Category Archives: Featured Ink

Where Do I Go Next?

Venice Beach, California. Photo: Nina Contento

This is an informal letter to my fellow future college graduates, but most importantly, a letter to myself. I took a trip out to California recently and it made me realize I needed a little direction in my life. I got it through some tattoo therapy. If you’re anything like me– a little confused on which path to take next, an avid “what-if-er,” a little curious if you’ve made the right career choice studying these last four years, and little cynical about your future, then you’re not alone.

Over the last few months, I’ve spent hours sitting in front of my computer screen looking at entry-level job posts all over the country. Every “Salary” section spelled out in large, agonizing letters, “STUDENT LOANS,” “RENT,” or “JUST MOVE BACK IN WITH YOUR PARENTS.” Every “Experience Required” section basically said I needed to be 25 years old with 30 years of experience. (Sarcasm not lost.) None of these I could ignore or wanted to come to terms with.

I once had someone tell me, “Communications majors are destined for nothing.” From that moment forward, I promised myself I would prove them wrong. But what do you do when you realize four years before you know what real expenses are means that the the career path you’ve chosen is underpaid, requires working long days and nights, and potentially moving constantly as you move up in the markets. By now you might have guessed that I want (or might want) to be a news reporter.

It’s been said that if you’re doing something you love, you’ll never “work” a day in your life. I’m starting to believe that is untrue. If you’re busting your ass and hustling day in and day out- you’re working. You’re working to achieve and maintain success. You’re absolutely working. Success is the outcome of working at something you love. But getting there- that absolutely takes work.

I also believe that money is the root of much evil, but I’m coming to terms with that too. I didn’t work a full-time job during any of my semesters in college. I lived off of borrowed money from student loans and the money I saved from working full-time at my summer job. That summer job and that money have basically been the only definites for the last three summers and four years of college. I spent too much of it during the school year on things I probably not have- like socializing (read:drinking), knowing that I would be able to go back the next summer and make it all up again.

As the money I saved began to quickly dwindle in first few months of my last year of college, the reality set in. If I wanted a big-girl career in my field, I would have to move out and away from my sheltered little South Jersey town to a small-market area in a big city all by myself, and away from my summer job and the money I was assured to make.

My bank account showed the reality of this scenario. My bank statements said that I couldn’t exactly afford the gas in my Jeep to get across town, let alone pack up all of my belongings and drive across the country. At this point, I realized I couldn’t even afford it go get a big-girl job… isn’t it ironic?  I’ve heard horror stories from  recent graduates about leaving home without enough money saved and I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ who needed to choose between paying rent and buying groceries, or worse – moving back home. So, I realized that it might be smart to save that cash again this summer instead of running after a position in my field, like I hoped I would. And I’m realizing, that’s okay. 

I’ve always been a Go-getter. I’ve done a lot so far with my life and enjoyed a lot of success doing it. I’ve always wanted to be one of the success stories my previous teachers and professors tell their future students about. My worst nightmare is to be forgotten. My ego is too big to be someone working a minimum wage job when I just paid almost a hundred thousand dollars for a degree, but my ego needs to roll with the punches. Because, one more thing I’ve learned: to gain success, sometimes you gotta suck it up before you can go out and conquer the world.

Comparing my own to other people’s success has always been my toughest challenge, but also my biggest motivation. I want to stress, however, success isn’t instantaneous. Even though I’ve busted my ass through college, got involved, did internships, and graduated with honors, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to land my dream job right away. I’ll need to take certain other steps.-Build connections. Network. Gain unpaid experience. Practice. Learn from others’ mistakes. Be well versed in every aspect of my field. Don’t rush success. Where ever I’m going, sometimes it’s a long climb to the top.

My advice to you: Be the one who has a realistic side and knows money has a huge effect on where you’re going, but it shouldn’t be your only guiding factor. Be the one who doesn’t settle for the job you hate because of great benefits and definite money. Be the one who takes risks, but knows the consequences. Be the one who prepares for those consequences ahead of time.

