For years, our listeners have been requesting a tattoo episode, so today is the day! We’re talking about all of our tattoos—the best ones, the regrets, and any future tattoos we might be planning.
You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.
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-See Emma’s tattoos here
-Elsie’s Red Velvet pin cushion tattoo
-Rachel’s Red Velvet sewing machine tattoo
Listen to Episode #49: How to Design for You with Jonathan Adler
Elsie’s future tattoos: sparks joy, one for each member of her family, Jurassic Park, Twin Peaks, colorful moths, colorful florals, Moon River, a tiny heart with AW for Andy Williams, and a tiny heart with FO for Frank Ocean.
Here’s Elsie’s surprise Goosebumps tattoo for Emma:
Miss an episode? Get caught up!
- Episode #115: Money Dials and Buys that Spark Joy
- Episode #114: Elsie’s Pink House
- Episode #113: (MINI) 100 Bike Ride Challenge
Episode 116 Transcript
Emma: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast and today’s mini-episode, we are talking about tattoo stories. For years, our listeners have been requesting a tattoo episode and we have not done it but today is the day. We are giving in. You win. So we are going to talk about all our tattoos, the best ones, the regrets, and any future tattoos we might be planning.
Elsie: Awesome. Tattoo time! We didn’t really want to do this episode, but so many people asked for it for so long that at a certain point we were like, hey, why not? We’ll do it as a mini-episode, and it’s a fun subject. It’s not that we don’t like talking about our tattoos, but it’s just kind of like tattoos are a funny thing because you get one when you’re like twenty-two or twenty-five and then when you’re almost 40, you’re doing a podcast episode about them, you know?
Emma: Yeah, that would be kind of what I’d say. I never mind talking about my tattoos. Sometimes people will point them out at the grocery store or something. And I’m always happy to talk about it. But I honestly forget even in like in a photo where I can see it, it just doesn’t even register to me because I’ve had them so long.
Elsie: That’s the biggest thing I would say to someone who doesn’t have tattoos when they’re like, what is it like? It’s not like anything because you don’t even notice you have them anymore. You just don’t. My kids sometimes point them out and like, I’m like, Oh, yeah, you just don’t remember that you have them. It’s so funny. You just don’t see them.
Emma: So what was your first tattoo? I actually don’t remember which one is the first. Oh, wait, no, I remember.
Elsie: My first tattoo I got with my friend Terry Green, who was one of my good friends growing up,
Emma: I went to prom with him.
Elsie: Yes, we were all good friends. We got these tattoos in our Jimmy Worlds years put it that way. Mine is on my back, kind of like to the side on the shoulder. It is two little cherries with a green stem and then around it, there’s three really fuzzy stars. I will consider that a little bit on my regrets list, and I’ll talk about it later on how I’m going to sort of update them because over time, I actually most of my tattoos look pretty good. But those stars for some reason look really bad.
Emma: They’re a little fuzzy. I think the cherry is actually really cute though and has kind of come back around. I don’t know what you’re planning to do with it, which is cool. You should do whatever you want, they’re your tattoos. But actually, I think it’s kind of cute. I like it.
Elsie: Ok, you’re going to love my plan. I’m going to talk in this episode about the tattoos I’m planning to get because I’m finally interested in getting more again. But are you ever? Are you getting more? Because I don’t know this.
Emma: I have no plans to get more tattoos, but life is long, so who knows? But at the moment, I’m not planning to get any tattoos. No. My last one was just kind of, I love it, but it was very painful to me, like more so than, so I have tattoos on my forearms. For some reason, the second one on my right forearm was just way worse. And I was like, I don’t think I want to do this anymore. That’s just kind of where I’m at.
Elsie: So that’s what a lot of people say. A lot of my friends who have a lot of tattoos say that they just finally got one where they were like, yeah, this isn’t fun anymore. Which was like, totally valid. It does have to be worth it to you to kind of go through it over and over again. And obviously, like some are worse than others.
