Saving Tattoos As Art Is The Latest Trend In Embalming

There's a myriad of ways we go about commemorating the lives of our dearly departed loved ones. Some of us keep personal heirlooms, some of us surround ourselves with pictures of our best times with them, and some of us even keep urns of their remains on display in our own homes. Now, in the age of diversifying old practices, you can do something else: You can keep their tattoos

According to ABC News, the practice of embalming the tattoos of deceased persons is becoming a widespread phenomenon. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) is one such organization that specializes in making sure the permanence of tattooing can extend beyond someone's death, and they've partnered with Save My Ink Forever to accomplish their goal. "Our mission is to help carry on a loved one's story. We hope to ensure that the spirit and legacy of your loved ones can live on for generations to come," the Save My Ink Forever site states. 

How does it work?

The process in its entirety takes about three months. First, the family requests that the funeral home surgically removes the desired areas of tattooed skin, as the BBC explains. Family members or friends of the departed must fill out an online request to have their tattoos embalmed on the official Save My Ink Forever site. They are then sent a kit that includes detailed instructions on how and where to send in the desired section of work. Upon arriving at the facility, the tattoo is then treated with an elaborate application of chemicals and enzymes that preserve it on its organic canvas of skin (via Australian Broadcasting Company News). 

As time passes, the skin won't decompose after being chemically treated. It can therefore be put on display in a transparent enclosure or kept elsewhere for close associates of the deceased to admire as they see fit. "You would never burn a Picasso or any piece of art you invested in and had a passion for. Your tattoo is also art with a unique story, just on a different canvas," said Charles Hamm, tattoo enthusiast and founder of the NAPSA, told ABC News.

Chris Wenzel's legacy of ink

In October of 2018, revered Canadian tattoo artist and devout lover of ink Chris Wenzel tragically passed away, leaving behind his wife Cheryl and their five children. In the days leading up to his death, he relayed to his beloved spouse his final wish to have his tattoos — which covered the majority of his body — embalmed so future generations could admire the work he invested so much money and time into, as BBC News reports. "Why would I want to have all these hours of tattoo work put into my body for me to be buried with them?" Chris remarked. 

After contacting Save My Ink Forever, specialists got to work on Wenzel's large conglomeration of tattoos. Given that nearly his entire body was covered in them, he selected a collection of his favorites to be preserved: those upon his arms, hands, throat, chest, thighs, one of his calves, and his back. Since his death in 2018, Wenzel's embalmed tattoos have appeared on display at various body art conventions across Canada (per BBC News).