Alex Moquin has tattered angel wings on her shoulder blades. It’s not a figure of speech. She had them tattooed on before she started college this fall. The wings are something that she has wanted since she was 13, Moquin recalled, so a couple of months after she turned 18 her sister brought her to Viper’s Nest in Springfield, Mass. and she had them done.
Moquin says the angel wings represent how she protects her friends and people she cares about, and the tattered edges represent all of the hardships that she has overcome.
Chris Centola, a senior at CSC, proudly brings his heritage everywhere he goes. His only tattoo, an Italian flag crossing a U.S. flag with his last name spelled out in an ark shape over the top, reminds him of who he is.
“Both of my parent’s sides are 100 percent Italian, so the tattoo represents how I am Italian as well as American,” Centola said.
People of every generation constantly try to come up with different ways to express themselves. Many students at Castleton have found that tattoos give them something in common, yet individualize them at the same time
Senior Jenna Howland, has a total of six tattoos, four of which are spread over her back. Her favorite is a tribal design that she designed herself and had inked onto her back when she was 18.
All of her tattoos are concealed when she’s dressed in normal school clothing, which she says she did on purpose. One reason that she got the majority of them done on her back is because it is the biggest space so the tattoos don’t have to be squeezed in, and also the fact that they can be hidden easily.
“When I tell people that I have tattoos they always look shocked because I don’t really come off as a person who would have a lot of tattoos,” she said.
Another senior, Marissa Williams, has five tattoos, located on her wrist, stomach, arm, back, and the back of her neck. Her first tattoo, a band of red flowers on her arm, she got 11 years ago when she was only 16. Williams said that when she got her first tattoo there was still a law in Vermont that made tattooing illegal in the state. Fortunately, she knew a man that did “underground” tattooing, who inked her first tattoo.
Tattoos represent freedoms, accomplishments, history, rebellion, and are sometimes just for fun.
Other times, as is the case with student Shea Bigsby’s tattoos, they serve as a memorial to remember a loved one.
The first tattoo that she got, soon after she turned 18, is the symbol that is on the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon’ LP, which is inked onto her right bicep. The tattoo was done as a memorial to a friend who was killed, representing their favorite band.
On her back she has another tattoo of a cross with a Celtic knot in the middle. She had the tattoo done after two of her friends and one of her friend’s fathers were killed. On top of the knot is the phrase “Wish You Were Here,” quoting a Pink Floyd song. This design is especially important to Bigsby, besides representing the loss of loved ones, the design was created by her older sister who went with her as she got it done.
But students aren’t the only ones on campus decorating their bodies. Drennan Spitzer, a third-year assistant professor of English, got her only tattoo two and a half years ago. The design on her lower back is Smaug, the dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s story The Hobbit. As an avid reader of Tolkien, and a woman who’s dissertation was partially on Tolkien, she chose his fictional character Smaug to represent her career, interests, and what’s important to her. She admits that the tattoo also shows her “dorkiness”.
One of the biggest fears that Howland had when she got her first tattoo was what her parents would think when they found it. Because she was only 16, and the law in Vermont states that a person must be at least 18 to get tattooed, she decided not to tell her parents, although she knew that they would find out at some point. When they did find the tattoo, “They were really pissed,” Howland said.
Over the years, though, her parents have accepted them.
When Moquin got hers done, her mom was skeptical about the idea at first, but consented. After Moquin came home and showed her the tattoo her mother loved it.
“Now my mom can wait until Thanksgiving so that I can show it to all of my relatives, “she said.
Bigsby’s parents acted the same. At first they weren’t pleased with the idea of tattoos on their daughter, but after she explained what they represented, they understood them and even have started to like them.
Centola said that his parents like his tattoo, and are proud that he cares about his family’s history.
“They were always cool with the idea,” he said.
Tattoos are very common in Williams’ family, she said, so the idea of her getting one did not cause any controversy. Her mother was so supportive that she even accompanied her to get her first one done.
Where’d You Get That Done?
