Tattoo Stories

Tattoo Stories: Barbara Leung

Jun 19, 2015Brooklyn Boulders

From phoenixes to Cheshire cat grins, Brooklyn Boulders climber Barb faces her personal tattoo story through unpacking the cliches of symbols and tattoos themselves.

How long have you had this tattoo?
I got it maybe 3 weeks ago.
What was the inspiration for this tattoo?
Originally, I wanted to get a phoenix– couldn’t find an artist that could make a phoenix that was interesting, because I wasn’t interested in the long-tail– so I settled for a wing because it was something I wanted– rising above, rebirth… it sounds really silly. It sounds really cliche, but then again I used to think tattoos are cliche. And then I went to a few talks that talks about tattoos, and they talk about memorialization and personalization: so it holds deeper meanings.
I found an artist I really liked (Laura Bochet at Red Baron Ink) and she had a two month waiting list, so finally the day came. Originally, I was gonna get a pair of wings? But I worked with her and we ended up with one wing instead of…chicken wings! I gave her pretty much free reign, I just didn’t want it to be obvious. I want it really concealed. She wanted it in more with how the body flows– so I go okay, you’re the fine arts person.
Why did you want it to be private?
It’s part of how I grew up, very conservative. It’s just… I don’t want that necessarily to be the first thing people see. I want them to meet me for me as opposed to meet me and judge me by my appearance.
How long did it take?
It was a pain. There was a tattoo convention was coming up and they were doing promo shots… total maybe… 4 hours. I got to choose what to watch on TV, though, so I watched 4 hours of Criminal Minds.
Do you have any other inspirations on what you wanted to get or what more in the future?
I probably do want more in the future; I just don’t know what I’d get. Before, I was thinking quotes and ‘tabula rasa’, latin for blank slate. But I kept on flipping between if it makes sense and if it doesn’t make sense, because everything influences another, and then you get an avalanche of things that happen. I also thought about the lotus flower, or the cheshire cat– I wanted to get just the grin. But my friends saw it and said they can’t hang out with me if I get this.
How long does it take to heal?
About two weeks. First they told me i couldn’t go to the gym, cuz i might get a staph infection. I came here after a week and a half… I was on vacation on Cape Cod, and then I came back. I can’t go into the pool, ok, I can’t go into the ocean, ok, can’t go to the beach, ok, can’t go to the gym– well, I have nothing to do then. So I went on vacation and came back, and it was starting to peel– I was like, maybe i’ll go to the gym and not touch certain things. Well if I touch the rocks, and if I just clean my hands after… ok, ok I can do that.

Tattoos are intimately personal, and stereotypical of Brooklynites. Walking through Brooklyn Boulders, it’s more often than not you’ll see some adorned bodies climbing our walls. Each inked piece tells a story, whether it’s silly, inspirational, nostalgic, funny or just a fond memory.
BKB Tattoo Stories showcase various tattoos around our space, and the stories behind them. Get to know your community of climbers a little more than skin-deep. All photos by Koji Ishibashi. 
If you have a particular story you’d like to share – get in touch with us:

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