Tat-Tuesday: Students share stories behind their ink

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Business junior Carina Henry tattooed a wolf with flowers to commemorate her experience as a study abroad student.

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: Tat-Tuesday is a weekly series that features students around campus and their tattoos.

Ashley Nava

Ashley Nava, a Mexican-American studies and anthropology sophomore, has always been fascinated by symbols. When she came across a tattoo shop while on vacation in San Diego, she couldn’t resist getting one permanently inked into her skin. 

“My boyfriend and I have this thing for hummingbirds,” Nava said. “He’s always mentioned them, and they’re symbolic of love. My mom always told me when I see hummingbirds it’s because somebody’s thinking of me.”

Knowing that some would be critical of her decision, Nava decided to rebel anyway — both she and her boyfriend got matching hummingbird tattoos.

“I wanted to mark my body with something symbolic of a time and feeling I had,” Nava said. “A lot of people criticize those that have couples tattoos, but that’s life, you know? It’s fluid.”

Jensen Soderlund

As a wave of homesickness hit government freshman Jensen Soderlund during her first semester of college, she went to Electric 13 Tattoo on the Drag to replace the pain of missing her siblings with the hum of a tattoo gun.

“(The tattoo) is my older brother’s birthday and my younger sister’s birthday,” she said. “I missed my younger brother and sister. My brother has a matching one as well.”

Soderlund enjoys the overall experience of tattoos most of all, appreciating the feeling of it, despite the temporary pain.

“It’s just cool,” Soderlund said. “It hurts, but it’s kind of like an adrenaline thing, and it’s just a fun experience for me.”

Carina Henry

After studying for a semester in Hong Kong, business junior Carina Henry commemorated the experience with a tattoo.

“It’s a wolf with a peony, and the flower of Hong Kong, the Bauhinia,” she said. “I had never really been alone my entire life before the trip, and there’s this motif of alone with wolves.”

Henry decided on a tattoo and an artist far before actually receiving the tattoo due to complications with the artist. The artist Henry hoped to work with was doing work in Norway at the time, but a lucky twist of fate helped her out.

“I looked up top studios in Hong Kong and found her page, and that’s when I emailed her,” Henry said. “She was coming to Hong Kong for a day, and it was the day before I left.”

Though she was lucky to have the opportunity, the tattoo come at a great cost — literally.

“It was super expensive,” Henry said. “She was there for a convention, she had to move a client around for me, she had to do all these things. I took every possible hit. But it’s fine, it came out good.”

Jacob Ali 

Government junior Jacob Ali has struggled to keep his life in balance, but the tattoo in French on his back helps remind him of guidelines for his life.

“It means, ‘My heart. My mind. My soul,’” Ali said. “Personally it’s just the three things I keep in check, for balance. My life is a constant battle between making sure all of it is in check.”

After thinking about the tattoo for awhile, he decided to get it in France last August. Raised in a religious, school-focused home, it was not until college that this balance began to click for Ali.

“Growing up gay, it was hard to focus on the heart,” Ali said. “College has made it important to reach out and focus on the most important things in life, like expressing yourself and the people around you.”

To Ali, his many tattoos are directly tied to the ways he expresses himself, so others’ opinions of them do not matter. 

“They’re my form of art,” he said. “I best express myself when I’m being true to myself. They don’t have to be important to anyone else. It’s covering the canvas that I made.”