Under the Ink. Tattoos as Means of Escapism.

 Under the Ink. Tattoos as Means of Escapism.

Originally published on MegBondMoments.

The slightly awkward MegBond article.

The buzzing of the gun as it scratches lightly against her skin; Mo lay back with her left arm exposed to the atmosphere of the dimly lit den of the tattoo studio. The noise is less discomforting than the feeling, as the scars on her arm camouflage into the spooky-themed doodles on the canvas of her body.

I thought many many times that I couldn’t get my scars done, because I’ve been to separate artists and they said ‘we’re not really going to do anything on that [body scarring] we’re not touching that’.

A young girl from Southport is selected to get a free tattoo over her body scars.

Our bodies are the canvases of our stories.

In modern life today, tattoos are becoming more favourable across a variety of subcultures. The 21st century sees a changing world, within it butchering the stigma of tattoos previously only associated with negative connotations (crime; war veterans and war crimes like Jews during the Holocaust). Now anyone and everyone wants tattoos.

The true origin of tattoos is not directly apparent, yet a variety of adaptations of the practice is widespread throughout history. One of the earliest, ‘Otzi the Iceman’ found within an Schnalstal glacier in the Alps, dates back to 3300 BCE. The body, described as a forty- year old male, has several tattoos created by a slight incision on the skin that has had charcoal rubbed into the flesh.

Tattoos have been a godsend to those of us who have body scarring as it provides the opportunity to conceal the pain our body has endured, with art.

According to a 2019 survey by The Scar-Free Foundation 20.3 million people in the UK have body scarring. That’s a lot of people! Scars are not temporary, and just like tattoos can last a lifetime. The NHS states ‘ that scars are permanent they can fade over a period of up to two years. It’s unlikely they’ll fade anymore after this time’. Celebrities, such as Jeffree Star, have openly spoken about using tattoos as a way to discreetly hide body scars.

Fame has made it easy for celebrities to cover their body with dream tattoos, but most of us cannot afford to do so. Tattoo artists Symone Urbanek and Demi McLean Kay, two local artists in Manchester, have dedicated their free time to covering up body scarring, at no cost to the client, as a means to give back to their local community.

In early January 2022, Symone Urbanek the owner of Ashton Ink Tattoo decided to offer a free scar cover-up (once each month) to those with body scarring. With the high volumes of people stepping forward for this life changing experience, Symone had to create a random draw that selects an individual each month.

I’m looking forward to people’s reaction when it’s done and I’m looking forward to just being able to help, I’ve had some people message [in the past] and say they can’t afford the tattoos, they are quite pricey- so they can’t afford to get a scar cover up done- With any cover up tattoo, it’s not always the case of covering something completely, it’s just being able to distract from what’s underneath.

Co-artist at Ashton Ink Tattoo, Demi McLean, has recently jumped in to help.

Symone started doing it first and I wasn’t even doing it. I just realised how many people were asking for it and how overwhelming it was, and I just thought. Why am I not doing it myself? I’ll take some of the clients, so I’ll do my part.

One of the first individuals to be selected for this tattoo service by Symone was Mo.

Mo has had scarring since the age of fourteen; self harm had been a difficult struggle but is something she overcame. Now at age nineteen Mo is putting her past behind her with the help of the Ashton based tattooist.

It always felt like I wasn’t the one who put them there, so to have someone else put something over that, it’s just a lot better.

This opportunity of a lifetime will stay with Mo for the rest of their life.

I thought nothing of it and just carried on with my day, you know what I mean, and then I got a little dm [direct message] and it was like yeah you’ve been randomly selected.

Mo chose a bat tattoo as the final design for Symone to ink into her skin, to blend into the spooky feminine theme that is carried across her entire body.

I just like bats, the be all and end all, I just really love bats.

@Ashton_Ink_Tattoo – Ashton-under-Lyne

Now, it’s nicer to look at. I can look at my arms in the mirror and not be like ‘ew, I look like I’m ill’.

Mo has other tattoos across her body, all black and white against her frail, pale skin of spiders and butterflies with skulls and flowers. With each question, she responded proudly and bubbly, the mix of excitement and adrenaline racing through her veins.

When asked if she was proud of her collection of tattoo Mo responded:

Yes, damn right I am, yeah no I’m very proud of them coz I’m proud of my artists as well, all of them.

Symone is the glimmer of hope in the darkness.

Collin’s Dictionary defines escapism as when ‘people think about pleasant things instead of the uninteresting or unpleasant aspects of their life’. Tattoo art holds the beauty in customising a new canvas to bodies that are perfectly imperfect. Body scars are stunning but they hold a visual reminder too- often a challenge within life. Symone tattoos over a variety of body scars, including: self-harm, c-section and mastectomy scars.

Finding mental health support can be daunting but putting your mental health first is the most important thing you can do. Self-harm is a short term release coping mechanism, that usually inflicts physical pain and can have long term effects in the long run. If you/someone you know is seeking advice, the following websites are available for 24/7 support:

Every person has a story.

Megan Bond


Hi, Meg Bond here. I am a broadcast journalism student and radio host. I enjoy the creative arts and writing about them. If you're wanting a great review of music, art and film you'll love my quirky articles on MancMuse.

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