Port Townsend woman, 82, rocks her peers with her recent tattoo
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Charlie Bermant/For Peninsula Daily News
Peggy Smith shows off the tattoo that artist Gary Laxon, right, applied this summer.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND— After considering a tattoo for several years, Peggy Smith took the plunge in June, stamping a biohazard symbol on her left shoulder.

“I thought it was a great symbol,” Smith said.

“It says: 'I'm dangerous. Don't touch me.'”

It's been years since the tattoo demographic was predominantly bikers and military as skin ink entered the fashion mainstream.

But Smith, 82, is still atypical.

As a resident of a local assisted living facility, she took delight in shocking her peers and rattling some of those sharing her space.

“One of those old ladies was aghast. She said, 'Peggy, how could you do that?' but I threw it right back in her face,” Smith said.

“A lot of the older men don't show off their tattoos, but when I told them I had a little teeny tattoo, one of them rolled up his sleeves and his arms were covered with tattoos that he got in the service.”

Smith said the man expressed the desire to get another tattoo, and she referred him to artist Gary Laxon, who has owned and operated diGee Ink at 220 Tyler St. for 18 months and now provides Port Townsend's only commercial tattoo option.

[There are at least three other parlors on the North Olympic Peninsula listed in the telephone book.]

Smith's tattoo application was a family affair: Two of her children have them, and her grandson a tattooed image of Smith on his forearm.

“Mom has always been a fun-loving, liberal person, so I can't say I was shocked or surprised when she did this,” said her son, Jake Smith, a theater stagehand in Seattle.

“We supported her 100 percent, although we were a little concerned about the pain level.”

Smith said she didn't feel any pain as the tattoo was applied “in a place where there was a lot of fat.”

Smith has two other children, Sarah Smith of Chimacum and Ben Smith of Seattle, who is the drummer for the rock band Heart.

“None of the kids has tattoos, although I'm not against the idea,” Jake Smith said. “I could do it someday.”

“Sarah has a tattoo,” Peggy Smith countered.

“It's a vine, going up her whole side.”

When Laxon opened his business, he resolved to bring tattoos into the mainstream and shatter the stereotypes of tattoo parlors filled with bikers and dust.

Dominic Svornich commissioned Laxon to obliterate a youthful mistake, an ugly image that Svornich installed on his arm as a teenager using a needle and India ink.

Svornich, who manages Kitsap Bank's Port Townsend office and served as this year's Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce president, said tattoos have lost their stigma.

“It's something that they do to express themselves and not because they were out late at night and walked by a tattoo parlor,” he said.

But Svornich works in banking, thought to be one of the more conservative trades, so he can't wear short sleeves at work.

“If my employers knew I had tattoos before I was hired, it wouldn't have changed anything,” Svornich said.

Svornich said Kitsap Bank doesn't have a dress code but a code of conduct that won't allow any dramatic tattoos or obvious piercings, although that was recently amended to allow “small and tasteful” tattoos and a single nose stud.

Svornich said 60 percent or 70 percent of residents have at least one tattoo up their sleeves and predicts that all local businesses eventually will adopt a policy that tattoos are no big deal.

“There is a difference between a tattoo and body art,” Svornich said.

“You can put on someone's name or have a big message across your chest, but in order for it to be body art, it has to be something that other people can appreciate.”

Svornich described the body art of another Laxon client who has yet to emerge from the tattoo closet.

“It's an amazing cherry blossom with a watercolor border,” he said.

“Nobody could see something like this and not think it's beautiful.”


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 15. 2013 12:51AM
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