BY ANNA J. STAINSBY                                            



Tattoos are visual reminders of notable- and at times, intoxicated- moments in life. They’re a commitment to a permanent accessory that no one else has, and sometimes, that only you understand. While for some a tattoo is just that, more often than not, they come with a story. For this series, students volunteered their ink and their stories to MUSE. They came in to take photos and talk about the meaning of their tattoos- from a drunken 24 hours in China to an ink homage to a professor, scroll down to see some of the best ink on the Queen’s campus, with stories to match.



Max Roberge


“The one on my ribs I designed myself. It represents my family. The background is mountains- I’m from Calgary, Alberta, I’ve skied my whole life… Then there’s a bear representing my sister, cause that’s her animal. I have the Leo constellation for my mom and the moon for my dad. I got it when I was 18.”


“The one on my wrist is a violin f hole. I got it because I was going to go into classical performance but then I decided to go into engineering instead and I still wanted to have a little piece of it.”


“This is the funniest story I guess. I’m in chemical engineering and I sort of had a weird crush on one of my professors last year. She would always draw this symbol- it had a lot to do with the course- so I joked that I was going to get it tattooed in her writing. After a while it developed meaning behind it. It represents a transition state which is like the one billionth of a second where a chemical reaction happens and bonds switch over. It just reminds me that things happen super quickly and to make the things you want happen before you miss your opportunity.”


“I got my dog when I turned 9 and was dealing with a lot things- it was sort of a coping dog. She just passed away this summer and this is her serial registration code for the city.”


Lauren Desroches


“This tattoo is the outline of the island that my camp’s on- it’s called Beausoleil island and it’s in Georgian bay. My parents put me on a boat when I was 6 years old and told me that I needed to go to camp! I went back for 10 years and then worked for 5 years and it is the most amazing place. Everything I do in life always comes back to what I learned at camp.”


“I grew up listening to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers with my dad. He was always really into cool 90s alternative music and I get a lot of my music taste from him. When I turned 18 I was in Toronto with my friend and we were really impulsive and went to get tattoos. I didn’t tell my parents for like a year and a half. My dad found out because he saw a sticker I got from the tattoo shop. He was like “I’ve heard of this tattoo shop” and I just went “Yeah I just got the sticker…” and he went “No, you have a tattoo don’t you!”


“I have a single needle one on my arm of a paddle. I was a tripper for a year and spent the whole summer canoe tripping.”


Allie Weintraub


“This one is matching with my mom- it’s two music notes, one is a dotted quarter and the other is an eighth, which together make two beats. One is larger than the other so one represents my mom and the small one represents me!”


“It’s a Ghandi quote. I was looking at Ghandi quotes online and I liked this one so the day of I chose it and put it on my arm. It was quite spontaneous and do I regret it? Well, I don’t regret it, I love the tattoo, but even more than the tattoo itself, it represents a time in my life where I was feeling spontaneous and fun and needed something on my body.”


“This one is matching with my friend, Nicole. Two arrows crossing is the tribal symbol for friendship. We have two dots in it which represents the two from 2006 which is when we met and the six sides of the quills represent the six.”


Jess Wakefield and Claire Warren



“The first one I have is a bear- for bravery. It’s one of the grandfather teachings. The second is the wolf on my hip. I have it in a dream catcher with feathers and it’s for humility. I’m First Nations and those are 7 values that my mom has instilled into me. What better way than to put them all on your body?”


“This is my sister’s birthday because one of the grandfather teachings is love, which I plan on getting eventually, and she has my birthday so…”


“There’s four others that I want to get together, kind of on a sleeve or half sleeve. I want to start as early as Christmas break. And then the other will probably be simple, by itself, when I get around to it.”



“I got a band for my mother, my father, and my sister. In literature, circles are universal symbols for eternity so it’s kind of like a family-is-forever tattoo but it’s not super corny and not many people can see it right away.”


“This is a schooner. It was meant to be like the blue nose- I’m from Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians are called Blue Nosers so I got that to remember home.”


“I’ve moved around a lot but I’ve always been around a body of water. Here, western Australia, St John’s… It’s kind of a point-me-to-the-nearest-body-of-water sort of thing. That’s where I feel at home.”


Serena Fenn


“I found this on Pinterest so I don’t know if it’s legitimate but I love it so much! It’s supposed to mean Explore, Connect, Create. I was like sweet- that’s what it means to me now.”


“This was my first one- I was seventeen. My boyfriend has the other half of the coordinates. We’ve been dating for almost five years. This is the spot we met and fell in love and it was at a theatre in Perth, Ontario. So these are our coordinates!”


Tara Steinberg


“This is a saying that my mom, my sister, and I all got together. It just means that if things are bad that you’re supposed to persevere because things will be over but if things are good, appreciate them while you have them.”


“The sun symbolizes strength and the moon is stability. I need both strength and stability.”


