Alhough I have a few highly visible tattoos, I consider myself more of an admirer than a collector. The time and money required for something spectacular will certainly elude me until my little one is, oh I don’t know, off to college? But the pretty ones I’ve been seeing lately sure have me daydreaming.
In this daydream, I’m also usually traveling with the circus (in my own velvet-covered train car complete with crystal bead curtains and continuously burning jasmine incense). My husband has a handlebar mustache and a homemade tattoo machine and there’s nothing more attractive to him than a painted lady that he, well, painted. I sport exotic tattoos from when we traveled to India and performed alongside decorated elephants and an inky token of Paris when we made love under the Eiffel Tower after a late show.
In the real world, I found my muse and her name was Maud Wagner.
Maud Wagner was the first female tattoo artist in the U.S., having begun working in 1911. Prior to trading a date for tattoo lessons with her soon-to-be husband, she was an aerialist and contortionist in traveling circuses. Gus and Maud Wagner were two of the last tattoo artists to use the traditional hand poke method (sans machine) and travelled the country as artists and attractions in Vaudeville and other entertainment venues. They had a daughter, Lovetta, who began tattooing at just 9 years old.
I mean, this hardcore lady had a tattoo of a woman riding a lion. Doesn’t get much more badass than that.