NEW YORK — Why let a great tattoo go to waste when you die?
A new organization of tattoo artists and enthusiasts is helping people who don’t want to take their ink with them when they go. These folks plan to have their favorite tattoos preserved and displayed for posterity by family members.
Charles Hamm, founder of the Cleveland-based National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art, launched his organization at The Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth in Las Vegas earlier this month.
Its website says it provides the service “so that your story, your spirit, and your legacy can live on, for generations to come.”
It costs $115 plus an annual fee of $60 to join the group, also known as Save My Ink. Members can register one tattoo “roughly the size of a chest piece” for postmortem preservation. They can pay another $100 for additional tattoos or to double the size of the ink that’s commemorated.
Hamm, a former KPMG partner who co-owns Square City Tattoo, a tattoo partner in the Cleveland suburb of Chardon, said that his organization has an embalmer on staff and has already preserved 21 tattoos.
One of Hamm’s customers wanted to preserve a heart tattoo he had with the name of his toddler Hunter on it, so that the boy would always know his father loved him.
Joanne Soto, an architect in southern California, became one of the organization’s first paying members when she decided to preserve two of her 14 tattoos for her daughter, age 10, and son, 8.
“It’s very progressive and very innovative, ” said Soto, who is preserving one tattoo of a hummingbird and a lotus, and another with her family name. “To be honest, there’s a bit of weirdness and creepiness mixed in and that definitely grabbed my attention. Life for me has to be interesting.”
She said that she discussed it with her children first, and she’s wondering how they’re going to exhibit her tattoos after she’s gone.
“I hope that my children would choose a [picture] frame that would reflect my personality,” she said. “I would like it to capture my essence.”
Not all of the tattoos are captured postmortem. Hamm said he tested the process out on himself. After he lost 100 pounds, he said, “I had a lot of excess skin around my waist.” So he had two tattoos put on the loose skin, which was then removed through surgery. He then had the tattoos preserved and exhibited.
“We did the process and it worked,” he said.
But despite the removed ink, Hamm is still an illustrated man. “I’m pretty close to having what they call a T-shirt,” he said, referring to the tattoos covering his back, arms, chest and most of his stomach.
In addition to serving as a tattoo preservation site, Hamm wants his organization to serve as a de facto industry group for tattoo artists, who are already using his site as a forum for displaying their art.
By Aaron Smith