Saskatchewan·In Your Shoes

Getting inked: How I joined the tribute tattoo trend

Every time I see a sweet pea, it reminds me of my mother. It was her favourite flower. I know that even thought she never got the chance to tell me.

Keeping my mother's memory close

CBC's Samanda Brace got her first tattoo in honour of her late mother, who died when she was just a baby. She shares her experience with readers. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)
Every time I see a sweet pea, it reminds me of my mother.

It was her favourite flower.

She never told me this herself, maybe she would have, but she never got the chance.

My mother died in 1994, after her car and another collided at an intersection on Wascana Parkway in Regina.
Samanda Brace and her mother, before she died in 1994. (Submitted by Samanda Brace)

On my first birthday, five months before the accident, my mother wrote me a letter.

"You will always be my little girl and nothing or no one will ever come between us," she wrote.

I always thought she couldn't have been more wrong, but this week I found a way to have a part of her with me, a constant reminder every time I look down.

I got a sweet pea tattooed on my ankle. 

This would be my first tattoo.

Choosing an artist

A friend accompanied me to Black Sea Tattoo after she spontaneously decided to also get a tattoo by the same artist.

I chose Black Sea after liking what I saw on social media. Many shops post their portfolios on websites, and individual artists often post on Instagram and Facebook.

If you are drawn to a certain artist, you should check out their tattoo studio, or reach out to them for their input and set up a consultation.

We were greeted by a friendly tattoo apprentice at the front desk. She asked us about our tattoo ideas and suggested a few artists at the shop.

We sat down on a worn white leather couch in the small waiting room and flipped through CJ Pannell's portfolio.

Not only did I admire her colourful illustrative designs, when speaking with her, she seemed genuinely interested in tattooing a sweet pea.

I knew she was the artist for me.  

Speak up

Months later, my friend and I walked into the tattoo shop once again, this time, eager to see how Pannell took our ideas and created a custom drawing.

After signing a waiver, we waited as Pannell set up. The waiver asked questions about medical conditions, whether you ate a meal or drank alcohol beforehand.

As most people will tell you, don't drink alcohol the day of your tattoo as it can thin your blood.

She came over with her sketchbook and I held my breath as she revealed the design.

It was like she plucked the image from my mind and drew it on paper.

After Pannell knew we were happy with our designs, she led us to her work station.

She took each bottle of ink and showed me the colours she chose for my tattoo.

She said she wanted to know if there is a colour I don't like. It was important to her that I felt like I had a voice and didn't feel intimidated.
Brace's sweet pea tattoo right after it was finished. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

She said she understood that many people may be afraid to speak up or afraid of offending their artist. This can result in people getting stuck with something they didn't want.

My friend went first. Her small, delicate tattoo of the big dipper took only a few minutes.

Then it was my turn.

Pannell cleansed and disinfected her station and set up before I took a seat to get the stencil applied.

I looked at it in the mirror and I didn't like how it wraps behind my leg. I ask if she could move it to the centre of the inside of my left leg.

She reapplied the stencil and poured her ink as I got comfortable.

I learned a great tattoo is done with effective communication. It should feel like a collaboration between you and your artist.

Did it hurt?

I watched as the needle touched my skin. I felt a hot pinch as it moved across my leg.

"How's that feel?" Pannell asked.

"So far, so good," I said.

Before my appointment, everyone tried to describe the sensation of a tattoo to me — a bee sting, a razor blade, a sunburn.

It feels like a needle is dragging across your skin, because that's exactly what it is, but I wouldn't describe it as painful. I mean, I've had menstrual cramps worse than that.
Brace's tattoo during the healing process. (CBC News/Samanda Brace)

Of course, the amount of pain depends where on the body you get your tattoo.

My tattoo took an hour and a half, including a break between outline and colour.

After care

After Pannell finished using my skin as her canvas, she wrapped my leg, and gave me instructions on after care.

She told me to leave the wrap on over night and wash it in the morning using my hand and mild soap. She said I could apply a small amount of unscented lotion as the skin began to heal over the next few days.

I left feeling more confident than when I walked in.

The experience left me feeling proud that I could pay tribute to my mother but also proud to wear the piece of art that was created just for me.

CBC Saskatchewan's weekend team is heading out of the newsroom (and their comfort zones) this summer for our In Your Shoes series. Reporters will be trying a range of activities in Saskatchewan and reporting back. They will be taking nominations and suggestions from readers, so let us know what you want to read about next. Email with your ideas!


Samanda Brace

Current Affairs Associate Producer

Samanda Brace is a Current Affairs Associate Producer where she gathers stories mainly for CBC radio's The Morning Edition. She got her start at CBC in 2014 as an intern in the Regina newsroom. Get in touch with her by emailing