Inked

Jamin London Tinsel

Jamin L TJamin London Tinsel

Position: Fine arts and ceramics teacher

Tats: Preying mantis; six colored dots on left bicep; “a” on right wrist; a bow on upper right forearm

The meaning: The first tattoo that Jamin London Tinsel got at 18 is her least favorite – a preying mantis and cherry blossoms on her hip. “I was like a young, tough shaved-head feminist,” she says. About 12 years later, her next tattoo – the dots – came to her in a dream after she had just signed on a house with her new husband. “I kind of think of people as having a color that represents them,” she says. “My husband is cool, calm collected and blue, and I’m kind of red, fiery and spunky.” In commemoration of her first daughter Angelina’s birth, London Tinsel tattooed an “a” on her right inner wrist. When she had her second daughter, Bowden, she wanted to represent her in a way unique from Angelina. The tattoo? A bow, for the first three letters of her name. ♦

Richard Fisher

Corazón GitanoGranada

Richard Fisher

Position: Spanish teacher

Tats: Cursive “Granada” on left forearm; “Corazon Gitano” – “gypsy heart” in Spanish – on right forearm; tree/leaf symbol of his three children’s initials entwined with his own on shoulder

The meaning: Spanish teacher Richard Fisher says that he left his heart in Granada, Spain. After living there for four months last year, Fisher returned to Portland and wanted to commemorate his connection to the city and culture. He got the city’s name and the Spanish words meaning “gypsy heart” tattooed on his forearms. “Portland is my favorite American city, but I’m probably going to die in Granada,” says Fisher. “It’s magical. It’s something you can’t explain. When you meet the people, you feel it, the thousand-year history. It’s a very multicultural city. There’re a lot of gypsies who are part of the identity of Spain.” When he returned home, he had his children’s initials – Michelle, Mia and Martin – connected to his own. “After I came back my relationship with my kids was ten times stronger. It takes the hardships to really appreciate what you have. So when I came back from that hiatus, the relationships had changed drastically for the better and this was a small token of that.” ♦

Karl Acker

Acker's Boys Acker's Girls

Position: Track coach and student resource specialist

Tats: Names of sons on left bicep; names of goddaughters inside of a heart on right bicep; wife’s name surrounded by a heart over heart; initials “KA” on left hand; and “A” for “Acker” on right calf

The meaning: After Karl Acker’s high school shop teacher cut off three of his own fingers using a table saw, Acker was forced to sign up for a different field of study than carpentry. He chose printmaking. “I was always intrigued by the transference of ink to different surfaces,” he says. Acker gave himself his first tattoos (the Roman “KA” initial design and the “A”) “with a sterilized stick pen and a jar of India ink” when he was 15. For their one-year anniversary, Acker tattooed his wife’s name over his heart. “She took my heart from my mom and has had hold of it since,” he says. Acker’s first son, Karlos, was stillborn. His name is tattooed along with the nicknames of Acker’s two other sons – Kenneth (Pee Wee) and Karl Jr. (Peanut). He also has the names of his three goddaughters inked onto his right deltoid – Keira, Tata, and Jaya. “This is our way to have daughters,” he says. ♦

Westie Freeman

Westie Dragonfly BostonWestie Freeman

Position: Math teacher

Tats: Dragonfly on back of neck; Boston skyline on wrists

The meaning: Every time Westie Freeman catches a glance of the back of her neck in the mirror, she is reminded of her father, who passed away just before she started high school. Freeman says she decided to tattoo the dragonfly on her neck after it became a family symbol for her father. “My great aunt was out planting in the garden right after he died,” she says, “and she was … surrounded at one point by a whole bunch of dragonflies. She just felt this moment of peace and acceptance.” Freeman’s second tattoo is meant to commemorate her college experience. “I grew up in Florida and moved to Boston for college. The city itself was perfect. I was surrounded by people that I had something in common with. It was my pace. It was the opposite of Florida. I just wanted something that tied me to the city.” Now, Freeman says, “We’re really lucky in Portland to live in a city where having tattoos doesn’t put you at a disadvantage. Someone asked me: ‘But what if you got a job where you had to cover your wrists every day?’ I was like, ‘I wouldn’t want that job.’” ♦

Garrett Chavis

Garrett Chavis Sick Ink

Position: Student teacher in English teacher Russell Peterson’s class

Tats: Right arm sleeve; quotation marks behind both ears; and a host of others

The meaning: “I intend to get covered in tattoos by the time I die,” says Garrett Chavis. “I figure I’ll just go until I run out of room.” He is already one arm down, with anchors, flowers, snakes, skulls and roses occupying every inch of his right forearm. Chavis spent most of his childhood working in the shipyards on the shores of the Puget Sound alongside burly men who nicknamed him “Pogi,” or “handsome boy.” Most of Chavis’s ink is rooted in a nautical, sailor-style background. ♦

*Chavis would like to credit Bradley Delay of Historic Tattoo for all of his body art.

