Illawarra tattoos: a practice that is both painful and cathartic

More to come: Jenny Nipperess loves the pain and the beauty of tattoos. She plans to get more but urges others to think before inking.
More to come: Jenny Nipperess loves the pain and the beauty of tattoos. She plans to get more but urges others to think before inking.

More Than Skin Deep Series

Friends Renai Crook and Jenny Nipperess are united by their love of the tattooist's needle.

The women have different reasons for getting inked but agree the practice is both painful and cathartic.

“When you cut you are left with horrible scars but with a tattoo you end with something beautiful a memory of your journey.”

Renai got her first tattoo when she was 21 – it was a spur of the moment thing, she said.

Jenny’s first was at the age of 30.

Her next was 10 years later and she hasn’t stopped.

Addicted: Renai Crook's first tattoo was a spur of the moment decision but she has never looked back and is planning more body art. Pictures: Sylvia Liber

Addicted: Renai Crook's first tattoo was a spur of the moment decision but she has never looked back and is planning more body art. Pictures: Sylvia Liber

“For me, they took away from my size cause I was quite big at the time and something i thought other people would focus on,” Jenny said.

“For me they are very addictive - I waited 10 years but since 40 I have 24 or 25 . It’s a type of release,” she said.

“People self harm to release depression and anxiety.

“To me, when I’m getting pent up every few month I know I need a tattoo, I hear the noise and feel the pain.”

Renai said that after her father was paralysed in a motor vehicle accident three years ago, she was diagnosed with PTSD.

Tattoos made the mental pain into something tangible “that you can feel but in the end you have something beautiful”.

“You go through it and at the end you have art.”

Jenny agrees: “When you cut you are left with horrible scars but with a tattoo you end with something beautiful a memory of your journey.”

Renai has a few favourites.

“The three owls are myself my son and my daughter,” the 44-year-old said.

Another standout is the one that represents her childhood. It’s for her father.

Jenny also has a few standouts.

“My kids, five on my back and my children’s initials on my hands,” she said.

The women get their ink for themselves, and don’t care too much about what people think.

But they both like the fact most reactions are more positive than negative.

“Often I get ‘I love your ink its bright it’s beautiful … love this, love that, who did it? We just hand out business cards,” Renai joked.

And Jenny’s view: “I don’t judge whether people have tattoos.

“I don’t take it on board but I love it when someone comes up and tells you they love it,” she said.

The women have some advice.

If you’re thinking about getting tattoos for the first time, the bigger the better (as big as you’re comfortable with) because the ink blurs and fades.

Jenny says: “I encourage my sons at a young age to think about work. I was old enough to be aware so I don’t care where I get them but particularly younger people, be aware of where you get them.”Yu 

You can check out more photos and videos in the More Than Skin Deep series on the Mercury website.

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