Well, you asked, I over-delivered. This is quite long and detailed, but I hope it answers everything and if you still have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
My first tattoo is a ‘secret’, it’s not really a big deal I just like to keep it as much to myself as possible. I got it when I was 18. As you may or may not know I have a history with self injury and depression and this tattoo is important to me because it means that I make my own choices and I make my own life. The past is something that shouldn’t have a hold over me and the future is something I can still influence!
I don’t like to show people this tattoo because it’s so personal but I guess I don’t mind talking about the meaning of it. It’s also a very simple thing, its appearance won’t say much when you look at it but it is of personal significance with a bit of backstory, so it makes sense to me. I got that one done when I still lived in Rotterdam and it was done by Moose, in his shop that was then still attached to the skate shop, only took half an hour or so haha.
My second tattoo - which some people think is my first tattoo because it’s the first one I really showed to anyone - was done also in Rotterdam, by a French dude named Lionel from Out of Step. Lionel travels around a lot and I waited for him to come to the 25 to Life shop just around my 19th birthday. This one really means a LOT to me. It’s a phoenix in red – I did not want a traditional phoenix like in the Vietnamese art, but I knew when I saw Lionel’s work that he could design something original that fit with the source but also my personal character.
Phoenix are important in Vietnamese mythology and in my family. We had a lot of dragon and phoenix imagery around the house where I grew up. In a marriage, the dragon symbolises the husband, the phoenix the wife. When my mother died, an urn was made especially with the phoenix imagery on it. I think the phoenix is a very powerful image and it was always obvious that I would pick that symbol for the tattoo dedicated to my mother. For me it means that even though my mother is no longer physically in my life, she still lives on in me. In Western mythology, the phoenix gets reborn from the ashes. Literally this means her genes are passed on in me, but in a broader sense also the things she showed and taught me. I chose red because of the traditional colours, but also because I think it compliments my skin well, I love red tattoos.
Lionel also added some other personal things in there when I told him this whole story of my mother and our family, and the beauty of custom tattoos is that they are unique and so this is really mine and fits me really well. I’m incredibly proud of this tattoo because even if I don’t explain this whole novel of meaning to people, I get compliments on it – and I think tattoos should mostly look good rather than have such complex meaning haha. Yes, it’s not a style everybody wants on themselves but I’ve never had a bad reaction. Lionel not only does great work but is also just an awesome guy and I really recommend him. I thought it was really fitting that he was French and we spoke French through the whole process [as my mother was also French and taught me the language].
[side note: when going to find the link for his blog, I found out Lionel has recently tattooed one of my heroes, Chris #2 from Anti-Flag, and it made me all happy inside to read about it, so in case you're interested here is the link. I must also say major props to getting tattooed before playing a punk rock show! hardcore, my man.]
Rising from the ashes is also very close to a life motto of mine: everything is a life lesson. I rarely get where I want to be on the first try. First I stumble, I might fall, but in the end, I get there. And then I realise that I have grown so much because of the path I took, that I learned a valuable lesson.
Then I have the muffin on my arm, it’s a drawing of the little creatures that I’ve thought up and have been drawing since years. [They’re called mmmmuffins.] My friend and I got that tattoo done [also in Rotterdam, at Inkstitution - but by then I didn’t live there anymore, we were on holiday!] to represent our time at art school, our love for photography and our friendship. Oh and it just looks cute. I gave it a camera and a bow to basically represent myself, haha, so kind of a vain tattoo, but now that we have it together that’s not so bad. A lot of people think it’s a cupcake but it’s a muffin but ok, that’s still cool. ヽ(´▽｀；)/♪
It was a lot of fun that day because we got tattooed by the loveliest woman named Kristel! She was soooo sweet and loved our matching Lolita outfits and wanted to take pictures with us. She was even capable at calming down my friend, who gets really really nervous before and during the process, so I was impressed. Having an artist who is not only good at the tattooing but also the other aspects of their job is really important to me! Being a tiny girl doesn’t mean I necessarily need to be tattooed by other girls, just friendly fun people! So far, so good, I have to say, I’m really happy my tattoo memories are very good ones!
It was my first visible-in-normal-clothes tattoo and first time with another person, and probably the only one that I have drawn myself. [I’m actually of the opinion that tattoo artists are best at that, which they are, and self-drawn things are rarely good but I still like this haha! It's personal on multiple levels!]
She got hers done in pink just to eternally annoy me [oh and the stains on that shirt have never come out haha (︶︹︺)]
My ACTUAL cupcakes were done by Miss Pudding, with the same friend, we travelled to France for the occasion Basically I knew Pudding was a tattoo artist, and we wanted these cutesy cupcakes that would totally suit her style, and I’d met Pudding a couple of times at French events and she’s just so sweet! So it was an easy choice who to ask for this tattoo. We arranged to do it just before I moved to the United Kingdom. This time they weren’t exactly matching tattoos, but, close enough!
