• Ceara

In the Beginning We Were Bare

Our first tattoos - the good, the unlikely and the gone...

Everyone's tattoo journey starts somewhere. Some start with a well-considered piece filled with meaning. For some it's a less though-out symbol of rebellion. Others simply start with an image that sings to them and which becomes endowed with meaning over time. Some tattoos mark a time or event to remember.

If you are reading this you most likely already have that first tattoo somewhere on your body or are considering getting it. I'm sure that it won't come as a surprise to you that all of us here at The Gallery have at least one tattoo. And I bet you're pretty curious as to what each of us got as our first piece... So, in the interests of openness (and pure entertainment), here are our first tattoo stories...

But first, a game!!

Match Us to Our First Tattoo

Answers will become apparent below, so keep reading...


"I wanted to get my first tattoo in NZ. Freedom was always important to me, so I got my two friends from China who I have met in a hostel in Hastings to write down the Chinese script for it. I didn't get time to get it tattooed in NZ but, finally, I had it done in Ao Nang, Thailand - on my calf. Two days later I had a five hour session on my back."

Mario has the freedom tattoo on his calf


"I got my first tattoo when I was 18. A black and grey rose. Roses have always reminded me of happy times, playing in Mum’s garden and spending time with my Nanny Rose and collecting the little bugs that look like rose thorns. They are ornamental and timeless which is always a good start for a tattoo in my opinion! I thought the rose would be my only tattoo so I got it on my chest. The tattoo artist put it where I wanted it and away we went.

Now I realise that I’d like a massive piece which covers my torso as one cohesive piece and the rose is floating in the sky! I have had three sessions of laser with Jane at the Laser Clinic in Wellington to lighten it so I can make room for my full torso piece.

Because of this experience I always take the time to make sure a clients design fits the body and won’t obscure future projects. I do plan on getting a rose tattooed elsewhere on my body as I still love it but it will be in a spot that suits the shape and size."

Jake had a beautiful rose which is making way for a larger torso piece...


"I wanted a tattoo but wasn’t sure what I wanted or where or anything. So I went to a bunch of studios and looked at their flash and found that I really liked the flowers - particularly the roses - but I told myself that was the one flower I couldn’t get because my name is Rose and people would think that I’m weirdly obsessed myself or something?

I went back to the studios like 4 times to just look at flash and awkwardly not talk to anyone, just thinking about where I’d put the tattoo... and how I would cover it... and how long it would take... and would it fade... Then, when I finally talked to someone at a studio, they told me that if it’s my first tattoo I should get what I want and ignore the other things because at the end of the day you’re going to like your tattoo more if you liked the design at the start, and the artist would advise you on the rest. So I got a rose and it totally wasn’t awkward when I told them my name.

The tattoo was done in 2015 at The Tattooed Heart in Auckland, I don’t remember the artist, sorry. His first name was Ben but there are two at the studio and they both look similar and do American traditional ."

Rose has a traditional rose tattooed on her arm


"My first tattoo was a phoenix - I got it in Christchurch when I lived there, on my 18th birthday, which was 2 months after the big 2011 earthquake, so it was supposed to be somewhat symbolic of that.

I didn't know who the artist was until I arrived and he free-handed it on me. In hindsight, I don't regret it as I try not live with regrets - more like I'd prefer if it wasn't there and taking up space.

Ideally I'd love a cover-up at some stage but I know it would be a challenging one!"

Cam has a tribal phoenix tattooed on his arm

Me (Ceara)

My first tattoo was almost done out of support for my partner, Mario, when we were living in Nelson and he was starting out experimenting with tattooing. Don't get me wrong, I'd always wanted a tattoo but was (ironically) too intimidated by tattoo studios so never got around to it. When Mario bought some tattoo equipment and began tattooing it was the perfect excuse to get one.

Back then we had no idea what was really possible in tattooing. Mario was still developing his art so I just found the chrysanthemum design in a book of tattoo flash. My tattoo was Mario's first experiment in colour, so we decided on colours (from his then limited ink collection) and he got to tattooing.

Over the years it has been reworked and improved upon 2-3 times to alter the colours slightly, improve the saturation and line-work, add a background, add petals and leaves to better fit the area, and we have also added more flowers and a hover fly (wondrous pollinators!!) to it.

I love that it was Mario's first full colour tattoo and that it helps to tell the tale of his creative development. I also love that it's just pretty flowers.

I have a chrysanthemum (Mario's first colour piece) on my upper arm

How did you do matching us up?

Now that you know what our first tattoos are, why not comment below to tell us what your first one was, or will be?

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