Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wiscons(in your skin)

If you live in Wisconsin, chances are you've seen someone- maybe at a bar, or taking a dip in the lake (in nicer times), or gettin' some grub at a restaurant- sporting a Wisconsin tattoo. Actually, if you live anywhere, it's very possible you've seen someone with a tattoo referencing a geographic location. Someone sent me this article awhile back about tattoos to commemorate your favorite place, and since then I've noticed a lot of people around me with tattoos referencing "place." I would go so far as to say that it's a trendy thing to do right now, knowing full well that the word "trend" doesn't exactly have the nicest connotations. There are a lot of things that are trendy that are really annoying, such as: #yolo, Blogger (ha), going to Iceland (guilty again), cat memes, "Jersey Shore" (still trendy, right?). But I like the "place" tattoo trend. What's wrong with being okay with where you're from? Or celebrating the ever-increasing popularity and accessibility of international travel?

Recently I was wondering if I could gain some kind of insight into this trend on a local level and get a better idea of what has motivated my fellow Wisconsinites to get Winked (Wisconsin-inked, just made that up). So I racked my brain for a list of all the Wisconsinites that I know with a Wisconsin tattoo, and although I didn't have much of a chance of getting Justin Vernon on the phone, I did find some pretty cool dudes who were willing to share their Wisconsin tattoo stories with me:

Hometown: Janesville, WI
Current Town: Appleton, WI

1. How old were you when you got your tattoo? It was about a month after my 20th birthday.
2. Where is your tattoo located (body part)? It's on the outside of my left thigh, basically right where my palm touches my leg when it's hanging down to the side.
3. Describe the day you got your tattoo? It was a very strange day - I worked at a camp for folks with special needs in Minnesota that summer, and a group of us had to drive from our normal camp in Annandale to one a couple hours north of there. A few of us had been deciding we wanted to get tattoos, I had spent the two weeks prior sketching a bunch out, so we decided to try to get one on the way. Our best bet was Duluth and Superior, we had to drive through those, but our research for places and timing didn't really work out. So, eventually, we ended up finding one tiny place in the town we were staying in for the night. I had to go back in my pictures to remember the place, it was called Shadowmasters Tattoo in Cloquet, MN. None of the other folks, upon seeing the tiny place and how excruciatingly long mine took, got their tattoos. They ended up having to wait around 2 hours for me.
4. Why did you decide to get this tattoo? It was that summer that I decided I wanted a tattoo at all. A lot of it, honestly, had to do with the fact that a third of my coworkers that summer were British and that most of the others were from MN, where the camp was. I had a lot of pride in my home state, since that was my first time "living" outside it, and the British girls that I was friends with just all had a ton of tattoos. It was much more normalized for them and they didn't really "get" the boundary that tattoos represent in American culture. It was around the time I was realizing how much I love Wisco, from age and time apart and even just that year of political events. I drew my tattoo, and all drawings had a bunch of patterns and things, but the one thing I kept constant was the Wisconsin foundation. I printed sheets of paper with 5-6 little Wisconsins on them and then did all my drafting around those.
5. Describe the best or most memorable reaction you have gotten in response to your tattoo? Honestly, people reply mostly to the tattoo as a whole, rather than just the little Wisconsin. If it hadn't been my first tattoo, I'd have gotten it larger so the Wisco would be more prominent, and I intend to get a more prominent Wisco one someday (after the rest of my list). When I point out the Wisconsin, though, and people make it out, they like the pattern, and think it's pretty cute that I added the two dots for Janesville and Appleton. Mostly people just think it's neat that I drew mine, I didn't realize that was so uncommon.
6. Post-tattoo thoughts. Would you do it again? Expand upon the tattoo? Get rid of it? I would do it again, but huge. I did the mural style because it was my first and I was scared. I want a big Wisconsin with patterns, or maybe one with the geologic map. I've become very well-acquainted with the earth of our state now, I want to keep it with me. Maybe I'll keep a trend of getting them out of state, too, though it means that the tattoo artist screwed up door county quite a bit.

Hometown: Menasha, WI
Current Town: Appleton, WI

1. How old were you when you got your tattoo? Twenty-two.
2. Where is your tattoo located (body part)? On my left bicep.
3. Describe the day you got your tattoo? I was actually in Denver, CO and was visiting a friend that I had met in Louisiana, and I had this feeling that day that I wanted to get a tattoo. So we made it our mission to get tattoos. I had been thinking about getting a Wisconsin tattoo for awhile, and saw that there were a lot of people who had Louisiana tattoos and thought that was cool. None of my top three choices of tattoo parlors were able to do a tattoo on short notice because they were booked full, but one of my friends was calling other places and we called a shop that was about to close and there was a girl that was willing to do it.
4. Why did you decide to get this tattoo? Well, since I was little I wanted to get out of Wisconsin because I thought it was boring and there was nothing to do here, and it was just mundane. But then once I moved away the first time when I was a junior in college and spent a significant amount of time outside of the state I started appreciating the beauty and scenery in Wisconsin and the people in Wisconsin. My favorite quality is how humble everyone is. (By the way, people in California don't know what anything else besides California is).
5. Describe the best or most memorable reaction you have gotten in response to your tattoo? When I flew back to Louisiana after my trip to Denver, there was one person who thought that Wisconsin was Alaska. I also had guy at a table at Stone Cellar who asked, "Is that the state of Wisconsin on your arm?" and he thought it was really awesome and then the next time that guy came in he had actually gotten the same tattoo in the same place.
6. Post-tattoo thoughts. Would you do it again? Expand upon the tattoo? Get rid of it? I guess the only thing I've really been thinking of is that I wish that I had thought about the details a little more because what I have is really just a simple outline of Wisconsin, and I love it, I didn't want anything too complex, but having seen other people's tattoos of Wisconsin I've seen them with more intricate topographic detailing, so I guess that was my only thing. But at the same time I'm glad I got it when I did, and I like being spontaneous.

