Some people do it as an artistic expression; some people do it to remember a lost loved one.
Other people, perhaps, do it simply because they think that their lower back just looks too damn naked without a butterfly needled into it or because, for some reason, a little surgical steel through the nipple just feels right. Whatever the cause, tattoos and body piercings seem to be everywhere these days.
“We see a lot of freshmen come in during the first couple of weeks of the school year,” said Chacho Chavez, piercer at Tribal Rites, 632 S. College Ave. “Quite a few girls come in and get their navels pierced with mom and dad’s ’emergency’ credit card. There’s just an adornment factor for a lot of piercings and tattoos.”
The constant exposure of celebrities and athletes who have tattoos and piercings may have helped to push the image that body art is fashionable and popular. However, the bandwagon effect of tribal bands, Chinese writing and other tattoos has become so apparent that popular culture has now begun to mock such tattoos.
“Even MTV has had a big influence on how people are getting tattooed,” said Tribal Rites owner John Surprenant. “We encourage it when people have their own designs because we get tried of doing the same s**t all the time. We’re artists.”
Most tattoos still do have some sort of symbolic meaning to their recipients and are not only a piece of art, but also a piece of that person’s life as well.
“I recently got a tattoo after a close friend died so I have a constant reminder not to take people for granted,” said Baylor Ferrier, a junior liberal arts major. “I’m glad I have it and I don’t think I’ll stop appreciating it when I get older.”
Ferrier got the ace of spades tattoo with “Sam” on it in honor of Samantha Spady, a CSU sophomore that died of acute alcohol poisoning on Sept. 5.
Not only are tattoos permanent, minus laser surgery, but they can also cost a pretty penny. A quarter-sized flower with minimum intricacy runs at around $40 to $50, and depending on the tattoo’s location, can cause quite a bit of discomfort. The spine, abdomen and underarm are areas of particular sensitivity for tattoos, Surprenant said.
Regardless of this, many people aren’t deterred from the pain or financial loss and willingly throw down the $50 to $70 to have a hole punctured where the sun don’t shine. Piercings can be done just about anywhere on the body, and many people are taking advantage of this.
“It’s something different that you don’t see every day,” said Karen Vaughn, a Fort Collins resident, as she lay on her back waiting to receive a trans-lobe piercing at Millennium Gallery of Living Art, 211 Jefferson St. Her legs twitched slightly and then the distinguishable popping sound of the needle pushing through cartilage caused her to freeze.
“This is a form of artwork … and what better place to put a piece of art than on your body?” she said.
Although most tattoo and piercing studios have a large selection of sample work that clients can pick and chose from, it may be wise to create a personalized design. Many people get body art done because they want to be different and original, but if they aren’t careful, they may unknowingly be conforming.
“The pictures on the walls and the portfolios are a good way to get ideas,” said Chuck Maple, a piercer with Millennium. “You can also bring pre-existing sketches into the shop. We encourage people to bring in their own work too.”
Another thing to take into account before visiting tattoo and piercing parlors is the possible health risks that are paired with the equipment and procedure. On top of the employees using rubber gloves and a sterilized environment, it is important to ask if the shop uses a machine called an autoclave. This contraption sterilizes all the equipment by using highly pressurized steam that kills any living organism that could be transferred into the body.
“Make sure you go to a clean and professional shop” Chavez said. “There’s a threat of HIV and Hepatitis A, B, and C when tools aren’t sterilized properly.”
All risks aside, Fort Collins tattoo and piercing studios still have plenty of business. They will continue to share their artwork and look forward to next year’s flock of liberated freshmen.
“It’s really just a way of being different, of being an individual,” Surprenant said. “Stop in when you’re ready.”