Tattoo Story: From Envy to Life Philosophy (part 1)

Hi there, guys!

Haven’t seen you for more than a month. Whew, I have to apologize, lately I’ve been having some hectic time—working, joining some organizations, and (certainly) hanging around killing time. 😀

I’ve long desired to share some stories about my tattoos, and now I finally get the chance to. Well, I’ve always wanted to get tattooed since I was a little girl. It all started perhaps when I was 10 or 12; seeing my only brother got a cross tattooed on one of his upper arm. He already had good physical appearance, and the tattoo piece made him looked even cooler! Ha, so then, I decided that I would get my own, one day. Back then, it was some kind of siblings rivalry, you know (don’t blame me for that, I was just a little girl back then. 😛 )

When my brother added another piece—a pegasus, on one side of his upper back—I told him that I would want my own tattoo(s) someday. He just laughed, and told me, “You will, when it’s time to.” And that’s it. I almost forgot about that, until I reached university.

In 2008, I’ve coincidentally met my senior in college, Dimas Praja, who is a tattooist. While hanging around and chatting after not having seen one another for several years, he shared a lot about tattoo—from the history, the philosophy, the process, to the consequences—personally and socially, including our society’s so-called skeptic perspective on it. One of the thing I clearly remembered was that having tattoos should be a responsible choice. As we are having it for the rest of our life, it should be better and best when it reflects our life philosophy. Simply saying, “tattoo is not a trend or fashion you can follow one day and throw off the next day; tattoo is your identity, and you cannot be reckless about it.”

Contemplating on what he had said, I decided that I wouldn’t get tattooed until I feel I’m ready, which means not while I’m still studying in college (that’s one of a social judgment of one’s independence). So then, in 2010, I finally found myself visiting his tattoo studio, Carpe Diem. I have graduated from college in January 2009. By the time I visited his studio, I had already quit from my first profession in a local NGO and was in search for another job. So basically I was jobless, but not really—I have been a freelance translator, interpreter, and guide since 2007. 😛

Well, that’s quite a long preface. Ha! Shortly saying, up to present, I’ve already had 5 pieces of tattoos spread on my skin. Through all of them, there are several essential tips I’d like to share as a tattoo collector:

1. Find the right tattooist/studio

When looking for the right studio, you should consider these things:

– Hygiene—good tattooist will always wear disposable gloves ( not just one glove on one hand!), work in clean room with sterile equipments. A good trusted tattooist will perhaps even ask you to tear off the package of the needle yourself to guarantee that the needle is sterile and has never been used before.

-Portfolio—take time to study the tattooist’s previous works. Each tattooist has their own distinctive style. If you feel that their style doesn’t suit you, don’t hesitate to find another. In my own case, all my tattoos were done in one single studio as Dimas’ traditional Indonesian style fits me pretty well.

-Pricing—consider this “good tattoos aren’t cheap. cheap tattoos aren’t good.” You’re going to wear the tattoo for the rest of your life. If you choose the cheaper one, I bet someday you’d find out that the quality has been reduced to suit the price. 😉

2. Get a design with personal touch of identity

Done with the concept, now it’s time to work on the design. Lucky you if you can draw or make a sketch. Still, if you can’t, you can always ask the tattooist to make the design you desired. Consult them. Make a design that reflects who you are. Even if you take some pictures from the internet or other sources as references, make sure you get them redesigned. Customized design is better. Exactly you don’t wanna hang around on the street and suddenly find someone with a tattoo that looks similar (or even the same!) as yours, right?

3. Plan it well

Tattoos are not an instant product. Think wisely before you get one. You will find many benefits from planning it well months (or even years) before, including the financial planning. You can also set the right time to get tattooed so you won’t feel annoyed during the recovery phase.

Okay. Now I’ll just tell you the stories behind each one of my tattoos. Hope you like them as much as I do. But if you don’t, then never mind, I’ll still love them! 🙂

done by Dimas Praja

The Cross

This is my first tattoo, done in early of 2010. During the previous year, I had experienced such a hard time. There were serious problems with my closest friends, I quited my distressing job, and I found myself suffering from digestive infection.  I almost felt desperate. Back then, the only thing I could do was praying that The One would help me not to let any seeds of hatred and grudge to those who had made me down. It’s a cross as I am a Catholic though I am not a fanatic nor the kind of person who takes faith as a humanly material essence. The cross tattoo was made on my right upper chest to remind me to stay close to The One.

done by Dimas Praja

The Frangipani

Actually the second tattoo should be three pieces of frangipani flowers, the symbol of eternity/immortality in three colors—yellow, white, and red—which represented the Trinity or Trimurti. The picture you see here is only half of the whole tattoo; I’ve just done the first sitting and I’m planning to get the piece finished by the end of this year—hopefully.

done by Dimas Praja

The Gunungan

This is the third tattoo and first to apply the traditional Indonesian style. It was a Javanese lettering on a background of Gunungan (Javanese mountain-like shape representing the three parts of life and the world) and a shape of the number 8. In Javanese philosophy, number 8 symbolizes wholeness and endless cycle of life and anything within it. The Javanese lettering reads “eling awake, eling pepadhane, eling patine, eling Gustine” (“realize yourself, realize others, realize your death, realize your God”). The lines were a stanza from a poem by Sindhunata—a renowned poet and writer—entitled “Ngelmu Pring” (“The Bamboo Philosophy”). I made the raw initial sketch of the entire design covering all aspects I wanted, and then Dimas costumized the sketch and added some modification. I made this piece in the second quarter of 2010, but I’ve just got the opportunity to meet Sindhunata personally and have a little chat with him in early 2011. I admired him and his works, though that wasn’t the exact reason for me to make this tattoo. It’s that his works—“Ngelmu Pring”, especially—has inspired me a lot.

Well, this is just the first part of the story. I’ve got two more tattoos I made during 2011, but I’ll tell you about them on the next part of this story. 😉


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