Emma: Maybe I should say my first tattoo also. So you got cherries? I was probably twenty-two when I got my first tattoo. I had just moved to Los Angeles. Me and my friend Andie were out somewhere near the beach and we just popped into a tattoo parlor and I got something that I’d been wanting for a while. But still, it’s hilarious to me that I didn’t know the artist, didn’t really know the place, just went for it. On my wrist, I have it says love love like it, says one love on one wrist and on the other wrist it also says love, and that was the name of my dog who passed away about a year ago. When I was in high school, I used to babysit these little girls and they always wanted to play this game where they would put stuffed animals under their shirt and like, have babies. You can’t see it, but I’m doing like quotes, and every single time I played the doctor. So the babysitter, I’m always the doctor. Anyway, every single time, like, oh, what a beautiful baby. What do you want to name the baby? Every single one, they would do like 10 stuffed animals, they’d always name them love, love. And I just thought it was so cute. Then when I got a dog a few years later, I named my dog love love. He was a pug and I had him a long time. He was 13 years old when he passed away last year, so I have his name tattooed on me. But it also kind of means a lot of things to me, actually. Because that was one thing like when I told people, I have my dog’s name tattooed on me, everyone always thinks are you going to regret that when he dies one day? You know what I mean? I mean not really. He was a really special dog to me, but also his name. I named him after like kind of an idea or a thing in my life, I guess. So I think of it as much more than just his name, but he was a really special dog. But what’s funny about my first tattoo? So like I said, I didn’t know the artist. I just popped into a place like on the beach in California, who even knows? I wanted to get it in white ink because I just thought it would look kind of cool, like be very subtle and you never really noticed it until you really looked. I just thought that would be interesting.
Elsie: I remember that was like a thing in the early 2000s the Osborne’s got them and stuff. Do you remember that?
Emma: Yes, it was a thing, and I thought it would be kind of cool. And the artists really made fun of me and was like, no, you should just get it in black. And I was like, Oh, ok. It’s also in your handwriting. I didn’t want to bother you because you were just really busy at the time so I just knew you had the word love on your MySpace page. So I just took that off in your own writing. So I just took that off and took it into the tattoo parlor because at the time people would ask you to design their tattoos all the time and you were just really busy with it. I just knew you already had that on your MySpace page. So I just took it off there.
Elsie: That’s so funny. I did not know that until this moment. I was thinking about this I guess the other day when we were preparing these show notes, people did use to ask me all the time to like, write things, and draw things for their tattoos and that never happens anymore. So it was definitely just a phase and it’s funny to think about now.
Emma: Yeah. Well, your handwriting used to be more of a part of our brand. I mean, it was in the very first app, the A Beautiful Mess app that’s had a lot of your handwriting.
Elsie: Ok, so let’s talk about the red velvet tattoos. So we both have tattoos that say red velvet and also a few more of our friends have them. Rachel has one, Holly has one. We got these tattoos in our twenties. Our first business was called Red Velvet, and then we kind of have a little group with our friends. I’m not sure what the point of it was or why. Like, honestly, but we like took a lot of pictures together and it was fun, it was just fun. Yeah. So we got these tattoos that say red velvet. Every once in a while someone asks me what it was, and I always just say it was my first business, which kind of makes me happy now. Like, I would never regret getting that.
Emma: Yeah and everybody’s is a little bit different. Mine is a hand mixer. Yeah, mine’s baking. Mine’s baking-related. Yours is like a sewing, a pincushion. Rachel’s was a sewing machine.
Elsie: Holly’s is I think knitting or crocheting. I can’t remember which one.
Emma: I think it’s a really pretty yarn ball. I don’t know exactly what the point was back then either, but it did feel like a really supportive friendship too. Yeah, it’s basically a friendship tattoo. We just really support each other and I don’t know they’re still really important to me. Mine’s a hand mixer minds on my forearm and mine’s mostly blue and then has some flowers around it. Sometimes people ask me and I always just say, it’s the name of my business because it’s actually still the name, A Beautiful Mess our LLC. So according to the IRS, and on our paychecks, it says Red Velvet Art LLC and we just DBA A Beautiful Mess. So it’s still technically a part of our lives, I guess. But anyway, red velvet tattoos. No regrets.
