Every tattoo has a story. Kristie Magill’s shamrock is about her wedding day in 2003.

Her husband, Ryan, picked a four-leaf clover from the ground, she said, and gave it to her before they spoke their vows.

Kristie, now 30, kept the clover and in 2007 had a tattoo artist replicate the plant in ink on the living skin of her left shoulder blade.

The clover tattoo looks a bit like a heart, she said, to symbolize their love.

She got her second tattoo on the same shoulder on her birthday, Oct. 29. This time a dragonfly that looks like it’s just about to land. Dragonflies, she said, symbolize maturity and growth

“I just turned 30,” she said. “Now I feel like I’ve come into my own.”

She speculated her small tattoos may surprise some of her clients. She has operated an in-home day care in Pendleton for the past four years. Some parents know about her tattoos, and none has ever said a bad word to her about them.

Society, she said, is becoming more accepting of tattoos.

Pendleton tattoo artist Jason Lybrand has seen that. Lybrand, 40, owns and operates the studio Wicked Kitty Tattoo & Piercing on Main Street. He said he has inked professionals of all sorts, from correctional officers to district attorneys.

“There’s no work tattoos don’t touch anymore,” he said.

Rough edges

A 2006 Pew Research Center study revealed 36 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25 have a tattoo. The percentages bump up 4 points for the 26-40 age group. After that, the numbers drop drastically, with just 10 percent of Americans 41 to 64 sporting ink.

Lybrand said he is in the process of tattooing an emergency room nurse who wants to hide a Caesarian scar. Lybrand opens an album and flips to a photo of the work — an intricate scene of a brightly colored fish swimming through sea plants. The scene wraps completely around the woman’s waist.

Lybrand has seen the stories from the other side. He’s watched clients cry as he tattooed them. Not from the pain of the work, he said, but from emotions that can well up when a tattoo has special meaning.

He flips to another photo. A small, red, slit-eyed and angry-looking being rips through flesh and peers menacingly. It’s not pretty, Lybrand said, but the man who got this wanted to remember his fight with his inner demon. The tattoo is on his shoulder, so he can see it in a mirror and remember.

Lybrand, who described himself as “rough around the edges,” said those moments in the studio touch him. He admitted he has had to stop tattooing while he and clients teared up.

“Tattoos are such a bookmark in your life,” he said. “And not always a good bookmark, but it’s a reminder of who you are at that point in your life.”

Kristie’s husband, 32, is getting his third and largest, most elaborate tattoo. The outlines of a “Rosy Cross” spreads across his back. This version of a cross is a symbol largely associated with the 17th century ideas of Rosicrucians, a semi-mythical secret society. The vertical portion runs from between his shoulder blades to his belt line; the patibulum stretches across his upper back.

“It’s almost like a spiritual thing,” he said. “It’s for me, not for anybody else.”

Ryan said the rose on the cross represents the spirit in full bloom, in an enlightened state. He’s aiming for that, he said, which he equates to following Christ. And because he’s “7/8ths Irish,” the design of the cross reflects his Celtic heritage as well.

Getting this tattoo is a serious commitment. He has another four hours of work to sit through for the coloring. The outline, he said, may have been the most painful part. Ryan felt every sting of the tattoo needle on the sensitive skin of his lower back.

“I started getting nauseous, started to sweat...” he said.

Even his legs began twitching and kicking uncontrollably, he said.

Wind pays

And at $100 per hour for the work, Ryan admits the hobby-habit he and his wife have isn’t cheap. But he makes OK money as a wind farm technician out of Touchet, Wash., for the Stateline Wind Farm on Vansycle Ridge on the Oregon-Washington border.

With 186 turbines operating and 270 more approved for construction, Stateline is the Northwest’s largest wind farm. Ryan said of the two dozen or so people he works with, nearly all have tattoos.

“It’s so accepted now,” he said. “You see people everywhere with them.”

To pay for the work, Ryan said he and Kristie borrowed an idea they were using to pay off debt. Ryan began setting aside $50 a month from each paycheck and putting that in a savings account just for tattoos. Early next year, he said, he’ll have enough saved for his next session.

Kristie already is planning her third tattoo.

“You can’t just have one,” she said.

She said she will get a hummingbird to symbolize her grandmothers.

Kristie and Ryan have two children, Molly, 7, and Michael, almost 6. Both have said they want tattoos. And Kristie has promised them they can get them. But not until they turn 18.

 

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