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Adoptee Ink (as in tattoos)

We’ve noticed a number of adoptees are pierced and tattooed.  So, we asked a few folks to send pics of their ink and some descriptions.  This is what we got.  Enjoy!




The top is my American name (first name only).  The bottom is my Korean name given to me when I was found. I originally just got my American name tattooed on my shoulder, but it felt strangely out of place and also out of context. So, a couple of years later I added the rest. My next project is almost complete. I just have to think of a location – something discreet, but not too painful.


Just some fun information about my ink:

– I have a total of 11 tattoos.
– My first one was right after I turned 18. I got a tattoo of my Korean name.
– Most of my tattoos involve thought and research to make sure I know what I’m getting.
– I don’t regret any of the tattoos I have…for the most part.



This is my most current tattoo and a work in progress. The old school image of a gypsy girl is fairly common in the tattoo industry, but I wanted to take a creative spin on it and merge it with a traditional Korean court woman from the Choson Dynasty.

Top Right:

I have the trigram symbols from the Korean flag across my right shoulder and chest. These symbols represent the elements heaven, earth, fire and water. And I love the idea of balance and needing all these elements in life to find that balance.

Center Right:

These two tattoos on my forearms I got at the same time. In October 2010, my adoptive mother passed away from brain cancer and I was thinking of a way to have a part of her with me. So, I came up with the idea of getting “I love you” in French and “I miss you” in Korean. Since my mother and I spoke French to one another throughout my life, it was fitting. And I also used her handwriting to spell out the phrase by scanning letters of hers and piecing the individual characters together.

Bottom Right:

This  picture was taken while I was getting a tattoo inspired by my adoptive father. He is from the Midwest (Fargo, ND to be exact), and wanted to get a tattoo that also represented my Scandinavian-Norwegian background. The design was influenced by the Norwegian folk art Rosemaling. It’s a style of painting using “C” and “S” strokes originating in the 1750s in Norway.

Subini: “Journeying through Ink”


The four elements are the basis of all science and theology throughout the world. As an atheist, I have deep respect for spirituality and therefore wanted something that represented the connectedness of lives, to our environment and each other. I also wanted to share the ways that adoptees exist within adoption and so have combined the two in this piece. I have always wanted this tattoo and it has gone through several iterations before it became a permanent part of me.

The tree is supposed to be a banyan tree, a tree prevalent in Southern India where I was born. The tree’s roots stretch across the entire piece and provide a sense of both the depth and breadth of my own roots, where I was born and where I have journeyed. The water is a river because I believe time is like a river, not some linear thing that happens in which we have little connection to or impact on, but a deep river which we all stand in and can explore. Deepams are on the river to represent family I have lost. I have lost my first Indian family and lost two members of my adopted family, my mother and my brother. These deepams are lit and placed in the river to remind me that I can reach into the river of time and look to the tributaries to find their strength and knowledge. Finally the wind rustles through the leaves and is in wisps, made visible to show its powerful influence.

Adoption has left permanent impact on my life and I wanted both countries, cultures and families embraced and connected. Each of the four elements together represents a balance, which I am always striving to find; a balance that allows me to use anger and joy in service to others as well as to myself. These complex connections are something I already embody and making them visible shared both my liminal status and my power to narrate my own story as an adoptee.

2 Comments on Adoptee Ink (as in tattoos)

  1. I love the stories.

    Jenny’s in particular resonated with me because she claims her Norwegian-Am heritage, too. Sometimes that is a piece of the puzzle that I don’t feel is recognized even within the adoptee community — that I am my genealogical heritage and ethnicity, but I am also the heritage of my adoptive family. Both stories are part of my story, and I need to recognize both of them to feel complete.

  2. Jenny. That thing under the Korean flag is not even a word. It makes absolutely no sense. Lol good thing it’s permanent.

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  1. Adoptee/First Parent Ink (As In Tattoos) Continued « Land of Gazillion Adoptees

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