When we asked the question, Can You Be Friends With Your Tattooist?, reader Sarah K got in touch to say, yes you can. Sarah is 31, a heavily tattooed human rights lawyer and law professor, living between Brussels and Brooklyn…
“This tattoo is the first one on my right leg, the only limb left to be inked. I got it done this June by Drew Linden who had started at East Side Ink in NYC. Initially, it was supposed to be much smaller and a filler on my left leg. Leave it to Drew to expand and make it more amazing.
“It is now the fourth tattoo I’ve gotten from her, it started from a wonderful lady gypsy / sugar skull combo in 2011. We hit it off right away, we’re about the same age, she’s stunning, a life force, yet so sweet and kind. She has a strong identity, a refined and unique personality, traits I look for in a person. We had friends in common and we spent the duration of the tattoo talking about them. I knew I’d come see her again.
Photo from June 2012, when Drew first tattooed Sarah.
“The friendship developed quickly, we kept in touch via text and social media. She was always extremely supportive of me – 2011 / 2012 were years during which I got a lot of work done while processing a lot of personal stuff. My work had been put on hold after an accident, and I was struggling to gain control of my body as well as of my life. The tattoo process, led by two key artists, helped immensely – and Drew was the second female artist that redefined how I saw my own body.
Gypsy by Drew Linden
“In 2012, I wanted to get my chest tattooed. On the day of the appointment, Drew had actually redesigned it entirely so it would not be vertical and along my sternum, but across my chest. She added flowers and dot work, to make it “less aggressive.”
“But Drew, I *am* aggressive.”
“Sarah, you’re a woman, too. And you can be lovely. And this is a very feminine part of your body. And it’s a huge deal, working from limbs to chest. You’ll be *heavily* tattooed, all in black and grey. I know you’re not girly. But you deserve something that shows you can be a lady, and there are parts of you that are not lawyer-soldier.”
Sarah’s chest piece
“Five and a half hours later, and a bonus cup on my bra due to the swelling, my chest piece was done. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My globe tattoo signals the fact that as of May 2014, I will have been a lawyer for 10 years. In June 2014, I told Drew I wanted a globe, with the phrase “jus cogens” – a Latin phrasing that refers to the peremptory norm, which is to say, the most fundamental, unalienable of human rights. As a human rights lawyer, working internationally and in war zones, this sounded perfect. She started on my right leg, the way she started my left one three years before. Her best friend sat next to me and held my hand during the session – that she belted in under an hour. The hands and flower are of her own making.
“I thought we’d have the hands over the globe, you know, protecting it.”
“Ah, but design wise it doesn’t work, and this is the old school symbol of friendship, love and fraternity. With the globe, it’s the fraternity of all peoples.”
“Equality and protection.”
“Yes. That. Like you.”
“The arrow is pointing straight forward on my leg that was once injured.
“Drew is not just my friend and my tattoo artist. In many ways, she is also a therapist, a healer, a psychic, a drinking enabler, someone I once flew all the way to San Diego to see, literally on the other side of the globe. She made my world manageable again.
“She and Jessica Mascitti, one of the first artists to work on me, made me a woman. I transitioned from prodigal lawyer girl to full fledged woman of the law because of them; they inspired me and blew confidence beneath my skin. I became stronger, and more focused as a result. And I stand proud.”