Tattoo Number 6 – Traditional Kami Montage


Location On Body: Right Shoulder

Shop Location: Maui, Hawaii

How Long It Took: about 4.5 hours

I won’t lie to you. In the life of every tattooed person there are dry spells.I am no exception.  This tattoo came at the end of my longest dry spell since I had turned 18. 5 years, 1 wife,  and 4 kids later and I had nothing to show for it…well except for the 1 wife and 4 kids.

Here’s how it happened. We decided to go to Hawaii for our five year anniversary with our friends Colin and Grace. The first day we were there we went for a walk and ended up in a tattoo parlor. The question came up about all 4 of us getting tattoos sometime while on the trip. Since you can’t go in salt water or chlorine until it heals we decided to do it on the last day. I had not thought previously about a design and had no art but figured that something traditional with Kami’s name on it would be a fun and appropriate way to celebrate our 5th year anniversary.

This is Felix. Of course his shop name is "Felix the Tat"
This is Felix. Of course his shop name is "Felix the Tat"

Although, there was no inspiration behind the exact art I had received the original catalyst towards this direction was a friend of mine named Steve Harmon. He had gotten a super traditional biker looking design that said “Steve and Kelly Forever.” In my mind there were two pretty cool things about the tattoo. The first is that Steve was not a biker so it looked pretty ridiculous in a really awesome way. The second is that the first time Steve showed this tattoo to Kelly was when he was proposing to her. That’s pretty hard-core.

When we arrived at the tattoo parlor to make out appointments, I told my artist that I wanted something super traditional American looking with “Kami” on it, go to town. And he did. When we arrived back on our last night in Hawaii to  and get tattooed I saw the art for the first time. It was a banner with “Kami” on it in traditional Tattoo script with the following traditional elements:

Original Art
Original Art
  • Roses
  • Sparrows
  • Flames
  • Clouds
  • A dagger though a heart dripping blood

This tattoo was pretty unique to me for a couple of reasons. The first is that, at the time, it was the biggest and most prominent of my tattoos. Right on my shoulder, I remember thinking about how big it seemed right after I got it. It seems to have shrunk a little since then. Going to your arms is also a pretty big move from your legs. I’m pretty sure you can tattoo your whole legs and most people would hardly notice but your arms are a serious business. The second thing that made this tattoo so unique was how impulsive it was. Remember my christian fish blog? I had sketched 20 fish that looked the same to everyone else, picked one and then sketched 10 of those. All of this, months before the date of my tattoo. In Hawaii, I decided I wanted a tattoo, had the concept created and the art sketched all in a period of 6 days.  The third and most unique difference was the image itself.


To date, all of my images had been, what I would consider, overtly Christian symbols. In this instance, the art was simply traditional popular art that, to me, means nothing, besides the fact that I like the historical style. Here’s where we get to the real meat and potatoes. This tattoo really shows a lot of the transformation that I had been though, especially since the cross and fish designs. Where I had once believed and even hid behind many symbols, I was now taking a step away from them and in one sense even mocking them. Now, I want you to know that I understand the importance and value of symbols but most of my life and my early tattoo history was spent abusing and being abused by symbols. I remember, in high school, trying to wrap my head around why my small group leader did not have a christian fish on his car, and not being able too. After I got the tattoo (or maybe right before) I remember Colin asking whether or not I was getting it “just to be funny” or whether it was “serious”. I remember telling him “both.” 

The meaning of marriage and my relationship with Kami is something that I take very seriously. The format of a tattoo and the chosen art is, in some senses, a giant inside joke for people who understand me and tattoo art/history. 

In my Text and Canon class, at Bible College, the first thing my professor did was teach us what language is. Seems kind of obvious but when you look a little closer it’s not necessarily intuitive. All language is composed of two things: Symbols and Meaning. You cannot have one and not the other. Symbols are things like letters, pictures or words but these letters, pictures or words are more than just ink on paper. They actually mean something. When someone sees I (red heart) U they  feel loved and appreciated. Sometimes, we have to use different symbols to communicate the same meaning. Sometimes we use the same symbols but people interpret a different meaning. At the simplest level symbol and meaning are not the same but are closely related. This tattoo represents a time in my life where I started to understand that. 

The differences have manifested themselves in many ways besides ink on skin. Alcohol, use of language, and understanding what please God are just some of many areas. 

Because I am still married to Kami and think that the art on this tattoo is baddass I am rating his on the

Regret-ability Scale: .5 out of 10


when Kami and I are in a fight it goes up to

Regret-ability Scale: 1.5 out of 10


3 thoughts

  1. So I have to admit that when I saw the art that the dude had drawn up for you, I thought, “No way is Ben going to actually get that.” And even when I was in the process of getting mine and between the shivers of pain going down my back, watching you across the room while he was going to town on your arm I thought, “No, this can’t be true. Ben’s not really getting that tattoo.” Well you obviously did and to this day I still don’t really know how I feel about it, other than its very fitting I guess.

    But I also realize that I have no grounds whatsoever to comment on someone elses choice of tattoos. Hence the gecko that I will address later.

  2. That’s awesome. Now that i’ve moved on to bigger and better I kind of forgot how dramatic it was at the time. It seemed huge. I’m not sure if it was as dramatic as the one that you were thinking about getting on your forearm, that trip, though.

  3. I think this might be my favorite of your tattoos… more from an tattoo fan standpoint, than a theology of art standpoint. Not that clouds, fire, blood, swords, birds, hearts, and wives aren’t in the Bible.

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