Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Inked up



More than 40 million Americans, according to the Harris Poll, have at least one tattoo. It seems tattoos have gone mainstream, so what does the future hold for inked individuals?

FAU is currently doing research through a study called “Stories on the Skin: Tattoo Culture at FAU.” This project attempts to shed some light on the growing emergence of, and changing attitude toward, permanent body art.

“Anyone can get tattoos: prison inmates, athletes, students, even runway models,” said Karen Leader, a professor in the department of visual arts and art history and co-director of “Stories on the Skin.” 

Leader believes the meaning behind tattoos and the demographics of the people getting them has changed over the past 20 years. “If you had a tattoo [back then] you could be identified as something; that’s not true anymore.”

Last fall, 1,147 FAU students took a survey during Phase 1 of the project. Fifty-eight percent of those taking the survey have tattoos. According to the survey results, the main reason a student gets a tattoo is to commemorate an event. 

Third-year marketing and management major Julian Hanlan shared his opinion on tattoos and his reason for getting them. “They all have meaning and they all relate to each other. One side of my body basically has a family and love theme, the other side has a strength and courage theme.”

According to the project, there is a story behind every tattoo. Sometimes the story is found in the meaning of the tattoo, 

while other times it’s the experience of getting a tattoo.

Arthur Jaffe, founder of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts and co-creator of the “Stories on the Skin” project, believes tattoos can be seen as another kind of book. “They are something that can be read, something that has a story.”

Jaffe asked, “If a person dedicates their whole life to something, why shouldn’t they be able to tattoo it?”

According to both Leader and Hanlan, one reason people do not tattoo their story is because of their current or future career.

Hanlan confessed fears he had when getting body art. “I hesitate every time because of the thought of a career and just hearing what my mother feels about them.” 

He went on, “Instead of conforming … I’d rather get what makes me happy and stand by my belief that a person with tattoos can work just as well as someone whose body is spotless.”

Leader believes, “Heavily tattooed individuals are still going to be largely judged in the business world, but otherwise attitudes are shifting. Cover up and discretion is where the split now lies.”

One of the goals of the “Stories on the Skin” project is to help people understand that a tatoo’s permanance makes it more than a fashion statement.

“I’m using tattoos to explore other things like aesthetics, beauty, identity and self-fashioning. We create who we present to the world and that creation is how society accepts or rejects us,” said Leader.

Here on campus, students are in a constant state of learning and creation and many seem to be using tattoos as their outlet of expression.



“Stories on the Skin: Culture at FAU”

The research done by Karen Leader and Arthur Jaffe is broken up into three phases. The project started in fall 2010 and should take a year to finish.

Each phase takes place during a different semester. The official dates and place of participation will be available on myfau.fau.edu.

Phase 1: A student survey took place in fall 2010.

Phase 2: Personal student stories will be gathered about art, songs or any other creative expressions relating to their tattoo. This will take place in spring 2011.

Phase 3: A final film and book of the findings during the project will be produced with an expected release in either summer or fall of 2011.

To get more info and to follow the timeline of the project, visit www.storiesontheskin.org.

The Jaffe Center for Book Arts

JCBA houses a tattoo book collection and the office for “Stories on the Skin.” Founded by Arthur and Mata Jaffe, JCBA is located on the third floor of the Wimberly Library on the Boca Campus. 

The center also houses the Jaffe Collection, exhibition, gallery talks, films, performances and their popular Book Arts 101 presentations. The Book Arts studio offers workshops and classes for book binding. 

JCBA is also well known for its Letter Press studio. Coming soon in spring is their papermaking studio that will be located on the Boca campus. To find out more about JCBA, visit www.jaffecollection.org.

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