Elsie: Yeah, definitely no regrets on that one.
Emma: What are your other tattoos? I only have one other tattoo other than my red velvet one and love one.
Elsie: Oh, your sibling tattoo?
Emma: Yes, I have one with my brother, Doren. Our brother has tattoos with us, and mine with him is pineapples. He has a pineapple and I have a pineapple but there are different styles and mine is, the top is kind of cut off in a skew and it has straw sticking out of it. So the idea is it’s kind of like a cocktail, but we got ours at the same time and we went to the same artist. Actually, Doren bought that tattoo for me for my birthday. It’s like a sibling tattoo, but it’s also just kind of pretty. That was the one and you can ask Doran because he was sitting with me as I got that tattoo, I was just like, oh, this hurts. I don’t know. I was just over it. I was like I don’t think I want any more tattoos. This is just painful.
Elsie: So I have a vintage like an eighties Polaroid camera, and that was my second tattoo. I got it with Rachel, and it was kind of like a special time in our lives for different reasons. I think it was my twenty-sixth birthday when we got that one. Then shortly after that, I got this red velvet one that I can’t remember what order they were in, actually, but I have red velvet one that’s a pincushion so a sewing one, and then I have another sewing one with thread, kind of like on my shoulder. People are always like, why did you get so many sewing tattoos and you don’t really sew. I guess the answer is that I think I sew. I kind of think I can sew. Like mark my words in my old lady stage, I will just sew quilts because that’s what I really want to do. That’s the thing that I want to do so bad that I just haven’t gotten to yet. Anyway, in my future tattoo ideas, I’m probably not going to do anything else that’s hobby related. Well, let me look at the list. Not, not really. It’s more just going to be like nostalgic stuff next. But I actually don’t really regret my tattoos at all anymore. I think I did for a time, just because my tattoo really shows in my outfits. Which is a little annoying. Sometimes you don’t always want that, obviously not every day of your life, but if you get anything like mine that’s on the front of my shoulder, it’s kind of near my chest. It’s kind of just always there if I wear any kind of strapless outfit. So yeah, it’s probably the one that I had regrets about for a while, but then I kind of got over it, and now I’m like, I would get more. It doesn’t matter. Whatever.
Emma: Well, tell us then what are your plans? What are the tattoos you’re planning to get?
Elsie: If anyone listened last year to my Jonathan Adler interview episode, which for sure when I die, that will be my favorite podcast episode because I’m just so happy that I sort of got to meet him. He’s like one of my heroes. So anyway, in that episode, and there was like way more that got cut out, but I told him that I was going to get a Marie Kondo tattoo and he made fun of me and said it was a bad idea and it made me want it like ten times more. So I am getting a Sparks Joy tattoo, and then I’m also getting one for each member of my family. What’s funny is that recently my parents came to visit us and I told them, I’m going to get a tattoo for each of you. Would you like to know what it is? They both declined that. They didn’t even care to hear what it was. They don’t like tattoos, so not into it that they didn’t. Even they weren’t even curious to know. So there’s going to be a surprise. With Doron, so for the sibling tattoo thing like Emma said, she got one with him and he got one for me, but then I didn’t return the favor, so I still owe him one.
Emma: Keep that awkward.
Elsie: So I’m still oh, no, no, because it’s not anymore because I’m actually going to do it now. But for a while, it was like, who cares? Now I’m like, OK, I’m going to do it. So the one I picked that, I’m like 50/50 on this one is a Jurassic Park tattoo, and I do love Jurassic Park. It’s highly nostalgic, like the top nostalgic movie of my lifetime. So in that way, it’s not that I think I would regret it, but the thing that bugs me is that the first time I told Doren about it, he was like, why do you want that? He kind of, ruined it but then later on he took it back and he was like, I think it’s a great idea. Now I don’t know which one it is and it’s still kind of bugging me. So I’m not sure if I’m going to get that one until I get some clarity on like push me over the edge one way or another.
