In a world where tattoos can and often have easily been relegated to mere fashion statements, or trendy extravagance, it’s nice to once and a while see them being equated with living one’s life to the fullest. John Birdsall is 32-years-old and confined to a motorised wheelchair. He speaks through the use of a typing device. Because of his physical state, most people probably wouldn’t expect Birdsall to be the type of person who travels, sky dives and has undertaken both jetboat and motorcycle trips. But that’s where most people would be wrong.
Birdsall has done all of those things and more. He’s even written a book called The Never-Ending Sun, which chronicles his trip across Iceland’s volcanic plateaux on his own motorised trike. Most recently, on his seventh trip to New Zealand, Birdsall had a tattoo done on his back of a silver fern incorporating a koru – a spiral shape that symbolises new life and growth amongst New Zealand’s indigenous peoples, the Maori.
‘Sporting several body piercings, and a fan of alternative lifestyles, Mr Birdsall yesterday said the tattoo was fitting because it was an outward expression of near obsession with New Zealand.
“It’s all about having fun, meet-ing people and challenging your-self to live outside the norm,” he said.
“That’s what New Zealand has represented for me and now I’ve got it inked in permanently.”
Q.T Ink owner Dean Jones gave Birdsall the tattoo free of charge, saying it was an honour to tattoo someone who lived their life to the fullest.
“It’s a privilege and a buzz to do something for someone who despite having a few limitations in life, uses that life to basically kick down all the barriers,” he said.’
Not only is this story very inspiring, but I like it very much for its positive portrayal of tattoo, showcasing just how much a tattoo can mean to someone and what it’s capable of symbolising. Beyond a simple fashion statement, beyond a trendy extravagance, there is so often a real heart to someone’s artwork. When we take the time to learn what is behind that artwork and how important it can be to both the person who wears it and the artist who did it, we experience an all new side to our humanity.
For more information on John Birdsall, visit his website here.