As a teenager, I spent many days looking at pictures of tattoos and admiring the ink artistry of people that I met in my childhood. I always knew I wanted a tattoo but I distinctly remember my parents telling me that I could do what I wanted to my body, but not until I turned 18.
My 18th birthday came and went and the decision was made. I was going to get a tattoo. I knew very little about the history of tattooing, I also didn’t have many expectations about the finished product. As most people my age at the time, it was a case of walking into a tattoo parlour, picking a picture off of the wall frames and waiting in line. (My how things have changed).
I remember arriving at a certain tattoo shop at the Randburg Waterfront, deciding on the picture I wanted (A scorpion, which after many years and two children now resembles a crab) and going in for the first touch of needle to skin. Looking back on that situation now, I am filled with a sense of embarrassment at my teenage naivety. I chose a Scorpion, as I am in fact a Scorpio but I had no idea about placement, my suggestion was on my lower hip because I thought it would look ‘cool’ and the tattoo artist was very quick to agree. In later years I learned of the reputation of this particular artist but at the time, I was none the wiser. I wish now that he had advised me somewhat on the bad placement idea (Based on being a woman and potentially having children in the future) and hadn’t felt the need for me to sit with my jeans down to my knees for a tattoo that was just above the panty line. Nevertheless, 45 minutes later I walked out with my very first tattoo and I couldn’t have been happier.
I had absolutely no intentions of getting another tattoo, never mind being as covered as financially possible. It wasn’t long before the memories of the pain associated with the tattoo faded and I was ready for more permanent body decoration, I was hooked.
I carried on getting smaller pieces and little tattoos that held some meaning for me – I was all about the meaning. My tattoos were chosen by me, for me and told part of my life story. I felt it absolutely necessary to have tattoos that meant something to me. That when asked, I could recount a memory or a story for people around me to show that my dedication to my skin work was genuine.
Again, I was misguided.
The more tattoos I had done, the more interested in the art of tattoo history I became. I spent many hours online, researching and following various artists. Reading up on the cultural aspects of tattooing as well as watching documentaries on anything from prison tattoos to bad ones being done on holiday. Tattoo reality TV like Miami Ink and the likes were all the rage and I became friendly with more and more people like me, starting their tattoo journeys. Tattoos were suddenly everywhere and the tattoo I once had done to ‘look cool’ merely made me one of an ever-growing crowd of people.
I wasn’t happy with 9 or 10 well thought out, meaningful, small pieces anymore. I made the decision to cover as much of my skin as possible with not only my own stories, but also the stories of the artists that I have been honoured to wear.
It was the first ‘long sitting’ tattoos that I had that sparked this fire within me to cover EVERYTHING… all the skin! At most, the tattoos I had in the past had been done in various little studios in shopping malls by artists I didn’t know (to be perfectly honest, these are my crappiest ones). This tattoo had me in the chair for a combined total of 16 hours and to this day, she is my pride and joy and I am so happy with my decision to cover half of my arm with her. This was only the start, no longer was I walking into a studio and picking a picture off the flash provided, nor was I bringing in little pictures as reference material. I felt like I was playing with the big dogs now, I was going to artists for hours at a time for custom pieces that told their own story, even if I thought they didn’t tell mine.
The most beautiful tattoos I have now, are ones that actually don’t hold any specific meaning to me other than the accomplishment of sitting down with the artist for an extended period of time and pushing through that pain for a absolutely phenomenal piece that I can wear proudly. I went from someone who was happy to have up to 10 small, meaningful, black and grey tattoos to now someone who sits for full day sessions on full colour pieces. The tattoos that gain the most respect, the most attention and the ones that I am most proud to show off are the ones that the artist has had complete free reign to design; colour and tattoo from start to finish. These artists are truly that, experts in their craft as not only do they apply their skills to the art I proudly wear but somehow, these magicians make them work for me and for that I am eternally grateful. I am not saying that you should walk into a tattoo studio and tell them to put anything onto you but if you’ve done your homework, built up a level of trust, have a good rapport and are willing to let the artist do what they do best, I have no doubt that you will not be disappointed.
I have plans to cover my body in tattoos, from toes to chest. This is my ultimate goal and my on going journey. I am not addicted to the pain, in fact I really don’t enjoy the pain at all but as they say, beauty IS pain and to be completely covered in amazing tattoos is beautiful to me. I am at a point where I do feel it gets more and more difficult to sit for longer sessions. That said, I am choosing more and more painful places to be tattooed and I am also older now than I was when I started. Tattoos hurt. Needles speedily puncturing your skin hurt. I have accepted this, it isn’t the pain that I keep coming back for (Though there are many people that do and that’s ok too). I don’t think 7-8 hour sessions are bad going though; I still sit and smile through gritted teeth repeating ‘Unicorn licks, unicorn licks’ in the hopes to trick my mind over the matter.
The more tattoos I get, the more I feel like I am working on this journey to become myself. My true self.
For me, being completely covered in tattoos is a direct reflection of my self-confidence. When I look in the mirror, I see far too much skin for my ink – The ratio is still VERY off. I am always planning the next tattoo, saving for the next session, ogling social media accounts of artists who I have had work done by and hope to one day be tattooed by in the future. One could say I have become somewhat tattoo obsessed and many would look at this as a bad thing. Perhaps it ISN’T healthy for me to put so much of my self worth into body modification (Piercings included). Maybe I do suffer from some sort of body dysmorphia directly related to my tattoos and incessant need for them to cover as much skin as possible. I see it that who I am as a person is the tattooed, pierced, enigmatic Shevy that people have grown to know and love. The more tattoos I get, the more I feel like I am working on this journey to become myself. My true self. The self I should have been born as but tattoos in the womb are frowned upon. I am a work in progress and with every new tattoo, more progress is being made.
What could my tattoos tell you about me? I am a woman, but not too girly. I love everything from snakes to foxes and have an obsession with Harley Quinn and Jack Skellington. For over 80 hours I have sat beneath tattoo needles, the paintbrush of the skin. I am not afraid of pain. I am not afraid of commitment. I am not worried that I am going to be unemployed in the near future. I have many different tattoo styles on my body and no two pieces are alike. I have memories of a trip to Vegas and ways to remember my children’s names (Obviously). I have tattoos that I regret and I have tattoos that I would request to be framed after death.
My tattoos range from cliché to exclusive and I am proud of most of them because ultimately they all tell one story, MY story.
You can find a condensed, edited version of this post on the Inkluded blog.
A special mention to Brent Goudie who is the mastermind and artist behind my chest piece (Fox, not chihuahua), the Harley Quinn on my calf and Merida on my shin. You can follow Brent on Instagram and be sure to get in touch for your next tattoo!