Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cosmic Ray Traces

Hi Paul,

Love the Museum Tattoo blog – I had to send you this one for it. Not the best ever pic being a selfie of my left shoulder, but this is my tattoo of cosmic ray traces in a bubble chamber.

I had it done because I like the image mainly, but it was actually inked at Life during an adult late night event on body modification.  Among other attractions we had tattoo demonstrations from one of the artier tattoo parlours in the region, and I was the subject of the demo in front of an audience of about 200 people.

Even better, the cost of the tattoo came out of the event budget!

Ian Simmons
Science Communication Director
Centre for Life
Newcastle upon Tyne

Want to share your own story and tattoo?
Email Beth: beth (at) redmond-jones (dot) com or Paul: info (at) orselli (dot) net.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lion and Bat

I have been fascinated with bats since I was a small child and now have a near 20 year long career as a wildlife biologist working on bat-related research and other bat conservation projects in southern California. My Mother always wanted me to get a bat tattoo but I never got around to it while she was alive. On the day she passed away my siblings and I went and got Lion tattoos to symbolize her passing (she was a Leo). Later, on the anniversary of her passing I decided to finally get that bat tattoo she always wanted and I went big so she could see it from heaven.

Drew Stokes
Wildlife Biologist
Department of Birds and Mammals
San Diego Natural History Museum

Want to share your own story and tattoo?
Email Beth: beth (at) redmond-jones (dot) com or Paul: info (at) orselli (dot) net.

Baroque curlicues, tree, crows, and more

To many people tattoos are permanent souvenirs – of loved ones, memories, life-defining events, admired celebrities or artists, religious beliefs – but to me they are decoration. My tattoos have no meaning. Baroque curlicues work up one arm and spill into a tree form with crows flying outwards. Most recently I have added a destination for the crows with a sailor’s compass on my upper shoulder and an arrangement of antique cogs and English ivy flowing down my left arm.

For an art historian it is intriguing to offer yourself as a canvas. And I have a great artist in Amy Black of Trademark Tattoo in Richmond, VA. Richmond is one of the most tattooed cities in America and tattoo is as much a part of our visual culture here as the great works of art in the museum.

Robin Nicholson
Deputy Director for Art and Education
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 

Want to share your own story and tattoo?
Email Beth: beth (at) redmond-jones (dot) com or Paul: info (at) orselli (dot) net.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


When I was 21 and working at the MOS in Boston as a curatorial assistant in the Live Animal Center a group of us decided to go to Rhode Island to get tattoos. This was before tattooing was legal in MA. It was my first of what has become many tattoos and I had decided that I wanted a snake tattoo. Not just any snake, though, a coiled snake that I had seen somewhere. I couldn't remember where so I tried to draw it from memory, but I couldn't get it quite right.

The tattoo trip was fast approaching and I was having no luck. I had to pick something up from our curator's desk, probably a pay check or a new key or something, and sitting on the top of his desk where it had been for lord only knows how long was Ditmars "Reptiles of North America" with that green cover and gold embossed coiled snake.

Lucy Hale

Wolverine (and love)

Given what the tattoo on my upper arm looks like (the comic book and movie character Wolverine) you might not suspect this is a story about love.

When I was working at the Austin Children's Museum my then girlfriend (now wife) Lisa gave me a birthday gift of a tattoo by an artist who traveled up to Austin from San Antonio only once a month to do special "tattoo appointments."  (Sorry, but I have absolutely no recollection of the tattoo artist's name ...)

I chose the character Wolverine not only because he is a super-cool bad ass, but also because I got my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan --- home of the "Wolverines".  The U of M school colors also match those of Wolverine's old-school uniform on the tattoo.

So this tattoo has a bunch of different meanings to me.  But ultimately, it reminds me of my younger self, and falling in love with the person I married.

Paul Orselli
President and Chief Instigator
POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


"In the center of my back is a teasel. It's a tenacious, prickly weed, similar to a thistle. In the summer it bursts into hundreds of purple blooms, then in the autumn it dries and its spines become hard and sharp.

