Jen Gifford’s “dramatic,”

“My word choice is ‘dramatic,’ which is what I liked best out of the remaining words. I found out about the project after the initial deadline for signing up, so most of the phrases had already been taken. Ideally, I would have picked a phrase including the word ‘Aquarius’ since it’s my zodiac sign, but that was not available. The word ‘dramatic’ was from the Aquarius stanza, which is why I went with it. When I told friends which word I picked, the typical reaction was ‘You’re so not dramatic!’ I know I’m not a dramatic person, nor do I typically have drama with people, but I have dramatic interests that include roller derby, pole dancing, and fire breathing and eating.

Getting the actual tattoo done was a bit dramatic! I chose to have it on my left side at my waist—it was the most painful spot I’ve ever had tattooed. I’m very happy with it though! It just seemed to be the right spot for the tattoo design, and I think it looks beautiful.

I decided to be involved with the project because I love Boulder! I moved here from Connecticut five years ago and fell in love with it immediately. I also loved the idea of being part of a living art project.”

Jennifer Gifford

Jennifer Gifford’s “dramatic,”

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Jessica Boltz’ “mirrored”

“I’m not from Boulder; in fact, I’m not even from Colorado. I hail from the sunny sand-swept beaches of Santa Barbara, California, the home of my childhood for the better part of my life. I didn’t even go far for college; in 2009 I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a head full of ideas and a heart full of adventure. Having already studied abroad as part of my undergraduate work, I hopped on the first international flight I could get on and spent the first few months of my post-college years in France. Sadly, being a newly freed student, I had funds that were a bit lacking and I found myself back on a flight home, a little deflated and a lot more in debt—though thoroughly satisfied with my adventure. I spent my next year and a half as the cliché college grad, still living with my parents, wondering when and where my next adventure would take me. Lucky for me, it didn’t take long and in the fall of 2011 inspiration struck again, and off I was to Boulder, Colorado.

But this story really isn’t supposed to be about where I’m from or where I’m going, is it? It’s supposed to be about why I chose my word and what this project means to me… I’ll tell you what it means to me—it means being able to leave a baby shower to get a tattoo I had only decided to get an hour before.

Whoa. Wait, what?

You see, my story about how and why I became part of the project was just like that; a flip of a switch, a change in direction, and a decision I made in less than 1.25 seconds. It happened on a sunny Sunday morning at a friend’s baby shower. A group of lovely ladies were celebrating the miraculous gift of life when one of the shower-goers began showing off a tattoo she had recently gotten.

‘It’s for the Boulder Tattoo Project, see? Everyone gets a word or phrase from this poem written about Boulder.’ My friend held out her wrist for all to see. Everyone was quite taken by the beauty of it. The simple dark script of her word was delicately surrounded by a few carefully placed stars. I was sold.

‘Do they still need volunteers?’ I cried, unable to contain myself.

‘I think so, you can give them a call and see—’

But I was already on my phone, dialing the number for Claw and Talon. On the second ring, a cheerful voice greeted me; I later came to know her as Chelsea Pohl, the project manager. Pleasantly, she read off the remaining words. I wish I could remember what was left, but really the only word that comes to mind is the one I now have etched into the skin on the back of my neck: mirrored.

‘I think “mirrored” is pretty cool. You can do a lot with it,’ I remember Chelsea saying.

‘It’s perfect. When can I come in?’

‘Well, let’s see, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday…actually, I had a cancellation at noon today…is that too soon?’

‘Really?! I’ll be there!’

An hour later I bid the other ladies good bye and headed over to Claw and Talon, barely able to contain myself when I walked in the door. Chelsea greeted me with a welcoming smile and a few pages of paperwork, and after a few minutes of careful consultation on where to place my tattoo, I was on the table, sitting pretty, trying to be as still as a statue.

As I listened to the buzz of the needle, I couldn’t help but stare at myself in the mirror on the wall before me. Mirrored, I thought to myself. Mirrored. It gave me chills. A reflection of the world around you. And that was it. That was why I loved the word so much; why I was so eager to join the project.

I’ve seen the people and places of Boulder every day now for two years. Everything is happy. Everything is spontaneously creative. Everything is vibrant with life. I’ve always been a believer that you are a reflection of the environment you choose to surround yourself with and that, therefore, you should want to find yourself in a place that cultivates the life of whatever makes you happy. Boulder has become that place for me. In fact, it’s strange to me that it’s not strange that I feel so at home in city I didn’t grow up in. And this small word, this small tattoo on the back of my neck, at the top of my backbone, gives me strength to proudly mirror back all the magic and spontaneity that lies in this city.

I may not stay here forever; in fact, I’m sure that at some point I’ll be swept away on another adventure. But for now I’ll marvel at the second home I’ve come to know and, every now and then, peek in the mirror at my mirrored, and smile.”

