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Erica O’Donnell has been collecting tattoos heavily for the past year and a half now. The Kitchener native has a series of neo-traditional tattoos on both of her arms; in bright, striking colours, a spaceship, a cat, a dagger, flowers, a ship and a reaper can all be seen, beautifully blending into each other in a simple cohesion. She doesn’t get tattooed to be unique, she said. She just really likes neo-traditional body art.

O’Donnell’s tattoos weren’t all done by the same artist, but the majority were done by Jeremy Zettler at Perfect Image in Grand Bend. Zettler now works at Sinful Inflictions in

Whitby, but his work is generally neo-traditional, which is why O’Donnell consistently made the drive out to Grand Bend to ensure she was getting exactly what she wanted.

O’Donnell’s favourite tattoo is the one that started her half-sleeve. In April 2016, she got a tattoo of a hooded grim reaper, detailed with red flowers and a banner with you words “you won’t know” written inside. The tattoo was done by Matt Sitter of Perfect Image in Waterloo. The tattoo is a homage to one of O’Donnell’s favourite bands, Brand New, and her favourite song by them, “You Won’t Know.”

“The song is about a dad who was too young to have a kid. He gets a girl pregnant, and then he leaves. But when he’s older, he looks back and…basically it’s about a dad wishing he had been there for his kid, but he couldn’t,” O’Donnell explained.

“He will never know what [his daughter is] thinking, and she will never know what he’s thinking, because they never get the chance to talk.”

This song really resonated with O’Donnell because it’s comparable to her relationship with her own father, who has been absent for the majority of her life.

While this tattoo obviously has a deep significance to her, O’Donnell’s most recent tattoo was done purely for the love of the art form. Just two weeks ago, she got a pink rose resting in a horseshoe on her right forearm, done by Morgan MacDonald at Golden Axe in London. This tattoo doesn’t have some sort of existential deep meaning to her; she said she had some open space on her arm that she didn’t like, so she decided to fill it with something she finds beautiful.

O’Donnell said that she thinks people can get too wrapped up in finding a deep reason to be tattooed. Since she’s started filling her arms, her tattoos have to fit certain untouched spots and that can be restrictive of what you get.

“I feel like when you start something like I started, with the tattoos in certain places, you kind of have to finish it or it looks silly,” she said.

Our Ink, Our Stories is a collaborative project we have with The Kitchener Public Library. Read more stories at ourinkourstories.com.