When did you first take an interest in tattoos?

I have been interested in tattoos for a long time before I got one. It was a certain kind of tattoo: big and flowy, where the tattoo seemed to be a natural part of the body. They were the work of a Danish tattoo artist, Erik Reime. He was inspired by the styles of the iron and viking age. It was a far cry from the tattoos I had seen before; small and faded. I have since discovered other artist from the 1980s, like Leo Zulueta, where the tattoo and the body became one.

How old were you when you got your first tattoo?

I at last found the courage to get my first tattoo when I was over 40, an age where you start to realise that your body is your own. I had been interested in Celtic art and mythology for a long time, and decided to get a tattoo over my left breast of a pattern from a mirror: an owl. In the Mabinogion [the earliest prose stories of British literature], the owl is a woman made of flowers who betrayed her husband and as punishment was turned into an owl. The name of the owl is Blodwedd, meaning flowerface. Erik Reime was not available, so his apprentice Colin Dale did it and he has been my main artist since then. His work is beautiful. He understands both the Celtic art I have introduced and how to place it on my body.

I have become a tattoo collector. I collect Celtic tattoos inspired by archaeological artifacts (often mistaken for Nordic), ancient tattoos and tattoo techniques. It has been possible due to Colin’s interest in old techniques and his guest artists from different parts of the world. I have samoan, Mentawai and Iban tattoos made in the original tattooing techniques, and a haida thunderbird made with needle and thread - an old inuit technique. As a result, most of my body is covered in amazing artwork.

Are people surprised when they discover that you’re heavily tattooed?

It often comes as a surprise to people when they see it. I have a job at a museum and people in my position seldom look like I do. I think I am good at my job, so it is accepted, but to outsiders it can be quite a shock.

Have you discovered anything about yourself through the process of getting tattoos?

One of the things I have discovered during the years is that my pain threshold is high and that I can be a bit obsessed with my interests. I have met some very interesting persons through this interest. It has also made me stronger and more independent. The person I am today is very different from the person I was when I got my first tattoo. It takes a certain amount of courage to look like I do, but I am proud of myself when I look in the mirror. I have artwork from some magnificent artists, and I agree with the women of Samoa - tattoos keep you young.

What part of your personality is reflected in your tattoos?

Only one of my tattoos has a personal connection. Some years ago my son’s best friend killed himself. Suicide is the ultimate wish for annihilation - and I did not want to grant him that. The memorial tattoo is a v-rod and crescent (the v-rod is a broken arrow). The rest are chosen for different reasons - an interesting motive, a special technique. I can’t tell long personal stories about the meaning of my tattoos, but long stories about the origin of the motive.

When you get as many tattoos as I have, there is always a risk that they become your personality; the first thing people notice when they see you. They can be a weapon, something to hide behind. But to me they have come to represent courage and independence - and a certain subversiveness.

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about getting their first tattoo?

My advice to newcomers is that you have to choose your artist carefully. Find out which style you are interested in, talk to persons who already have tattoos and then go for it. If you have done your homework you will never regret it. I have not.

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Aman Durga Sipatiti, Colin Dale

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