Melville artist offers free tattoos to cover scars from self-harm
Tattoo artist Sarah Williams says helping clients feel stronger is a gift of its own
A Melville, Sask., tattoo artist is helping clients turn dark reminders of the past into artwork that will shine into the future.
Earlier this year, Sarah Williams, owner of Mystic Crystal Tattoos, started offering free tattoos to cover up scars left by self-harm.
Before Williams was a tattoo artist, she was a social worker for five years.
"Just working within that field and being able to help people was always something I really enjoyed. When I left social work and became a tattoo artist, I still wanted that to be part of my life," she said.
In the past, her shop has donated money made from pre-drawn tattoo designs to local mental health programs. Giving free cover-up tattoos to those struggling with self-harm is just another way she hopes to raise mental health awareness.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, people may harm themselves as a way to temporarily cope with trauma and emotional pain. In some cases, it can be a sign of a mental illness.
"It's something that's still a stigma. These people wear their emotions forever through these marks, and lots of these people have come so far and they want to take that next step," said Williams.
"They feel like they have grown, but then they look down and they always have this reminder."
Williams and her sister, Kaitlyn Pasloski, are donating up to seven hours of free tattooing to each client to cover multiple areas or one large area. If people need additional hours, they'll receive a 50 per cent discount.
Chelsea Bleau, one of the people who took Williams up on the offer of a tattoo, came across a post Williams put on social media advertising the cover-up project.
"The fact that is a free thing is amazing because there are so many people that have scars that would probably really want to not see that every day, but also not have the money for a tattoo or even a skin product that helps the disappearance of their scars, so the fact that she was doing that for people just blew me away," said Bleau.
She says she started to self-harm when she was 11 years old.
"When I was younger, people would either ignore it completely or feel uncomfortable and not want to ask what it was, or why those scars were there, and then you would have a couple other select people who would really point it out and really give me a hard time for it."
While she didn't let those reactions bother her, Bleau says she made the decision to stop harming herself two years ago.
"I feel like it's time to forget about it and move on."
For Bleau, covering her arm with a piece of art created by Williams, dedicated to her late father, "marked the end of an era."
Williams says each client comes in with their own ideas and she works with them to make their dream a reality on their skin.
"Tattoos are special just on their own, but to give someone that piece of art that reminds them that, 'You know what, I'm stronger. This doesn't define me anymore.… I can show my arms off. I don't have to hide them anymore.' You know, that's a gift within itself, to see someone be able to do that," said Williams.
She added that she hopes her project can inspire others to give back to their communities.