5 Tales Told Through Tattoo Ink

Within the realm of self-expression, some people paint, write poetry or create music. Others opt for the extra permanent by getting tattoos. Tattoos can take on a wide variety of meanings. They can commemorate the loss of a loved one. They can showcase someone’s favorite musician, animal or just about anything else. 

About three in ten Americans have at least one tattoo, according to an online survey of 2,225 adults from The Harris Poll. From the survey’s group of tattooed individuals, seven in ten had two or more tattoos. 

The permanent ink was much more popular for Millennials at 47% compared to Baby Boomers at 13%. To explore this boost in tattoos for younger generations, I learned about five University of Maryland students and why their everlasting designs were special to them.

1. Malika Budd’s sunflower

Photos by Malika Budd

Malika Budd cherishes tattoos for the different eras they can represent in one’s life. Last summer, she got the quote “and still I rise” trailing into a sunflower tattooed on the front of her shoulder. 

“I feel like it’s just a marker of where you are in your life at the time,” said the senior journalism major and black women’s studies minor. Budd said she always liked sunflowers, and combined it with a quote that captured the adversity she experienced in her life. This was her second tattoo after receiving her first a year prior in the summer of 2017. 

“I usually get tattoos or piercings whenever I’m having a bad time in my life, so it kind of just helps me decompress from that,” said Budd. Budd likened tattoos and piercings to hairstyles, clothing and taste in music. She appreciates the long-lasting aspect and commitment to skin art. When asked if she planned to get more, she immediately said yes. Budd wasn’t certain just what or where she would get one, but she saw it in her future.

2. Georgianna Georgopoulos’ little piggy

Photos by Georgianna Georgopoulos

Georgianna Georgopoulos is quite green to the tattoo world. Since her first stick and poke tattoo in June, she’s acquired five tattoos in total. She stuck with the hand poke for four of them and opted for the machine on one of them. The junior neurobiology and physiology major likes to discover new artists from Instagram.

Before taking a trip to San Francisco, Georgopoulos realized one of her favorite Instagram artists resided in the city. Mia Christopher was a favorite of hers for her hand poke work with small colorful fruit tattoos. Georgopoulos was set on the pig design for a while. In a quick six-minute walk from a friend’s apartment, she was able to make it to Christopher’s at-home studio.

“[My tattoos are] kind of a collage of art pieces I like by different people,” said Georgopoulos.

She prefers to get the original creations offered by different artists. This way, she said she can showcase their best work. Given her enthusiastic start with tattoos, Georgopoulos said she plans to get more. For her next art showcase, she’s thinking of a fine line tattoo of a woman.

3. Sunshine Estes’ jellyfish

Photos by Camryn DeLuca and Sunshine Estes

Sunshine Estes has practiced the do it yourself approach when it comes to tattoos. All of their tattoos are stick and pokes they’ve done themselves. Estes got their first one three years ago, as soon as they turned 18-years-old. 

“After that, I kind of got addicted,” said the sophomore architecture major. 

Estes’ two favorite pieces are their jellyfish on their calf and a figure they lovingly call their “little trans guy” on the inside of their ankle. The jellyfish is an homage to being raised by the water in Virginia; the figure on their ankle represents their nonbinary identity. 

Estes’ favorite types of tattoos are plants, animals and people. They envision the possibility of completing a tattoo apprenticeship and becoming an artist following graduation day. Estes’ favorite part about the art form is the unique creativity that goes into it. 

“I feel like tattoos are a better way of releasing pain without being destructive to yourself and just being able to express yourself,” said Estes.

4. Michelle Moraa’s cross

Photos by Camryn DeLuca

Michelle Moraa’s cross tattoo is an upfront reminder of her faith. The cross on her wrist was born from an impromptu tattoo session in a friend’s dorm room at Towson University. It also held the message of accepting her personal religious beliefs.

“I’m Christian, I kind of consider myself reformed Christian, where my religion is personal to me and not an institutional type of religion. It’s more just me and my faith and what I do with it,” said the sophomore government and politics major.

This cross on her wrist is one of two tattoos in total for Moraa. She’s planning for another faith-based based to extend further down on her forearm. It will say “by grace through faith.”

“I went through a really tough time in high school and my faith is one of the reasons I did push through that,” said Moraa.

Moraa’s favorite part about tattoos is how addicting they are. Before her first one, she did not anticipate gaining the urge to get another one so quickly.

“You get one and you’re just like, ‘I’m just going to keep getting more,’” Moraa said.

5. Erin Hill’s hanging flower bouquet 

Photos by Camryn DeLuca

Erin Hill’s flower bouquet tattoo signifies a period of transition in her life. Hung upside down by a nail, it represents each bouquet hung up in her high school bedroom. After each art show Hill participated in, her mom made sure to get her a bouquet. Hill proceeded to dry out and hung up each one, creating a wall filled with flowers by the end of high school.

“It’s nice to signify things that are important to you,” said Hill.

The senior psychology major got it freshman year. It was her first. She plans to get more, and her next tattoo carries familial meaning as well. Hill wants a tattoo of an anatomically-correct cicada for her sister. Her sister was born during the last year the cicadas came out, and her mother tried to give her the middle name “Cicada.” The nurses stopped Hill’s mother from the name choice.

Hill values tattoos without specific meaning and appreciates the aesthetic behind them.  

“I feel the aesthetic is kind of distinguished, so if you’re into expression, it’s easy to carry art on your body,” Hill said.

  1. 1. Malika Budd’s sunflower