By Bonnie PrinsenMonday, August 10, 2001
My introduction to tattoos came early, but left a lasting impression. When I was about four years old, I noticed a design in green ink on my Uncle Bob’s upper arm. He informed me it was a tattoo he’d gotten during his military service. In his explanation, he used the words "needles", "blood" and "hurt," a combination that convinced me I’d never seek to acquire a tattoo myself. I also remember having the impression then that tattoos were somehow scandalous, something impetuous and regrettable that Uncle Bob had done on a dare.
Today, I teach a lot of 18-21 year olds, and it’s almost rare to meet a student without a tattoo. Many of them tell me they got their tattoos to mark a special occasion, for example, a birthday, or graduation. Some describe it as self-expression, or a link to their friends who also have tattoos.
Kevin Fitzgerald of Lanesboro also remembers being introduced to tattoos by an uncle who’d been in the Navy, but the impression was different. Fitzgerald was also aware that, at the time, society saw tattoos as belonging only to "drunken sailors, bikers, or prostitutes," but his uncle caused him to question society’s view on tattoos because his uncle was "a really good guy."
While attending art school, Fitzgerald worked drawing pictures for a "tattooist"who wasn’t an artist. Eventually Fitzgerald was taken on as an apprentice and has now been a practicing tattoo artist for sixteen years.
Nationally, tattooing has gone from being seen as anti-social in the 1960’s to being popular with the mainstream. In fact, in 1997, U.S. News and World Report told its readers that tattooing was the sixth-fastest growing retail business, following Internet, paging services, bagels, computer, and cellular phone stores.
Tattooing has a long history. Evidence of tattooing is found in almost every culture, possibly dating back over 4,000 years. The earliest surviving example of tattooed human skin is Egypt, around 1938 BC. But there’s evidence it existed long before that. The current trend in "fine art" tattoos is influenced by the tattoo tradition of Japan.
Fitzgerald operates Valhalla Tattoo in Decorah, with a smaller office in Lanesboro. Tattoo seekers today tend to fall far outside the "biker" stereotype. In fact, Fitzgerald says "the average customer is a middle-aged woman."
His perception matches national statistics, some of which .....[Read the Rest]