A few weeks ago, I sat Eva down on my stool and asked her about her tattoos.
Their stories, the ideas behind them.
The conversation below is transcribed straight from the voice recording I took while we talked, her on the stool, me behind my camera.
CG: How old were you when you first started thinking about getting tattoos?
EE: I was 13 maybe, I don’t know, I get my tattoos really impulsively. The first one I got was on my finger, you can’t really see it, but it was a lightning bolt that I did when I was 17.
CG: Was it a stick and poke?
EE: Yeah, I took a sewing needle and stuck it inside the head of a sharpie marker and kind of went back and forth. I didn’t even know what shape I was doing, I just kind of went for it. At the time I was reading Patti Smith’s memoir and in it she gets a tattoo from this witch named Vali Myers, who is gorgeous, she’s completely tattooed all over her face. And she got a lightning bolt on her knee because Crazy Horse, the First Nations warrior hero would tattoo lightning bolts on his horses’ ears.
And so she got one, and I got one, because I love Patti Smith. And was bored. And then I went to school the next day and was so cool. And I didn’t even tell anyone but someone noticed it and they were like “did you do that?” and I was like “oh yeah”
Then, maybe a year later, I was 18, and was hanging out with a friend who loves doing tattoos, and it was like “let’s do one!” So I did one on my foot, which is the roman numeral number 7. I spilled ink all over his bed, and he never forgave me. I got that because 7 is the number I’d count to over and over again while I was having panic attacks. So I thought I’d get that, kind of with the idea that maybe I’d stop needing to count, because it was already on my body.
EE: I got my side piece, a year later. I’d just moved to my first real apartment by myself and was financially independent and working and you know, being able to drink if I wanted to and stay up late and whatever, and I wanted to get something to commemorate it with.
I was with two friends, and again we were like “well hey let’s get tattoos”
CG: So it was an impulsive decision?
Yeah definitely impulsive.
I got a knife, in a really classic, old school tattoo style, kind of like Sailor Jerry, and I got it because of another book. I was re-reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and there’s a line in the book where Mrs Dalloway sliced a knife through everything she did, and I liked the idea of cutting your way through something, like making yourself have an impact and not regretting it.
Also I felt very weak. I felt very feminine, and just really soft and powerless. And i wanted to get something that wasn’t something you’d typically see on a young woman, and would more likely see on a 60 year old biker.
I went to this really old-school tattoo parlour in Burlington, where I lived, and this very very old bearded man who we called Bald Bill tattooed me. And we just talked about Bettie Page because he loves Bettie Page and I guess I look like her and he basically told me not to be a pussy. And there was hard rock playing.
I definitely stuck out, but I liked being in that environment.
EE: Then I’ve had a few that didn’t last.
CG: Like the one on your wrist, the three dots?
EE: That one, yeah. I used to have a half moon on the other side of my ankle but it faded. I had a beetle here but my friend who did it, instead of wiping away the excess ink with water, he was using rubbing alcohol so it just didn’t catch.
And then I got my snake. Again impulsively. Two of my friends were getting tattoos and i went with them, and after they got theirs I was like “well i guess i’ll get one too”.
CG: What was the idea behind that one?
EE: I want to say its something cool, and thought out, but really I like snakes. I guess it’s a little nod to my name, Eva like Eve from the Garden of Eden.
That’s the most visible one I have. I always forget I have tattoos and then someone will say something.
EE: And then I got the one on my ankle.
It was from this amazing artist whose name is also Eva. And she does exclusively hand-poked, and it was just a really good experience. it was kind of the opposite of going to a biker parlour, and getting a tattoo done, which is usually impersonal. But this one, we worked on the design together and talked about personal things, and it felt like a very girl supportive environment.
So I got a crabapple. Originally I wanted an apple tattoo, but I didn’t want to get an apple and a snake because thats a little too “Garden of Eden”.
But I like crabapples because they’re kind of grumpy and gnarly and bitter. There’s a song, my favourite song, called You Are the Apple by Lady Lamb, and I wanted to do something that related to it.
CG: What do you think you’ll get next?
EE: Well for once I do have a plan, one of my dearest friends has started doing hand-poked tattoos, again in a very, supportive, queer central environment that you don’t always find in tattoo parlours. And I’d like her to give me a tattoo in Hildegard von Bingen script.
She was this mystic and nun, and she had all these visions, hallucinations or whatever you want to call them, about God and enlightenment and the world. But this was back when christianity was allowed to have an element of mysticism to it. So she wrote beautiful music and illustrations and poetry. And created a secret language, in her own alphabet. And I want to get something in that. I like the idea of having words tattooed, but not something that everyone can just immediately read.
I do also want a Baba Yaga tattoo because she’s one of my favorite witches. There’s this concept in mysticism of the Threefold Women, the Mother the Maiden and the Crone. And theres a lot of emphasis on the Maiden, a beautiful virgin, and on the Mother, and I find that theres not a lot of respect for the Crone, the old woman, the woman who’s no longer fertile, who’s not considered conventionally attractive, who’s pissed off and wrinkly, and I want to honor that.
And Baba Yaga was a scary old witch, one of the Crone archetypes. So I want to get something for that, and when get that tattoo its going to be in a really sacred manner, like outside or on a sort of holiday. That’s my idea.
CG: And you don’t really regret any of your tattoos?
EE: No no, again people are surprised when they find out I have tattoos. And people ask what’s going to happen when I grow old. But I like the idea of my tattoos growing old with me. I think that’s kind of great. Why wouldn’t you want that, like why who wouldn’t want to be a badass old woman with a shit ton of tattoos. I think when I start to age, I’ll get even more. Im just going to embrace it and go for it. Just have wild hair and live in the woods and have a bunch of tattoos. And frighten people and intrigue people and command respect.
People also think you can touch them
CG: Like it’s something you can reach out and touch
EE: Yeah like automatically an invitation for unsolicited contact. They don’t feel like anything, that’s kind of the point. You’re not going to feel anything unless it was like scarification which I don’t have, so I don’t know why people reach out and grab at them, they think that because of that you’re turning your body into an object. And I don’t like that.
I’ll keep getting tattoos. I like having control over some aspect of my body and my presentation, kind of beyond the idea of style or fashion or whatever, to kind of takeover your skin. It’s good, to add to it.
I feel like more people should get tattoos.
CG: I feel like this generation has a lot more
EE: Definitely. Just go for it. Why not. I mean don’t take your body too seriously. It’s beautiful it’s keeping you going but also don’t take it too seriously. It’s deteriorating anyways so might as well look cool.