Each tattoo on my body represents something important to me. My first tattoo, angel wings with my Grandma’s name, was a tribute to the unconditional love that I felt from my Grandma Vera. My second tattoo, daffodils with my ex-stepkids’ names written in pretty cursive which helps me remember the sacrifices I’ve made to give my son the best life that I can. My third tattoo is a tyrannosaurus rex which my son hand drew. This tattoo represents my son’s strength, struggle with autism, and his love of the great T-Rex. My fourth tattoo is simple, “Born of Fire” which represents who I am.
My fifth tattoo was inked into my skin just today. A lotus flower crowned in black. The lotus of course being the flower that blooms from the mud. Signifying perseverance and growth. The lotus shaded with blue and orange hues, representing the throat and sacral chakras.
Tattoos are an artistic expression of who I am just as my poetry is. I can carry around my struggles and triumphs on my skin proudly. Expressing myself for the open hearted, resilient, ever changing human that I am.
Why Screaming Needle?
I was referred to Screaming Needle by a co-worker of mine. I’ve known about the shop for years but had yet to give Screaming Needle a chance. Screaming Needle is located just inside the boundaries of Creston Business District on Plainfield in Grand Rapids, MI. The shop’s windows are ablaze with neon lights and gives off an old diner feel.
When you first walk in, you might notice how consistently busy the tattoo parlor is. The hustle and bustle of customers looking for piercings and tattoos is a good indication that the artists are well sought after.
I was greeted immediately by a pleasant girl with curly black hair and tattoos that covered both arms. Her left arm tattoos interested me the most as they consisted of pink bows which were drawn bleeding down her arm. The bows showcased scars that started high on her shoulder and moved down to her elbow. An effect that said she was proud of who she was and what she has gone through, which is probably the exact motivator for most people that find themselves in a tattoo shop.
My artist’s name was Scott. He is a big guy with a burly beard and spiked grey and white hair. He sports a small amount of hair growing long on his neck as if meant to be a tail. Scott’s size was intimidating but his soul felt kind and patient. His needle moved with grace against my skin. The lotus taking shape easily and with the least amount of pain. I complimented him on his technique and he responded by observing that he held himself responsible for “forming [the customer’s] relationship with tattooing”.
As I settled into his chair for a couple of hours, it felt natural to get to know one another. Besides his love of tattoos, Scott plays the bass. His spirit animal was confessed to be the house cat. And before long we were bonding over our love of reading. Scott talked about his years of experience in his trade and his admiration for Screaming Needle’s owner, Mike. According to Scott, Mike is an owner that leads by bringing his team together. Mostly through outings that encourage bonding such as big Christmas parties, bowling, or a trip to Michigan Adventures.
When Mike stopped by to see how my tattoo was coming along, he was full of compliments for Scott. Encouragement was obviously something Mike knew to be beneficial for his artist’s success. I asked Mike what he felt his leadership style was and how it ensured his team ran such a successful shop. Mike responded, “Well they are all my friends. We don’t just hire anybody. The artist has to fit into our family. We are all just links in the chain, ya know? It’s not my success, it’s our success. I stay open with my team about what’s going on. We collaborate together and everybody’s ideas are shared so that we can find which idea(s) work best for the team.”
When my tattoo was finished, I turned to Scott and said, “I am so excited about this by the way. I’ve been in need of a really big tattoo for a while now.”
Scott replied, “Good, I’m glad. Everyone needs one, ya know?”
And that’s the thing, I did know. Everybody needs to feel expressed. The tattoo being the story and my skin the canvas. I could now proudly showcase another part of me. A part that will never again be hidden. He asked that I schedule a follow up appointment in three weeks so that he could ensure his work was exactly how he imagined it, promising he would find a line or two that needed filling by then. With a smile, having felt the poetic beauty of my experience, I thanked him for an evening well spent.
On my drive home, I took a deep breath of gratitude.
Thank you Screaming Needle!