Hometown: Stoughton, WI
Current Town: Milwaukee, WI

1. How old were you when you got your tattoo? Eighteen.
2. Where is your tattoo located (body part)? On my back (right shoulder).
3. Describe the day you got your tattoo? I got my Wisconsin tattoo over two sessions at Colour of Skin in Eberswalde, Germany. I don't really remember any specifics of how the day went. I'm pretty sure it was spring and I rode my skateboard down to the shop. Denny, the tattoo artist and friend, made fun of the original picture I brought. It was a stenciled outline of Wisconsin with crossbones on it (I was eighteen...). He ended up making it look way cooler.
4. Why did you decide to get this tattoo? I was living in Germany and it was the first time living away from home. I thought it was important (and still do) to remember where I came from. Though, I probably didn't need to get a tattoo to do that. Maybe I should get a tattoo of my name so I don't forget that either...
5. Describe the best or most memorable reaction you have gotten in response to your tattoo? When I moved to Milwaukee, a lot of people thought it was a "Wiskullskin" tattoo which is a local t-shirt company. It was a complete coincidence but funny to realize that I tapped into some fad unknowingly. I knew some people who had Wisconsin tattoos and had seen Wisconsin outlines with skulls inside of them, but did not know how popular it was until I moved to Milwaukee.
6. Post-tattoo thoughts. Would you do it again? Expand upon the tattoo? Get rid of it? I don't really think about it too much. I can't see it, so it's just kind of there. When I do think about it, I think more about the time that I got it instead of the tattoo itself. I also think about how skull tattoos are an awesome idea when you're eighteen and become increasingly less awesome the older you get. I like it, though. I don't regret getting it.

Hometown: Actually, somewhere in Connecticut, but I grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI
Current Town: Sheboygan, WI

1. How old were you when you got your tattoo? I was twenty-two.
2. Where is your tattoo located (body part)? On the inside of my left forearm.
3. Describe the day you got your tattoo? Ha. It was a Friday. The senior bar crawl was happening that night. I was dating a stupid hockey player. I mean, like, really stupid. But he made me a margarita beforehand, so that was nice I guess. Until I got to the tattoo place and had to sign a form promising that I hadn't consumed alcohol in the last eight hours. Whoops! But let's face it, as a senior in college, your blood is pretty much made out of alcohol anyways. Two of my Blonde Goddess friends, Anna and Claire, came with me. The guy at the shop (called Eye Candy Ink in Appleton) probably thought it was funny to see these three girls come in. It was over in like 2 minutes. I barely felt it. The guy was super chill, and we talked about how awesome Wisconsin is. He was afraid to do the straight line at the bottom of the state but he didn't mess up. Later that night I went to the bar crawl, and I'm pretty sure a few people slapped the tattoo. Oh well, it survived.
4. Why did you decide to get this tattoo? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. It kind of reminds me of what Andy from "Parks and Rec" says about getting married to April: "I mean seriously, I cannot emphasize how little we thought about this." I wouldn't even say it was so much about Wisconsin as it was about the fact that I knew my life was about to go through a very drastic change. My stupid, spoiled, and yet incredibly beloved college life was about to end. My friends would be dispersing across the country. My awesome jobs at the library and WLFM were about to be handed over to other people. I didn't know if I would have a constant artistic outlet in my life anymore. I was pissed off, and I was scared, but at the same time, it was one of the happiest and most ecstatic times I can remember in my life. I got my tattoo in a place where I can always see it so I can remember that stupid, crazy time. 
5. Describe the best or most memorable reaction you have gotten in response to your tattoo? Billy Ward. A charming and flirtatious married man who worked at Chateau St. Croix Winery with me in St. Croix Falls, WI over the summer. He loved the tattoo, and said it was one of the coolest things he had ever seen. I described to him how I planned to get the tattoo with the top part of Wisconsin (the Apostle Islands) facing upwards towards my wrist, but was told by my tattoo artist that this would have been considered an 'upside down' tattoo. Not wanting to be constantly seeing it upside down myself, I just decided to get it sideways. Upon hearing this story Billy said something along the lines of, "I can relate to that. I always kind of felt like I was drifting sideways through life." Oh, Billy. No wonder you have so many kids...
6. Post-tattoo thoughts. Would you do it again? Expand upon the tattoo? Get rid of it? A lot of people warn others not to get tattoos because they think they will regret getting them, but honestly, I think I like mine more now than when I first got it. I've had more time to think about it, and to think about what it means to be "from" somewhere. It seems like we spend so much (necessary) time trying to get away from where we're from. I've done this, of course. But there's only one place that you can call home, and to realize all the things about it that are remarkable is often more complicated than realizing all the things that are remarkable about a place halfway across the world. Plus, I'm intrigued by the fact that so many different types of creative, artistic, and hardworking people fit within the confines of this "state"- a mere conjunction of lines determined by water and politics. It's the only place I want on my skin.
Special thanks to Steph, Lucas, and Taylor for letting me take a creepy and annoying interest in their bodily modifications.

No comments:

Post a Comment