Monday, 28 September 2009

First Tattoo

I wanted to get my first tattoo for my thirtieth birthday but I couldn't decide on a design in time. Shortly after my birthday, though, I realized what I want: a bee on my left arm, specifically using the bee design that is the logo for the city of Manchester, England.

The bee works on multiple levels for me:
1. I have a fondness for bees as creatures. I love watched honey bees flying in and out of their hives and I love watching a bee working its way through a flower. And given the range of comparisons I make between femmes, especially FG, and flowers, well, it just works.
2. It's the symbol of Manchester and so a powerful evocation of the place where I transformed my life, a place I have come to love very dearly. (The symbol there is related to Manchester's history as a mill town: the bee as industrious worker.)
3. I have a whole repertoire of puns building off b-for-butch that I use often as short-hand. In Stone Butch Blues, the old slang "b-girl" as code for butch was invoked at one point. Bee for butch then, it's a private linguistic joke.
4. I love honey, the taste of it, the imagery of honeycombs, the whole thing.
5. My mother is somewhat allergic to bees and has a serious fear of them, so the image is also a protective totem.
6. I just like how it looks.

My goal is to have as large a tatto as fits, aesthetically, into the space of my upper left arm. That's the plan. Now I will start asking around and looking for a good artist. (Tips, especially in the Boston-Providence area, gratefully received.)

Here are some versions of the Manchester bee. I'm leaning toward not having too many colors and followng the gold-on-black design, which appears on bollards and lampposts in the city itself (though I imagine I'd used black or another dark color for the gold, and my skin as background). But I include the mosaic image because it's lovely. FG thinks I should add a stinger to my design. Maybe so.


Jess said...

I love it, Leo. We watched "the secret life of bees" yesterday have you seen it?

I like bees too, what they represent anyway. Just don't want them flying around or landing on me.

Anonymous said...

oooh, i like it!

i'm a little leery of tattoos in general, but i think they're totally sexy ;)

i like the combination of meaningful and visually attractive - and, jess, i really enjoyed that book (haven't seen the movie).

LL Cool Joe said...

I have a bee tattoo on my butt. :D

Jen said...

I like it! I especially like that it's meaningful for you.

I'm working on my second tattoo, trying to think about what I want. I know I want something that symbolizes strength, after all that I've been through, but I don't know how to translate that to a symbol or picture, etc. It's harder than it seems.

I'm excited for you! :)

e said...

Very cool tattoo idea! Great symbolism on many levels, and great design potential. I agree that you need a stinger.

Anonymous said...

Awesome idea. Your first tattoo? Really? Well, don't listen to anyone who tells you it doesn't hurt. Ha!

I really like the mosaic image. I don't know how much money you have to spend, but as someone who has been tattooed a number of times, I can't help but share my age-old wisdom.

A lot of times, when someone is getting their first tattoo, they get something small and simple, just to try it out and see what it's like. I wish somebody had told me when I was 18 that if I really wanted to get tattooed, I should just go for it, cause now all those little, simple tattoos are covered up by bigger, more elaborate ones. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that it's cool to get something simple and neat but sometimes it's even cooler to get something unique and awesome, like the mosaic image you have of the bee.

I have a Joan of Arc tattoo on my forearm that is done in stained glass. It is my absolute favorite tattoo, not only because Joan of Arc was awesome but also because the imagery is multi-layered.

Anyway, take it or leave it, I just had to share. And good luck with the needle!

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

Check out Pumpkin Tattoo in Jamaica Plain. said...

Sorry, doing some mad catching up on reading...

Hm. I like the bee idea.

I know that New Haven isn't exactly Boston but this is the guy I'm going to use for my first one:

I LOVE his work.

Anonymous said...

I just got my first tattoo this year after waiting to know exactly what I wanted. I couldn't be happier with it.

I'm glad you're picking something that means something to you. I did the same, and just this morning I glanced at mine and appreciated the reminder of its symbolism. I kind of went for it and got something semi-large on my right shoulder, but I love it.

It didn't hurt that bad when I got mine; perhaps that's because I was so excited to get it? And now I'm planning my second.

Britt said...

My girlfriend and I just had tattoos done by a visiting artist who is Jane's friend in Providence. The tattoo is mostly morning glories (the flower) but we also incorporated two bees into the design. We like to think of them as loving, kissing bees. He did a great job on their design. Not sure when he's around again but if you want to travel to Providence, I could hook you up with his info. It's an easy commute from Boston.