“I got the rose tattoo on that location because the ribs are supposed to be one of the most painful places to get tattooed. Growing up, the household had a lot of issues- mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and just where I came from is a little bit rough, so it kind of symbolized me blooming out of that. It was a tough place but I’m still okay. “


Daisy Fraser-Boychuk


“The sun was drawn on my wall when I was in high school. I moved out of my childhood home right before moving to Queen’s and I’d painted with black acrylic paint with friends all these different designs, and we drew ourselves, and just other stuff… This was the nicest one. It always reminds me of that time.”


“This is a stick and poke- it was done by a genuine artist- and I got it when I was 16. Elephants are pretty sick. It kind of reminds me of my childhood- they were always around. I love Babar, my mom would collect these elephant figurines… It’s nostalgic.”


Lindsay Hill


“This summer was a really hard summer. I was diagnosed with some mental health issues and kind of had to deal with that for the first time. It was a big wake up call and I had a really tough time but I worked a lot on myself and at the end of it I was like, you know what, I want something to commemorate this first big struggle with something of this magnitude and something I think I might struggle with for the rest of my life. I’ve always liked this tattoo and had wanted it for like a year so when things got really intense I thought okay– It’s a reminder that I can through what I got through and I can get through other things, too. Fun fact: I also found out after that it’s L in braille and my name is Lindsay. So it was a fate-y thing.”



“I’m the third in my family. The original plan was my dad was going to get the II but he chickened out.”


“My sister wanted to get one together. She came up with the design of a DNA strand going through a tree and my tattoo artist added on the mandala part. That was her first tattoo.”


“This is a page out of my grandfather’s thesis in theoretical physics. When he got sick I decided to get that because growing up everyone said I got my brain from him.”


“I got it for the art of it. I kind of came up with the design myself. It’s the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo and in the background there’s the ape to man evolution… And then there’s the phylogenic tree. When Darwin was thinking of the theory of evolution he drew these phylogenic trees that shows there’s one ancestor species branching out to a bunch of other ones.”



“I started going to camp the summer after grade 2 and I think my mom was more upset than I was when I first left. I was a camper for 10 years and on staff for 3 and after my second year on staff I realized that camp is what really made me who I am, very much without me noticing. This is my favourite tree at camp. I like the white ink cause people can’t see it- my parents don’t know its there. I can show it to people if I want to but I don’t have to.”


Ashton Stoop and Christine Tan



“So I went to Shenzhen, China to visit one of my friends. I was only there one night and it happened to be Canada day. I went and met up with 3 other Canadians who happened to be living in Shenzhen at the time. We got around to talking about tattoos for a while and Christine (who I had never met before) mentioned how she really wanted a tattoo and had been thinking about it for a while. I said I wanted one but didn’t know what or where to put it and our other friend A.K said he was thinking about it as well. After talking about tattoos for maybe 10 minutes, the 4th guy in the group, Rakan, makes a call and begins speaking in mandarin. After a few minutes he hangs up, turns to us and says “OK, I booked you guys a tattoo appointment in 45 minutes.” At that point we couldn’t really back down so we hopped in a DD (Chinese Uber) and headed over. We went up and it was just this one guy in his apartment with a bed and a tattoo gun. Christine and I got matching tattoos of paper airplanes on our ribs and A.K got an airplane on his ankle. That was my first time meeting Christine. Every time I see her on campus now we show off our tattoos and let everyone know that we’re best friends. That was my one night in China.”


Anna J. Stainsby

“I got my first tattoo at 18. I didn’t know what I wanted exactly, but it was a tough year and I wanted a reminder to keep pushing forward. Charles Bukowski’s “What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire” really spoke to me. For my first tattoo I wanted something discreet so I picked out the word “fire” and translated it to Latin. I’m not the biggest fan of the font- it’s something the artist at Pearl Harbour scribbled quickly and I just went for it. But the meaning still resonates, and it’s a little reminder of my (impulsive) 18 year-old self, and that’s what I love about it.”


“The story goes that Hemingway is sitting in a bar with writer friends when he bets them he can write a full story in 6 words that will move them to tears. He writes “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” on a napkin, slides it over to his friends and collects his winnings. As an English major, I’ve come across that text every year, and have been presented with countless readings of it. It perfectly captures that less-is-more style that Hemingway brought to literature. As a writer, it’s a reminder to write what I mean as clearly and as concisely as possible. As a person, it’s a reminder that you can read things in different ways- nothing is black and white. Also, it’s a tribute to my favourite writer, and the craft.”


“Jess Chen did these two tattoos. I’d interviewed her prior and when we met she offered to give me another after the baby shoes tattoo since it was pretty small.  I figured I’d use the opportunity to honour my favourite female writer. I’ve loved Sylvia Plath since I was in grade 7 (maybe a little early to love Plath but who’s to say?) and I credit a lot of my writing to her spearheading confessional poetry- I’ll also be crediting my thesis this year to her work! I wrote her initials myself and it’s humbling to carry them around every day.”


This post is the first of a series featuring tattoos on campus. If you or a friend are interested in being featured, drop us a line at [email protected] or message us on Facebook to be a part of Series II- going up in December!

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