Jessica Boltz

Jessica Boltz’s “mirrored”

Rita Batiste’s “Tibet’s magic shop”

“I’ve loved tattoos since I was a kid. I couldn’t wait to get my first tattoo! It felt like Christmastime, counting down the days until it was time to open my presents! I secretly got my first tattoo when I was 19, from a Harley rider who worked out of his home. I had my boyfriend draw it for me since I didn’t really see any that I liked. I’ve always had this special relationship with the sun. When I close my eyes and put my face to the sun, it is my quiet, my mentor, my relief, and it grounds me. My grandmother was part of a religion in Japan that worshiped the sun, or so my mother tells me … but I’m not supposed to tell anybody else. She says, ‘You know, family skeletons.’ I had to hide my tattoo from my parents. We had a swimming pool and usually swam all summer long, which made it really hard. When my mom finally saw it … SHIT HIT THE FAN!!! It didn’t matter to me though because the way I felt was so amazing. My skin felt different, I felt different, and I knew that I would tattoo my body for the rest of my life!

My second tattoo was a spur-of-the-moment type of thing. I was going with my friend James to get his first tattoo and he asked if I would ‘hold his hand.’ The tattoo shop Tribal Rites is right around the corner from the Fox Theater and my reggae band had just played the Fox. It was such a big thing for me that I felt like I wanted to pay homage. I had the initials tatted on my upper right arm.

While I was there, one wasn’t enough! I wanted to remind myself of something that has always been important to me: to be loving, to have a loving presence, and to act in kindness. So I put it on my right foot, as a reminder to always ‘walk in love!’

Time passed and I was ready for my sleeve. I knew I wanted a lotus flower, Ganesh, and the seven chakra’s swirling up my arm. I went several times to a place in town but the vibe wasn’t right so I held off on my sleeve. One night, I simply decided to get the sleeve started and dropped in on Claw & Talon; I had the lotus put on the inside of my left wrist. I added blue fire. It was a drawing of a lotus in a book about Buddhism. A year and a half later I was in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico and decided to mirror the yin and yang of my first lotus … right wrist, empty and all in red.

My latest tattoo is part of a large-scale project and only the second of its kind in the nation. It was started by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, professors of Art and American Literature at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. One of the participants, Chelsea Pohl, graduated from Naropa University in 2005. She asked Kurt and Kremena if they would work with her to create a similar project here in Boulder, CO. She commissioned Anne Waldman, a Naropa Professor, to write an ode to the People’s Republic. It’s called ‘Boulder Zodiac.’ I chose the words ‘Tibet’s Magic Shop.’ I love Boulder, my community, and the people within it. Having part of the poem tattooed on my body makes me feel completely connected. It fits perfectly and it is nestled into the first lotus flower; oddly enough Chelsea co-owns & manages Claw & Talon.”

Rita Batiste

Rita Batiste’s “Tibet’s magic shop”

Cindy Reich’s “centaur”

“I was born, bred and buttered in Boulder. My family had a small horse farm at the foot of Davidson Mesa in South Boulder; we also had a few head of cattle and I raised sheep for 4-H. Boulder is my home town and where I lived for the first 22 years of my life, so I wanted to be a part of this project. Since we raised horses, ‘centaur’ was a perfect fit, even if it wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to represent the rural aspect of Boulder that is gone forever. When I was a kid, my friends and I rode our horses all over—from Baseline Lake up to Paclamar Dairy on the top of Davidson Mesa. We’d stop at someone’s house at midday and then resume our adventures. We used the irrigation ditches to cover territory where there were gates and fences. We were chased more than a few times by farmers when we took shortcuts through fields. It was a great place to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s. We rode our horses in the Pow Wow parade down Pearl Street before it was a mall. The Pow Wow rodeo was the biggest event of the year and was held at the Pow Wow grounds on North 28th Street. I remember watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July from Folsom field, while my grandfather led the crowd in a sing-along. Lighting the Christmas star in the foothills signaled the real beginning of the Christmas season.

My family had a lot to do with Boulder—my grandfather, Francis (Franny) Reich, was the head of the Chamber of Commerce and brought IBM and NCAR to Boulder. My father worked at the Boulder Daily Camera and met my mom when both of them attended C.U.

I had the tattoo put on my left hand—if you are a horseman, the left hand is where you hold the reins. You get on a horse from the left side. I thought it was appropriate to honor both my home town and the rural part of Boulder that I love; sadly, the latter has been largely lost. I love Boulder but I can no longer live there. Unfortunately, the rest of the world discovered Boulder and tried to remake it into something different. Still, Boulder is a very special place in the world and I am very proud to be a native.”

Cindy Reich

Cindy Reich’s “centaur”