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Line Work: Lida Kim

Throughout my time writing this column, I’ve immersed myself in the realm of tattoos, gaining valuable insights and reflecting on the deeper meaning of my own body art. I believe my last article presents a perfect opportunity to offer a deeper look into the thoughts and personal stories that inspired the creation of this column.

I’ve always held high regard for my parents, particularly for their boundless creative expression. Despite the traditional values of my father’s upbringing in South Korea, where pursuing a career in fashion was deemed “emasculating”, he defied expectations. Initially, my father adhered to the advice of his family to pursue a “manlier” career path, leading him to finish his degree in chemical engineering before ultimately following his true passion in fashion. Arriving in New York City with little but their determination, my parents navigated the challenges of a new country to forge a path toward a better life for both themselves, and their soon to be child. My father’s studies at FIT marked the beginning of a long journey involving his artistic vision. Concurrently, my parents ventured into a small reselling shop, which to everyone’s surprise, blossomed into a thriving business that sustained our life in the bustling city. When I was 10 years old, my family made the decision to move to a suburb of Dallas, Texas. In Texas, my father took over a car body shop, where he demonstrates his artistic flair and meticulous attention to detail through wrapping cars and repairing hail damage. My father wrapped my car in pink, a signature expression of my personality.

Growing up amidst such a dynamic and creative environment was nothing short of transformative. Surrounded by the worlds of fashion, music, and artistic freedom, I was encouraged to explore my own identity without fear of judgment. It was difficult to be the only first-grader wearing an upcycled dress from one of my father’s fashion school projects, paired with leather oxfords, amidst my classmates wearing Justice and GAP. However, I now cherish those moments as valuable experiences in shaping my individuality; I had the advantage of always being ahead of trends. This upbringing cultivated a sense of self-assurance and allowed me to embrace my passions wholeheartedly, shaping me into the person I am today.


My mother, a dedicated pianist and enthusiast of classical music, instilled in me a profound appreciation for the musical arts. Her guidance and encouragement led me to pursue viola at a serious level which initially led me to Indiana University through the Jacobs School of Music as a music education major. I eventually came to the realization that pursuing a music major was not aligned with my personal path. I’m grateful that my parents support me unconditionally, regardless of the path I choose to take. I am now in my second year as an elementary education major, and I could not be happier with the way things turned out. 

My first tattoo was a treble clef on my ankle, symbolizing my deep love and passion for music. I vividly recall getting this tattoo on the floor of my bedroom on my 16th birthday, by a man my friend had met at the mental hospital. While it was a funny story to tell, I grew dissatisfied with the linework over time. Eventually, I opted for a cover-up—a bold black peony intricately embroidered with pink accents. Brooklyn, an artist at Lilac Tattoo Studio in Dallas (@brookxyn) that I had found on Instagram, covered up every inch of my past mistake perfectly. After that experience, I discovered all of my tattoo artists through Instagram. I was provided a sense of security as I carefully researched artists whose style and linework resonated with me. I found myself learning a lot about tattoos through talking with my tattoo artists and studying articles. Over time, I developed a deep appreciation for their work as I followed their artistic journey. 

Originally, I limited my tattoo placements to my legs, driven by the belief that entering the classical music field required a conservative appearance. I feared potential scrutiny if my tattooed arms were visible while performing in a long dress. However, after arriving at Jacobs, I was pleasantly surprised to find many peers adorned with tattoos and piercings, free from judgment. This newfound acceptance bolstered my confidence, prompting me to expand my ink to my arms as well. Despite this shift, I still approach arm tattoos with more caution, thoughtfully considering their visibility compared to my rarely exposed legs. As a result, I'm more thoughtful and deliberate about the arm tattoos I choose. Conversely, my legs have become a canvas for a diverse variety of styles from many artists. I definitely embrace a more eclectic collection reflecting my personal preferences rather than curating a cohesive sleeve. The placement of my tattoos is often unplanned, and more so a matter of whatever I want to do. While my leg "sleeve" is far from perfection, each piece holds immense sentimental value as a testament to the diverse artistry I've gathered over time. 

My absolute favorite tattoo came from a rather spontaneous decision. Over winter break during my freshman year, I reached out to one of my favorite tattoo artists, Mariana (@painfultattoo). I expressed my desire for a lower back tattoo, commonly referred to as a tramp stamp. After tossing around a few ideas, Mariana sent over sketches for me to choose from. I settled on a smokey skull design in her distinctive style. Despite its location, which often leads me to forget about it, this tattoo never fails to boost my confidence whenever it peeks out. I adore not only the design and execution but also the personal connection with my talented artist, making it incredibly special to me.

Some of my other favorite tattoos include a chrome style Rilakkuma tattoo by @rottenhannah, a black linework tattoo of Hello Kitty holding a machine gun by, a couple of bold stars along my hipline by @biyatattoo, and an intricately shaded Russian nesting doll by @foragertattoo. 

Many of my tattoos don't carry deep personal meanings, and I view them instead as a form of therapy during challenging times. They serve as decorative accessories that boost my confidence and make me feel empowered. Despite this, I'm fascinated by other people's tattoos and the stories behind them, which inspired me to write my column on this subject. The rich history and stories behind people’s tattoos have always piqued my interest and fueled my passion for exploring this art form. 

Unlike many other tattoo enthusiasts I've interviewed for my column, I do have moments of regret regarding some of my tattoos. I've come to understand that such feelings often accompany impulsive decisions. However, my regret doesn't stem from the quality or overall dislike of the tattoos, with the exception of the one I had covered up. For another particular tattoo, I underwent several sessions of laser tattoo removal because it didn't align with my current self, and represented a period in my life I'd rather forget. Sometimes, I wonder whether I would have preferred a more carefully planned approach to tattoo placement. However, I find that the spontaneity and unpredictability add to the excitement for me. I cherish the chaos and diversity of my tattoos, even if it means dealing with a few mistakes along the way. Laser removal and cover-ups have been a lifesaver in rectifying these regrets, but overall, I'm happy with my ink and the physical representation of my journey and myself over time.


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