Cremation Ashes Memorial Tattoo
Recent tattoo headlines have been abuzz with stories on memorial tattoos using cremation ashes, some calling it a "craze" and a "trend," as in the video above. I find these terms trivializing and even insulting to those who commemorate loved ones in such a deeply moving way. The media coverage did, however, motivate me to follow up with friends who have used the ashes in their tattoos and find out more about the process and healing.
Here is one account from Ginger who, along with her sister, got her mother's remains incorporated into a Morning Glory tattoo (shown below right) by Craig Rodriguez, owner of Hand of Glory and The End Is Near tattoo studios in Brooklyn, NY.
"Craig told me to buy a mortar and pestle -- ceramic, not wood [for autoclaving]. At home, I placed a small clean jar in the microwave for 30 seconds. I put the ashes in the jar and did 30 more seconds. I brought the jar to the shop, and the ashes were ground into a powder in just a few minutes using the mortar and pestle. It was so fine that it quickly dissolved into all the ink colors.
He did my sister's tattoo on Sunday, Sept 19. We saran wrapped the remainder of the ashes in the mortar bowl, and Craig locked them up. The following Friday, I got my outline and color. Then [in the following session], he did all the shading and two more stems to better attach it to my [existing] back piece. My sister and I both got our Mom on our ribs.
I am so happy with my tattoo. It healed perfectly. I gifted to Craig the mortar and pestle for the next person who wants a sacred tattoo. [He can autoclave it.] So, that's my story."
I've spoken with other tattooists who have also tattooed with cremation ashes and they've all said that, if proper sterilization and aftercare procedures are taken (like in any tattoo), the tattoos do not raise any special health risks. And, as in Ginger's experience, should heal into a special memorial.