Melody Rockwell

Melody Rockwell

Position: Art teacher

Tats: Seven stars, sun design on shoulder

The meaning: Melody Rockwell has seven stars tattooed in random places all over her body. She got them when she was 23 as “a reminder to let go of pettiness” and anger. One year after she got her stars, Rockwell recalls having one of those “I-never-should’ve-gotten-out-of-bed” days. A struggling artist, she had just bought a $200 car, only to watch its bumper fall off while trying to pass its emissions test. About to cry, Rockwell tilted her head towards the heavens and felt – peace. “My stars reminded me: ‘It’s just $200, it’s just a car, it’s just a bumper, just one day in life,’” she says now. She thought: “Tonight I’ll go look at the stars and everything will be okay again,” because she felt that looking at the stars at night brings a feeling of awe and a sense of insignificance. “It actually is freeing in the sense that… I’m here but it’s just this tiny little speck in the whole scheme.”

Rockwell makes an effort to keep such a feeling in her consciousness at all times. She says that it “allows you to have more humor in your life – not take things so seriously. The more you can find ways to work with the world in struggle that way, the more you can more quickly return to awe and beauty and love.”

To celebrate her affinity for the sun, Rockwell has another tattoo on her left shoulder that resembles a spiraling sun design. It “has to do with what I feel like is the process of growth,” says Rockwell, “the creative process, my spiritual process; the idea that we learn things and forget them and have to relearn them over and over again.” ♦

Kristyn Westphal

Hebrew Kristyn WestphalMy Ears You Have Pierced

Position: Vice Principal

Tat: Hebrew Quotation on right wrist

The meaning: “I think that we all sort of need signposts to remind us of what our values are and what we want to focus on,” says Kristyn Westphal as she traces the bluish ink that marks her inner right wrist. The tattoo is a Hebrew quotation translating to: “My ears you have pierced.” The phrase is a biblical reference to the Year of Jubilee in ancient Israel, where every seven years, slaves would pierce their ears to signify their desire to become part of the families they formerly served.

Westphal, who was raised in an evangelical household, says that when she initially got the tattoo at 23, she “conceived of it as being a servant to God and being part of the family at the same time.”

However, since then, her perspective has changed. “I think it’s quite possible to live in a very moral way and to live in a way that’s conscious of other people, without a specific religious affiliation,” she says now. “So I just see it as a commitment to service — a reminder that I want to help other folks and be useful in the way that I live my life, and not just live for myself.” ♦

 Tracy Wisher

Fairy Wisher Tracy Wisher

Position: Spanish teacher

Tats: Jewelry design on foot, two blue and green interlacing triangles on ribs, fairy on shoulder, self-designed jewelry on chest

The meaning: Spanish teacher Tracy Wisher says that she reached her pain tolerance when she was 24 – the day that she had two interlacing triangles tattooed on her ribs in Latin America. Each triangle took four hours. “I don’t like the idea of something just being plastered on my body, but rather it being art that’s going to work with the shape of my body,” says Wisher, hinting at the various other tattoos visible on her shoulders and near her collarbones.

She points to the fairy on her shoulder. “I used to work in Yosemite National park… And I was really into reading science fiction, adventure fantasy at the time,” she explains. “I did a lot of climbing and backpacking. The colors of her wings are the colors of Yosemite in the springtime. The purple, for the purple Lupine, the green because everything is just so lush and green and then the orange for the California poppy.”

Wisher also has a tattoo on her left foot that she designed herself to resemble a piece of jewelry similar to a design she has on her chest.

