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Our Tattoo Family - part 1

Updated: Mar 30, 2019

Celebrating milestones together - birthdays, reunions and graduations...


Last week Mario and I returned to Wellington after visiting Slovakia to celebrate the birthday of Mario's mum (whom I affectionately call Tonka) with his family. In Slovak culture (as in most cultures), family is hugely important - so much so that the large houses you see in Slovak villages are symbolic more of the generations contained within them, rather than of material wealth.


Mario's family lives in a three storey house (top left photo below) in the village of Biely Potok (white creek), near Ruzomberok. The top floor is home to Mario's sister's family of five. The middle floor is where his parents live (it is, literally, the heart of the house). Mario's maternal grandparents, and then Mario, used to live on the bottom level. His paternal grandparents lived just up the road, and most of his aunts and uncles live either in Biely Potok or in nearby villages and towns. His entire extended family lives within a three hour drive.


Mario and I hadn't been to Slovakia in six years - this was our second visit in about 11 years. We absolutely HAD to spend Tonka's 70th birthday with her (she is one beautiful and youthful lady, for sure - that's her with the red hair!!), so off we went to see the family.

However... Mario is a sentimental man (and has a habit of squeezing as much into limited time-frames as possible) and, once we'd bought our tickets, he got to thinking about another family from his past that he'd like to re-connect with - his old punk band, D Zmrds (I know - try saying that!!).


The thing is, only one of the four guys who make up D Zmrds (that's Mario with his band-mates band below - having a cuppa and at the gig) still lives in Slovakia. With the wonders of social media, they all got in touch, got organised, and planned a gig - their first in 12 years! Mario travelled from New Zealand, Juraj from Austria, Robert from England and Jaro from Slovakia to catch up and play together one more time. (For the record, it was an epic gig with seven bands playing. Friends from the punk community came from far and wide to support them and for a good old catch up.)

While we were away we missed the milestone of one of our own Gallery crew; Jake finished his apprenticeship. Graduating from a tattoo apprentice to a tattoo artist is, of course, a big deal. If you know us and how particular (and critical and, some might say, difficult) we are, you'll know that it's a HUGE deal for us and our crew!! Spending two whole years with the same colleagues can be pretty darn difficult at times - a bit like like living in a multi-generational home. Spending two whole years with the same colleagues can also be pretty magical and transformative.


Almost-familial relationships are forged during the apprenticeship process. At times we push one other, clash and lock horns only to have to work to reach real and manageable resolutions. There is no room to be passive-aggressive or avoid issues - openness and honesty are absolute requirements.


To be open and honest when we all agree is easy. Expressing our views when we don't agree can be challenging, uncomfortable and down-right anxiety-inducing! (My heart is pounding just thinking about it!) The fastest and most memorable growth occurs when we are pushed outside of our comfort zones. I think Cam, Jake and Rose will agree that we all spend quite a bit of time being rather uncomfortable during the apprenticeship. And every time we leave our comfort zones we become better at supporting one another through the discomfort and helping one another back to a sense of security.


This is definitely a kind of family.



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