Who Did Your Ink?: Cynda Yeasting's array of art tracks her struggles and triumphs

    1 of 9 2 of 9

      Who Did Your Ink? is the Straight’s weekly feature, where we ask badass Vancouverites about the talented artists, indelible stories, and, at times, questionable antics behind their most treasured tattoos.

      What's your name?  Cynda Yeasting.

      What do you do?  My very dear friend, Jocelan, has been calling me "the Goddess" for a number of years and I kind of love that.

      I am a published author as of January 2016. My book, For Michael, Love Cynda, is one of my proudest achievements. In 2007, I met Michael, the love of my life, on the dating website Plenty of Fish. When we met, he was living with stage-four terminal cancer.  

      I am also a baker and my cookies are coveted by family and friends. My 9-to-5 job is that of a legal secretary. 

      Who did your ink?  Mirella (at least I think it was Mirella) from Mirella's Touch of Class Tattoo; Shoko Sonoda, who was from Sacred Heart and now found at Sumiya; Michie Kojima fromSacred Heart (25 West 6th Avenue); Sean Jones from The Fall Tattoo; and Chris Hold, formerly from Sacred Heart and now at a private studio. 

      Why did you choose these artists to do your tattoos?  I was really nervous about getting my first tattoo and had wanted one since I was a teenager. I wanted to go to female artist and asked friends who had tattoos and they directed me to Mirella. 

      Is there any meaning behind them?  It was in 1987 when I got this tattoo. My marriage had just fallen apart and I was feeling really defiant—I got a tweety bird on my upper right arm. My ex-husband was Asian, quite traditional, and did not believe in women having tattoos. Getting a tweety bird tattoo is not all that defiant I guess, but I was getting a tattoo. My son was about two-years-old at the time and so I didn't want to get anything too drastic. I have always loved birds and tweety is a brat, and I liked that.

      In 2003, I had a cancer scare and, over the course of one and a half years, I lost nearly 100 pounds and became very physically fit. This was the start of several more tattoos to celebrate my perseverance, newfound fitness, and happiness. For my third tattoo, I went to Shoko Sonoda. I wanted the Chinese word for "strong" and I wanted an Asian artist. I got the tattoo on my lunch hour, went back to work, and two days later, ran a 10-kilometre race. Because I didn't allow time for the tattoo to heal, it ended up being a fuzzy tattoo and now when I look at it, I am reminded to be patient. 

      After that, I sought out another female Asian tattoo artist as Shoko was not available at that time. I found Michie Kojima. I had a tattoo of two pink peonies, the symbol for "ohm" (the sound the Earth first made when it was created), and a "1/2" to celebrate my first half-marathon in 2006. I told Michie what I wanted and she drew it up. It took two sittings for a total of about three-and-a-half hours. I don't know how but while Michie was tattooing me, I managed to read the entire Devil Wears Prada book for the first sitting. 

      During that time, I also had the Chinese words for "brave" and "courageous" on my right shoulder. This tattoo was to remind myself to always be "brave and courageous".  Little did I know that the following year, I would be put to the test when I met Michael in early 2007. 

      It was six years before I got another tattoo. Michael died in 2008 and I wanted to get something to remember him by, but nothing seemed or felt right for the longest time. I went back to Michie as I have always trusted her to draw what I want; she has a light hand and her work holds up over time. I had her tattoo a dragonfly and a plumeria flower on the inside of my left forearm. 

      I chose a dragonfly because of a story about grief called Waterbugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children by D. Stickney. The plumeria was because Hawaii is my happy place on Earth and I got to go there with Michael. 

      After that, I got a koi and lotus flower to celebrate my strength in overcoming the obstacles in my life. I also really admire Japanese tattoos. A year later, I got the words "carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero".  This was done just three days after Michael's mom died. She was the mother-in-law I always dreamed of having and her death hit me hard.

      This past May, I got four more tattoos. I was seriously ill last year and after conquering that health issue, I wanted to celebrate, and getting a new tattoo is my favourite way to do that. One of the tattoos I got is the word "kalea" with some plumerias underneath it. Kalea means "joy and happiness" in Hawaiian. I also chose to use my own handwriting for "kalea", which is not something I have done before so it definitely had more meaning for me.

      Another tattoo I got at that time is the quote, "This above all, to thine own self be true"  from Shakespeare's Hamlet. I love the Bard and, as challenging as life often gets, I have always strived to be true to myself. 

      Who's your favourite local tattoo artist?  Michie Kojima is my hands-down favorite and she has done 10 of my 15 tattoos. I first went to her in 2005. 

      I don't have any tattoos from these artists but they are on my radar: Craig Moston (I saw his work on a young woman and it was instant love) and Phil Kwan (I think he is an amazing artist). 

      What's next on your ink list?  I always think I am done and then I get the itch and want another. I always have an ongoing list of ideas of what I would like next. Travel is a big part of my life and a montage of travel is a thought, as well as words of inspiration. 

      Cynda Yeasting appears at an author signing event for For Michael, Love Cynda this Saturday (July 23), from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., at IndigoSpirit Richmond Centre. She will also be conducting an author signing at IndigoSpirit (810 Granville Street) on August 22, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., and at Indigo (2505 Granville Street) on September 15, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.