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Maori man with full moko tattoo
Maori man with full moko tattoo
Role of Tattoo
Tattoo Stories

Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo

Maori carving showing tattoo styles.

excerpts from an interview with Mary Lynn Price

A Beautiful Tattoo Hides a Secret

My name is Mary Lynn Price, and I am a defense attorney. The area of focus I have [is] indigent defense ... criminal, and mental health field related. And I live in La Jolla, California.

Actually getting a tattoo is pretty recent for me. That happened within the past year. I have been fascinated by tattoos for some time. And in particular, fascinated by larger tattoos; tattoos that cover a good portion of the body. I always viewed them as a form of art work, as art, but never really thought about getting one for myself until probably about a year ago.

A glimpse of Mary Lynn's tattooAnd the circumstance in which I made that decision was — well, it takes me back a little bit before that, maybe four or five years ago. I had developed a pretty serious, life-threatening medical condition. And it required emergency surgery, which saved my life, but left me with a pretty decent little scar across my belly. And it was a fairly traumatic experience, going through the surgery and all of that. And I made it through all that and didn't think too much about it. And then I came across the reference in a book one day to a woman who had had a mastectomy, and gotten a tattoo, a very lovely sort of vine, flower tattoo, to go along the scar of the mastectomy surgery. And I just thought, wow, that's an incredible transformative way to deal with what was probably a very upsetting scar for her, and a scar that was part and parcel of a very traumatic situation. So it sort of planted the idea in my mind that, a tattoo is one artistic way to deal with that.

And little by little, I began to think more and more about could I come up with a tattoo design that would work for this particular area of my body and this particular little scar. And so I began to think about a possible design that would be appropriate to deal with this sort of horizontal scar that went across my midsection. And that would deal with it in a way that evoked something that was beautiful and magnificent, and positive and constructive. I've actually been into birding for many years. And among my favorite birds are Great Blue Herons. So I began sort of toying with the idea of Great Blue Herons and their just magnificent wingspans. And then perhaps something with the wings could be done so that it could cross over in an arch and cover the scar. I was looking for something that was beautiful and majestic and evocative of grandeur and strength and yet at the same time, something that was very beautiful. And the thought I had was to have the wings make an arch over the center of my belly, and cover the scar.

And little by little, I began to think more and more about could I come up with a tattoo design that would work for this particular area of my body and this particular little scar.
So I worked on the design in my simplistic way. And the next part of this project was to come up with an artist who I felt comfortable with and confident in to execute this design. Because after all, this is permanent art, this is going to be on my body for the rest of my life, and I took this whole step very, very seriously. And I did research. Like any other part of my life that I would take very seriously, I dove into the books, I did all kinds of reading and talking to people, and looked at thousands and thousands of pictures of tattoos that people had.

And during the course of my research, I came across an interview with a tattoo artist by the name of Don Ed Hardy. And that particular interview also had some little, little black and white reproductions of some of the tattoo work that he had done. And I wasn't that familiar with the history of tattoo artists. But there was something about the artwork in those little black and white reproductions that just spoke to me. It just spoke to me. And it had to do with the motion, the movement, the way the lines and the designs sort of evoked energy. And I thought, that's incredible. I had never seen anything quite like it. And even though the designs were relatively simple, there was something very extraordinary about the work. And there was a phone number with this particular interview, and I remember thinking, well, I doubt that this is still a functional phone number, but what can it hurt. So I made a phone call, and I left a message.

He worked with it and he came up with a sketch that was just exactly what I had in mind. Everything I could think of, and then some.
Sure enough, Don Ed Hardy was occasionally doing tattoo work, and they took my message and said, well he'd get back to me. Ten minutes later, he called back. And we began to talk about tattoo designing and setting up a procedure whereby I could send him the design I did that I had. And he would sort of flesh it out a little bit. If anything, I'm an art student and I appreciate art. But I'm certainly not an artist. So to make a long story short, he sent back a design, based on the rough sketches I sent him, that just blew me away. Incredibly beautiful, exactly what I had in mind. . . And he worked with it and he came up with a sketch that was just exactly what I had in mind. Everything I could think of, and then some. And just beautifully executed. And the placement of this was to be and did become that the wing arch in the center right there where the two wings come together in an arch, would go right over the scar on my midsection. And then the two magnificent heron heads up either side of the sides of my upper belly. And it in fact not only covered the scar, but it covered the scar in a way that is just — well, as I think you can see from the drawing, incredibly beautiful. And so that whole traumatic experience is now something that I can look at my own body and see beauty. And so an appointment was made, and I went to San Francisco and I received my first tattoo.