Tattoos used to be something a sailor would get, but as times are changing, so are the connotations about getting tattooed. People of all ages are going under the needle to create memorable art on their bodies.
“I think 89 is the oldest that I’ve tattooed. It’s almost more common to see someone with a tattoo than someone without a tattoo. The taboo has gone away,” commented Tim Lindsey, an artist at Skin Deep Body Art, Inc., a tattoo parlor in Lake Suzy, located on King’s Highway about a mile from Walmart.
Susan Maroney, who will be 72 on March 21, got tattooed by Lindsey a few months ago and returned for another piece of art to memorialize her granddaughter Cassandra Rose Maroney, who died unexpectedly at 25-years-old. Her entire back is a tribute to her grandchildren, having each of their names with vibrant butterflies and tribal swirls.
“I got my first tattoo when I was in my 30’s. I had always wanted one. I get meaningful ones that mean something to me,” said Susan, who has been married to 52 years to her husband John, who is sometimes called Jack by friends. The couple is active in Elk and Moose, and they know many older people with tattoos. “There’s a woman in my swim class who is in her 90’s and has tattoos.”
Susan is used to the minor pain involved with getting a tattoo. “I’d rather have this than go to a dentist,” she laughed. “My mind is focused somewhere else while he’s doing it. I’m going to focus on tonight, dancing, having a good time, and my granddaughter watching over what I’m doing.”
Some people choose to wait until later in life to get tattooed, often thinking for years about what design they would want, choosing designs that are symbolic and meaningful. People grow up hearing the warnings of tattoos that might change as skin sags. In older people, where the skin has already sagged, they don’t have to worry about these changes, and the colors will remain bright if following proper care instruction.
Some people make the mistake of slathering their tattoos with Vasoline, Neosporin or A&D ointment too often, but leaving a surface film on the skin can suffocate a tattoo, creating bumps that fade color lines. After a couple days, use these sparingly, opting for lotion if itchy or uncomfortable, and avoid swimming, excess water exposure and direct sunlight for the first week and a half.
“Tattoos are considered a minor abrasion. If you rode a bike as a kid and crashed, scrapping your knee, you don’t worry about putting Neosporin on every hour. The healing process is still the same. Nothing changes but the age,” Lindsey explained. “All people heal the same, unless there is a skin disease or some other ailment. I’m diabetic, and as long as I control my sugars, I’m fine to get a tattoo. Check with your doctor first if you’re concerned, just in case.”
The needles are set at a specific depth, and artists work off the tips of the needle to control how far the needles penetrate the skin. As people age, skin gets thinner, so artists may set their tattoo guns at a slightly slower speed to deposit more ink and cut the skin less.
“You learn the certain speeds as an artist and realize what creates the best results. Skin is all different, so there are different speeds of the machine. It’s all done at the same depth, but you learn how fast to set the machine and how fast to run yourself to learn to apply without damaging the skin,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey is a multimedia artist, who works with other mediums to produce art, such as wood burning, and even created a burned wood mural of a deer for rocker Ted Nugent. “I sold my first piece at 6-years-old, a fish. I got into underwater diving photography and original nautical artwork.”
Skin Deep Body Art, Inc., is located at 12569 SW County Rd. 769 in Lake Suzy. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/Skin-Deep-Body-Art-Inc-254789334694593/, or call (941) 766-0131. Mention this article and receive 25% off of a tattoo.
“When we opened, we had a fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League,” recalled Anna Cusack, bookkeeper at Skin Deep Body Art, Inc. “We had a lot of people off the golf course wander in, and our first few customers were over 70-years-old. You’re never too old to get a tattoo.”
Susan Maroney, who will be 72 on March 21, shows off her back piece, a tattoo that memorializes her family.
Susan Maroney gets a tattoo by Tim Lindsey to memorialize her granddaughter who passed at 25-years-old, Cassandra Rose Maroney.
Susan Maroney shows off her new tattoo by artist Tim Lindsey at Skin Deep in Lake Suzy.
