We at AntiquityNOW are fascinated with the human condition. Indeed, our species is an ironical, obstinate lot. Our lifespans are but a blink of the eye, yet we are driven in many ways to secure our own immortality.
Through the ages tattoos have given us a canvas on which to announce our claims to tribes, clans, philosophies, ideas and art. Thousands of years may pass, but we are continuously enlightened and history informed by the tattoos defining ancient lives.
Modern lives as well seek the immortality of the ink. The tattoo industry has grown from a niche industry relying on the military, bikers and other seeming hardcore proponents to one whose stigma has diminished and been popularized to include…anyone. Today, 46 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. (Italy ranks first on the popularity scale with nearly 50 percent of the population tatted at least once.) Millennials boast almost a 50 percent ink rate, and growing. Tattoos are a one-billion dollar industry with nearly 30,000 operating sites in the United States alone.
Recently, a new type of tattoo was announced by Ephemeral, which has studios in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco. A continuously moving ribbon on their website repeats the phrase “Regret Nothing” as either mantra or hypnotic suggestion. Thus, their customized tattoos are emphemeral, “Made to fade in 9 to 15 months.” How does it work?
Permanent tattoos “are placed with a needle technique that penetrates the dermis, the lower part of the skin,” Dr. (Roy) Geronemus (director, Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York) said. “Once the ink is deposited, there is an inflammatory response that surrounds the ink particles and creates a matrix that allows the ink to stay and not migrate or disappear on its own. It’s inflammatory cells that surround the ink and allow it to stay put.”
When you get a tattoo made of permanent ink, most of the ink remains where it is deposited. By contrast, Ephemeral’s ink is made of a material that the body naturally breaks down over time. The ink works in a similar way to biodegradable medical devices like stents used in implants or sutures used in stitches. These products, like the ink, are broken down naturally by available oxygen and water in the body.
As tattoos have emerged in recent years as a popular art form, for many, the idea of art that fades is a travesty, even an existential debate. For 24-year-old Joanna Acevedo, who has more than 100 tattoos on her body:
“I like the fact that they are permanent because they are part of me,” she said. “They represent a moment in time, and I like living with all my history.” She equates tattoos she doesn’t like to scars, another remnant, she said, from bad choices you made when you were younger.
From that philosophical and personal view, let us hear from an artist of the form:
Sue Jeiven, a famed tattoo artist in Brooklyn who goes by Sweet Sue, said tattoo artists, like sculptors and painters, strive to make beautiful art that will last. “We spend our entire careers trying to figure out the mystery of how to get nice, clean, solid lines to lay in the skin perfectly and stay forever,” she said. “It makes me want to cry to see all this hard work just disappear.”
But today’s tattoo statement can become tomorrow’s artwork anguish. According to advdermatology.com, tattoo remorse is a very real, yet very avoidable event. Their infographic depicts the body parts and images most regretted by people after a time. Their caution:
In you’e planning to get a tattoo, sleep on it. And not just for a night–at least a few months. That’s what we found when we surveyed 600 people with tattoo regret. The big takeaway: 3 out of 4 people who suffer from “tattoo regret” didnt plan for the tattoo beyond a few weeks.
Tattoos bind us to our interior selves, and also to the saga of humanity. We all have stories to tell. Explore more with the links below:
Tattoos and the Body as Canvas | AntiquityNOW
Tattoos and the Body as Canvas: Erasing the Past With Modern Tattoos | AntiquityNOW
Bon Appetit Wednesday! Einkorn Banana Bread and the Tale of a 5,300 Year Old Mummy | AntiquityNOW (There is a tattoo mention here, we promise. Try the bread while you’re at it.)
 Disappearing Tattoos Set Off Existential Debate – The New York Times (nytimes.com)