Olympia Resident Has ink, Cremated Ashes Under His Skin
By Christian Hill
Published : July 10, 2009
OLYMPIA, WA – Olympia resident Dwayne Courtney wanted to do something special to remember his surrogate father after he died.
On Thursday afternoon, Courtney, 38, lay on his back as Buddy Green, owner of Old School Tattoo, began work on a tattoo in remembrance of David Comstock, who died of cancer March 5. The tattoo is a replica of a tribal necklace made of bone, silver and turquoise that Courtney made and gave as a gift to Comstock, who was of Native American heritage.
The tattoo will be significant in another way. Dissolved in the ink are some of Comstock’s ashes that Courtney obtained from his family after he was cremated.
Courtney said the tattoo is a very personal way to remember the best friend, business partner and fishing buddy who played a large role in his life.
“I’m never going to forget him because I’m going to see him every day,” Courtney said as Green worked slowly to encircle the tattoo below his left knee.
Green said he was honored to work on the tattoo, his first using human ashes. He and the other artists in his shop only tattoo custom work and shun the “flash,” or printed tattoo designs, that adorn the walls of other parlors.
It doesn’t get any more custom than this.
“You’re not going to run around town and see something like this on someone else,” said Green, who moved his shop into downtown Olympia three months ago.
Comstock was the father of one of Courtney’s friends, David Comstock Jr. Courtney said he met Comstock when he was in his late teens and that the elder man provided direction for a child in need of guidance.
Courtney has one other tattoo that he got seven years ago. It’s a portrait of his daughter, Johanna, now 17, on his left shoulder.
“To me, it has to mean something personally to put it on my body,” he said.
Nothing else met that criterion until Comstock’s death.
Courtney requested a small amount of Comstock’s ashes as they were being spread and told Courtney’s son, also 38, what he planned to do.
“He thought it was a great idea based on knowing the story about it,” he said.
The family is waiting for pictures of the finished tattoo from Courtney.
Tattooing is not regulated in Washington, although that soon will change.
Tattoo artists in the state already must follow regulations for sterilizing needles and other instruments outlined by the state Health Department.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a law requiring a license to practice tattooing, body art and body piercing. It takes effect in July 2010.
Gordon MacCraken, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, said officials found nothing that specifically prohibits using substances, including human remains, for tattooing.
“Their interpretation is if it’s not specifically prohibited, then, by definition, it’s allowed,” he said.
Green said any pathogens in Comstock’s body would have been destroyed during the cremation.
He didn’t encounter any problems using the ink to start the tattoo, which will take at least five hours and two sessions to complete.
“I’m really honored to have his ashes in my ink,” Courtney said.
Source : The News Tribune