Artist: Ramon Alexander Shop: Pink Wall Gym Tattoo Co. (LA, California)

Tattoo therapy is something I strongly believe in, hence the compass tattoo, that inspired these thoughts, which inspired this article. I don’t know what direction I’m going in, but I now know how to find my way.








Trumpet Flower and Hummingbird Time Lapse Video Montage

Elizabeth Hartman gets a vine of trumpet flowers and hummingbird tattoo in honor of her grand mom. Take a look at the time lapse video montage.


My grand mom always has hummingbird feeders and flowers in her yard, so there’s always hummingbirds everywhere. That’s one of my favorite things about being at her house. – Elizabeth Hartman

Song Credit: Angels Fall – Breaking Benjamin
Artist: Lee Cramer
Shop: Altered Art – Vineland, NJ

SPECIAL FEATURED INK: Taking a step outside of the Greater Philadelphia area and into Northern Ireland with Megan Millar

Tattoos are popular all around the world, and when Megan Millar from Northern Ireland, reached out to me, I was over joyed. Take a look at her tattoo session and listen to the story she has shared with me.

Artist: Darren Millar
Facebook: Art of Darren Millar
Shop: Good Times Tattoo Belfast










Featured Ink: Corey Robinson Pays Tribute to a Family Bond

Robinson's favorite picture of his father's ship, SeaWatcher. Photo credit: Chris Robinson
Robinson’s favorite picture of his father’s ship, SeaWatcher. Photo credit: Chris Robinson

The idea behind Corey Robinson’s half sleeve comes from his memories growing up on the water. Corey Robinson’s father, Larry Robinson, has been a well known Clammer on the east coast for most of Corey’s life. This job is known to be one of the deadliest jobs in the world. Both of his grandfathers were also ship captains. Corey has had the opportunity to see his older brother, Chris Robinson, who worked along side his father for the past 16 years, and other family members, like this uncles, come together and share their experiences and stories with him. The tattoo is a tribute to their hard work, and dedication to their careers and families.

Artist: Nick Busher
Instagram: @NickBusher
Shop: Bloodline Ink (Pleasantville, NJ)




The numbers in the tattoo represent the fishing town in North Carolina where Robinson grew up. The ship is from an actual picture of the family’s fleet. All details of the tattoo symbolize the lives of the fishermen. Robinson’s newest addition to the tattoo is the captain.

The first ship Robinson’s dad Larry worked on belonged to his father, Roy. The ship’s name was Capt. Stacey II and Roy was the ship’s captain. Larry became the captain of the ship, Judy Marie at age 19. The senior Robinson was a shrimp boat captain in North Carolina when he tragically passed away doing what he loved. He died of a heart attack while fishing on his nephew’s boat.

On December 8, 1963, The William Lake sank off of the coast of Atlantic City. There were four men on the ship. One of them was the captain, and Robinson’s grandfather on his mother’s side. After swimming five miles to shore, they caught hyperthermia. All four men survived.

His father is currently working in the same location of where The Perfect Storm of 1991 hit. “He has seen some of the worst storms,” said Cory Robinson. Robinson explains the nights when they would be laying in bed asleep, and the ship would hit massive waves so hard that they would almost be standing up their beds. Many times they would have to strap themselves to the deck of the boat so they wouldn’t wash overboard. In 2004, Robinson’s father got stuck in one of the biggest storms of his career. Waves slammed against his ship, knocking him out of his captain’s chair. Robinson’s mother recalls the incident because she was on the phone with her husband while it was going on. They thought the ship was sinking. He ended up with broken ribs and another crew member broke his wrist, but the ship remained afloat.

Below are images gathered by Corey Robinson and taken throughout the years by friends and family.

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Featured Ink: Alexis McCarthy Gets A Second Chance to Capture the Beautiful Bond Between Her and Her Grandfather

Alexis McCarthy and her husband, Mike M. McCarthy

Alexis McCarthy, a 20-year-old from Richland, New Jersey, wanted a tattoo in memory of her grandfather. Their very special relationship was something unforgettable, but unfortunately cut short, when he passed away when she was in the 6th grade.

