Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Indie Ink Runs Deep: Jason Helford

Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....

Today's ink story comes from Jason Helford. Jason has written two books: Written in Hell and From a Killer’s Mind. He’s a devoted husband and father, an avid comic book collector and an enthusiastic craft beer drinker. Prizing originality and creativity more than anything else, some of his favorite authors are Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, Ray Bradbury, Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Robert Asprin and Albert Camus. Please don’t be offended if you are an author and your name wasn’t mentioned, he probably likes you, too. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Bella, his daughter, Maddie, and his goofy dog, Sunset.

I got my first tattoo last summer, at the age of 37.  The desire to get one was much, much older than that, but there was always a reason to wait.  Will my wife think less of me?  How will Mom react?  I’m a dad now, so is it the right call?  Why get one when I’m already so far into my 30’s?  Sure, they are cool, but what do I want on my body for the rest of my life?  After a couple seasons of watching tattoo reality shows with the wife, I decided my interest was deep enough to test the waters, and get some answers to the questions that had been holding me back.  The answers surprised me a little.  The wife was on-board, as long as it was something with meaning, and it was done by a good artist.  My mom told me she loves tattoos—who knew?!  My daughter told me, “Wow, Daddy, that sounds really cool!  Get one!”  And as for what I want on my body?  Easy.  Family and comic book art.  And so, in a matter of a few days, years of excuses and fears melted away, and the planning began.

I spent a number of months planning it out, and sketching up ideas.  After a while, I came up with my basic tattoo premise: the idea of a family crest, utilizing Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and his winged helm.  My family is a family of collectors, and Thor happens to be my favorite comic book, so it was an easy choice once I settled on an idea.  I replaced Thor’s name on Mjolnir with my family name, to start the conversion to a personal crest.  The quill is to denote my life as a writer, and I used a black stork quill-feather to further bolster that theme, since it symbolizes creativity.  The runic words below the helm are written in Anglo-Saxon runes, and read Maddie and Bella, my daughter and wife.  I asked the tattoo artist to use Anglo-Saxon runes to give a nod to my mother’s side of the family, while still sticking with the Viking theme of Thor’s hammer and helm.  The ‘S’ in the leather strap hanging from Mjolnir’s handle is for my step-father and step-sister, standing for Safford.  I took the idea, and a basic sketch, to Dave Waugh at Jinx Proof Tattoo in Washington DC, and he changed around the composition, drew something up that was much better than I could ever produce, and put this awesome tattoo on my shoulder.  My daughter loves it, my wife definitely doesn’t think less of me, and I’m looking forward to number two at some point soon.

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