Emma: Well, for the record, for whatever it’s worth, I think it’s a great idea. I love Jurassic Park.
Elsie: I mean, it’s a great tattoo either way, just because Jurassic Park is like the top movie of all time, right? At least to me.
Emma: Yeah, It really holds up. the first Jurassic Park, it’s so good.
Elsie: Later on I came back because he kind of like, honestly, bummed me out. Then I came back with more ideas, and then he was like, no, I just like the Jurassic Park one, and I was like, OK, but you didn’t like it when it mattered. I’m not sure now which way’s which. Anyways, he doesn’t listen to our podcast. I’m like ninety-nine percent sure. So don’t worry about it. He’ll never hear this. Then for Emma, OK, so I have one planned that is so good. I’m going to let you pick either I can tell you right now in front of everyone what it is, or you can wait till it’s really on my body permanently and be surprised.
Emma: Which one do you want?
Elsie: I don’t care.
Emma: Because they both sound fun to me so it’s your tattoo. I definitely want to know what it is, but I mean, I can wait if that’s more fun for you.
Elsie: What’s more fun for you?
Emma: I’m an Enneagram nine. I don’t want to pick you. Well, I guess I would rather see it, I guess.
Elsie: Ok, OK, OK. We’re going to leave that one a mystery.
Emma: I bet all the listeners are really upset. I just feel like it’s cooler to see like, you know, it’s very visual – tattoos.
Elsie: That’s true. Actually, if I describe it, some people might try to talk me out of it and I don’t want that because I’m like a hundred percent sure. I’ll leave that one, and I will try really hard to get this one sooner than later so that I don’t leave you all. I’ll make this one the first one on my list so that I don’t leave you hanging. Just for the podcast listeners, I’ll get this tattoo first. Then other than that on my list. Here’s what I’m doing with my cherry tattoo problem. So my back has just this one tattoo that’s just it’s just dated and kind of lame. I don’t regret it in that way but I also feel I should add to it. Not a cover-up, but an addition that kind of fills out and makes it more exciting. Makes it more now. Here’s what I’m going to do on this, and no one can talk me out of this. There’s absolutely no way. So I’m going to do a whole section of Twin Peaks tattoos, a whole section of many tattoos, and they’re all Twin Peaks themed. So I guess I am getting a lot of novelty tattoos, but Twin Peaks is iconic, some people think it’s the greatest television show of all time or like whatever in the genre. My husband’s really into David Lynch, but the reason why it’s special to me is because we used to watch it every single fall when we first got married. So it just takes you back, no matter how many times we watch it, it’ll always take us back to that first house and those first years, and it’s just a really good memory. It’s been like a long time now. So I know certain things like you don’t want to get a tattoo of a movie right when it comes out. You want to wait and see how you feel about it later. So I definitely know Twin Peaks is eternal for me.
Emma: I think that sounds awesome.
Elsie: Yes. Other than that, I’m just getting some kind of colorful fun stuff to like kind of tie it together. Some colorful moths and some colorful florals, and really, it’s like my sibling tattoos of my parent tattoos are my special ones and the Twin Peaks thing. Oh yeah, and I’m getting one for my kids. I did not make this list with very much attention to detail. I’m also getting one for my kids, and it’s just one that symbolizes both kids and motherhood and stuff. It’s not a tattoo that says Nova and a tattoo that says Goldie. That one is a Moon River tattoo because Moon Rivers are a special song, but we love two different versions of it. So I’m also getting a tiny heart that says A.W., which sends for Andy Williams, and another tiny heart that says FO for Frank Ocean because those are our two versions of Moon River that we’ve listened to for their entire baby years and toddler years. We do this thing where we lay under a blanket and listen to it. It’s like our relaxing thing that we do to shift the mood or like, I don’t know, it’s magical.
Emma: Yeah, get ready for bed, like winddown.
Elsie: There’s kind of nothing more magical than listening to Moon River under the blanket. Anyway, my body is a memory book, and now you all know all my plans.
Emma: All of us old timey scrapbookers just do it on our bodies now.
