Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bamboo Tattoo... at Purdue

For years I have wanted my logo (the Chinese Kanji for "forever" which also happens to be made up of my initials) as a tattoo. One reason or another always prevented me from getting it. Then my friend Lauren lead me to bamboo, I was looking at her photos on Flickr and spotted what looked like a bamboo tattoo on someone's arm. I instantly knew I wanted bamboo, in a sumi-e style with my Kanji as the red signature.

I got to accompany Celie on a teaching trip to Japan 3 years ago, we visited the bamboo forest in Kyoto - the most magical place I've ever been.
I did a bit of research: Bamboo symbolizes longevity because of its durability, strength, flexibility, resilience and grace. It survives in the harshest conditions and it always stands tall and stays green. Not bad. 

I knew I wanted to get it on the back of my right shoulder. I decided I wanted to get it while at Purdue, in Indiana, at the PMC Conference (PMC being my life, it just made sense). Celie was thinking of getting one too, one she's had in mind for awhile.

On the flight, I began drawing it out but a pen wasn't going to do it justice. I moved to liquid eyeliner which worked pretty well! Over the next few days, I obsessively "painted" over and over and over and over, more than 100 attempts at a sumi-e like design. I came up with one that I thought was quite good.

I started telling friends in our pre-Conference BronzClay class and 2 more people wanted to get tattoos too! This became my only topic of conversation for days. For every person I told, I was met with either enthusiasm or tattoo horror stories. I started looking for "signs" that I should get the tattoo while on this trip. Then, standing outside the hotel restaurant, I glanced at their signboard and to my shock, it read "ink special". I realized that someone must've accidently erased the "Dr" in "Drink" but to me, this sign was a SIGN.
So then it became a matter of finding a tattoo shop and a time when we could all go. Another sign occurred on the first day of the Conference, at the beginning of Bill Struve's fabulous BronzeClay seminar. Before his power-point-type presentation started, his computer was on his screen saver - of a bamboo forest. (!) He started by showing the Linear B symbol for Bronze. I thought that would be the perfect tattoo for him and mentioned it to him and Lacey Ann (his wonderful wife) at dinner.

We were thrilled to see our good friend Reiko at the Conference. We spent much of our time in Japan in her company. We had a lovely lunch with her and I showed her my bamboo rendering to which she shook her head "no, no." She looked in her bag and took out her own brush-pen and delicately, precisely and effortlessly stroked the page. PERFECT! I asked her to write out my JK/Chinese symbol as well. I told her "this might be on my shoulder at the end of today!" During our lunch, Bill and Lacey Ann came over to us and Bill quietly said "I want to get a tattoo too!"  
All aboard the tattoo train.
Later in the day we went to a tattoo shop called Custom Creations with Bill and Lacey-Ann. It seemed really chill and clean but I wasn't sure about it UNTIL:
I saw my symbol on the wall...
...and noticed it was right next to a bamboo frame...
...and within that frame...
...a woman touching her shoulder.

I guess this was the place.

Somehow hours passed between me deciding to get it done and actually hearing the buzz of the tattoo machine.  It took about 30-35 minutes and it hurt but it was bearable.  It's not my first tattoo but it's been 11 years and the pain of the first one is one of the reasons I waited so long for another.  
Bill went next... (check out his arm!)
It was almost 10:00 and we were all starvin'.  The plan was to come back the next day so the other four peeps could get their tats.  So we went out for Chinese food, followed by ice cream and noticed that it was a full moon!

I barely slept that night, jazzed from the new tattoo and all the adrenaline still coursing through me.  The next day there was no time to go back to the shop, we were on the move with Conference madness.  (The Conference was great btw, but it went by in such a flash!)  So our tattoo train had disbanded but I'm so happy that I got mine.  
Oh, and I gave my bronze bowl (see below) to Reiko, as a "thank you" for her gift to me.


Anonymous said...

wow jen...that's an amazing story to go along with the tattoo! it was really meant to be! i can't wait to see you friday!!! we're gonna have so much fun! maybe we can all get tattoos in Canada, lol....see you soon! ~Anna~

Anonymous said...

What a great story and great memory for Purdue! Your symbol looks lovely as you and Celie both did at the conference. Keep up the great inspiration!
Diane Parson
Westlake Village, CA

Gail said...

That's fantastic. Cris and I were wondering if you ever got your tattoo. It looks great!!!

Gail Lannum

Maggie S. said...

Jen, what a fabulous story! Talk about signs...

Your tattoo looks fantastic, and it's totally "you." I can't wait to see it in person in September. :)



Anonymous said...

i love your story, and the photos of all the signs! i can't wait to see it, and am so glad you're coming with me for mine next week!
LOVE you! xo sher :)

Anonymous said...

Your tatoo is fabulous but the story of the "signs" is even better! It was great seeing you at Purdue and I look forward to seeing you in September.
Hugs, Emie
PS.. Huge Hugs for Kiwi too!

Anonymous said...

WOW! Great Blog. But, an even more wonderful photo of my Uncle Bill! He is my Mom's brother and told us all about the Bronz Clay a year ago when we were all together for a family reunion. I am so happy that you all will make beautiful things from his invention!! And, that guy is so young at heart,... I'm NOT shocked that he got a tattoo! How fun!! :)
Kathi Sircy (Des Moines, IA)

Cristina Leonard said...

Wow Jen,
I hadn't been to your site since the conference! I love the tattoo! I'm so glad that you got it!.. it's very you!