I decided to give myself an early birthday present and head up to Pai for another tattoo from my main man Korn. Armed with a rough sketch I did while waiting for a bus a few months earlier, I explained what I was going for and left Korn to whip up a sketch overnight.
I was undecided until an hour before whether to get the design on my ribs or on my back. I opted with my back, mainly because I didn’t want the wings of the design to wrap around to my stomach (it also helped that the ribs hurt waaaay worse). The pain seemed even less this go around as I was prepared for it. The only time that I experienced sharp pain was during the outline and shading of the wing which wraps around to my rib. Here, the pain was considerable and I was glad I hadn’t chosen to get the entire tattoo there. After 5 and a half hours, the finishing touches were complete and I was once again amazed at the amount of detail Korn was able to achieve.
The design for this tattoo is based off of the album art for Led Zeppelin’s Swan Swong, which depicts the winged angel Icarus mid flight with his head thrown back and arms raised overhead. (For those who aren’t familiar with Greek mythology, Icarus created a functioning set of wings out of feathers and wax. Ultimately, he flew too close to the sun and the wax melted, plummeting to his death.) I saw the design on a t-shirt worn by the guide who took us in the first day of our trek in the Annapurna Circuit and remembered thinking, that would be a cool basis for a tattoo.
But I wanted the tattoo to be an expression of triumph, traveling, and music, so I inserted the globe into Icarus’s outstretched hands. It seemed like a natural fit, a combination of Icarus and Atlas. Except in this case Icarus has a successful flight and Atlas isn’t burdened.
To me there are multiple layers of meaning. First is to not be afraid to fly, to try to do something extraordinary. You can fly close to the sun if you possess ‘jai yen’, which means cool heart in thai. If you are full of awareness and have a respect for all living things, you need not be worried about your ‘wings’ melting.
The second is the uplifting power of music. The treble and bass clefts are tattooed on the inside of the wrists of the angel, the area where the articulation occurs for a drummer like myself. Drumming has been a huge part of my life. Playing and performing puts me in a natural state of happiness hard to replicate, as I imagine flying would. It is no coincidence that my tattoo is associated with Led Zeppelin, whose drummer John Bonham is a legend and one of my personal favorites.
The supporting of the globe brings into context how much traveling has affected me. It is a reminder of the innumerable lessons that I have learned through my recent experiences. Also, the meaning of my Sanskrit name Madwa is ‘sustainer of the universe’, which seems appropriate for the tattoo.
All of the meaning I was looking for conveniently merged into the tattoo design, and I couldn’t have asked for a better artist than Korn to capture it.