Picture: James Discombe on Unsplash
A father and son team from the U.S. who’ve made headlines with their tattoo-preservation service, are now offering their unusual postmortem memorialisations in the UK.
Funeral directors Kyle and Michael Sherwood have developed a way of preserving people’s tattoos when they die, for display as works of art.
Save My Ink Forever already has hundreds of customers across the US, and, they say have now been “cleared” to offer its services to Brits, through funeral directors in the UK.
The Sherwoods recently fulfilled the dying wish of Canadian Chris Wenzel by preserving his body art, which his family plans to exhibit at a tattoo expo in 2019.
Chris Wenzel’s tattoos have been preserved by Save My Ink Forever for his family
Kyle Sherwood admits that they’ve had a mixed reaction to the service – but he believes that what he and his father offer the bereaved is important nonetheless.
“I have several tattoos myself, so I know how much it can mean to someone,” he says.
“There are certain tattooists that are world renowned. They’re the Picassos or Rembrandts of the tattoo world, and we thought, would you burn or bury a Picasso so no one could ever see it again?
“They really are works of art.”
A tattoo preserved and framed by Save My Ink Forever
For many people, a tattoo is part of the story of their life. Leftfield though Save My Ink may seem for now, Kyle and Michael believe the service is ahead of the curve.
Almost one in three young adults in the UK has at least one tattoo.
“For a while there was a stigma about tattoos, but now everybody has them, from all walks of life,” says Kyle.
When someone dies, their family can contact Save My Ink Forever to find out more about having their loved one's tattoo preserved.
Then, Kyle and Michael then sends a tattoo removal kit and instructional materials to the family’s funeral director, who removes the tattoo.
The removed tattoo is put into a dry preservative and shipped to Save My Ink Forever in Ohio, where it is preserved over the next three to four months.
Save My Ink Forever then matches each tattoo to a special frame and sends it back to the family to be displayed.
It takes three or four months for Save My Ink Forever to preserve a tattoo this way*
“It took us a year to figure out the best way to preserve the tattoos,” says Kyle, who adds that they can only work with professionally inked body art.
He and Michael, who are both qualified embalmers, initially trialled the process using tattooed skin from a donor who underwent a tummy tuck.
“We were just seeing where it goes, but we found that people were actively searching us out and knew that we were on to something.
“When our tattoos are done and they are framed and preserved they really do look like pieces of art.”
More than three quarters of people in the UK are cremated when they die, with a wealth of options available to create mementos from people’s mortal remains.
Cremation ashes can be preserved in glass jewellery – and even transformed into diamonds – while a small number of tattoo studios in the UK create memorial tattoos for bereaved clients, inking artwork with cremation ashes.
“Let’s give people another option,” says Kyle, “to an urn on the mantelpiece.”
- Read more: Inside the studio which inks memorial tattoos with cremation ashes.