Expressive Ink

Written by Ben Ducklo

Video by Nessa Parrish

All tattoos share one commonality – Each one has a story. From a simple design to more intricate art, every piece bears significance.

Dick Cutter poses for a portrait outside of Standard Ink Tattoo. (Photo by Nessa Parrish)

For years, tattoos have been viewed as unprofessional and rebellious, but in reality, that is far from the truth—tattoos are a form of self expression. Dick Cutter, a tattoo artist at Standard Ink, feels that a very important part of his job is to help people express themselves. Cutter got his first tattoo when he was 26 years old and is still adding tattoos to this day.

Dick Cutter prepares to tattoo an original design on a client. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)

He believes tattoos are becoming the norm now. “It’s unusual if you do not have tattoos now. You have seen lawyers with sleeves. I have tattooed preachers here.”

Cutter says there are two types of tattoos that the shop sees – the niche tattoos and the story-telling tattoos. Cutter described niche tattoos as tattoos that are primarily for aesthetic purposes. Story-telling tattoos tend to have a deeper meaning to the individual bearing them. Story-telling tattoos can be anything from a cherished memory, to a design that honors a lost loved one.

Tattoos are becoming more accepted in traditionally professional jobs now more than ever. For example, UTC professor of Psychology, Dr. Ruth Walker, has a tattoo in remembrance of a dear friend who passed.

Dick Cutter tattoos an original design on a client. (Photo by Dewayne Bingham)

“For some people, they will say it is a form of healing. Other forms of healing are not working for them, like going to a counselor or a medical professional in the wake of trauma … but reliving the pain of getting a tattoo and taking ownership over their body and reclaiming this identity is helpful. It is a form of healing to them. It is just a nontraditional form of healing.”

Dr. Walker adds that tattoos can be anecdotally helpful for people who suffer from a traumatic event. Sometimes a group of people will get similar tattoos to feel as if they are supporting each other or show support to a certain individual. For example, several NBA players got similar tattoos after Kobe Bryant’s death. 

In today’s society, this form of expression is more prevalent in workplaces now than in the past. Tattoos are much less of a taboo in today’s society and more an extension of ourselves.  

An interview between Nessa Parrish and Dick Cutter about tattoos and self-expression through ink. (Audio by Nessa Parrish)
Poster by Dewayne Bingham

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