First Person: Inked in Carolina
The sight of tattoos often comes with mixed reactions. To some, it is much like getting your ears pierced. Others may have a negative reaction. Either way, most can agree that a tattoo is a sign of permanence.
When I met my husband he had two tattoos. I was with him for the third inking and quickly realized this was a long and thoughtful process. First, he had to decide on a concept for the tattoo. This was given to an artist to design something that would look good on the body part intended. In this case the middle of his shoulder blades. After several iterations the final product was ready; but there was one small problem. We were in North Carolina and the tattoo artist, Diamond Ted, was in Wisconsin.
The day of the inking, I was amazed watching the process. I personally can’t stand needles, so the thought of paying someone to stick a needle into my skin over and over for hours didn’t make me feel good.
Having a better understanding of the process, I appreciate tattoos when I see them now. Over the years I have seen numerous Carolina tattoos, small and large. However, I had not seen a full Carolina sleeve until Chris Moore’s.
Over the last week I have asked via twitter and facebook for people with a Carolina tattoo to email pictures and information they would be willing to share. I was amazed at the artwork and stories behind the pieces of permanent art.
Chris Moore’s Tattoo:
Chris Moore has been a diehard heel fan since he was little. He is pretty sure it all started, “when I wasn't but five-years old watching Jordan play.” Moore worked with tattoo artist Jason Sheeley from View Askew Tattoo in Lexington, North Carolina. The sleeve took eight sessions to complete. It started out with just a Tar Heel foot about two years ago. Moore and his brother sat down back in June to start gathering pictures and coming up with ideas of what he should include in a sleeve. Moore’s favorite part of the sleeve is... well he couldn’t pick just one. Some he mentioned include Jordan's “shot,” Dean Smith's portrait, and Bynum Gymnasium (now Bynum Hall), the first building the basketball team played in.
The best reaction to Moore’s sleeve was about a month ago when he was on a cruise and had two different Duke fans separately asking him for pictures. That's when he knew he accomplished something special and he could not help but give himself a "high-five." During the cruise he had 16 people comment positively on the sleeve.
Moore does not have a week go by without being stopped by someone wanting to just simply take pictures or ask questions about the sleeve. This never gets old and he really enjoys sharing his art with others.
Moore has not had a bad or negative reaction to the sleeve. However, his folks don't like the concept of him being all inked up, but are nonetheless overwhelmed by the detail in the sleeve.
Chris Walker’s Tattoo:
Chris Walker has been a diehard Tar Heel and wanted a way to show off his allegiance. Walker grew up in Henderson, North Carolina, and is in the Navy. His tattoo gives him a sense of home while away on long tours of duty. THT Tattoos in Pearl City, Hawaii, did Walker’s tattoo. He and his wife got the same tattoo. It was her first but Walker’s 14th. It was an easy decision to get the tattoo done in Hawaii since he got inked several times while there. The best reaction to Walker’s tattoo was when a State fan gave him veal (yes, veal) in response to seeing the tattoo.
Since UNC has a large national presence it is easy to for some people to be tagged as bandwagon fans. You wouldn’t think someone with a tattoo would get such flack, but Walker recalled being harassed after the 2009 season for his Tar Heel tattoo being a bandwagon reaction.
Matthew Roberts’ Tattoo:
It is constantly amazing how technology has transformed our lives. This could not be more evident than the way I learned about Matthew Roberts’ tattoo. He wrote in about his UNC tattoo while out of the country (Poland) visiting his good friend and favorite Tar Heel, 2009 National Champion Marcus Ginyard.
Roberts’ chose the Old Well to start his UNC sleeve. The Old Well to him is a classic, iconic, and highly recognizable symbol from a great university. Deran Hall of Golden Spiral Tattoo in Greensboro, North Carolina did Roberts’ work.
The start of Roberts’ sleeve took one long session. Hall is a friend of Roberts’. They try to schedule his tattoo sessions around sporting events so they can catch the game together while getting some work done. This setup allows for several tattoos or one very detailed piece to be completed in each sitting.
The best reaction Roberts’ received was from a guy in the Chick-fil-a drive thru window. He was a huge UNC fan and nearly fell through the window trying to see the tattoo while asking questions. The negative comments he gets are typically from those who cheer for that school down the road in Raleigh. He’s quite alright with it, “because you have no choice but to respect greatness.”
Roberts’ plan is to use his entire lower left forearm to finish the UNC sleeve. He is planning to add the 2009 banner from his memorable senior year, the stone sign from South/Raleigh Rd as you drive into campus from HWY 54, and the Tar Heel foot to compliment his Strutting Ram. With the remaining space he will fill it with images not only symbolic to the university but also those that mean the most to him.
Roberts’ love for the university, faculty, staff, students and all connected to it is something he is very passionate about. He has an unconditional, unwavering love for this small piece of heaven we call the University of North Carolina. Ever since he was a child and saw the 1993 UNC men's basketball team win the National Championship and then going on to listen to Charles Kuralt make one of the most memorable addresses to a graduating class in recent memory, he has an unwavering love for Carolina
Wil Singley’s Tattoo:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This is an accurate description of Wil Singley’s Carolina tattoo. Singley was a member of the UNC Men’s Swimming team and it was tradition to get inked up. Most of the guys got the traditional block NC but Singley wanted to something different, unique. Carolina is very special to him and he wanted it to last forever, which the tattoo has helped accomplish.
Glenn’s in Carborro was a logical place to use since they have tatted several alumni and previous members of the UNC Men’s Swimming and Diving team. The tattoo took one painful thirty-minute session.
Singley gets asked a lot about his tattoo. For him this is a perfect time to get on his soapbox with the importance of his university and brotherhood of UNC Swimming. Quickly the person’s innocent comment makes them regret the simple question. The funniest reaction was when a woman asked who Carolina was and, “if she was my girlfriend! Awkwardly funny to say the least!”
Jeff Hedgepeth’s Tattoo:
Jeff Hedgepeth loves his Tar Heels more than any other sports team (the Yankees are a close second). Some might know him as the super fan in the Tar Heel Dr. Seuss hat with his painted face and beard. His daughter can be found right by his side cheering on the Heels. Kathryn Moore from Dogstar Tattoo located in Durham completed Hedgepeth’s tattoo in two sessions.
The worst reaction Hedgepeth has gotten about his tattoo is “you got a freaking Tar Heel on your leg.” Of course, he could not help respond, “it’s the greatest school of all time!”
Matt Stone’s Tattoo:
Matt Stone decided to get his Tar Heel tattoo on his right shoulder blade as soon as he turned eighteen. It was his freshman year at Carolina. He regrets how small it is, but nothing else.
A Carolina tattoo was important to Stone for several reasons: He is Tar Heel Born; He had just started his academic career at UNC; and When he dies, he’ll be a Tar Heel dead. As a lifelong Carolina fan he keeps his allegiance close to him with his tattoo.
And about that tattoo of my husband...
While watching the entire tattoo process unfold, I saw Diamond Ted ink a Tar Heel foot between his shoulder blades. Instead of tar on the heel, he placed a Hawkeye, something that has a lot of meaning to him... make that us.
Please share your Carolina tattoo stories with us.