McCarthy remembers the times when they would both sit down in front of a piano and play “When You Wish Upon a Star.” She would sit there captivated as she watched his fingers slowly moving  across the keys. Each time he played, she was mesmerized like a child learning something for the first time. The song would become a bond forever between the two of them.

McCarthy was on a family trip to Florida, visiting family when she got the awful news. Her grandfather, who was only 51 years old, collapsed. What they discovered from the fall was even worse. Richard L. Stapleton was diagnosed on that day with lung cancer, so severe that the doctors didn’t give him much time to live.

McCarthy’s grandfather, Richard L. Stapleton.

Just days before that phone call, McCarthy bought her grandfather a snow globe. Mickey Mouse smiled at her through the glass bubble and as she spun the knob at the bottom of the globe, cranking it until it wouldn’t turn anymore, “When You Wish Upon A Star” would be the song she heard.

The drive home seemed longer than usual. She knew once they got back to New Jersey, that instead of a joyful reunion with her grandfather, it would be a final goodbye. On their journey back, even more heartbreak struck. The globe that she couldn’t wait to give to her grandfather shattered.

“It’s something that, in my young mind, just hurt me so badly that I was never able to give that to him…” Alexis McCarthy

McCarthy’s grandfather passed away on March 12, 2006. Her tattoo was meant to represent her love for her grandfather and bring her closure. She didn’t want it in the generic “RIP” kind of way; she wanted something unique. What she got was far from that, and her heartbreak just kept building. The finished product represented an unskilled “artist” who was later fired for “basically just not having the talent that is needed to work in the industry,” according to McCarthy.

McCarthy’s original tattoo in memory of her grandfather

McCarthy was to be married on Jan. 9, 2015, but she knew that she wanted her tattoo to look elegant before she tied the knot. She then turned to an artist she trusted, Brian Bocker, who did three of her previous tattoos. The transformation was exactly what she needed.

“Three to four hours of hard work and it helped me feel better about a potential life-time of feeling like my memorial to my grandfather was sub-par.” Alexis McCarthy

The coverup done by Brian Bocker of Exotic Body Works in Hammonton, New Jersey

 “I do plan on getting another tattoo in dedication of my grandpop, and I know it will better represent the beautiful memories that him and I had during his life-time, but for now, the one that I have is a great cover-up of an unfortunate mistake.” Alexis McCarthy

Tattoo Website: Exotic Body Works
Artist: Brian Bocker

Featured Ink: Kaitlyn DiClerico’s original piece gets a makeover

“Now are you sure this is what you want?” Yes, some people may be spontaneous, adventurous, fun, wild, whatever they want to call it, but tattoos are a permanent and big decision. Kaitlyn DiClerico, a Junior at Rowan University, tells her story about her “spur of the moment” tattoo, how it affected her when it didn’t come out just the way she wanted and what she decided to do fix it.

DiClerico's original tattoo showing through the outline of the coverup piece.
DiClerico’s original tattoo showing through the outline of the coverup piece.

Q: Where did you get your original tattoo?
A: I first got the tattoo spur of the moment, my dad has a really good friend that he’s known since he was 15, who comes to his house to give tattoos. The day he was coming over, my dad told me to come over last-minute. I watched everyone get their tattoos so I decided to just go for it.

Q: What was the quote you decided to get and why did you choose that?
A: “Love the life you live, Live the life you love.” I chose it because I thought it was a good quote to describe how you should live your life. You shouldn’t hide who you are and if you go through life hating it, you’re missing out. No matter what hardships you have, you should always embrace and love what you have.

Q: At what point in the process did you realize the tattoo wasn’t exactly what you wanted?
A: After I got it, I realized it was just too small. Before I got it I was worried that since the quote was longer, that if it wasn’t small enough it would wrap all the way around my leg. After he tattooed it, there wasn’t much time that I decided I really didn’t like how small it was. You couldn’t even really read it. It kind of made me feel self-conscious about it.

Q: What were your thoughts on what to do next? Did you ever plan on just leaving it be?
A: Well I just left it for a while, but I knew that I wanted it fixed. It grew on me that I was definitely going to get it covered. I just needed to find something that could cover the old tattoo, which was the hardest part.