Elsie: I mean, it’s so fun. I do kind of feel I would like to be one of those people who just doesn’t regret tattoos. I feel like it’s kind of a decision in a way where it’s like you can be a person who just gets a silly tattoo and then you never regret it one day in your life. It’s possible, and it’s happening.
Emma: Oh yeah, That was on the outline is do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking about getting their first tattoo or getting a tattoo at all? I don’t know if I do like it because I think it’s such a personal choice like you might love it, you might not. Without knowing you, I really couldn’t tell you. So I don’t know if I do have any good advice, but maybe you have some better words of wisdom on that.
Elsie: First of all, I would say a tattoo is not going to ruin your life, no matter how stupid it is. I personally would just remove that ability or that power from it because it’s just a tattoo. There’s nothing that can’t be changed or shifted or whatever. If you know a season of life comes and you feel like now I’m going to make my little Jimmy Eat World style tattoo into a cooler style that I’m more into now. Nothing against Jimmy Eat World. I actually love it. I would just kind of not give them so much power. Like people always say like, I could never have a tattoo because I wouldn’t be able to think of something that I wouldn’t regret later. And it’s like, you don’t have to regret it because you don’t have to care that much. So I guess that’s I mean, you can if you want. I just think that people take them way too seriously. I think if you want to get something that’s meaningful to you, like super meaningful, you should. And if it’s not meaningful to you, it can still be fun. I don’t actually have any advice other than I would say that like the whole thing about like, oh, they’re going to look bad when you’re old is bullshit, because when you’re old, you’re going to look old already and you can either be someone who has tattoos and like, it’s kind of funny or not. Does it really matter? I never understood that point. I actually think it’s more of a consideration for when you’re my age now, I’m about to turn thirty-nine and it’s like, OK, you do have to kind of own it. At that age, I think it’s actually cooler when you’re old, you know.
Emma: I would agree. Yeah, I would agree. I also just feel like, you can choose to embrace aging or not, and that’s really up to you. But I don’t really want anyone else to choose for me. If you feel like, oh, your tattoos, don’t look right now that you’re 60, I’m like, Screw you, I disagree.
Elsie: I Know. I think it’s kind of just a really, really silly thing that’s been repeated and repeated. Why is it bad to have tattoos when you’re old? It’s not. It’s fucking cool anyway. Other than that, I would just think where you place them makes a big difference. There’s lots of tattoos that you basically never see, like ever, there’s tattoos people have that you know that you’ve known for years and you’ve never seen their tattoo. Then there’s ones that you see every single day, like my wrist tattoos are always with me, even when I’m wearing a sweatshirt like today. If you’re a little nervous, then maybe start with a place that’s not your wrist or not the outside of your arm or something. Maybe start with a place that’s a little bit more hidden. The best possible places are the ones that can be like both.
Emma: Right, right, right.
Elsie: Honestly, I’m not the best person to ask, though, because I just think you should go for it and like who cares.
Emma: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s all the normal considerations, you know, like pain level, placement.
Elsie: Oh yeah, let’s talk about pain level for a minute. Do you think it’s worse, this is what people always say, is it worth having a baby or is it worse having a tattoo?
Emma: Well, every time I got a tattoo, no one offered me an epidural.
Elsie: So worse having a tattoo?
Emma: Worse having a tattoo for me. Maybe you’d have to ask the one who had a natural birth, no epidural because I have a feeling that’s a bit different. I think probably getting tattoos is one of the more painful things I’ve ever done. Different areas hurt more than other areas, and also it’s still not that bad. They don’t offer you any kind of pain things because it’s not that bad. But I think if you’re going to get one that’s anywhere where your skin’s kind of like thin or up against a bone, they say that’s going to be a little more painful, like your spine or something like that, that’s kind of tricky.
