When it comes to making a lasting
expression of love, choose your words wisely
|Chris Callister, an
artist at Your Flesh Tattooing, applies ink to a client
on Tuesday. Although some artists say they see an
increase in business around Valentine’s Day,
they try to discourage people from getting someone
else’s name tattooed as a sign of love. Rather,
they suggest getting a symbol of the object of one’s
affections, or better yet, giving the person a gift
certificate so they can
get their own tattoo./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
They say that true love lasts forever. They
also say that love hurts. So it only makes sense that
tattoos – which involve both the staying power of
permanent ink and the sting of a sharp needle –
have become an accepted method of expressing one’s
And while the cliche of a bicep festooned with the telltale
name encircled by heart and arrow may be etched in the
human conscience as deep as a tattoo itself, local tattoo
artists say not only is it a bad idea but it may end up
costing more in the long run.
“I used to tell people I was going to charge them
twice as much to cover it up,” said local freelance
tattoo artist Bryan Saren of inscribing names. “Most
of the time people regret getting other peoples’
Matt Rousseau, an artist with Your Flesh, said that Valentine’s
Day often brings an increase in tattoo activity with it.
“We do get a surge for sure,” he said.
However, like Saren, Rousseau said he tries to steer
people clear of anything that may come back to haunt them
– or him.
“We definitely try to talk people out of names,”
he said, adding that the situation is something that all
of the studio’s artists have faced over the years.
“We cover up names regularly.”
And while the threat of charging double to do so may
seem humorous, he said it actually ends up being the case.
“It’s definitely going to be double to cover
it up because it’s going to have to be twice the
size,” he said.
In fact, some tattoo artists take the issue of names
so seriously that they’ll even refuse service to
someone who gives them a bad vibe.
“When we do do names, we make sure it’s a
serious relationship,” said one artist at Old School
Tattoos, who wished to remain anonymous. “There
have been times when we send people away because it just
doesn’t seem right.”
At least one local is thankful for such advice. Heather
Salupo, of Durango, said she once entertained thoughts
of getting tattooed with the name of her boyfriend, now
“I thought about getting his name right on my sternum,”
she said. “But everybody was like, ‘Don’t
get anybody’s name tattooed. It’s the dumbest
thing you can do. And you know what? They’re right.
It is the dumbest thing you could do.”
And while the use of names is generally discouraged,
this is not to say there aren’t ways to express
one’s love in ink and flesh. Instead of focusing
on names, Saren said he asks people to think of something
that reminds them of their loved ones, such as a hobby
or special interest. He said this helps open the creative
gates, giving people something more meaningful and artistic.
|Paul Rogers, of Durango,
right, shows off the wedding band he had tattooed
on his finger last year. Rogers, who has been married
for 27 years, said he never wears jewelry of any kind,
including rings. The tattoo, inset, includes a snake
eating its tail, a sign of eternity, as well as three
ovals symbolizing the birthstones of himself, his
wife and his daughter./Photos by Todd Newcomer.
“There’s only so much you can do with a name,”
he said. “I like to get in their head for what they’re
The artist at Old School said he takes a similar approach,
oftentimes recommending a symbol over a name. Another
more novel approach to expressing lasting love is ink
wedding rings, he said.
“We’ve been seeing an increase in people
wanting to get wedding bands tattooed,” he said.
Paul Rogers, of Durango, got his wedding band tattooed
on his finger last year after years of being married but
never wearing a ring.
“It started off being a joke because I don’t
wear anything – no rings, no watches,” he
However, after some ribbing from his wife of 27 years,
he decided it was time to show his commitment, albeit
in an unconventional way.
“I told her, ‘I’ll just get a tattoo
on my finger,’” he said. Although there were
skeptics, including his wife, because Rogers is “not
necessarily a tattoo person,” he stayed true to
his word. Now Rogers’ ring finger is adorned with
a snake eating its tail, a symbol of eternity. In the
middle of the ring are three ovals of varying colors representing
the birthstones of himself, his wife, Jill, and their
“I told Jill if we ever separate or divorce, ‘I’ll
give you the finger,’” he joked.
Despite the rise in non-name oriented love tattoos, the
artist at Old School said there still is the occasional
couple that is set on using each other’s names.
However, the old standby now has a new, more personal
twist: using signatures rather than plain letters. “We’ll
either make a stencil of the signature or have the significant
other sign right on, and we’ll trace over it,”
he said. “It’s a new thing that we’re
seeing more of.”
Nevertheless, the artists agreed that as far as a Valentine
goes, perhaps it’s better to give than to receive.
Rousseau, of Your Flesh, said gift certificates are popular
this time of year and offer a way to give someone exactly
what they want. “It just seems like a good time
to buy someone a tattoo,” he said. “That way
we can encourage people to choose something for themselves.”
Salupo said one of her most memorable Valentine’s
presents was a drawing of a dragonfly, which was later
made into a tattoo spanning her upper back. What made
it so special she said, was that, like her five other
tattoos, she did it for her own fulfillment. And while
she still toys with the idea of someday having matching
his and her tattoos with her husband, she said she’ll
only do it if it’s for the right reason –
something she recommends to anyone looking to make a lasting
“Make it be something for yourself first; secondly
for someone else.”