You’ve probably heard of having cremated ashes made into diamonds, or being buried in a pod that will grow into a tree, but did you know that there’s another way to leave behind memories for your love...

Preserving Tattooed Skin: Saving Art

You’ve probably heard of having cremated ashes made into diamonds, or being buried in a pod that will grow into a tree, but did you know that there’s another way to leave behind memories for your loved ones? Having your tattoos preserved is a controversial idea that’s picking up steam. The tattooed skin is removed, embalmed and framed so your family can keep a piece of you – literally – after you’re gone. It also serves the purpose of saving the art of your tattoos. We looked into the idea a little bit further to see where it came from, and where you can go to have this done.

A History of Preserving Art

Preserved Tattooed Skin from Japan

Dr. Masaichi Fukushi was a pathologist at The Medical Pathology Museum in the 1920’s at Tokyo University with a keen interest Japenese tattooing. He amassed a collection of over 100 tattoo skins, quite a few of which area full body canvasses. To get these, he would take the skin off of donor bodies that had been preserved, and kept them in a large class case. His interest in the practice was so fervent that once someone has expressed interest in being apart of his artistic endeavor when they die, he would offer to pay for people to have their entire body tattooed if they weren’t able to afford the cost. His collection displays roughly 105 tattooed skin canvasses.

Present Day Practice

Dr. Fukushi and his seemingly morbid interest isn’t an anomaly. In 2015, an American organization called The National Association For The Preservation Of Skin Art (NAPSA) came to light. NAPSA was dedicated, as its name suggests, to preserving the art of tattoos, specifically for the loved ones of those who have passed away; they would embalm and frame the artwork, then gift it to the families.

Images of Preserved Tattoos

NAPSA founder and chairman Charles Hamm explained that the inspiration behind the company is that the time and pain put into tattoos is a significant investment, “I began contemplating on the substantial investment, both in time and hours, I had put into my work… I wanted to save my ink for my loved ones and to allow my tattoos to declare who I truly am so others cannot define who I was.”

More recently, Canadian tattoo artist Chris Wenzel requested to have his preserved after his death. His viewpoint is that “These tattoos shouldn’t have to be buried or cremated…We want to give people the option”. With the help of Save My Ink Forever, he was able to do just that. The company’s resident mortician Kyle Sherwood’s view on the topic is that of, “Why am I to discount the value of art? Having this option is more meaningful than ashes or visiting a headstone…You have a piece of that person, and a piece of them that they’ve chosen to represent themselves with”. There are all sorts of ways to remember loved ones after they’re gone, saving their ink as a work of art is the newest way to do that.

A Question of Ethics

Much like the ethical debate over leather, the preservation of human skin is somewhat of a hot button issue. The crucial difference in these circumstances is that the person whose skin and tattoos are being preserved have given consent or requested that it be done. Also of note, these people are not being killed for the express purpose of saving that tattooed artwork, it’s a decision made prior to a fatal event by sound-minded and conscious individuals. That fact isn’t stopping people from being offended by the idea.

Preserving Tattoo Skin

Whether or not you agree with the concept, saving the tattoos of those who have passed away seems to be the latest way to preserve their memory. Not just that, but it’s saving the artwork that was painstakingly done on their bodies so it’s not gone and forgotten once they’re buried or cremated. Having a tangible memory of someone you love isn’t a new idea, but doing this using their tattoos is a growing trend.

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