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The mystique of tattooing
Shirley Says
Tattooed friends Mark Rich, left, and Timm Hiers enjoy an afternoon at J.F. Gregory Park. - photo by Photos by Richard Bates and Shirley Hiers

Whether hidden or brazen, tattoos make a statement. These permanent designs are sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate – but always personal.
The history of the art of tattooing has its roots in ancient times. Humans have marked their bodies for thousands of years. A tattoo is a marking made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment.
A scientific discovery revealed certain marks on the skin of the “Iceman.” In 1992, the 5,000-year-old mummified body was found at the border of Austria and Italy, high in the Alps Mountains. His numerous tattoos were simple dots and little lines. The tattoos do not represent anything, like animals, so one can only speculate what they mean.
The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tattau, which means “to mark.” Explorer James Cook introduced the word tattoo to English speakers in his account of a voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771. He traveled to Tahiti and observed the natives’ custom of marking their skin.
People choose to get tattooed for varied reasons. For some, it’s a way of remembering a period or transition in their lives, celebration of a new life, a status symbol or a declaration of love.
In the 19th century, tattoos became popular in England among the upper class. Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother, had a snake tattooed around her wrist. The strategic positioning meant she could choose to cover it by wearing a bracelet.
Historically, in the United States, tattoos have been associated with sailors, motorcyclists and roughnecks. Everywhere we look today there are signs that people from all walks of life appreciate skin art.
In the 1960s, body art of all kinds became more prolific. A long haired, barefoot young woman wearing a gauzy dress and ankle bracelets, with a peace sign tattooed on her shoulder, was common.
Pete Buhles, better known as “Tattoo Pete,” is a professional artist. He’s a perfectionist, with 14 years of experience – a trusted confidant. He has been known to work “before or after hours” to accommodate those preferring anonymity.  
From an early age, Pete was interested in designs, colors, doodling and drawing. His fascination with the ink needle began when he was 13 years old – sitting on a street corner in Philadelphia, he tattooed himself.
Tattoos are not limited to a specific gender or profession. Pete said, “Over the last 10 years, more and more women are going to tattoo shops. They are getting body art where you wouldn’t have expected women to get tattoos years ago. Now they are displaying tattoos on wrists, forearms and shoulders.”
Female tattoo designs run the gamut from ladybugs to large sunbursts. Hair stylist Lori Sauls has a ladybug on her foot, representing her daughter, who is nicknamed “Ladybug.”
She also has a butterfly on her wrist, reminding her of her dad who passed away in 2006.
Lori shared:, “Every time I visit him at the cemetery, there are hundreds of butterflies fluttering about…it’s so peaceful and calming.”
The tattoo makes her smile: “When I’m cutting a client’s hair, its nice to tell them about the connection of the butterfly tattoo and my sweet Daddy.”
Amy Ruiz has a large sunburst on her shoulder. The design definitely represents the personality of this beautiful blonde assistant of a local orthopedic surgeon. The nickname “Sunshine” is quite accurate – she’s always bubbly and positive.
Originally, Amy planned to get a tattoo for her 40th birthday, but it wouldn’t be for another three years. She explained, “I got a red Corvette instead.”
Golf course manager Tabatha Frommberger got her first tattoo when she was 21 years old.
She explained, “I have two. The first one is a rather small fairy on my lower calf. I rebelled against a controlling husband and got the second one, a red rose bud, tastefully, yet provocatively placed.”
She added, “I love the artfulness of tattoos and plan to get at least one more.”
Howell Carver is an accounts payable clerk at the county courthouse in Pemboke. He believes tattoos give one the opportunity to express individuality and uniqueness.
Howie said, “Tattoos inspire strangers to approach you and start a conversation. They like to touch them to see if the skin feels different.”
He went on to say, “Tattoos set you apart and give you a look all your own.”
Local park ranger Timm Hiers chose one of the most popular tattoo styles, the armband, as his first tattoo. Five years ago, Tattoo Pete did a beautiful job inking the simple chain-like pattern with prickly edges.
Timm said he chose the barbed wire design because he was always drawn to that particular art style.
When law enforcement Officer Mark Rich saw a tasteful tattoo years ago, he began researching the art.
He said he believes, “Tattoos done professionally look good. For me, the tattoo must be an original idea or personalized design.”
He added, “If you are going to put anything on your body that will be with you the remainder of your life, serious thought must go into it.”
All agree conscientious thought is necessary before choosing a design. Perhaps it would be interesting to be tattooed in a secret place for a lover to discover. The problem is the surprise factor only works once. After that first time, no matter how discreetly located, the long-stemmed rose or dagger-pierced flaming heart is old news.
In the realm of human behavior, there are only a few things I question these days. For example, “Why does anyone get a tattoo,” or “Why did they do that?” People’s taste in tattoo designs has always fascinated me.
After getting in touch with my naturally inquisitive self (never very far from the surface) and visiting the “tattoo world,” I look at them differently. I now know tattoo designs are not to be understood – they are strictly personal. Yet, the sense of wonder lingers.

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. She can be reached at

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