Last year our friend Jeremy, who you may remember from such adventures as “the guy with his jaw wired shut at our wedding”, emailed to say that he would be getting married to his sweetheart Jan in Paris in June 2013 and we were invited. Our first thought was “yay, Jeremy” because he is an excellent fellow and we were happy for him and Jan. Our second thought was, “yay Christopher and Katie” because they were going to be able to make it to Paris from Tanzania, which they might not have been able to fly all the way to the States for a wedding. And our third thought was, “I wonder if Lionel has any available appointments?”
Eight years ago or so, there was an article in some tattoo magazine about “lionel out of step” (Lionel Fahy). His style was unlike anything else Erica and I had ever seen—often almost like he had just sketched on someone with a charcoal pencil—and we were both captivated. We began to check in on his portfolio obsessively, to see when new work would appear, and a few years ago he started a Blogspot site and was posting more frequently, which only fueled our fire. The only problem was that he was in France, bouncing between shops in the south of France and Paris, with occasional trips to London. One day, a number of years ago, he announced that he would be making a visit to New York and we immediately emailed and got on a list to make an appointment, but then the trip fell through. It’s been on our list for years, then, to take a trip to France and get a Lionel tattoo. So when we had this trip to Paris, we immediately emailed Lionel and were elated that he was going to be in Paris that week and had an opening on Monday (though we would have been fine if we had had to take a trip to the coast of France).
So we flew into France on Sunday, collapsed into our rented apartment in a jet-lagged stupor, and then awoke on Monday and stumbled down the hill to our appointment. Oh yeah, while we had been making tattoo appointments, Christopher and Katie had been making the lodging arrangements and it turned out that our apartment was a 10 minute walk from the tattoo shop. It was fate!
All of my tattoos are either simple stars or designs that I’ve brought to the tattoo shop and pretty much just asked my tattooist to be a technician and apply the design as is. Erica has worked with Esther Garcia on two of her tattoos to develop the designs, one as an adaptation and one as a from-scratch design. With Lionel, we emailed him some of his own designs a few days in advance, to show him the kind of work we were interested in, and then showed up and chatted for about half-an-hour. He sent us off to get breakfast for 45 minutes and when we returned he had some stencils for my tattoo and a concept for Erica’s that he would draw directly on her. With mine, he applied the stencils and then freehanded some extra designs directly onto me as well with a marker.
So, pretty exciting to trust someone to come up with something you want to have on your body forever, but again, this is someone whose work we have been watching for a long time and we’re both totally jazzed about what he came up with for both of us. Since people keep asking: my tattoo took about four hours and Erica’s about two.
Oh, and also, Lionel turned out to be an awesome guy. I mean, that’s something we had no idea about. Sometimes we have to separate the product from the producer, but it would have been just a hair disappointing if he had been a jerk. But he wasn’t. Even down to music choices—there seemed to be a little bit of a good-natured tussle occasionally between Lionel’s shop-mate of the day, Fred, who was choosing more typical tattoo-shop hard rock, and Lionel’s choices of rock steady and reggae that I thought were a lot more soothing for a day of pain. There was even a period where Lionel was working on a big color section, with a groove going in the background, I almost went to sleep. And then the work went over a bony area and I woke right up, but c’est la vie. You should totally check out Lionel’s band Copenhagen, whose album is free for download right now.