Welcome back Inked and Awesome! It's now 2017 and we've returned with a slightly revamped set of questions for our awesome, inked friends. I hope to be able to continue bringing stories from tattooed individuals each month, however, the interest has been lacking lately so there may be bigger gaps between them this time. Please do get in touch if you are moderately/heavily/visibly tattooed and feel you would like to answer the questions below!
[Edit- since writing this I have decided to discontinue the series and so this will be the last ever Inked and Awesome. Thank you all who have taken part since 2012 up until present day - it's been a lot of fun!]
Name: Grit Tokley
Occupation: MSc candidate, Political Science - International Relations at Universteit van Amsterdam (basically, I'm a Master's student)
How and when did you first decided you wanted a tattoo? Was your first tattoo what you had planned or completely different?
When I was 14 or 15, my then girlfriend drew a design around her left hand in some kind of marker pen; I think it was something like traditional henna patterns. I was fascinated by the floral designs on her skin following the shape of her hand and wrapping around it entirely. Five years later, another girlfriend designed my wrist piece and I got it tattooed while I was visiting her; it's not perfect, and if I could go back I'd tweak it slightly, but it's still special to me.
Have you ever experience any type of negative attitudes towards your tattoos, either in a working or social setting?
I've been pleasantly surprised by the lack of negative reaction in work settings; I'm usually reluctant to expose anything in a new job for a few weeks but they're difficult to conceal, and never had anyone make me feel uncomfortable when they did come out.
An ex-girlfriend suggested that my back piece looked like "a Nazi eagle" which was pretty upsetting. Considering the sheer variety of eagle designs out there, I'd have to disagree with her completely on that one!
Do you have family and/or friends who are also tattooed? If not what do they think of yours?
My middle brother has a series of three kanji - a reference to Sun Tzu - on his back. He's a full decade older than me, and got it tattooed while he was at university. I learned about it at around eleven years old because we used to go swimming together; I never knew it was a secret from anybody, but my parents didn't find out for nearly ten years, when we all went to the beach following our eldest brother's wedding. I was taken aback that my mother was at all shocked.
My wife started getting tattoos shortly after we started dating; she rarely tells me when she's getting a new piece, and I usually find out second hand, or when she comes home with new ink!
Which is your favorite piece and why?
Probably my back piece, the eagle. I don't think it's my best piece - the sleeve is definitely that - but it's the piece that most perfectly represents whatever crazy idea I had in my head, brought out into the real world. Because of where it is, I almost never see it, but it's exactly where I want it to be. It's also the one least revealed to the world in my day clothes, so it feels more personal and intimate.
Are all your tattoos planned or have you ever got any on the spur of the moment? If so, what is their story?
Most of my tattoos are fairly well planned out. The closest that I've come to spur of the moment is the latest piece on my right arm - I knew I wanted something comic book themed, but I didn't know what. Chüey, who has worked on most of my tattoos, was leaving the UK, and I didn't think I would be able to fit in any sessions before she left; I also had my wedding coming up shortly that I wanted to be fully healed for. Things started moving very quickly - Darwyn Cooke, one of my favourite comic book writers and artists, passed away, and I suddenly knew that I wanted something inspired by his designs. I contacted Chüey, who said she could fit me in before she left the country, and she managed to put together some amazing work based on sketches that Cooke had released but never finished in colour; effectively, the tattoo is the art he never managed to complete. She inked the pieces over some marathon length tattoo sessions leaving me just enough time to finish healing up before the wedding. It's definitely the shortest turnaround I've had from deciding that I wanted something to having the entire piece finished.
Do you like to return to the same artist for all your work or do you like to collect pieces from different artists?
Chüey of Art Studio Jericho in Oxford - https://www.facebook.com/ArtStudioJericho/ - has designed or adapted and then inked everything on my body besides that first wrist tattoo. I've known her for six years and it's nice to have made a friend in such an accomplished artist.
What is your most sentimental tattoo or which has most meaning? Should all tattoos have 'meaning'?
The Chinese character in the centre of the back piece; in a literal sense, the character doesn't mean anything, it's just a single syllable. In Cantonese, it's pronounced the same as the name my parents gave me - "Guy". They bought the calligraphy for me in Hong Kong, which is where much of my family is from. It's a city of constant change and continuity. Every time I've been it's felt equal parts strange and welcoming, and though I've never lived there, it seems like a spiritual home for me.
Leave us with some words of wisdom regarding body modification.
Chüey had a great slogan framed in one of her studios - "Nothing is impossible, the impossible just takes longer". I think that completely goes for every aspect of body modification. Don't settle for less
than what you really want, and make your budget work for your body art, not the other way around.
Thanks so much Grit for sharing your stories!! Everyone pop over to Grit's tumblr and say Hi! If you would like to take part in Inked and Awesome too, makes sure to pop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'INKED & AWESOME' in the subject line :) I look forward to hearing from you!