Getting inked: Readers share the meaning of their tattoos


Ruth’s tattoo of an Aspen Tree. [Bryan Mordt]
Ruth Strickengloss [submitted]
Ruth Strickengloss
Ruth’s tattoo is an aspen tree that extends all the way down her back. The significance is that her granddaughter’s name is Aspen, and she claims Colorado, home of some of the largest aspen groves in the world, along with Nebraska, as home.

There’s also a religious meaning with Psalms 23 on one side of the root system and Corinthians 13 on the other.

To add to the meaning, there are three black birds flying around the tree, that represent Ruth’s three children and her love of the Beatles and their song “Blackbird.”

“They’ve all moved out, so I have three blackbirds taking flight in my tattoo.”

The piece took four six-hour sessions.

Norm Bradley
Norm’s tattoo is a tribal design he had done eight years ago that didn’t quite turn out the way he’d envisioned. Nick Sanchez at Redemption Tattoo repaired and extended the tattoo with a freehand drawing.

For Norm, the piece is a work that developed over time, and now, the finished product is what he had hoped for in the first place.

Norm has always been into tattoos and appreciates the freedom of expression they afford.

“As a younger man, I was trying to make it in the corporate world of ‘no tattoos, no tattoos,’ and you had to cover them up with a shirt,” he said. “Now I’m a little older and in a more senior position, and I started to feel like, you only live once and I’m going to do it. I’m going to express myself and I don’t care what people think.”

Norm Bradley and his tribal style tattoo. [Bryan Mordt]
Jenece Mordt working on a bike. [Bryan Mordt]
Jenece Mordt
Mountain biking is Jenece’s escape, and in some ways, salvation. It’s also the inspiration for a tattoo on the back of her neck.

“It means freedom, because you can go anywhere you want,” she said. “Mountain biking is a very physical form of biking because you are making sharp turns and navigating all forms of different terrain.

“It’s a great way to check out. There are no phones or devices. It’s just you and your bike and nature and there’s nothing better than that.”

Jenece Mordt and her tattoo of a bicycle. [Bryan Mordt]
Jenece holds mountain biking dear because she’d had nearly 38 back procedures and it was through many early-morning bike rides she was able to end the surgeries and pain medications that confined her to the couch.


The bike tattoo tells a story not only for what mountain biking means to Jenece, but also where it’s located.

“It’s in a location that’s numb from all my back surgeries, so I didn’t really feel much of anything on when I got it done or anything afterward.”

Greg Grossi [Bryan Mordt]
Greg Grossi
Greg’s tattoo is in the theme of a family of lions.

“I did it to represent my family, myself, my kids, I have four kids, I got four cubs on it to represent them and then I did my fiancee.

Greg started the tattoo last year and it took nearly a year to complete.

“We would do a little bit and then I would come back and do a little bit more,” he said. “I believe we did at least five sessions that went six to eight hours each.”

Greg’s tattoo is in the theme of a family of lions. [Bryan Mordt]
In many ways, the piece is Greg’s family’s coat of arms, on his arm.

“I always wanted something meaningful. I’m 43, and I just couldn’t think of anything more meaningful than having my kids and my fiancée on my arms.

His kids’ names are included in the tattoo.

“Gianna is 11 and then Gunner is 3,” Greg said. “Then, I have Gabby, who just turned 2 and a newborn who was born in December of last year.”

Dawn Houle [submitted]
Dawn Houle
In her 20s, Dawn had a small tattoo on her hip. In 2013, she added a tattoo as a “fitting tribute” to Ambrose, the man she called Dad. It’s a Medicine Wheel, used by generations of Native American tribes for health and healing. It embodies the Four Directions and Father Sky, Mother Earth and Spirit Tree — all symbolizing dimensions of health and the cycles of life.

In January 2021, Dawn decided to add a third, in part to acknowledge the discovery about her birth mother. She took her idea to the Redemption Tattoo shop in Maricopa. A heavy metal fan, she wanted a tattoo that would incorporate a phoenix — a symbol of rebirth from Greek mythology — and the opening lyrics to “Snuff,” a song by one of her favorite bands, Slipknot: “Bury all your secrets in my skin. Come away with innocence and leave me with my sins.”

The tattoo of a phoenix on Dawn’s back. [Bryan Mordt]

And she wanted the tattoo for her stepfather incorporated. Dawn thought the theme of a falcon rising from its ashes captured a life that started in poverty and through diligent ambition and hard work became very successful.

Owner Nick Sanchez worked up a drawing he kept enlarging until it was a huge tattoo that would require the canvas of her full back. Finished in June 2021, it was a big, neck-to-tailbone inking that required 20 hours.

This content was first published in the June edition of InMaricopa magazine.