Elsie: Yeah, I agree with that. It’s not that bad. For me, I could always just put my mind over matter and be like two hours from now, I’m going to be having dinner at this place. I’m not going to be in this pain anymore. I guess if you’re really concerned about it, then maybe get a small one for your first one because small ones can be surprisingly fast. There’s a lot of tattoos that are done within 30 minutes, that’s like nothing, and the ones that are like a three-hour session, and then you have to come back again to get it colored in, that’s pretty bad. So probably a good thing to think about or just dividing it up or I’ve heard lots of people who just leave in the middle of a session and come back when they’re feeling better a week or two later. It’s not the end of the world, you know what I mean? No one’s going to die if you can’t finish your tattoo session because it hurts, like whatever, you know?
Emma: Yeah, I’m the same. I kind of just think about what I’m going to eat afterward or put my mind on something. I remember when I got my red velvet tattoo, I was dreaming about getting some baked macaroni the whole time. I still remember that and it was like more than 10 years ago.
Elsie: That’s hilarious.
Emma: I love baked macaroni, Man.
Elsie: The first time I got my tattoo with Rachel, I remember we got bubble tea afterward and sushi and maybe that’s why it’s like my favorite meal till I die.
Elsie: Well, this was fun. If you’re listening to this in like three years, I will update the show notes with a picture of Emma’s surprise tattoo. If not, then I’ll just I’ll put it on Instagram or something whenever I get it, and I’ll try not to take forever because now I am excited to reveal it because it is very specific and special to Emma, and it’s kind of the one I’m the most excited about.
Emma: Cool. All right. Well, thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you next week.
Oops! That was supposed to say “Moon River”.
Do you have this illustrated children’s book of Moon River? It’s lovely.
I am very curious to see the Twin Peaks tattoo someday! Intriguing idea!
I loved this one! I only have two very “basic white girl” tattoos haha – little birds on my hip, and “not all those who wander are lost” on my ribs, in my mom’s handwriting. I always go back and forth between wanting more tattoos or not – I think I want one with my family members’ initials, but I like my tattoos to be hidden, so I’m not sure where yet. I also have a black cat, and I’m considering a black cat silhouette on the back of my neck or between my shoulderblades, but we shall see haha. It is funny because I think when you’re older you consider them so much more, whereas my first one, I just went into a random tattoo parlor and said, “Do this.”
Aww.. Terry Green is the best!!
I have a tattoo for each of my family members, including memorial tattoos in honor of my dad and brother. They were an important part of the grieving process for me. I love having reminders of my loved ones on me at all times – its an effortless way to keep them near w/out it being a physical “thing” that I have to put on each day. <3
I loved this episode! Tattoos can be such a fantastic way to tell a story and express yourself, and I actually like that they can mean different things at different times in your life. One aspect of tattoos I would have appreciated hearing more about is how much the industry seems to have shifted to allow artists to mainly take on jobs that reflect their own style and sensibilities. I think it’s trickier to book a tattoo now than it was several years ago, and almost unheard-of to just walk in off the street in many places. Anyway, thanks for sharing! Love all you do!
This is such good timing as I’m doing my second tattoo this friday. I’m doing a happy pig on my thigh because I love pigs ? 2 years ago I did my first and it’s a stack of books with a mouse on to of the stack and hepaticas around it. Totally love it! So nice to hear more about your tattoos!
Soo happy to hear this episode! And omg cannot wait to see the Twin Peaks tattoos!!! I got my first tattoo over 10 yrs ago. I’ve wanted more but was waiting to lose weight or worried about where to put it where the skin wouldn’t stretch out. But finally I said f-it and got one on my stomach and I’m so happy I did!
My personal advice on tattoos is to go with an idea that you obsess over more than a couple months so you know it’s not just a phase. Like you said in the episode, tattoos don’t always have to have a story or meaning – you can just like the design or want that art on your bod. Don’t even let regret come into the picture. It’s just a part of your history.
Thanks for sharing!!!
I love Twin Peaks- fully support!! If I ever committed to getting tattoos there would be a Twin Peaks related one. I am so indecisive though. The tattoo ideas for Emma & Moon River are so cute.
Your Moon River story and tattoo plan are so touching. <3 Have you heard the new Beyonce version of Moon River? She recorded it for a Tiffany & Co. collab, there's a video of her performing it on the Tiffany's website and it's beautiful.
Interesting! I’ll look that up.