The Tat Story

Introduction

If you believe – like I do – that nature by her signs tells you what’s right and wrong, you’ll also believe that there’s a tattoo that’s meant to be. On last Wednesday Stephen Lomax, the boss of the theatre, proudly showed me a new full color tattoo of a big cross on his left chest. “My friend, Komang, did the work,” he said. Three days later, Komang did a beautiful phoenix tattoo on my back.

Komang

In my earlier post I wrote that all Indonesian tattoo artists are these dark-skinned, morose, cigarette junkies with tattoos of various kinds adorning their skins. Komang is fair skinned, shy, (not seen smoking while I was there for 2.5 hours), and tattoo-free. “I can’t bear the pain,” he said.

Despite the ‘guy’ stink that comes from his shirt, I found Komang impressive. Not just because he made time for me (knowing that I was Stephen’s friend), turning down a request of an Australian couple who paid him a visit for a tattoo. The mid-thirty guy holds a diploma in Visual Art and is a gifted illustrator. Prior to that day, I spoke to him over the phone that I didn’t want my phoenix to be like those images generated by Google when you typed ‘phoenix tattoo’, or a phoenix that looked like a rooster. Then he made three designs for me to choose from. I instantly knew the one in the bottom was mine.

Komang’s studio “Mega Tattoo” is located behind Matahari Kuta Square, Kuta, Bali. Even if it’s somehow true that many tattoo studios in Kuta are annoyingly commercial (money first, art second), well, Komang is definitely an exception! (He even used two different needles on me to create certain effects – both were new, of course!)

Paksindra – Phoenix

It’s got to be a phoenix for me. I was ‘dead’ once or twice in this life, so to speak, and a phoenix bird is a mythological creature that symbolizes revival. I feel a strong connection with this creature, spiritually speaking.

The other reason is very dear to me. My daughter has a middle name ‘Paksindra’ and there’s a spiritual story behind it. A few weeks before I found out that I was pregnant, a bird came to our place and stayed in our room for about ten days. The bird’s tail was featherless. I fed her (or him) with rice every day, and on the tenth day when she flew out and never came back, she got her tail feathers back. Months after that, when I was obviously baby bumped, a spiritual friend told us to give our daughter ‘Paksindra’ – bird from heaven – as her middle name. Paksindra. That phoenix is also a symbol of my love to my daughter.

Some tattoo advice

My 13-year old was ecstatic when I told her about my new tat. “I want to make one when I’m older,” she said. “Does it hurt?” Oh, yes! I said. But if you’ve given birth before, this is nothing.

What else should I tell you if you want to make a tattoo?

  • Pick a design wisely. Don’t make a tat of a boyfriend’s name. Not even a husband’s. You’ll never know. A son or daughter’s name is different. But it’s your body and your life, so the choice is yours. One thing, whatever it is, the tattoo speaks something about you.
  • You can ask Google to direct you to lists of tattoo artists or designs for inspiration, and they can be really good, too. But the sense that something’s done right is quite a different story. I met Komang via Stephen. And the design was especially made for me. I am happy with the result.
  • Think about where to put your tattoo on your body. If you don’t work in a company that requires a certain degree of uniformity, throw this advice into the bin.
  • If you think your religion/mom/in-laws will fight against the idea…. Well, you certainly know what to do.

Ciao!

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