“I think it’s a personal choice,” says Wisher on tattoos in general. “I really appreciate that living in Portland, people are accepting of them. My brother lives in Wisconsin and he is just tatted up all over the place and there’s a lot of discrimination there against people with tattoos. He has a really hard time in the workplace. So here being able to have a professional job, work in public, not have to hide them, is awesome.” ♦

Tim Taylor

Dream Catcher Tim Taylor

Position: Administrative Assistant

Tats: Dream catcher on right shoulder, Nightmare Before Christmas scene on left shoulder

The meaning: Depoe Bay is named after my great, great, great, great grandfather, Chief Depoe,” smiles Tim Taylor proudly. He lifts up the sleeve of his right arm to reveal an intricate, bluish-green feather dream-catcher tattoo. “I put it on my body to remind me of my spiritual connection to the earth and my tribe,” says Taylor. “It’s my heritage, since I’m Native American… just part of my culture.” Trailing off, Taylor grows contemplative before saying, “I have one on my other arm which is for the loss of my partner of 14 years – to cancer.” With a soft smile he rolls up his other sleeve to reveal a much different design, a colored scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas. “It was something that we both enjoyed – the show,” says Taylor. “I still have plenty of original artwork from the movie at home.” Taking a moment to delve back in the memory, Taylor’s expression grows vacant before he smiles again. “It makes me feel good to know that I have a tribute that I carry with me every day, as a reminder of who he was,” he says. ♦

Russell Peterson

Fraternity tattRuss Peterson

Position: Language Arts teacher

Tats: Fraternity letters on arch of left foot, military symbol on chest

The meaning: “I was 19 and living in San Diego,” Russell Peterson begins. “When I was in the Marine Corps, I had a friend and he had his cover, a soft hat, and I was just messing with him. I took his hat and he said ‘Give me my f-ing hat back or I will stab you.’ And I thought he was just joking. He really wasn’t joking. And so I’m sitting here, my shirt’s open and I’m bleeding and I’m like… ‘You cut me!’ And he’s like ‘I’m gonna cut you again, give me my damn hat back.’ And so I give him his hat back and he’s like, ‘You better go get that looked at.’ I’m like ‘Yeah, thanks man. I appreciate that.’” The incident left a four-inch scar on Peterson’s chest that narrowly missed a tattoo he had previously gotten inked while in the military fleet. This design however, wasn’t Peterson’s first tattoo. The two inches of fraternity lettering on Peterson’s foot are reminiscent of his days at Colorado State College. “A guy in my fraternity…knew a guy who had a tattoo gun and was going to go get some tattoos,” recalls Peterson, “and he was like ‘You want to come?’ And I’m like ‘Pfffff okay…a free tattoo? I’ll sign up for that.’” Looking back, Peterson is grateful he had some restraint. “I’m glad I didn’t get that bulldog tattoo with the smoky bear or that butterfly tattoo on the forearm…oh, that would’ve been a bad choice.”

On the whole, Peterson fancies himself indifferent towards tattooing. However, he wouldn’t recommend high school students getting tatted. “When you’re 16 or 17 or 18 years old, you’re dumb,” asserts Peterson. “But on the other hand, it’s your body and you’re young and you’re beautiful, and that’s part of what being young is: being young and beautiful and dumb. So knock yourself out. I kind of wonder about the employment situation – what that will look like, but on the other hand I also recognize that culture and society and norms change, and so maybe it’s not going to be a big deal and I’m just being old.” ♦

Nine Dejanvier

Nine DJ Nine Dejanvier Nine D

Position: Art teacher

Tats: Gemini constellation on back, Quan Yin Buddhist Goddess of Compassion/Alice in Wonderland shoulder sleeve

The meaning: When Nine Dejanvier was 19, she knew she wanted the stars of the Gemini constellation tattooed on her back. “Astrology has always resonated with me, just the idea that there is an energy…that interacts with the earth,” she says. The design held a numerological meaning for Dejanvier as well. 18 stars, 1 + 8 = 9, with Nine as her chosen name. The design has deepened in meaning as Dejanvier has grown older. “Really, it’s like the stars have got my back,” she says. “It’s the universe and my connection to my spirituality.” More recently, Dejanvier has started the process of inking a design she created herself onto her upper arm, inspired by a religious story of Quan Yin (the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion). ♦

Eliza Kamerling-Brown
About

Over the past two years, Eliza has discovered various parts of herself that she wouldn’t have accessed if not for Grant Magazine; she likes to debate issues at length, can’t stand people who say no to everything and believes that learning to be a leader is one hell of a ride. Outside of the world of journalism, she can either be found on a stage or jumping off some large cliff into a deep body of water. This year, Eliza is looking forward to discovering all over again what it means to work on a team.


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