fj cruiser tattoo sleeve

Cool Rigs, Big Tattoos and Smart Women

fj cruiser girl tattoo legsOne of my friends put it best when he said “who knew your (my) midlife crises could be so entertaining”.  And as everyone knows you can’t have a midlife crises without fast cars, younger women and cool tattoos.  So I’ve decided to come clean with everyone following along on this adventure…

It all began in November of 2008 when I walked into Madame Lazonga’s not really knowing what to do or what to expect. All I knew was I wanted to capture forever the feelings I experienced on the Arctic Ocean adventure with my dad.

I had walked by Madame Lazonga’s for years and would see Vyvyn’s name when ever magazine or news paper articles counted down the top tattoo artists in the country. The national awards that fill the wall speak volumes of the talented women who work the artist’s chairs of Madame Lozonga’s.  The choice seemed simple enough.

If you want to watch artists vibrate like a tuning fork and run for cover… walk into a tattoo shop, let them know you want your first tattoo but you don’t know what exactly it should be. Tell them not to worry though, you wrote a blog that has descriptions of everything and they just need to turn it all into a visual metaphor of the greatest adventure ever. Not exactly how the process works… Who knew.madame vyvyn lazonga

Turns out Jacqueline, Vyvyn’s protege, holds a masters degree in literature from Northern Michigan University. And it was Jacqueline who stepped up for the throw down.  Funny how things come together.  Looking back there is no one I would have rather taken this journey with than Jacqueline.  And while the original adventure lasted 19 days, this one took nearly a year.

I certainly didn’t know when I started this project that I would be calling Jacqueline and the other women at Madame Lazonga’s my friends. You learn a lot about people when you spend several hours with them every other week. And they learn a lot about you.  First and foremost I learned these women are smart, funny and incredibly talented. I’m glad I was lucky enough to be invited into their suicide girl

I also discovered these women have a unique relationship with their clients;  part nurse, part personal coach and part confessor.  It is amazing what people will say to the person they have entrusted with creation of their body art.  A little safety tip here: when you’re a guy in a room full of women waving needles in the air…  keep your mouth shut, listen and when asked, agree…  agree a lot.

Over time Jacqueline and I shared ideas and opinions on art, music, business and just about anything else that would keep my mind distracted.  Hearing her stories of growing up in Michigan reminded me of the time I spent in Lansing.  Discovering her tech background allowed me to share work stories knowing she could relate. I learned I’m not bothered by the pain as much when I watch and see it coming… Which made the knee pit a killer since unlike the exorcist, my head could not spin all the way around.  Although occasionally I thought it would.  Jacqueline was there to talk me off the ledge when she took the needle and ink to my knee pit, shin or ankle (worst).  I talked her down after she drew Hula Betty for the third time and it still didn’t feel quit right.  Did I mention I’m not visual and really bad at explaining what is in my head.  We collaborated, hung in there together and eventually ended up with a sleeve we are both proud of.

Then there is Ruby.  Ruby gives as good as she gets and has a sarcastic biting sense of humor, much like my favorite sister in-law.  Ruby never missed a chance to express her love for me by knocking me down a few rungs on the ego ladder.  Did I mention that relationships are born from pain.  Ruby taught me how the machines work, shared what she found rewarding in her art and definitely celebrated the diversity of others.

Susie, another artist, always checked on my progress as she came riding in on one of the cleanest Triumphs I’ve seen in a long time.  Following a day of dealing with tech guys and accountants, Susie’s take on life was refreshing.  And apparently, if you’re an artist at Madam Lozonga’s there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll marry a suicide girl fj cruiser

The newest addition to the crew at Madame Lazonga’s is Caitlin.  And if you think she is just another pretty face…  how about this for a resume: personal assistant, model and she is now starting a line of hip tee-shirts.  Must be something in the air under the Pikes Place Market that brings smart women altogether.

Many people say tattoos are addictive.  For me the addiction is the chance to spend time with friends who opened up an entirely different world to me.  One I will never forget…  What started out as a tribute to an adventure with my dad has transformed into so much more.  This sleeve will always remind me of my dad and the amazing women who helped me turn it into a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.

And as for the tattoo.  Boy always tells me “Go big dad or go home”.  You can see  Jacqueline pulled together several big ideas to make one great sleeve:

  • rout map with some of my favorite stops including Dead Horse, Inuvik and Chicken
  • the rig that we lived in for 6,200 miles
  • Hula Betty herself (not just your average iconic dashboard bobble doll).

Because this piece took shape over 12 months, If you look closely at Hula Betty you’ll notice she is sporting a tattoo herself.  Remember the story of “Day 6 Blue Bunny“?  With that little blue bunny on her side, my son joined his grand father (my dad) in this generational adventure forever preserved in flesh and ink.

6 thoughts on “Cool Rigs, Big Tattoos and Smart Women”

  1. Amazing work! For anyone interested in seeing more join all the ladies mentioned above on April 5th 2009.

    Vyvyn will be celebrating her 20th Anniversary in Pike Place Market in a fabulous new space.
    Big event — Sunday April 5th
    The new shop will be open and
    For one day only they are offering a special custom sheet of flash, featuring several different fish designs. All designs on the sheet are created by Madame Lazonga’s Artists, and will be tattooed for one day only for a fee of $20.

    I’ve been getting tattooed at the shop for years and still marvel at the amazing work!

    Thinking about getting a tattoo or merely an admirer, stop by on April 5th to see true talent at work.

  2. that is amazing and intense and everything I think tattoos should be….capturing moments of time, like a living scrapbook..I know that’s what my tattoos mean to me. freaking incredible.

    and I agree with your son, go big or go home. 🙂

    I’m quite the road tripper myself and 3 friends and I are doing a charity roadtrip in a few weeks, logging about 3500 miles. oh, and yes–there’s a tattoo appointment waiting for me at the end of the line.

  3. Awesome site with incredible stories and pictures. I have learned so much from your videos. SCUBA mod I would never have done without the video. I had my glass guy watch your windshield video before he went at mine. (Big help)…. And on and on.

    Thanks for the effort


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