Tattoo Story – Cindy Emch

Cindy Emch aka Emchy is an accordion player, poet and pop culture dork. She has three bands and you can learn all about them and her writing on her home page.

This tattoo was gotten for my wife on our anniversary. Always superstitious, I modified the grammar to read Love for the Life – incorporating a double meaning of love for life, and love for The Life – referencing the queer life. This to me makes it both universal and specific for who I am and who the tattoo was for. This tattoo was done by Mikal Gilmore at Black & Blue Tattoo in the Mission in San Francisco.

Wrist Stars
These were done by a friend who was just learning how to ink, they were her 3rd tattoo on actual human skin. They mark a moment where I chose to lead my life with more active choices and not just let life happen to me. These were done by Mikal Gilmore in a kitchen in an apartment in Noe Valley in San Francisco.

Grandparents Crest
This tattoo was specifically for my grandparents. I got it a couple of weeks after my grandmother had died. The heart with antlers represents the fact that I come from a family of hunters. The birds are my grandfather and grandmother’s favorite birds respectively. The acorns are a Michigan Red Oak and California Live Oak to represent where I am from and where I make home now. The stars number the months in a year. This is actually my favorite piece that I currently have. This tattoo was done by Scott Silvia at Black Heart Tattoo in the Mission in San Francisco.

Willem the spider was my first tattoo. Done in a closet made up to be a tattoo studio in the lower haight district of San Francisco, the image comes from the Lenore comic drawn by Roman Dirge. I had this image taped to my computer monitor of my day job for over a year before getting the ink done. I found the image charming and see Willem the spider as my protector. Willem was never named in the original comic strip, instead I named him based on a song from the Tom Waits / William Burroughs opera The Black Rider.

When I turned 30 I started taking my writing and my spoken word seriously. This was to remind me of who I am, and who I have been since I started writing poetry at age 7. This tattoo was done by Mikal Gilmore at Black & Blue Tattoo in the Mission in San Francisco.

Devin – Tattoo Story

My chest piece was done in one sitting by my friend Jason Angst at the Brew City Tattoo Convention in 2009 (He won tattoo of the day for it). I got this tattoo at a time when a lot of friends of mine were going through a really hard time related to family problems and state repression and various other legal troubles. The quote across the banner is “we are the birds of a coming storm” which is a paraphrasing of the infamous words of the Haymarket martyr, August Spies. Spies was an anarchist agitator in Chicago who was sentenced to death for his fiery views and convictions. His last words before being hung were “the day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” In a way, thinking about his words was a way for me to deal with the difficulties my friends and I were going through and to remember that though we felt alone at times, a whole redemptive storm would follow someday.


Also by Jason Angst. Medusa is often mythologized as a symbol of femme / feminist vengeance against patriarchal power. When I got this, most of the female assigned people in my life (including my mother) were dealing with bad behavior of men in various ways and capacities. People I thought I could trust, or who were maybe positive examples of how to not be misogynist were proving me wrong left and right. This affected me in a pretty serious way and I had to re-evaluate a lot of the ways I thought about gendered violence and resistance to it. I got a tattoo of medusa as a bit of a solidarity gesture with everyone in my life dealing with violence or pain because of their place in our gendered world. The tattoo is based on a painting by Caravaggio.


My first and dearest tattoo, by Gifford Kasen . “Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!”

Thanks Devin!

Live in the Sf bay area and have some ink you’d like to show off, or are a tattoo artist who just finished a really cool piece? Contact me about a shoot. I’m always looking for people with creative and interesting tats to work with.

Chance McKinsey – Tattoo Story

I wanted something simple for my first tattoo, and settled on my astrological symbol in the middle of a tribal sun. While looking for artists, I became inspired to start planning out my next, oh, dozen or so tattoos and found myself scribbling constantly in my sketchbook. One day, I banged out four tribal looking symbols for the elements: earth, wind, water, and fire. I was so pleased with the results that I immediately 86’d the idea of getting anything else.  And then, I found Dawn.

Dawn was a corporate graphic designer for ten or fifteen years before waking up one day and realizing she was unhappy. She quit her job, bought a motorcycle, and became a professional female bodybuilder and a tattoo artist. She told me all this to distract me while she inked up my chest, getting my attention most when she was going over the tender collar bone area. I was so inspired, I never forgot her story and repeat it to myself every time I worry about not knowing what I want to do with my life.

For a week afterwards, I wore button-down shirts so I could periodically rip them open and break into the Captain Planet theme song. Really, the symbols are just there as reminders of the love and awe I feel for the power of nature.

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