Tattoos are works of art, and when a tattooed person dies, they usually take that art with them. Dead people tend to end up in a casket, an incinerator, or if you are the victim of a mob hit, the bottom of a lake. For many people, this is perfectly fine. You die and your body art goes with you. However, some people refuse to take their art with them to the grave, or urn, or whatever. Tattoos are not only amazing pieces of art, but they are expensive. You wouldn’t throw away a piece of wall art when you die, typically you’d let someone inherit it, so why throw away a piece of body art?
There are a few obvious reasons. For one, people are squeamish. If you can’t stand the sight of blood or a little spider on your wall, how could you tolerate keeping a piece of a dead human in your home? Keeping tattoos of the deceased also brings up the question of where to keep or display this art. Not everyone has a special place in their house for keeping the remains of the dead. Such an artifact may not fit the aesthetic of your home, regardless of how good or bad of an interior designer you are. Another reason people might not want to keep human skin around is the social stigma. Even if you have the perfect place picked out for it, right next to the flat screen television in the living room, it might not be the message you want to send to your guests, and depending on the company you keep, you may become the butt of a few jokes.
If you’ve read this far and are still excited by the idea of keeping someone else’s tattoo after they’ve died, you’re in luck. A few services exist to remove the skin of the deceased and preserve it. One such service is called “Save My Ink,” and it allows you to bequeath your body art just as you would any other possession.1 Preservation of dead tissue is actually quite easy. Chemical fixatives are regularly used in science and medicine, which allow for tissue to be preserved without decaying. The only difference is that instead of examining the tissue under a microscope, you will be displaying it in your home or office.
For those of you who have spent upwards of $10,000 on all of your ink, this might seem like a great idea. You are adorned with designs from great artists, they are meaningful to you and your family, and you want to be able to preserve a piece of yourself for your loved ones. For a small price, you can preserve a small tattoo. For those who are tattooed from head to toe and want to preserve all of their skin after death, well, that costs a lot more, but it is possible.
With these new services, a tattoo really is going to be permanent. It will be a symbol of your life, something that you are remembered by long after blood ceases to pump through your veins, keeping those skin cells alive and well. All the more reason to be judicious, prepared, and deliberate when you get some ink. In all honesty, it really isn’t that weird to keep the tattoos of a loved one. If you can keep an urn full of ashes on your mantel, you can certainly keep a framed piece of skin on your wall.
1 Save My Ink has suspended their membership-based service. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) is currently remodeling and developing their preservation process directly through funeral homes.