The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Student Find Art in Tattoos

4 min read


Senior Sarah Beth Darr had wanted a tattoo for two years when she finally went under the needle. Her boyfriend designed for her a tattoo of a quarter note and a treble cleft that form a heart.
“I wanted it to have meaning and express my love for music,” Darr said.

Even some of the professors at the University of Mary Washington have tattoos. Swimming coach Matthew Sellman has a swimmer on his ankle.

“I had been wanting it for a long time, looking for the right image and found it,” Sellman said. “Plus, my wife finally gave me permission.”
Tattoos have become a popular part of current culture, especially with college-aged students. Picasso Exports, a large supplier of temporary tattoos, stated on their website, “The tattoo industry is hot property. There are an estimated 20,000+ parlors operating in the United States.”

Fredericksburg alone has at least six parlors.  College students often frequent Jack Brown’s Tattoo Revival, previously known as Honky Tonk Tattoo. Jack Brown’s tattoo artist Grady Spades started tattooing 16 years ago. He said he got his first tattoo at 15 or 16 years old and now has too many to count.

When asked why he decided to become a tattoo artist, he replied, “I just thought it was cool.” He just started working at Jack Brown’s since he has his own studio in Baltimore and also travels to different cities and conventions.

The tattoo trend seems to have passed to students at Mary Washington.  A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Jan. 2007 found that 36 percent of people aged 18 to 25 has at least one tattoo. Even those that don’t have tattoos have good opinions of people with tattoos.

Reasons for getting a tattoo include honoring a deceased family member, proving their ability to make their own decisions, showing a belief in something, showing their individuality or love, and making a tie with a good friend, according to students interviewed.  Some even designed their own tattoos.

Spending a year and a half sketching his art, senior Sean Comerford just got inked a month ago.

“It is a work of art I can always have that’s my art,” he said. Comerford wanted to show his Irish heritage by using several Irish symbols. Choosing to go for vibrant rather than understated, Comerford’s art is full of vibrant colors like green, yellow and red.
Sophomore Amanda Howland tattooed a dove on her hip only two months ago. She said she got it for all of its meanings, including independence, religion, and peace.

“And it’s really pretty,” Howland added.

Matthew Williard, a junior, has the word “coexist” tattooed down the left side of his back.  Each letter stands for a different religion or belief.

He chose this design because “I liked the image and it’s sort of a way to remind me to appreciate all the differences in people.” The word is also a popular bumper sticker, the blue and white rectangle clings to the bumpers of several cars parked along College Ave. His tattoo’s bright blue hue also makes his message stand out.

Acknowledging important people in their lives through a tattoo helps some students feel connected.

Junior Molly Coward has a simple black anchor on her hip in memory of her grandfather.

“My grandfather was in the Navy at Pearl Harbor and it was one of his proudest moments. I got it because I was close to him,” Coward said.

Matching her tattoo with her cousin before they went their separate ways in college, Samantha Notti, describes it as a keyhole with a person looking through it.  According to Notti, it is the cover of a Fall Out Boy CD.

One of many students with multiple tattoos, Rachel Vetterlein has three.  While she has two on her right arm, she has a third in an undisclosed location. Vetterlein said she likes them and found them to be a good form of self-expression.

Students have varied methods of getting through the first-time jitters.  Senior Michael Man, who has multiple tattoos, was drunk when he got his first tattoo and thought it was a good idea at the time.  Man now has at least nine tattoos.

“I’m kind of transient, so tattoos are something I can take with me wherever I go,” Man said.

Among the students surveyed on campus, there was not a strong affinity for any particular type of tattoo, such as animals or special symbols.  Instead, students care more about the meaning of their tattoo.

As Jack Brown’s Grady Spades said in regard to tattoo designs, “To each your own, we do it all really.” There was a little mix of everything, further showing the diversity of student personalities.