In Times of Tragedy, People Get Boston-Themed Tattoos

Before getting permanently inked with the Boston skyline, a tattoo removal expert says to think the decision through.

Photo via

Photo via

What seems like endless amounts of charities, fundraisers, and efforts to generate money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings have cropped up in the days since April 15, including $20 million in donations to the city’s “One Fund,” which will go toward those most affected.

But in this time of tragedy, as people look to help and bond together, others look to solidify their support in the form of permanent tattoos—something Carmen Vanderheiden, owner of the tattoo removal business Tataway, says can be risky. “It all boils down to—and this is what I’m finding in my own experience—is that the underlying component is that emotional decisions and emotional tattoos are more often taken off,” she says.

That’s not to say Vanderheiden wasn’t moved by peoples’ choices to show their solidarity for the city and the victims of the attack by etching a permanent message in their skin, however. But at her shop in the Leather District, she often serves clients who get “bonding” tattoos, only to later ask for their removal. “I do have a lot of military guys that get rid of the symbols they put on as representation of what unit they were in. Which is again, a bonding thing,” she says.

The intention of the businesses offering to ink customers came in the form of marathon-style sessions and discounted prices. Brad’s Custom Tattooing offered to apply one of several logos designed by the shop. Last weekend, one of the tattoo artists blasted through hundreds of Boston-themed tattoos in a 16-hour straight session. They were able to raise more than $3,000 to benefit the One Fund.

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Photos of designs from Brad’s Tattoo shop

At Chameleon Tattoo and Body Piercing in Cambridge, a similar offer to ink customers with Boston logos for $50 was on the table on April 20, “in an effort to give back to the community that has done so much for us.” Artists also offered to donate all proceeds from custom tattoos that day toward charities for the victims.

One of the more popular logos that was being inked on the skin of supporters was of iconic Boston landmarks, which was created by area artist and graphic designer Aaron Bouvier for the company Hairpin Communications. He created what he calls the “One Heart Boston” design, and had it printed on bags, T-shirts and other apparel, which is for sale through their website. Like the other fundraisers, proceeds benefited the One Fund. “I’m grateful that so many people have connected with my design in a meaningful way and used it to convey their own resolve and sense of community shared with the victims and the city,” Bouvier said via email on Wednesday.

But Vanderheiden says there is a few things people should take into consideration before heading to the tattoo parlor, just in case they have second thoughts in the future. First, certain colors are harder to remove, even with high-tech equipment like the “PhotoAcoustic Technology” used at Tataway. When choosing colors for a memorial tattoo, it’s best to steer clear of pinks and whites, and to get black and grey artwork if possible. She also says that while the idea is good-hearted, customers should find the right placement for the design, so not to deter future opportunities, since often times tattoos carry a stigma. “Think about if you’re going to have a baby, or keep it where it is sort of hidden so whenever they need to they can cover it, for jobs or whatnot. That would be biggest piece of advice,” she says.