Children Dressed in Ink

By Maggie Boissonnault

Flapjack Chronicle

For some, the urge to modify their bodies comes at a very young age. When Damien Denolf got sent home in second grade for covering his body in sharpie, his mother knew that he was different.  This event gave his mother a good indication of things to come.  He is now covered from head to foot in ink and metal piercings.

Denolf, 40, is an artist and owner of Ancient Arts Tattoo and Piercing in Arcata.  He has been piercing and tattooing people for about 19 years now. I got into the business as a way to bring myself closer to the art form’s Shamanistic roots, he said.

“I’m putting a sacred symbol on someone,” said Denolf.  “I don’t know what it brings them, but they are happy to get it.”

Trends in American tattooing originated with the Native Americans, who used them in rituals and to mark rites of passage, said Denolf. The practice was then adopted by sailors, military men, gangs, and bikers as a way to mark and identify the body. Today tattoos have been commercialized to the point where they are now more socially acceptable than ever and the trend has passed to college students.

David Ball, 20, an art education major at HSU, is one of those kids who went off to college and came back home marked. My dad didn’t want me to get tattoos, said Ball, but after the first couple he realized it was past his jurisdiction.

Ball now has 11 tattoos; the most recent one being two banners across his thigh that says, “Dying to live, born to die.” I imagine my parents will be a bit shocked and confused by this one when they see it over the holidays, he said.

“But it is what it is,” said Ball.

Alex Riley, 20, a recreation major, just received his first tattoo shortly before heading home for Thanksgiving break. He got a pirate girl with perky red nipples tattooed to the back of his calf.

“I didn’t really think about anything when I got it,” said Riley.  “I just knew my mom would have something to say about the breasts.”

The boobs are the only real issue, said Riley, since I have little siblings. And with my intended recreation major, I may end up working with kids, so this may become a problem.

“My dad was just like, what are you, a sailor?” said Riley.

Vivienne St. John, 20, journalism major, has been getting tattoos now for several years and has quite a collection across her body.

“The more I got, the less they seemed to care,” said St. John, referring to her parents.

Her most recent body modification is a barbell piercing on the bridge of her nose. She got it done about three weeks ago, and hasn’t been home to see her family since. But, on Dec. 21 her mother will be picking her up from the Los Angeles airport.

Piercings were never that big of a deal, said St. John, but since it’s on my face and in their face, I’m a little worried. My mom will probably be mad because my grandma will see it, but it’s not like they can really do anything about it.

“She’ll probably make one of those snarly faces,” said St. John.


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