Of all of Allison Wilt's tattoos, only a few have personal meaning. There's a portrait on her left forearm of a young boy in a far away land that's dedicated to her grandfather's adventurous spirit. A sugary sweet cupcake sits just above, scribed with the name of Wilt's sister, "Molly Kay." A tribute-in-progress, the outline of an airplane stretches across the opposite shoulder, a love note to her father and brother who both fly airplanes. And completing the family ties is a replication of a Shel Silverstein illustration, meant to forever remind Wilt of a poem her mother read her as a child.
The rest of 'em, which she estimates to be "between fifteen and forty," are really just for kicks.
Her left arm is a colorful collection of all kinds of images, including a farting fly, several 13s, an eagle and flowers in different styles.
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A lot of her tattoos served to counteract bad days. "I get fired or end a relationship and I go get tattooed," says Wilt, who assures that getting new art always cheers her up. Over time those tattoos serve as milestones, reminders of tough moments that she overcame.
"It's like taking a step back and watching myself grow," says Wilt, while surveying her collection.
Her right arm is currently pretty bare, for now. She's left it mostly vacant so that one artist, Jamie Mayhood, can design the whole thing, and while the sleeve will eventually have a swan on it somewhere, the rest will be up to Mayhood's imagination. Wilt believes in selecting a tattoo artist for their creativity, then handing over the reins. "If you don't let the artist run with it at all, you'll be disappointed," she says.
Her only tattoo regret is occcupation-based. She works in a bar and drunk strangers sometimes get handsy when they see her work exposed. "You wouldn't go to a museum and touch the art, this is my personal art collection," Wilt laments.