Tattoos externalize our identity to the world and “express our individuality,” Rest, the manager of the tattoo shop High Priestess near the UO campus, said. Tattoos can symbolize a departed loved one, a favorite design or a distant memory. Some tattoos reveal personal stories and the ability to connect to the public. People use their bodies as a medium to express their favorite designs and gain a collection of art that represents who they are.
Rest said his favorite types of designs are geometric patterns and flowers. He enjoys the aspect of organic imagery on the body because it “can look good anywhere.” He believes people are wary about getting tattoos because of the fear of not having a story attached to them. He encourages those who want a tattoo to embrace the appearance of it on their body, rather than to stress over its meaning.
“The idea of a story behind a tattoo has been really overblown,” Rest said. “I believe it is perfectly okay for someone to get a tattoo based on how it looks or because you just want one.”
According to Rest, tattoos immortalize our experiences and traditions. Tattoos have been embraced by diverse cultures such as the Japanese, West African and Polynesian people throughout history.
Rest also said tattoos are not limited to an exclusive economic group. His grandfathers, both Navy veterans, inspired Rest to embrace tattoos as they age on the skin, and value it in an altered state.
“All tattoos age; it is an inevitable fact,” Rest said. “Both of my grandparents are alive and their tattoos are about sixty years old. As a tattoo artist, it is a cool and fascinating thing to see the way they age on a human body. It shows that nothing in life is permanent.”
According to Rest, tattoo trends such as location and imagery are always changing. He said every few years there is a certain set of symbols that bring people in.
“At this point in my career, I try to stay away from things that are trendy,” Rest said. “Something that is small and quick like trees, arrows or infinity signs is usually the popular choice for some people. You don’t see full-scale tattoos as a trend because most people don’t always have the time or the finances for it.”
Tattoo artist Cameron Roberts believes tattoos are one of the last “handcrafted” art forms that cannot be replicated by machines. Roberts has worked professionally at High Priestess for over a year. By combining his love of drawing with his rebellious nature, he views tattooing as the only career he can succeed in artistically. Roberts enjoys how tattoos have helped him grow into a more genuine person.
“Tattoos have allowed me to practice my morals,” Roberts said. “My integrity shines more. I used to not be much of a people person; but, while I am tattooing, I transform into one. I have learned more about myself by talking with my clients.”
When Roberts works, he falls almost into a meditative state. The only thing that matters to him is creating the best outcome for his client, he said. Similar to going to a barber, people tend to feel vulnerable when they are in someone else’s hands; clients open up to Roberts when they are getting poked at with needles. Roberts does not want his clients to have regrets about their tattoos, and said that if a tattoo doesn’t mean anything to them in the present, they can always find value in it later.
“When I get a tattoo, I don’t live with the regret of having it,” Roberts said. “Tattoos are more permanent than kids and marriage.”
Roberts encourages those who under appreciate tattoos to learn about the process. His experiences include a year in tattoo school and apprenticeships alongside masters in different shops. Roberts believes the best way to learn was from “watching people who were highly trained.” He does not want his talent to go unnoticed.
“People can understand the difficulty of tattoo art by practicing on an orange as they do in apprentice shops,” Roberts said. “The consensus is: ‘Wow, this is harder than I thought it was.’ Tattooing is a challenge. The skin is a very unforgiving medium.”