CARBONEAR TAT­TOO ARTIST HELP­ING COVER UP BAD MEM­O­RIES

Com­mu­nity do­nates money and equip­ment to help with new tat­too

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS chris.lewis@cb­n­com­pass.ca

A St. John’s woman’s tragic tat­too story has pulled on the heart­strings of plenty of tat­too com­pe­ti­tion con­tes­tants.

What started as a small con­test for a Carbonear tat­too shop has blown up into some­thing much big­ger, and life-chang­ing, for one woman with a sad story be­hind her inked arms.

Von Stytch Stu­dios, a tat­too stu­dio and art gallery in Carbonear, took to Face­book ear­lier in 2018 to launch what they called a “crappy tat­too con­test” – an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to showcase their most poorly done, or over­all re­gret­table tat­toos, with a chance of get­ting the cost of a cover-up greatly re­duced.

The con­test was open on Face­book for sev­eral weeks, and group mem­bers voted on the tat­toos they thought were some of the worst. The goal was to pick a first, sec­ond, and third­place win­ner to come into Von Stytch Stu­dios to get their tat­toos fixed up, or com­pletely cov­ered by some­thing brand new.

How­ever, as the con­test grew by the day, Danny Williams, the shop’s head tat­too artist, ul­ti­mately de­cided to of­fer ev­ery con­tes­tant a $50-voucher for their cover-up, while still of­fer­ing the orig­i­nal prizes to fi­nal­ists who would be de­cided de­pend­ing on how many votes they got in the group from on­look­ers and par­tic­i­pants alike.

“There were just so many peo­ple that en­tered the con­test, it hon­estly just didn’t feel right to just pick three and be done with it, so ev­ery­one who put their tat­too out there got a lit­tle some­thing out of it from us,” said Williams.

How­ever, amongst all the botched tat­toos and re­gret­table de­ci­sions, one par­tic­u­lar post stood out to Williams, as well as the hun­dreds of con­tes­tants.

Jennifer Bowser hails from St. John’s. She en­tered the con­test with two tat­toos on her arms, with sto­ries that im­me­di­ately tugged at the heart­strings of ev­ery­one who saw them.

Orig­i­nally, Bowser got the tat­toos at the age of 15, when she first got mar­ried. The ink on her arms bore the name of her ex­hus­band, who she di­vorced al­most five years later at the age of 21. While there were plenty of peo­ple in the con­test with re­la­tion­ship-re­lated tat­toos, Bowser’s did a lit­tle more than sim­ply re­mind her of a past mar­riage – they re­minded her of two of her chil­dren she lost in a deadly house fire.

“It’s a con­stant re­minder that I don’t want, be­cause his name is on them,” she told the Com­pass. “In De­cem­ber of 2008, my three chil­dren – Jas­mine, Kody, and Austin were go­ing to visit him at their aunt’s house in Bell Is­land where their father lived at the time. I had no idea this would be the last time I’d see my beau­ti­ful daugh­ter or my hand­some son. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d hug or kiss them, or tell them I love them, and these tat­toos are a con­stant re­minder of that.”

For­tu­nately, Bowser’s youngest son at the time, Austin, es­caped the fire un­harmed, but the death of Jas­mine and Kody is some­thing she’s lived with since the night of Dec. 20, 2008 – al­most 10 years ago.

Bowser her­self did not place as a fi­nal­ist in Von Stytch Stu­dio’s com­pe­ti­tion; how­ever, af­ter see­ing her ini­tial post in the group, dozens of peo­ple reached out, hop­ing to make the change hap­pen re­gard­less.

Af­ter Williams an­nounced that ev­ery­one would be re­ceiv­ing $50 off their cover-up costs, a num­ber of peo­ple reached out to both Williams and Bowser, of­fer­ing up their own $50 to add to Bowser’s in the hopes of cov­er­ing the en­tire cost of a coverup for her tat­toos. One in­di­vid­ual do­nated $150, which Williams him­self de­cided to match, and an Aus­tralian tat­too artist is send­ing out a spe­cial ma­chine to help with the cover-up.

Williams ex­plained that the cost of a cover-up, like most tat­too ses­sions, can vary in price de­pend­ing on the size of the piece, as well as what the client wants done. He also said that de­pend­ing on what the new tat­too is sup­posed to be cov­er­ing, they can be rather tricky com­pared to reg­u­lar tat­toos on a blank can­vas.

As of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, through all the voucher do­na­tions, Bowser is sit­ting on ap­prox­i­mately $1,200 off the cost of a cover-up for her tat­toos, which would cover most of the price.

“It gives me goose­bumps just think­ing about it, hon­estly,” said Williams. “The fact that so many peo­ple have stepped in and reached out to help some­one they don’t know at all? That’s amaz­ing, man. I think that’s a per­fect ex­am­ple of what New­found­lan­ders are all about – be­ing hu­man be­ings, and help­ing other hu­man be­ings no mat­ter what. That’s what makes me so proud to live here, and work here.”

Williams and Bowser have been chat­ting back and forth over the last week or so, de­cid­ing when she would come out for the ses­sion, and what she would like to have done to cover the tat­toos. While no par­tic­u­lar date has been set, Williams es­ti­mates she should be able to start the process some­time in June, or the early sum­mer sea­son.

“I was very over­whelmed when I saw what that peo­ple were do­nat­ing their own vouch­ers, and their own money, to help me get my cover-up done,” said Bowser. “I’m so grate­ful to all those peo­ple, and to Danny and his friends for mak­ing it hap­pen. Soon enough, I’ll have a beau­ti­ful piece of art on my arms in mem­ory of my kids.”

CHRIS LEWIS/THE COM­PASS

Danny Williams was taken aback by the out­burst of do­na­tions to help with the cost of cov­er­ing up Jennifer Bowser’s tat­toos.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Jennifer Bowser’s tat­toos bring back bad mem­o­ries for her, but she hopes to change that by cov­er­ing them up with some new ink.

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