October 25, 2020

VIDEO: Study Abroad, Return Tattooed

Three students returned from a semester in Thailand with “hand hammered” tattoos. The Sak Yant (pronounced: sakiant) is a traditional Thai tattoo that is believed to have protective powers. The Sak Yant is not made with a tattoo machine, but with a single needle attached to a long rod. The tattoo is created by repeatedly pressing the needle into the skin by hand in a very slow and often painful process.

Video by Evan Mueller
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Joe Batzer, a junior computer science major, Max Barnett, a junior video production major and Taylor Ringenberg, a junior photography major all received the Sak Yant while studying abroad.

I had my lotus [tattoo] done and it had only taken a half hour and it wasn’t very painful,” Ringenberg said. “So I was like, ‘Oh I can handle this, this won’t be that painful.’ No. It hurts. A lot. You can feel the plucking of the needle—you can feel everything.”

Barnett and Ringenberg received their Sak Yant tattoos on Ko Chang island in a parlor that was also the home for the artist and his family. Combined it cost Barnett and Ringenberg three hours and 7000 baht, about $230, for their permanent souvenirs. Both Barnett and Ringenberg had been tattooed before, and were surprised to see their Sak Yant tattoos healed easily.

“The other [tattoo] I have scabbed up a lot and took about a month and a half before it looked good,” Barnett said. “This one didn’t scab up at all. It didn’t fade.”

Batzer got a Sak Yant tattoo at a parlor in Hua-Hin just two days before the end of his trip. Batzer described his experience as “relaxing,” which is much to the amazement of Barnett and Ringenberg, who took shots of whisky during the process to ease their pain.

“It didn’t hurt at all, it really felt good. ” Batzer said. “I was completely sober. I was falling asleep during it — it felt awesome.”

Emily Anderson, a senior human rights major who studied abroad in Thailand in spring 2010, also procrastinated getting her tattoo. She waited until two hours before her flight back to the United States to get her tattoo. Anderson designed her tattoo, merging a lotus flower with a doodle of ธรรมชาติ, or “Tamachat” — her Thai nickname meaning ‘natural’.

Emily Anderson's ธรรมชาติ tattoo

“I’m a big believer in that if you’re going to put something that permanent on your body it’s got to come from you,” Anderson said.

Anderson got the tattoo on her upper back, which she said makes it easy to hide. However, Anderson said she wouldn’t want to work for an employer who doesn’t allow tattoos because it shows “they don’t allow people to be themselves.”

Future employment was on the mind of Webster marketing alumni Bri Schmersahl when she decided to get the keys of Leiden tattooed on her wrist to remember her semester abroad in the Netherlands.

“I wanted it somewhere I could see it everyday,” Schmersahl said. “I was worried about jobs and things like that, but I thought I could just put a bracelet over it or wear long sleeves.”

Schmersahl plans to get her entire arm covered in a sleeve of tattoos dedicated to her time Holland. Although she is not too concerned it would be an issue in the creative advertising field, Schmersahl said she wants to have full-time job secured before she gets any more tattoos.

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