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Damon Conklin uses the body, from head to feet, as his canvas. (Damon Conklin)

Today's Tattoos

Making your mark

smithsonian.com

Damon Conklin, owner of Super Genius Tattoo in Seattle, Washington, and founder of the Seattle Tattoo Convention, weighs in on which tattoo designs are the most popular on the West Coast. Tom Yak of New York Adorned says tattoo fans on the East Coast want the same provocative styles; the more customized, the better.


1. Flowers

Conklin: Everything from the daisy on the ankle to floral arrangement, reaching across several bodyparts.

Yak: Floral tattoos always remain in style. I do a lot of lotus flowers. I draw American imagery, daisies and roses, but I try to add an eastern sort of flair.

2. Lettering

Conklin: Usually names and quotes, but sometimes they're elaborate. In one instance, a New York-based writer composed a short story. You could only receive a copy of the story if you had an assigned word from the story tattooed on you, and when completed, the some total of participants comprised the whole story.

3. Symbols

Conklin: This could be as simple as an astrological sign or as abstact as an image that somehow represents a time or accomplishment in someone's life.

Yak: About 80 to 90 percent of what I do are personalized designs. That's what people want.

4. Religion

Conklin: Crosses, Jesus or a range of other gods, including depictions of events in sacred text.

5. Skulls

Conklin: Mostly human and other bone-related stuff.

6. Japanese designs

Conklin: The whole world of traditional Japanese art and tattooing is very influential in today's modern tattooing to the point where almost every tattoo reflects a lesson taken from Japanese art.

Yak: I do a lot of Eastern-inspired art and a lot with the elements. Water, fire, wind. Also, power symbols like the dragon and khoi fish.

7. Portrait

Conklin: This is mostly the realistic likeness of loved ones or celebrities, but more recently has been expanded to include all manner of realistic tattooing.

8. Love

Conklin: Hearts mostly, but sometimes sarcastic statements about love.

Yak: The traditional American style stuff provides the customer with a more historic feel. It's stood the test of time.

9. Birds

Conklin: Including mythological flyers like phoenixes and griffins. Flying is always a metaphor for rising above, excelling and emergence.

10. Wildlife

Conklin: All manners of living creatures, from lions to gold fish.

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