. They can also tell a story. The ink on my skin is mine.

{ tips: }

If you find yourself seriously considering getting your first tattoo, here are a few tips:

  1. Sit with it for a while. I don’t mean a few days, I’m talking months. There’s no rush.
  2. Talk to people. Ask them about their experience, ask for recommendations. Ask them what they like and don’t like abou their tattoo. It’s helpful to know what to talk about when going in for a consultation, don’t be bashful.
  3. Look at different tattoo artist styles. Find who you’re drawn to, what their style is like.
  4. Book a consultation. Talk about it, discuss reviewing sketches, discuss the process and agree on what works for both of you. Take your time, it is mostly permanent.
  5. Enjoy the art on your skin. If you’re in San Francisco, I highly recommend Jesse Tuesday of Tuesday Tattoo. His shading is incredible.


{ photo: }

David Gartner



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  1. VictorianKitty

    April 21, 2011 at 9:49 am

    What a wonderful insight into the meaning behind your tattoos. Tattoos should be about deep personal meaning, and yours clearly are. And it was nice to read that you were glad you waited until you were over 18. I also live in CA but have seen a LOT of teens (15 and 16, even!) in my area getting tattooed despite the law against it. I think it’s sad, because those kids do have a much higher chance of regretting it later since they are still so far from mature at 16.
    VictorianKitty recently posted..Target Does It Again

  2. Rose

    April 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    My mind is still reeling that you’re 43. *sigh* Fab, you give me hope for the future in just about every way possible.

    I’m 28, and have waited ten years, and will wait even longer, until I settle on the right ink. I’ve always known I would be tattooed at some point, but I’m in no rush. I await the perfect confluence of inspiration, artist, and occasion. I think I tend to view these things as rights of passage, marking significant accomplishment or triumph; I want to feel I’ve earned my stripes, as it were, and I want them to serve as memory holders for where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I’m finally getting my ears pierced for the first time next month, to celebrate my one year anniversary at the museum.
    Rose recently posted..Tax Day sigh

  3. Ofelia

    April 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I love your tattoos and the history behind them!
    The black and white photos really showcase the tattoos.
    Have a lovely Easter Weekend,
    Ofelia recently posted..Thursday day and night


    April 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I saw this post earlier today with Bryn right next to me (we were so excited to see the back tattoo) but I wanted to wait until I could really sit down and read before commenting.

    I love the stories behind your ink and I truly feel that they’re works of art. If I didn’t have a fear of needles, I know that I would get a bunch. When I was younger, I really wanted piercings — I ended up getting my nose done, cried like a baby, and then had to take it out for my stupid airport job (the one I eventually quit). I want to get it done again, but we’ll see. Maybe when I visit you… :)
    THE-LOUDMOUTH recently posted..BOOBS! Okay- now that Ive got your attention

  5. Fashnlvr

    April 22, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Hey Fabienne! I love reading your stories. This about your tattoos is really nice to get the insight. I have 2 of my own and they also are personal.
    Words escape me. Just know that if we were sitting and talking, I would squeeze your hand and smile.
    Have a lovely weekend!
    Fashnlvr recently posted..FBFF- Inspiration &amp Contest Update

  6. Kari.

    April 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I have a small tattoo of a Grateful Dead dancing bear on the back of my right hip. I love it. I absolutely adore it. I got it on the day of my divorce, and it represented freedom — from all the chains that bound me. It was time for me to start taking care of me, and not being what everybody wanted me to me. A bear is my totem animal. The Grateful Dead were their own people, making their own music, loving everybody.
    Kari. recently posted..Men in Black

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  8. Jodi

    April 25, 2011 at 8:23 am

    I love this post.. 6 tattoos!! wow thats pretty cool girl!!

    I have never wanted one, while I like them I just havent had the urge to go out and get one. BUT if I did, I would get a symbol that i just love, its from Ghana and it represents love. I spent a year working there and it was such a life changing experience I always thought that if I got a tattoo that the love symbol would be it.

    Many people I train with have the ironman tattoo and to me that is (shhh) tacky!! LOL
    Jodi recently posted..Boudoir Peek

  9. Mode Plus

    April 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I got my first tattoo two years ago even though I was craving one since my 18th Bday (I’m 34). And boy i’m glad I’ve waited, it is an unique design and has a very deep meaning to me. For the next one, I’m not waiting 14 years to get it, but I will take my time.
    Mode Plus recently posted..Semi-natural

  10. Collette Osuna

    April 26, 2011 at 5:14 am

    I have one tattoo….my daughter has five. I agree..for her they serve as a very tasteful accessory:)

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  13. Anna

    April 28, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I wanted to have a tattoo 5 years ago, but decided to ask my dermatologist first. You see I have psoriasis, and a tattoo wasn’t exactly a good idea!
    I wanted to do a fairy…the one I now use as my “logo” in my blog.
    you have beautiful tattoos…and you are a Scorpio too?? Now I love you even more!!!!
    Anna recently posted..Written In The Stars- Galaxy Bar- Athens Hilton

  14. Michal Stern

    April 28, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Mine ( has a story behind it too. I think it so much important than just tattooing something for beauty.
    Michal Stern recently posted..פוסט זה אינו מכיל חמץ

  15. Debbie Baker Burns

    April 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve had a tattoo on my mind for years but I don’t know if I’ll ever decide to just go ahead and do it. Congratulations for being chosen for LALM! And thanks for sharing such a personal post. Posts like this help us to learn each other a little more.
    Debbie Baker Burns recently posted..Camo and Denim

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  23. Dianne

    May 1, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I have two tattoos that I acquired in my 40′s (I am now closer to 60 than any other #.) They are both very personal; the celtic knot anklet on my left ankle represents my Irish heritage, the coloured Welsh dragon above my right knee represents my Welsh grandmother. I have never regretted them. When I first had them done (not at the same time), some of my friends asked how I would feel showing them to my grandchildren. My answer was that the grandkids could take me to school for ‘show-and-tell’. My mother did not comment, but after I had the dragon done (the 2nd. one), she would not look at me below the waist, if I was wearing shorts or a skirt or dress, for several years. She seems to have got past that now. (She is now 86.)

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  25. tymbre

    May 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I wish i would have waited on getting 2 of my tattoo’s, however I’m not totally regretful, but thinking about it a little bit longer .. I would have definitely went another route!

    Great post!

    tymbre recently posted..Target x Missoni- The Department Stores Next Collaboration

  26. Lyle

    May 22, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Cool posts, I really like the theme of your website. I also have a site about tattoos check it out you might find it interesting.

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  28. Jessie Anthony

    December 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Posts like this help us to learn each other a little more. I wish i would have waited on getting 2 of my tattoo’s, however I’m not totally regretful, but thinking about it a little bit longer .. I love your tattoos and the history behind them!
    Jessie Anthony recently posted..Cancer Tattoos Tumblr