When Scout Frank lost his mother, he decided to put some of her ashes on a necklace so he could feel as if she was close. But in her grieving process she found a way to really get it under her skin: with a tattoo.
With the wooden box where his mother’s ashes are, Frank excitedly arrived at the studio of tattoo artist Kat Dukes in the Californian coastal city of Oceanside.
“It’s too big,” said Frank in a choked voice, sitting in a black chair, as Dukes took out the bag containing the light gray powder. The clean room, with white walls and a cowboy aesthetic, adds intimacy to the moment.
With gloves and a small stick, the Dukes row Under the skin: Artists imprinting the ashes of loved ones in California find a small fragment of the ashes and pass them to the young woman so that, in a kind of ceremonial moment, he can add it in ink. .
“Come on, mom!” said Frank, whose tears turned into smiles.
“It’s a different way of honoring it instead of having them (ashes) just at my house,” he commented, receiving the sealed box from Dukes.
Dukes, who has built a loyal following at his Steel Honey studio for his style of hand tattooing, incorporated the ash practice three and a half years ago when one of his clients told him he wanted honor his dog in a way that is even more. close
“I had heard it could be done, but I didn’t know how,” said the 32-year-old artist.
“It’s very easy, just adding ash to the ink. That’s what we do, and that makes it even more special.”
The tattoo artist, who calls this type of work “commemorative pieces”, has seen his videos spread like wildfire on social networks. And with exposure, came the tsunami.
“I got a lot of criticism for doing it. A lot of people argued that it wasn’t clean,” said Dukes, who embraced the practice so much that he buried his dad’s ashes himself.
“It’s kind of scary here in the United States because people don’t hear about it very often. And people immediately dismiss what’s strange to them.”
Dukes said there was no risk of contamination or infection from using cremation ashes, and that a health assessment found his work safe and that his study did not violate any regulations.
The artist says that it helped him to overcome the psychological impact of the avalanche of criticism, as well as the reaction of his clients, “no matter how much hatred I received.”
“It is something very special to be able to do something like that with a person like Kat,” said Frank, who has lost count of the number of tattoos he has, while looking at the finished piece on his ankle.
The silhouette of a dove, with open wings, is the design chosen by the young owner of a vintage clothing store to remember her mother who, to say “I love you, ” exchanged the words “love” for “pigeon” English).
“The fact that he is connected to me is a very different feeling. Something that I can’t lose, that I can’t get,” he smiled. “He’s already a part of me, but now he’ll be a part of me forever.”