The newly-formed Tattoo and Body Modification Club is looking to become a permanent part of campus.
Despite the buzz on Facebook about the club, the members gathered for the first time in a more intimately-sized group to share personal stories and expectations for the club’s future.
Nicholas Turner, the club’s founder and a second-year creative writing major, has 14 tattoos scattered along his upper body, legs, arms and shoulders. While his left leg from the knee down is devoted entirely to “The Lord of the Rings,” his left thigh is devoted to “Adventure Time.” His body, which he calls his “canvas,” also features a portrait of Abe Lincoln and a pug with a monocle and top hat.
“I’m pretty much a huge nerd and you’ll see that reflected in my tattoos,” Turner said.
His first, “Keep Your Head Up High,” in text across his chest, was “the most optimistic tattoo [he] could think of.”
Turner describes himself as shy and wanted to create the club as a place where members could share tattoo-related stories and become involved in the tattooing community. He said he established the club because of the negativity he’s experienced from family and co-workers, despite his view of his tattoos as a positive part of his life.
When he finished getting his “Adventure Time” mural inked, Turner said a little kid excitedly pointed it out to his mother.
“These kids don’t judge you like older people do,” Turner said. “They love looking at things they know.”
Although he can’t draw, Turner said he still loves art.
“I decided to get these tattoos and modifications because I view the body as a canvas. To me you can either fill it up, or leave it blank; I’d rather have mine filled up,” Turner said. “I wear my stories on my body, and you remember the wonderful memories that are connected to it.”
Another club member, Niko Polizzi, a fourth-year English secondary education major, has about 35 tattoos.
His first exposure to tattoos was from a friend’s father, who had a full sleeve he felt “scared and in love with.”
Polizzi inked his leg tattoos himself, including a skull design his friend drew in pen that he later tattooed over. He said he gives most of his tattoos a lot of thought, and new ink “depends on his bank account.”
Polizzi’s ink includes several nautical tattoos. His first ever tattoo was a ship wheel, to commemorate his grandfather, and the trend has continued. He has his mom, dad and brother on an anchor on his arm. He enjoys spending time boating and is currently refurbishing a boat to take a trip across the Atlantic in 2014.
“I want to be an old man covered in pictures,” Polizzi said. “They tell stories.”
As a secondary education major, Polizzi said he’s well-aware of the future consequences. In his field training for secondary education, he wears basketball sleeves to cover his arms.
“I think there’s always going to be that professional look,” Polizzi said. “I’m 100 percent aware of the stigma.”
Second-year pyschology major Elena Kilcullen always drew on her body as a child.
She said that when she was 3 years old, she saw someone with a sleeve tattoo and thought it was the coolest thing in the world.
Kilcullen knew she didn’t want to alienate her conservative parents, so she received their approval before she got tattooed.
“I never want to be in the position where I doubt they accept me,” she said.
Kilcullen’s close relationship with her father finalized her decision to get a tattoo. She and her father both have polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease which causes cysts to develop in the kidneys. When the accumulation of cysts starts to cause kidney failure, the patient is put on a donor list for new kidneys. The cysts don’t reform after the transplant.
Kilcullen chose her first tattoo, an incomplete infinity symbol, to mimic the infinity pendant she wears around her neck. Her father gave her the pendant when his cysts had accumulated and he was on the donor list.
“It’s a reminder that the ones you love might not always be with you,” Kilcullen said. “With tattoos, it only hurts for the time you’re getting it as opposed to the time you’re going to have it: forever.”