Not only is the teasel a beautiful and tough plant, wearing it reminds me of my family and my hometown, Skaneateles NY. Introduced from England in 1833, the hardy, invasive teasel thrived in the limestone-rich fields of Skaneateles and soon became a cash crop for the village. The dried plant heads were harvested, processed, attached to barrels and spindles, and used to finish newly woven wool cloth in textile mills. The stiff spikes of the teasel worked like combs, raising the nap- teasing the fibers- and making the cloth softer and smoother. By the 1930s most of the teasels in napping machines were replaced by more rugged metal cards, but the teasel remains a town symbol.

My tattoo was inked by the incredibly talented artist Brucius at Black & Blue Tattoo in San Francisco."

(image from Skaneateles history blog:

Margaret Middleton
Exhibit Designer
Boston Children's Museum

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crow and Octopus

The crow is my first tattoo. I did it to honor my grandmother (who was my best friend). It is based on one of Aesop's fables about a thirsty crow who finds a pitcher with water in the bottom, but it can't reach the water. The crow drops stones into the pitcher, raising the water level until it can get a drink. (A skill that scientists have observed in corvids!) The moral is variously about the value of persistence and creativity. I sketched the idea and had the original work done for my 45th birthday. A few years later, I found a different artist to fix and enhance the piece (adding the ivy and correcting the geometry of some of the lines). I'm finally happy with it.

The octopus is my second tattoo. It was a gift from me to me for my 48th birthday. I like to joke that it is my mid-life crisis tattoo (better than an extra-marital affair or a sports car). I designed it and got it done without seeking anyone's input or approval. It makes me feel brave because it is in a place that is conspicuous. I've always loved octopuses (yes, that is the correct plural). They are incredibly smart, resilient, and clever. I am fascinated by their ability to change color and texture to virtually become one with their surroundings. The female stays with her eggs, fanning them with her tentacles until they hatch, and then she dies. I can't understand why such an awesome creature lives fewer than 5 years.

Cheryl Downes McCoy
Exhibit Developer
Oakland, CA


 I'm just glad I didn't get the Lego spaceman tattoo instead of this one. 

It was a spontaneous decision to get my tattoo. I was having a great day visiting Venice Beach about 13 years ago on my birthday. I just walked in to Tattoo Asylum and happened to get right in with no waiting with a famous artist named SWAG. I had to come up with a design quick. I drew this little mandala in about 3 minutes based on a lotus flower. 

Each seed pod representing the 5 elements. I wanted something that could change meaning over time as I change. When I meditate I sometimes use the "hole" in the center of the mandala as a portal or entry point to journey Fantastic Voyage style into my body to do some diagnostics for health and well-being. These journeys also give me ideas for paintings.

Bill Dambrova
Freelance Exhibition Designer/Artist based in Phoenix AZ

Manta Ray

When I was 20, I was snorkeling on the back side of Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. As I came out of a kelp bed, below me was this incredible and beautiful manta ray. The wing span was immense and the ray was so graceful as it glided along the sandy ocean floor. I followed it in ah of its beauty, and then it started swimming up towards me and the water's surface. The manta ray came close to me and I reached my hand out and touched its wing. It was an incredible encounter with a magnificent creature.

Since that experience, I have dreamed of getting a manta ray tattoo, but I could never find the right artist. Then, I met Mike Stobbe ( from Avalon Tattoo II in San Diego, and that all changed. Now, I have my manta ray.

Beth Redmond-Jones
Senior Director of Public Programs
San Diego Natural History Museum

Museum People's Tattoos

Many museum folks have a love for tattoos—their cultural significance, their artistic quality, their documentation of the natural world, and some, just for their own personal meaning. For years, we have talked about tattoos, the ones we want, the design, the stories behind them, and the artists who create them. So, lets post our tats and our stories!