For me they have the meaning of me loving cupcakes, and commemorating the time I spent with the Belgian Cupcakes! Again, a lovely lady doing lovely work, I have such great memories of getting these tattoos done. The whole process is just memorable to me, not just the tattoo itself, which is really nice. To have a tattoo that represents something Lolita, done by someone who I’ve gotten to meet through the fashion, it just adds to it! (⌒▽⌒)☆
So far all the tattoos were just linework because I really like the way that looked. I spent a while thinking I never wanted any full-coloured tattoos because of how I think it looks on me/my body. I have now changed my opinion, however, I also still really like my linework things and will keep them that way because they weren’t meant to be coloured in. When I saw Pudding’s work on my friend – she got her cupcakes coloured in – I got a little bit hesitant for a second because it just looked really good! Haha. But it’s been two years now and I’ve grown so used to what they look like, I’m happy with it.
My scissors are a copy of Heather Gabel’s art for Alkaline Trio because I just fucking love Alkaline Trio and Heather’s art. Scissors are a big deal there. I didn’t just want the heartskull because that’s not for me but the scissors resonate with me. I specifically wanted these black and white and red all over ;D
I always wanted the vintage seam stocking lines because I love seamed stockings but like actual vintage ladies am too poor to keep buying quality seamed stockings and spend all day trying to keep the line straight… so I just went with the idea of the tattoo. However, getting just lines is boring and I already had the cupcakes there. Having broken up lines is another personal favourite thing of mine since it reminds me of drawings I used to draw with that style, and it also reminds me of hand stitching. With the idea of having the broken up lines, the scissors suddenly made a lot of sense. I toyed with the idea of having bows, but having just bows didn’t ‘feel right’ for me.
I always have an idea in my head for a tattoo and I just know, or feel, if it’s okay or not. Sometimes it needs a little bit of change before it clicks. When the scissors and the cut lines came together as being one tattoo, it clicked! Alkaline Trio have covered the song by the Cure called Cut Here [video] and the beauty of all of this is that The Cure is my bestie’s favourite band, and the song is about missing someone, and she’s the one I always miss [and her birthday is in June] and well, all of this coming together was perfect for me even though she hates the tattoo I’ve been trying for us to get tattoos together for ages but it still hasn’t happened so I had to go ahead and do it myself. Hahahaha. （⌒▽⌒） I can see why it looks like the scissors are cutting my cupcakes in half or something but that’s ok – that means we can share!
At the same session I got the AFI bunny but not as an exact copy. I basically got two fangirl tattoos in one go, although it’s not too obvious that this one is for AFI. Fans will see it, but I didn’t want to just colour the entire bunny in black like the album art it’s taken from [Decemberunderground]. I also didn’t want the outline on its own as I’d seen examples of that and it just didn’t work for me.
Then suddenly everything made sense in my head: I wanted a white bunny. White tattoos are hard to do so I left Ruth to do her own thing but I’m incredibly happy. I think it looks so much better than if I had just put outlines, or all black! She did such a great job bringing this little guy to life!
White bunnies have meaning to me for various reasons. 1] AFI: not only is this the album art, but AFI references rabbits quite a lot. 2] This also ties in with AFI. Both Davey [AFI lead singer] and myself have the sign of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac. If you read about what Rabbit’s supposed character traits are, I would say, I am a Rabbit through and through! [But I am also a Cat in the Vietnamese zodiac, which is also very very true!] ^_~ 3] The white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland is always late, and I am totally always late. 4] It also had to be in my shoulder because my inner Matrix fangirl just needed that to happen.
Aaaaand lastly [for now, huuhuu ♪(´ε｀ )] there’s my Aurora tattoo which sadly still needs to be finished. ;o
Aurora is meaningful to me because she’s one of my favourite princesses, obviously, but as a princess by herself she’s not the most inspiring one. Well, I mean, she spends half of the movie in a trance and then asleep, so, pretty whatever. However, right now she represents my love of the princesses in general until I somehow get more tattoos of my other favourites, haha. （＾ω＾）
My sister’s middle name is Aurora, and I thought it fitting to honour her with a beautiful princess image from one of my favourite movies! Yay! I absolutely love art nouveau and Alphonse Mucha so when I found the Disney princess homages done by Enrique Pita to honour Mucha’s work, I thought that was so perfect! Obviously I had the dress done in blue because it’s the best colour, and I kind of find it hilarious how the battle over blue vs pink is such a theme in the movie, as it’s also very much a theme in my life (*≧▽≦)ﾉｼ)) To make it fit better as a tattoo the frame was copied so it’s on both sides, and the text was removed because I’m not a fan of text tattoos at all.
My latest work has all been by Ruth at Oddfellows here in Leeds, she’s absolutely amazing and is very accommodating to all my (vegan) tattoo questions and ideas. The other artists do amazing work as well, I really really recommend them if you’re in Leeds!
Welp, that’s it, thanks for the question! Don’t be shy to ask some more!