It only hurts a little bit

When her great-grandmother passed away, Erica Smittle, a junior, wanted to do something in her remembrance. A few years after her death, Smittle, then 14 years old, decided how to honor “Rose,” her great-grandmother – she would get a rose tattoo.

Smittle got the tattoo when she turned 18. The idea of a small rose tattoo bloomed into a large cross and roses spanning the entire width of her lower back.

“My friends were like, when I first got the tattoo, ‘We thought you were going to get a small rose!'” said Smittle, an English major.

Women are increasingly opting for large tattoos, according to Anna Paige, owner of No Ka Di Tiki Tattoo and Piercing. Itty bitty hearts and stars on the stomach and lower back are still the feminine rage, Paige said, but she’s also seeing women become more experimental in the shapes and sizes of their designs.

“Women are getting a lot more independent and educated. They don’t want to be told what they can and cannot do,” she said. “If you go back 40 or 50 years ago, it was more like 10 percent [of people with tattoos were women]. Now it’s more like 65 percent.”

Stereotypes prevented women from feeling confident with a tattoo up until even a decade ago, Paige said. Now, the stigmas are slowly lifting.

“I got this T-shirt this one time. It’s got a pin-up girl on the front with a big anchor, and it says, ‘Tattoos: Not just for whores and sailors anymore,'” Paige said.

No Ka Di only tattoos with custom designs. If a customer wants a simple henna tattoo, for example, they work with the artist to create an original design. Many people are becoming more creative with their tattoos, said Paige, but others still want pre-drawn designs, often called “off-the-wall” designs for their popular placement on tattoo parlor walls.

For those that want a pre-drawn design, parlors like Philadelphia Eddie’s Tattoos are the appropriate place to go. Troy Timbel, an artist at Eddie’s, deals with varied tattoo designs. Trends do not exist in his shop, he said.

“Tattoos are more of a personal thing,” Timbel said.

He does, however, see mimicry of particular celebrity tattoos.

“A lot of times when musicians, especially hip-hop ones, get a tattoo, everyone comes in and wants that design,” he said. “When Eve got the paw prints all the girls came in and wanted that.”

Regardless of what the professionals say, the customer knows what’s hot and what’s not. Tattoos on the lower stomach and back are all the rage for girls. Tattoos for guys are pretty much anything and anywhere, although Timbel said he’s recently done more tattoos on necks than ever before and had a few customers ask for celebrity autographs to be tattooed on their arms.

The popularity of lower back and stomach placement of tattoos is evidence that most women don’t want their ink to be clearly noticeable. Paige credits this no-show popularity to women’s desire for a more sexual placement of the tattoo.

“I would never get mine on my arm,” said Brittany Waller, a freshmen majoring in mathematics. “Another place I would never get one would be on the thigh or the calf. I wouldn’t want it in a place where it would really show a lot.”

There have also been sightings of women with tattoos in unexpected places, like feet, hands and behind ears.

“It looks really pretty on there (the feet) when you wear flip-flops, but it looks like it would hurt,” said Waller.

Paige doesn’t like to box tattoos under particular trends. Although she’s had customers bring in popular designs, the artists of No Ka Di are always willing to work with customers in developing a tattoo that is both appropriate and pleasing to them, she said

“Nothing is cliché, because art is objective. What you like is what you like,” Paige said.

Sammy Davis can be reached at

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