Q: What were other people’s reactions? Was anyone totally honest with you?
A: A lot of people said they liked it. I would usually bring up how I didn’t like it or that it was too small. Usually when I would say the writing was too small they would be like, “Yeah, it is really small.” But then other people, like my boyfriend for instance, would tell me how he hated it. In his words, it looked like a scribbled line. This one time when he and I went to the beach, I was directing him with parking his car, the parking guy, who was six feet or so from me, asked me if it was Arabic or something. Which obviously made me feel some type of way.

Q: So, you said it was hard to pick what could cover the original tattoo. What was that process like? Was it more about just finding something that worked or did you actually want to pick something that meant something to you?
A: I was at first looking for things with meaning or things that I wanted. It got a lot harder than that, trying to find something that actually covered the old tattoo. For months I looked for ideas. It just so happened that the two things that would have worked perfect for the coverup were a butterfly, a bird, or flowers, which the first two options I already have tattoos of. The third option is my plan for my other side. Then I started looking at different feathers and thought it would work. The feather doesn’t exactly mean anything special, but it stands for freedom and flight. It just worked and I liked it.

Q: How did you hear about the artist you went to?
A: His name is Lee Cramer. I’ve seen pictures of his work on Facebook from friends that have gotten tattoos from him. My friend got a sleeve from him and I loved the way it came out. I also saw a very good portrait he did on another friend. I followed him on Instagram and looked at more of his work. I thought he would do a good job.

Q: Do you regret getting the first tattoo?
A: Yes and no. Yes, because I didn’t like it. No, because if I didn’t get the first one, I wouldn’t have the one I have now.

DiClerico’s finished coverup done by Lee Cramer. Photo by Kaitlyn DiClerico.

Q: So overall, how do you feel about the finished product?
A: I really like the way it came out. I gave Lee that picture and he put the twist in the ribbon to make it fit my old tattoo. I’m happy the old one is gone. I just need to go back for a few touch ups and then it will be perfect.


Want to see more tattoos done by Lee Cramer? Check out these pages.
Website: Altered Art Tattoo and Piercing
Facebook: Altered Art Tattoo and Piercing
Instagram: @LeeCramerTattoo

Featured Ink: Cassandra Hartman Transforms the Elephant in Honor of Her Grandmothers


Remembrance tattoos are very common, but Cassandra Hartman had a design in mind that would blend the two different relationships that she shared with her grandmothers. Hartman gave credit to her “creative mind” when she initially gave the idea to the artist who then put it down on paper.

Cassandra Hartman's elephant rendition
Cassandra Hartman’s elephant rendition

“I tried drawing what was in my head a million times and it just wasn’t coming out how I wanted. So, I picked Mitchell because I loved his style,” explained Hartman.

Mitchell Faul, an artist from Vineland, New Jersey worked with Hartman for weeks as the tattoo she envisioned came to life. “We’d tweak it until it was perfect. He’s amazing,” according to Hartman.

Mitchell Faul's original drawing of the tattoo
Mitchell Faul’s original drawing of the tattoo

The elephant represents a large collection of miniature elephant sculptures her grandmother on her father’s side had. Little trinkets, some stone, some glass, wood, ceramic, crystal, etc. were passed down to Hartman after she lost her grandmother to cancer.

The elephant’s trunk is transformed into a scorpion’s tail, which represents Hartman and her grandmother on her mother’s side’s zodiac sign. The two even share a birthday.

Hartman took her drawing to Altered Art Tattoo and Piercing where she was introduced to Rich Bevilacqua. She had her first tattoo done at this same shop with her older sister, Elizabeth, but with a different artist.

Symbol for “sisters” turned sideways to represent the H in Hartman – “Sisters Forever”
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Cassandra Hartman (Left) and her older sister, Elizabeth Hartman (Right)

After Bevilacqua sized the image and they picked the right placement, the tattoo, in total, took roughly one and a half hours. Hartman described the pain as, “Not that bad” until Bevilacqua hit spots like her back and closer to her chest.

“My tattoo is very unique and special to me. It incorporates two of my favorite people and it’s sentimental value makes this piece of artwork even more beautiful.” – Cassandra Hartman

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