Tim Lindsey, an artist at Skin Deep in Lake Suzy, works not only with skin, but other artistic outlets, such as wood burning this sign and even portraits of loved ones.
A little history about tattoos...
Tattoos are not new thing. Humans have been inking their bodies for thousands of years, so it is no wonder that many older people in the area sport decorated skin.
According to the Smithsonian, there is a tattooed Chiribaya mummy at the El Algarrobal Museum in Peru, and the Chiribaya lived from A.D. 900 to 1350. In 1991, a man frozen in ice with tattoos was carbon dated to be about 5,200-years-old.
In Egypt, c. 4000-3500 B.C., there is evidence of women having tattoos, and bronze tattooing tools dating back to c. 1450 B.C. were found in Gurob in northern Egypt.
In 450 B.C., Greek writer Herodotus noted tattoos amongst Scythians and Thracians. He observed, “tattoos were a mark of nobility, and not to have them was testimony of low birth.”
Across the globe, the origins of tattoos have been traced to protective or therapeutic markings, and as a symbol of belonging to political, social or religious groups. Maori women in New Zealand had facial tattoos, insisting tattoos around their chin and lips prevented wrinkles and helped keep them young.
With evidence of tattooing found throughout history across the globe, the phenomenon is not new, so it is not surprising to find older folks with tattoos here in the local area, each having a different meaning.
Terry Witte is a retired prison psychologist. “I have a 1961 patent on my tattoo,” she chuckled, then became serious. “The broken wings symbolize going down and surviving a serious motorcycle wreck.”
Roger “Omar” Armfield, 78, has a tattoo of a skunk that he got when serving in the Navy between 1957-1961. His wife, Chisty Armfield, also has tattoos; she said her husband “has his name on his forearm, because he didn’t want a woman’s name, so he put his own name.”
Roger is currently battling stage four cancer, and says if he survives the battle, he and his son Stevan Brackett plan to get matching tattoos as a memorial of the fight.
“Danger Dave” Kopolovic, 63, who is originally from the Czech Republic has multiple tattoos, such as one that is the logo of his band, Forbidden Fruit Farmers, and another on his forearm that spells out “true love,” whether it is right-side-up or upside-down, like an optical illusion.
Bill Smith, 53, recently finished a tattoo the spans across his back at Tempest Night Tattoo in Port Charlotte; the back piece features a tree with a tribal bull lunging out of it, ravens flying overhead, and a memorial scroll.
Though colors may fade on skin, ink can always be touched up, and few of the aging people with tattoos regret getting them, as they have special meanings and memorialize moments in their lives.
For those interested in tattoos, there are tattoo conventions coming to the area. The Tattoo Ink Life Tour will be at the Harborside Event Center, 1375 Monroe St., Fort Myers, March 3-5. Geeked and Inked Tattoofest will be March 16-19 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Rd., Palmetto, and the Tampa Tattoo Arts Convention will be Oct. 6-8 at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa.
At the Tattoo Ink Life Tour in Fort Myers this weekend, there will be human suspensions, tattoo artists from across the country, and a number of bands, including Suicidal Tendencies and Crowbar.
Steve Hunter, 45; Keith “Road Dawg” Perry, 71; Bear, 58; Terry Witte, a retired prison psychologist; Skully, 62; “Danger Dave” Kopolovic, 63; Tim, 61; and Doug Ougle, 75, show off their tattoos at a cancer benefit for Roger “Omar” Armfield, 78, who also has tattoos.
Bill Smith, 53, recently finished his tattoo at Tempest Night Tattoo in Port Charlotte.
Janice Wilson displays her tattoo at TT’s (The Tiki) at the Four Points by Sheraton in Punta Gorda.
“Danger Dave” Kopolovic of the Forbidden Fruit Farmers, who is originally from the Czech Republic, shows off his band tattoo.
For more on the Ink Life Tour, visit www.inklifetour.com.
Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing at the Johns Hopkins University and is a professor in Florida. For more by Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz.