Tattoo Tuesday with Nik Korpon – interview

QueenOfTheStruggle_144dpiBrian Lindenmuth: What was the first tattoo you ever got and why did you decide to get it?

Nik Korpon: First one I ever got was the line-drawing of a guardian angel on the inside of my left bicep. I’ve always believed in angels and demons and ghosts but I had this weird experience when I was 18. I got into a fender-bender with this women and was really angry, only to realize 10 seconds later that if I hadn’t bumped into her, I would’ve gotten t-boned by another car and likely died. Her insurance info didn’t go through when I filed the report so I tried to track her down, but she didn’t exist (according to what she’d given me). I thought she was an angel and that feeling stuck for a long time, though that might’ve just been teenage neurosis. She probably just didn’t want her insurance to go up because of some dumb kid.

What was that first experience like?

Not bad. I think I was awkward because I didn’t know what you were supposed to do when getting tattooed.

Tattoos can capture a memory, or are representative of a feeling or a person. What is your most meaningful tattoo, and why?

I have a big lion head that goes across my chest and down past my sternum. I got it for my son based on a book we read when he was little, about a daddy lion and his cub, and it’s the most meaningful one that I have. I also really like the Hitchcock stuff I have on my leg.

What was your last tattoo?

Last finished tattoo was probably a banger on my leg that we all gave each other when a friend from out of town came back to visit the shop. I’m still getting the lion finished, seven years later, because I don’t have any free time.

When will you get your next one?

I was hoping to get my ribs covered up with a big panther and shark, but I think it’ll have to wait till my kids get a bit older and I have more free time. I live an hour from my old shop and (unfortunately) don’t get down there often. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Any tattoos you regret?

Not any that I explicitly regret, but ones that I wouldn’t do the same. But they’re all representative of some part of my life.

What do your tattoos say about you?

They’re as random and scattered as I am. They’re almost all traditional, but some have a ton of significance and some were just slow days at the shop and “I’m bored. Y’wanna put something on me?”

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“I forgot to mention this tattoo, but I love it. It’s the cricket bat from Shaun of the Dead, which is one of my favorite movies ever and, to my mind, one of the most perfect screenplays ever written.”

How do others react to your tattoos?

I had both sleeves about fifteen years ago and I’d get tons of looks. This was before Miami Ink and before tattoos got super popular. All my friends and roommates were artists so within my group it wasn’t a big deal (they were all more heavily tattooed than I was) but other people would look at me sideways, sometimes cross the street. I got lots of scared looks when I was traveling through Eastern Europe because it was mostly Russian mafias and whatnot that were heavily tattooed. Now it’s no big deal.

What do tattoos bring to our culture?

Ideally, they tell stories visually. That’s what always attracted me, especially with Japanese tattoos. They’re works of art and they change the viewer to understand what they mean, to really study them. I’m out of the loop now (I left the shop four years ago) but in the five years I was there, we saw a huge shift toward Instagram tattoos—like those dandelions that dissolve into birds and arrow line-drawings—and lots of text. Stuff that doesn’t require any thought, that’s just immediately understandable. It’s kind of a bummer, but it kept the lights on so…

Do you have a go to tattoo person/shop? Give them a shout-out!

I worked at Saints and Sinners in Baltimore for five years and those dudes make incredible tattoos. Most of mine were done by Christian Beckman (who is the namesake for the character in Stay God, if anyone’s read that). Anyone in Baltimore should go get tattooed there.

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Bio: Nik Korpon is the author of The Rebellion’s Last Traitor, Queen of the Struggle, and The Soul Standard, among others. He lives in Baltimore.

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Tattoo Tuesday with Steph Post – interview

Walk in the Fire CoverBrian Lindenmuth: What was the first tattoo you ever got and why did you decide to get it?

Steph Post: I got my first tattoo, a lotus flower on my back, on my 18th birthday, on my first real road trip. I had always been fascinated with tattoos as a kid and knew they would become a part of my life as an adult. My family was less than thrilled. I called my mom from Atlanta on my birthday and the first thing she said was, “I know what you did and I don’t want to hear about it.” Fortunately, she’s gotten used to my tattoos by now.

What was that first experience like?

Exciting. I’m not one of those people who likes to brag about how they don’t feel pain or how tattoos don’t hurt. They can damn well hurt. But I don’t remember how the first one felt at all (whereas I can still remember what it felt like to have my elbow drilled…). I just remember feeling excited about the process and also a bit like I was coming into my own.

Tattoos can capture a memory, or are representative of a feeling or a person. What is your most meaningful tattoo, and why?

Oh, wow. Every tattoo of mine has meaning. That’s why I get them, as a record, in a way, of an experience or a time in my life or something that I was feeling and wanted to hold on to forever. Many of them have a meaning in themselves in what they depict and others are simpler and represent a time and place. One of my favorite tattoos is a gorgeous fox piece on my right leg. The fox is my spirit animal and so this image represents me as a whole, rather than marking out just one facet of my life.

What was your last tattoo?

I was tattooed a few weeks ago, actually. Just a small piece on the inside of my arm. It’s a line from The Little Prince and reads “But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.” It’s in honor of all the dogs that have come into my life and passed on (and two in particular who left me this past year) and also explains how I feel about the intense connection I have with the dogs I’ve shared my life with.

When will you get your next one?

Who knows? I usually get tattooed about every six months, though lately it’s been stretching out to once a year or so. I’m not hanging around tattoo shops so much like I used to. I do have my next tattoo in mind, and it will be a big one, but I almost always sit on a tattoo idea for months and months before committing to it. So, we’ll see…

Any tattoos you regret?

Nope.

What do your tattoos say about you?

That I’m badass? No, seriously I think they express the things I value most in life. Tattoos can never be lost, can never be taken away from you. They can fade somewhat or acquire their own scars, but you own them in a way that you can’t own anything else. I’ve never been one to show off my tattoos or to get tattooed just for fun or the hell of it. It’s always an intensely personal experience, which is sort of how I approach everything in life, I suppose.

How do others react to your tattoos?

I’ll tell you, it’s a lot easier to have tattoos now that they’ve become so popular. It didn’t used to be so acceptable, especially for women. Years ago I had a lot of people, strangers always, who told me that I was going to hell or would never find a guy and would never amount to anything. This happened a lot when I was waiting tables back in North Carolina. I’d be like “here’s your sweet tea” and some lady would say thank you and then tell me how it was such a shame, because I could have been such a pretty girl without all those tattoos. The absolute worst was when, for a time there, people felt like they could just come up and check out my tattoos. I almost decked a guy in the grocery store once for trying to lift up the back of my shirt to see one of my tattoos. That hasn’t happened in a long while, though. I think I’ve gotten enough now that people are too intimidated. Or maybe I’ve just perfected my “back off” look, finally. 🙂

What do tattoos bring to our culture?

Tattoos used to be the mark of an outsider. And of being part of a tribe of outsiders. In a way, I miss that concept, but I also love that now more people feel that it’s okay to express themselves, in whatever way they may choose. So I think tattoos indicate an openness to, quite literally in some cases, wear our hearts on our sleeves. Tattoos let us share ourselves, oftentimes our most true selves, in a language this is both simple and transcendent.

Do you have a go to tattoo person/shop? Give them a shout-out.

I don’t and very much wish I did! My latest go-to guy, Sean Williams, who did quite a bit of my more recent work, left St. Pete and I moved as well, so I’m still looking for someone local to have that tattoo connection with. But since so many of my tattoos have been acquired while traveling, I have work from too many artists to even remember. I love working with one artist for a time, but I also love picking up work from artists all over the country when the time and place is right for a new tattoo.

Bio: Steph Post is the author of the novels Walk in the Fire, Lightwood and A Tree Born Crooked. She graduated from Davidson College as a recipient of the Patricia Cornwell Scholarship and winner of the Vereen Bell award, and she holds a Master’s degree in Graduate Liberal Studies from UNCW. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a Rhysling Award and was a semi-finalist for The Big Moose Prize. She lives in Florida.