tattoo stories // joanna

As the keeper of a few tattoos, people always ask me about the story behind each. I also always find myself curious about other people’s tattoo stories. Tattoo art is so very personal that I can’t help myself! I want this to be a new series, where I ask different people in my life (and maybe even strangers??) about their art. To kick it off, here are the stories behind my tattoos.

tattoo stories // @jojotastic

Let’s start with my rooster and pig tattoos, aka the ones that people tend to see first. I usually consider these to be one tattoo because I got them at the same time and they are part of the same story. They are traditional sailor tattoos and symbolize survival. Basically, a sailor would get these tattooed on his feet after he survived a big storm or shipwreck. So why do I have them? Because I also survived a metaphorical storm a couple of years ago. I was in the mire of a deep depression and struggling to get out of it. I had a moment one day where I realized that I actually could get out of it, that it required work, but was totally possible. I got these tattoos to symbolize that moment, but also to remind me that I will never, ever go back to that deep, dark place again. They keep me grounded, while also giving me hope.

tattoos by Mike Ski at True Hand Society in Philadelphia.

tattoo stories // @jojotastic

For a while I wavered about how visible I wanted my tattoos to be. Am I a sleeve kind of person? Or is it more fun to have a peek showing? That decision was pretty much made for me when I decided to get a tattoo memorializing my grandfather. When he passed away earlier this year, I KNEW I wanted a tattoo for him so he’d always be with me. The funniest part is that I know he’d not be super into it… but would still be totally flattered and love me anyways. So, on a whim I headed over to the shop and got this quick little flower with his name and the year he was born.

tattoo by Sara Purr at Rabid Hands in Seattle.

tattoo stories // @jojotastictattoo stories // @jojotastic

The day before I left Philly, I knew I needed something to mark that period in my life and remind myself that I can keep going. Living there coincided with one of the hardest phases of my life and leaving felt a lot like I was just leaving it allllll behind — and I had hope for the first time in a long, long time. Therefore, I got a tattoo of the symbol for hope, an anchor.

tattoos by Mike Ski at True Hand Society in Philadelphia.

tattoo stories // @jojotastic

Last is my rib piece that reads ‘constellations.’ This is my only lettered tattoo and it is a reminder to myself to always look up and remember that there is more. There’s more to life… to love… to any experience. I wanted to always remember how I felt the first time I looked up at the night sky in Montana and how all my troubles melted away for that quick moment. And I wanted it placed in a very private place because that sentiment felt so personal to me. I also love when the slightest peek shows, especially because I asked my artist for extremely ornate and feminine lettering. I just wanted the piece to be overwhelmingly pretty.

tattoo by Jerad Shealey at Rabid Hands in Seattle.

tattoo stories // @jojotastic tattoo stories // @jojotastic

Photography by Meghan Klein for Jojotastic. More tattoo stories to come!

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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  1. 7.24.16
    Julie Schoenfeld said:

    Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t know a single one of these stories! I always thought the anchor was for DG.. Ha. Thank for sharing, they’re lovely sentiments.

  2. 9.24.15
    Sahra said:

    this is absolutely wonderful! I love deeply memorative tattoos. I myself have 12, and like you toyed with the idea of how visible I wanted them. I don’t have a sleeve, I have small tattoos all over my body and large ones across my ribs/sides. My favorite is your dainty anchor, but I also truly love the meaning behind the ones on your feet!

    XO Sahra
    Que Sera Sahra

  3. 9.8.15
    Susan said:

    I always love hearing tattoo stories (and enjoy sharing mine when asked). Yours are great and make me feel even stronger about adding more traditional/sailor tattoos to my ink repertoire. Always planning the next one, of course. ;)

    • 9.8.15
      joanna said:

      i’m so glad you identified with this post! can’t wait to see what you add to your collection :)