Friday, August 19, 2022

"Can't Help Falling in Love..." with Tattooing

Fourteen years ago, Ruby, a six-year-old, provided forks for her hired playmates to use while digging up dandelions. She and her mom didn’t agree on the profit margin Ruby had established. However, the young entrepreneur made enough money to purchase tools for her next venture: Art.


Throughout her school years, she entered art contests and won ribbons.  Whether using oil, watercolor, pencil, or chalk, on paper or canvas, her creations were evocative. She carefully listened to someone, like myself, talk. She “saw” pictures; she “felt” emotions; and then, she produced a piece of art that spoke to that person in a personal way.


I have been the recipient of several of her creations—one sits on a bookshelf across the room from me. I’m looking at it now. It’s a path through a forest. In the background is  the silver sliver of a waterfall. Whenever I gaze at that oil painting in its pentagon edging, I travel through that forest, to that waterfall, and stand ready for its tumbling water to drench me in memories that will speak to the readers of my next memoir. 


I have other pieces of  her art on my refrigerator door, on my bedroom wall, and in a folder entitled “Ruby’s Art.” Through these gifts, I can trace her growth as an artist.


While still in high school, Ruby began to post her artistic designs online. She sold many of these and also took orders for more individual designs. She is now twenty—soon to be twenty-one. All those years of art have morphed into one love, one passion: to create personal tattoos with ink as the medium and skin as the canvas.


When she first shared this love with me, I thought of Elvis Presley singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Elvis sang of physical love. Ruby, I thought, can’t help falling in love with tattooing.


When that love affair began three years ago, Ruby’s went to a local tattoo parlor that was well-known in several states. “Will you take me on as an apprentice?” she asked the three renowned artists there.




Ruby didn’t take that emphatic “no” for a final answer. Instead, after school each day, she came to the shop and did odd jobs: unpacking and shelving supplies, sweeping floors, dusting cabinets, cleaning toilets and sinks, picking up lunch for the men. 


Periodically, she’d ask, “Will you mentor me?”




For a year she showed up each workday afternoon. (It reminded me of the Little Prince and the Fox in the classic book by Saint-Exupéry.)  During that time, the men gave her an assignment: To study the history of tattooing, its diversity of styles, and its most famous practitioners; to write papers about her studies; and, finally, to create designs that were examples of the varied styles. When she talked to me about her discoveries, I could hear the excitement in her voice.



Weeks, months, passed. Then last summer, while she swept the floor, the three men—convinced of her commitment—spoke: “Ruby, we’ll mentor you.” 


She began with customers who wanted simple designs. As the weeks passed, her mentors had her take on more complicated tattoos. Under their tutelage, she began to develop her own distinctive “light” touch tattooing and her own distinctive style.


She did all this without pay.


In 2022, she began charging for her work. The photo below shows a recent tattoo she did for her sister. As children, they’d both modeled outfits their mother designed, made, and sold. One photograph shows Sky in yellow; the other, Ruby in maroon. These aided Ruby in her design.

When next I post, I’ll share with you the tattoo Ruby did for me.



  1. Ruby sounds like a force to be reckoned with, and I am so very impressed with her determination and drive. I love the art of hers that you have showed, and it seems that she chose her mentors well. And that they in turn chose their student equally well.
    I am really looking forward to seeing your tattoo. Be well dear friend.

  2. Love that she was so driven and persevered till they finally let her handle the needle on her own. From what you have shown she really has talent and I'm so happy she has a place to apply it. I'm looking forward to your tattoo also.

  3. That is true commitment, indeed. And it did pay off, not just for her but for her recipients. I look forward to seeing your tattoo.

  4. Not knowing anything about tattooing, I have to say that Ruby's work is impressive - as is her dedication. When do we get to see your tattoo, Dee?

  5. Those men taught her a lot before they even began teaching her how to tattoo.

  6. Wow thats fantastic, good for her. I have a small tattoo, a butterfly on my left breast.. not openly on show. My daughter thinks tattoo are awful and doesn't know I have it, I had it done when I was 60, and said I would tell her about it when I was 80 which will be at the end of this year, so will I tell or not??

  7. What a sweet story. So much talent in this family! Ruby’s persistence paid off and that and her artistic talent will take her far. That tattoo must have taken many, many hours of work!

  8. This is an inspirational story dear Dee. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    Ruby's determination and devotion is touching and impressive.. She had creativity gift and she was rewarded for it finally..
    The tattoo you shared is magnificent indeed and capti captivate the eyes for while.
    I am waiting for seeing tattoos she made for you