How people choose where to get their tattoos done varies, but often the person has a connection to the shop, or the tattoo artists themselves. By the time Moquin designed the wings she wanted to carry with her for the rest of her life, she already had a place in mind where she wanted it done. The man who inked her design was a friend of her sister, who Moquin knew and trusted, so it was a simple choice for her.
Bigsby has a friend whose older brother does tattooing, who she trusted to do her designs. Howland also knew the man that inked her body, which was the only reason that he did it even though she was legally underage. Before getting any tattoos she hung out at the shop frequently, so when she got the first one done she was very comfortable with the process.
Of Williams’ five tattoos, she knew the person who did the work for all but one of them. A friend who is an amateur tattoo artist did her most recent tattoo of a human skull with wings coming out from the side. Williams likes the idea of having someone she knows doing the tattooing.
“When a friend does it, it’s more like collecting a piece of their art.”
It was only the third tattoo that her friend had ever done, but Williams trusted her to do it. Williams found the design on a gravestone in Salem, Mass., which she traced and gave to the friend.
“I’m fascinated with skulls, and with the whole horror movie thing,” Williams said.
“I think that my skin’s a canvas, and tattoos are the art that decorate it,” Bigsby said. Bigsby plans to add to her art collection, saying that she has three or four more in the works, including a Celtic symbol, a dream catcher to represent her Native American heritage, and the phrase “I will fight no more for love” spelled out in Cherokee.
All of these students say tattoos can be very addicting.
“After I got my first one, I wanted another right away,” Howland said. Within two years, she had six, which along with the tribal design include two dragons on her shoulder blades which she says represent her and her younger brother, a sun in the middle of her back, a design on her hip, and the word “love” written in Arabic in an “undisclosed location.”
Howland also has plans to get one of an elephant, which she considers to be her good luck charm.
Moquin also has aspirations to get another tattoo in the near future. She has narrowed the prospects down to either a Gemini symbol, representing her birth month, or a barcode with her birth date encrypted inside.
“If I get another it’s going to be of the old school Patriots emblem on my calf,” Centola said.
Spitzer did not find a sudden urge to get another tattoo after she got hers, but she would like to get another in the future. The design that she has decided upon is a Celtic Trinity knot, which she wants to have inked between her shoulder blades.
Williams has been swaying back and forth on the decision to get her next tattoo for the past two years. The design and area of the body for the tattoo have already been decided, but she knows that the consequences could be detrimental. The design is a spiral, which she wants inked around her left eye. There are no tattoo shops in Vermont that will tattoo on the face or neck, but in the last couple of weeks she found a shop in New Hampshire that will do the inking if she decides to go through with it.
The reason no local shops will do the work is the same reason that Williams has been hesitant on getting it done. It can be difficult to get hired in the professional world with tattoos that cannot be covered. While this is the reason she is hesitant to get the tattoo, it’s also what has attracting her to getting it done.
“A lot of people see facial tattoos as restricting to people’s careers, but I see full-time careers restricting to life,” she said. Instead of a full-time job, Williams would like to write, travel, and enjoy life by being free to do what she wants, instead of working a “nine-to-five.”
Although Moquin, an art major, would like to design tattoos professionally and possibly even do tattooing, she said that she would not get a facial or neck tattoo because she does not want to take any chances with them restricting her professional prospects. Centola, Howland, and Bigsby agreed with those views.
Tattoos on places other than the face, neck, and hands generally do not affect a person’s chances of being hired at a job because they can be concealed. Howland, however, has come across one instance in which having tattoos has restricted her freedom. During the summer she works at a children’s camp, and while there she was told that no tattoos could be revealed. The attire that the average counselor wore was a tank top and shorts, but she was told that she had to keep a T-shirt on so that her back was concealed.
Although it was not a major concern to her, she doesn’t think that it is right that tattoos are looked upon as a negative thing. Spitzer said she too believes it is unfair for anybody to judge people by the tattoos that they have on their bodies, but she knows that it is human nature for people to do so.
“Tattoos show creativity and different ideas, which is what companies say that they are looking for,” she said.