This story is part of our web series called Tattoos and Coffee Shops, which explores tattoo culture at our local coffee shops. We’ll look into the interesting backstory of otherwise little-known coffee shop employees via the simple pieces of art they sport every single day. Today we hear from six tattooed baristas at Uptown Cafe in Valparaiso.
“I probably have two dozen tattoos. For a while I had a standing weekend appointment at Umbrella Ink with Mary D, and I would show up and she’d ask me if I liked what she had drawn up. And whatever it was, I would just tell her to go for it. That’s something that I miss, having that standing weekly appointment with my artist. We got super close just hanging out every week while she tattooed me.
This whole Millennial idea of self-care is such an important idea. So I guess for me, that’s wrapped up in me taking time out of my week and going to get tattooed. The way I look at it, it’s almost like that stereotypical trope of women going to their hairdresser to gossip and talk about whatever. For me, that was my weekly appointment with my tattoo artist.”
“Most of my tattoos are concentrated on my arm, mainly for the reason that they’re more visible. I like the idea of having visible tattoos to almost challenge people, to show everyone that even with tattoos I can still be a friendly person, I can still do my job effectively. To try and shift that mindset of tattoos away from being a negative thing.
I think that my personal style goes along with that idea of challenging others and myself. I’m really conflicted all the time with consumerism, and I really hate everything that’s being forced onto us with ads and marketing tools and things like that. I try to limit myself to smaller key items, and I have no labels on my clothes right now. Instead of a whole collection, I have a more concentrated selection of clothing that’s morphed into my own style.”
“For the longest time, my family has loved The Lord of the Rings. Every year we watch all of the movies, extended Blu-Ray, the whole deal. As I grew up I fell in love with the idea behind the character of Aragorn. He carried this sword with him, and it’s special because it was broken, but then it was fixed and became new again. I just loved the whole meaning behind it.
The quote I have around it is from an Elvish poem written about Aragorn. The poem tells about how the king is going to come again, and the quote from it that stuck with me is ‘All who wander are not lost.’
I really like that, because there’s times in life when you might just be going with the flow, but it doesn’t mean you’re lost. You’re going down the right path, it’s just your own way of getting there.”
“I got my most recent tattoo on the eclipse day in September. We actually all went, everyone on staff. My other tattoo is a stick-and-poke that my friend did for me in a cabin in the woods. It’s just three dots on my toe, and it doesn’t really mean anything if someone else were to see it, but right now the tattoos that I have are more for the memories instead of the aesthetic. I was a raft guide for two years. One of my buddies gave it to me after work one day, and it just reminds me of all my memories with them and my time working there.
I think that in life, you just need to make sure you’re enjoying yourself. Going out and having fun. I try do something once a year in the summer, and it’s usually a summer job that’s super fun and adventurous. I love to travel and do outdoor activities, and go hiking and do raft-guiding and all kinds of stuff, because what’s the point of living a boring everyday life?”
“For me tattoos represent a moment in time, or an idea that you never want to forget. And that’s why this one says ‘Work Harder.’ I don’t set resolutions, but I set challenges and hold myself accountable, and they force me to grow. So last year I challenged myself to travel more, read more, and learn a new language. So I learned Italian, read maybe twelve books, and I traveled to five new countries.
All of that kind of goes along with my first tattoo. It’s an old Jamaican saying, ‘More Life,’ and I love the idea around it. I got it right before I took my trip vagabonding; I took a backpack, hit the road for three months, didn’t plan a single thing.
There were plenty of moments where I might have been homeless. At night, I would get to a town, I wouldn’t speak the language, and I wouldn’t know where to go. But I’d figure it out. In those situations, you’re a beginner, you’re a child again. And so it gives you an opportunity to experience everything in a new way. The novelty is ecstacy.”
“For a while I was actually thinking about breaking into tattooing, because I’m an illustrator. I was really into comic books as a kid, mostly superheroes, and so that kind of shaped my love for art. I have enough sketches of Harley Quinn to probably fill an entire book.
I’ve had a whole list of what I wanted to get tattooed on me since I was a freshman in high school. Some tattoos that I have now are from that list, but there’s a lot of tattoos on the list I’m glad I didn’t get, like song lyrics that I thought meant so much to me at the time. But I’ve always viewed tattoos in a way that I don’t think I’d ever regret getting one, because even it doesn’t mean something to you anymore, it meant something to you then, when you originally got it.
For me, it’s just an artform. If it looks cool and you want to get it, you might as well. And if it ages or looks bad after a while, so what? You’ve got a story to tell.”