With the help of mainstream media and simply our personal need to express ourselves, tattoos are popping up everywhere — and on everyone. Statistics show that around 38% of young people ages 18 through 29 have a least one tattoo on their bodies. Ink has become so prevalent that pediatricians have started talking about it with their young patients. "We know it's mainstream and we want the medical community to be a part of it," stated Dr. Jay Greenspan, chairman of pediatrics at Nemours/A.I. Dupont Hospital for Children.
2. Perceptions Are Definitely Changing — In A Positive Way
It wasn't too long ago that tattoos were seen as classless and crude, but the industry and how people view tattoos has definitely changed for the better. A poll taken in 2008 revealed that 29% of people believed there is a direct link between tattoos and "deviant behavior" — this percentage dropped to 24% just a few years later in 2012. People are choosing to show their stripes by tattooing something meaningful on their body. Whether it be a quote or a character from their favorite show, a love for tattoos is only continuing to spread.
The stigma surrounding mental health has been immensely broken down in recent years, and this applies to the world of body art as well. The Project Semicolon has emerged in the last couple of years, and it involves having the semicolon punctuation marked tattooed on you to signify the struggles of living with mental illness and the prevention of suicide. "A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life," stated Project Semicolon. One woman from Ireland is familiar with the struggles of mental illness all too well.
Nineteen-year-old Aoife Lovett had struggled with mental illness throughout her teen years, and the young woman was left with self-harm scars as a reminder. She wished to cover the scars with a tattoo, but most artists are unwilling to work on uneven, damaged skin. “A lot of artists just won’t cover them because it’s a lot of work and they’d just not rather take the risk of it looking bad," Lovett stated.
Lovett asked tattoo artist Ryan Ashley to help cover up her self-harm scars with a tattoo, and he was the only artist that didn't turn her away. He agreed to tattoo Lovett for no cost at all, and it has become a passion of his to help those who need it most — and the cause only continues to grow.
6. He Founded Scars Behind Beauty To Make A Difference
Ryan Ashley founded Scars Behind Beauty early this year after a young girl came to him asking for a self-harm cover-up tattoo. "A girl just randomly came in looking for a tattoo to cover up some scars and I got talking to her and she started telling me her story and at the end of that, it didn’t really feel right to charge her. It kind of felt like it meant more to her than that," Ashley stated.
7. The Demand For Ryan Ashley's Services Is Booming
What started out as a side project now has a massive following. His social media posts for Scars Behind Beauty began going viral, and clients began coming forward with their requests. Ryan Ashley has a waiting list of over 300 clients wanting him to tattoo their scarred skin. Skin that is damaged is especially tricky to tattoo, and this tattoo artist knows that his services are important within the industry.
8. The Difficulty Of Tattooing Scarred Skin Motivates Him
Ryan Ashley knows that the quality of skin can make or break a tattoo. “A lot of tattoo artists avoid doing tattooing over scars. Understandable to a certain degree because obviously if you want your best piece it’s going to be better on flat skin," he stated. Despite the level of precision and patience needed to tattoo damaged skin, Ryan Ashley knows it is worth it.
“It can take a little bit more time sometimes, but for me, it means a lot more than that because you’re helping someone move on from a difficult time," the artist stated. He did a magnificent job on 19-year-old Aoife Lovett's old scars, and her new piece is nothing less than perfection. No one was more pleased that Lovett herself!
Lovett had a breathtaking rose and dagger tattooed over her scars, and she couldn't be happier. "I think what Ryan is doing is brilliant because it’s very hard to get someone to tattoo over it and it’s so meaningful to me to get them covered and get them covered well. It’s very hard to find an artist who will do that and is passionate about it," she stated. Lovett is only one example of Ryan Ashley's inspirational work.
Lovett states that she couldn't be happier that Ryan Ashley took the time to make her wish come true, and this tattoo's meaning is much more than skin-deep. It has changed her life forever, and Ryan Ashley has more of an impact than he realizes.
Lovett feels like a new person after getting her beautiful cover-up tattoo. "It gives you a new sense of freedom and you get your confidence back because it’s very hard to go into jobs and wear T-shirts with scars because you get looks and you get questioned a lot about it," Lovett admitted. It has literally changed her life, making Ryan Ashley's work even more important.
Tattoo artist Ryan Ashley has brought some much-needed closure to those who have suffered from self-harm tendencies. “Ryan is helping people move on. It’s putting something beautiful over something ugly,” Lovett stated. He is changing lives, and Lovett is a testament to his success.
14. Artist Ryan Ashley Has Experienced Loss Firsthand
Ryan Ashley gets a ton of fulfillment from helping others who have suffered from mental illness, and his cause hits really close to home. This artist actually lost a friend to suicide, and he had decided to make his work help those who are still here and able to turn their lives around. Mental illness doesn't have to define you, and Ryan Ashley is making sure his clients can revel in their recovery.
Mental illness has become less of a taboo and more of a major conversation in our society. Tattoo artist Ryan Ashley is just one of the people advocating for those suffering — and giving them something beautiful to heal their pain. Never be afraid to talk to someone if you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness — you may be saving a life!