“I’m the Creative Director at an ad agency. My body is just another piece of art” – Donné Gierke

The Ink Link is an ongoing project at CN&CO that showcases tattoos in the workplace. One of the great things about a tattoo is it goes against the commonly-held viewpoint that “what you see is what you get”. There’s a misguided belief in certain quarters that in order to be a working professional, it is categorically *impossible* to have a tattoo…because how can someone with a tattoo be a professional? We are putting paid to that perception through the stories showcased in the Ink Link. If you or anyone you know would like to be featured, please get in contact with us.

Fresh off the recent Ink Link featuring Gareth Pon, and the first referral of a previous Ink Link feature (thanks Jono Bruton!), Donné Gierke was kind enough to share her story here. As the Creative Director at Intengu Communications her views about tattoos are summarised succinctly in the title quote of this post.

head-tattooWhat is your background with tattoos?

I was always pretty anti-tattoo when I was younger because or the permanence and what they would look like on an old body. After watching a friend get one done I decided I would get one as well. As soon as I started the actual ink process I knew I was going to get addicted to the process – I don’t feel the pain, I enjoy it! It took me a while to decide on what to start with and eventually sketched a little skull and crossbones one evening and got it done first thing the next morning, in that way it was quite spontaneous. After that it took more than a year to plan the next piece because I wanted to get a big piece on my thigh. Now I try get new ink every year at least, the more the better!

Who is your artist?

I’ve had all my tattoos done in my hometown of East London. The first couple were not masterpieces, but now I’m very lucky to have a great tattoo artist Daniel Lotz. Daniel currently works at Wildfire Tattoos in Cape Town but is originally from EL and comes up every couple months. He will be moving back permanently this November so I plan on getting a lot more art!

Where are your tattoos located on your body?

My first tattoo was a little skull and crossbones that could be hidden under my bikini bottoms next to the hip bone, I wasn’t sure how I would handle the pain or how ink would take to my skin so started with something small. Since then I’ve had work done on my right thigh all the way down the outside of my leg which is in progress and will be extended in the future. I have small one on my left forearm and I have quite a big under-boob tat. The latest was one is a calligraphy letter ‘B” on my head, this one is very special in memory of someone I loved and lost to cancer. I’ve got really long hair and for the last couple of years since he passed away I have had the side of my head shaved at the Cancer Shavathon, this past year Daniel was in EL at the time and I got the ‘B’. I think that tat has been the most emotional and the experience alone was incredible. Having your head tattooed is totally different to any where else on your body. The noise and vibration is so intense and you can not move or it will be a disaster.

leg-after-second-sessionDo your tattoos have a deeper meaning or symbolise anything?

I’ve explained the ‘B’ above. The skull and crossbones doesn’t mean anything and the under boob is purely decorative. The piece on my leg is very symbolic, the first part of the piece I had done on my thigh is two flamingos and since then I’ve added a pocket-watch face among cherry blossoms with petals falling. This piece still has a lot of work to be done as I want to add a broken hourglass with the sand spilling out. It is about dealing with loss, remembrance, and letting go because time does not stand still for anyone. Seasons change, the clock never stops ticking, birds fly away. I guess it’s really based on one of my favourite quotes by Yann Martel from Life of Pi:

“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye”.

This tattoo is a dedication to that concept, taking a moment to say goodbye.

How do you view tattoos in the workplace?

I’m all for it! I hate that people are judged negatively just because they have ink. Being a creative at work might separate me a little from the real corporate world as it’s easier for people to accept an artist having ink. I’m very lucky in that way, I can be a little ‘weird’ – it’s expected. I love all forms of art, tattoos included of course. I respect people who are successful in business and not afraid to be real and show their ink.

Do you recall any incidences about tattoos in the workplace where people have been reprimanded or discriminated against?

Oh yes! A code of conduct about dress stating that tattoos must be hidden. One of my colleagues had a tattoo on her arm so she permanently wore a bandage to cover it which looked ridiculous.

Would you get more ink?

Yes definitely! I’m always planning new ink, the biggest obstacle being able to get all the money to pay for it! Tattoos are not cheap – one day my body will be worth a fortune in ink.