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Need an artist or shop recommendation?Give us a description of the tattoo you're looking for and we'll try to match you up with a great local artist or shop! Sets are groups of tattoos you have saved in your favorites, you can create as many sets as you want to organize your tattoos. Featuring shops such as South Side Tattoo, Inka Dinka Doo, Jester’s Court Tattoos, Wyld Chyld Tattoo, Tattoo Noir, and Gypsy Tattoo Parlor, Pittsburgh is a great destination if you’re looking for some new ink. That style usually includes a number of nautical designs including anchors, compasses, stars, and ships, to name just a few of the most common.
With a population of around 306,200, there are lots of potential customers for the parlors in town. The reason we recall these images when we think of American traditional tattoos and tattoo art is for two distinct reasons. The first is because those are the symbols used by early tattoo artists who were often themselves sailors. The lotus flower has many different meanings with each meaning being based on any one of a number of factors. Google Places lists 333 different tattoo shops in the Pittsburgh area, which shows how competitive the city truly is. The second is because in American culture, tattooing has historically been a heritage art; a tradition passed down from a teacher to a student. Religion, the way the lotus is depicted (open, closed, partially open), the and the color all have unique and specific meanings. Wyld Chyld Tattoo currently boasts one of the best selection of artists in the area, featuring Sarah Miller, Allie Nickel, Ryan Clark, Dmitry Rusky, Whitney Schiller, and Seth Holmes. We’re going to break the meaning down in as many ways as possible for those of you who might be considering getting a lotus tattoo. When doing research for your artist, we suggest not paying too much attention to price because quality is much more important when you’re going to be living with the artwork for the rest of your life. A Padma has special meaning to followers of the Hindu religion as it is associated with a number of their deities, particularly Vishnu and Brahma. The sailors that were with Cook were fascinated by this art form and brought it back with him to Europe.
The lotus in this context is used to represent divine beauty and purity, while the unfolding of its leaves represents the expanding of the soul and spiritual awakening.In relation to the Hindu religion, the lotus is the symbol on which much of the iconography is based.
The Padma itself also bears a strong tie to the Shahasrara specifically and all the chakras in general. Essentially, sailors sought to tattoo themselves with images that had meaning to them, as opposed to the traditional designs of the natives from who they had learned the practice. Here’s a great resource for learning more about Hindu symbolism and the Hindu religion.
As the sailors had learned from tattoo artists in primitive cultures, they would later teach their own apprentices.
The Padma is traditionally shown as having a large number of petals because, as the story goes, the Padma has 1,000 petals.The Meaning of Lotus Flowers in BuddhismBuddhism, like Hinduism, also has a strong tie to the lotus flower. Buddhist symbolism related to the lotus flower is very complex and has many layers which may be combined with one another to create complex imagery of deep meaning.
The style of tattooing used by these sailors is referred to as British Naval or British Traditional style. They were characterized by very simple, somewhat crude designs and revolved largely around their lives as sailors, but would occasionally include elements of their personal lives.It was during the civil war that American traditional tattoos really began to stand out as their own distinct style.


In 1870 Martin Hildebrandt, a German-American tattoo artist who’d made his living tattooing members of both the Confederate and Union armies during the civil war, opened the first known tattoo parlor in New York City, NY. A white lotus symbolizes the pinnacle of achievement in the Buddhism and as such has come to be called the Flower of the Buddhas (though it does not represent the Buddha himself). The soldiers tattooed in the Civil War often had patriotic or military images tattooed on them, as well as graphic representations of their love for the women they left behind. Religious tattoos of crosses, praying hands, rosaries, and other religious iconography were also common.
Reproductions of famous fine art works depicting religious scenes also existed, but were far less common–often seen only on circus performers whose tattoos were their trade. These themes built the basis for tattoo culture in America and formed the cornerstone of American traditional tattoos.After the invention of the tattoo machine, tattoo culture in America expanded rapidly. The Spanish-American War was on and some estimates say that at the time over 80% of enlisted men were tattooed. This presented an opportunity for less-skilled tattoo artists to get into the business, but this of course created a new problem. Symbolizing the original state of the heart, a red lotus symbolizes love, compassion, passion, and other emotions of the heart. This lotus flower is often depicted as an open bloom to symbolize the ideal state of the heart.Symbolism of the Lotus in Eastern ReligionsWhen examined closely, the life cycle of the lotus is a metaphor, an allegory by which humans can elevate themselves.
To solve this problem, flash sheets were created to provide unskilled artists a base to work from.
This idea is drawn upon by many Asian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism. Flash tattoo artists often created designs that were common to a specific locality, but as demand grew a small handful of artists became prominent distributors of these flash sheets, which were available via mail order catalog, leading to a homogenized style. The plant pushes its stalk up through the mud and murky water to the surface where a beautiful blossom eventually blooms. Just as Captain Cook’s naval voyage introduced him and his crew to the tattoo cultures of the South Pacific, during the turn of the 20th century Japan had become a popular port frequented by American sailors. In Greek mythology, the Odyssey mentions an island of Lotus-Eaters who live off of lotus flowers and fruit.
In the story, this has a narcotic effect on everyone who eats them and the term Lotus-eater now relates to a person in a state of peaceful apathy. The white lotus was associated with modesty and innocence.In Egyptian mythology, the Blue Lotus is associated with celebration as well as the ritual for passage into the afterlife. The artwork itself conveys a sense of tradition, heritage, and importance while the themes used in American Traditional tattoos are still highly relevant today.
Meaning is assigned to flowers and arrangements can be used as a form of cryptography–meaning that messages or sentiments can be communicated through the meaning of flowers, their color, type, and arrangement. Modern American Traditional tattoo art keeps the same visual style as classic American Traditional, but incorporates a broader scope of themes and design elements.Many modern or custom American Traditional tattoos are more personalized, but maintain the use of the traditional style and design. These tattoos often employ more cultural references including musical, theatrical, and literary.
Particularly for those who spend time away from their loved one(s) as a result of military service or their career.Getting a Lotus TattooAs you can see, the meaning of the lotus itself is full of deep historical and cultural meaning. By wearing such a symbol on one’s skin it implies that the traits attributed to the lotus flower are to be attributed to you as well. That being stated, many American traditional tattoos have meanings that are steeped in tradition and often blended with or borrowed from other cultures.


Though not everyone knows the various meanings of the lotus tattoo, it can provide you with an opportunity to enlighten strangers and friends alike, or you can simply keep the meaning of your tattoo private. Hearkening back to the seafaring roots of the style, an anchor represents a tether or something that steadies the ship to keep it from drifting.
It is common to see anchors accompanied by the name of a loved one or by a slogan or motto by which the wearer lives their life. Artists with advanced knowledge of the lotus and its meaning may be able to make suggestions to better incorporate your meaning or to bring the design more in line with traditional art forms, if that is your wish. The anchor represents security.Nautical Star TattoosThe nautical star, a five-pointed, two-toned star, has largely become purely aesthetic. In sailing, if a ship can see both the port and starboard lights of another boat, it means they are on a collision course and the ship must give way. The ship typically represents the wearer, while the water on which it sails represents life.
Waters may be depicted as smooth or stormy and the scene is often accompanied by rockers spelling out some core belief of the wearer. This is a metaphor for how the wearer feels their course in life has been, or how they’d like it to be.
Read more about the meaning of the rose and other flower tattoos on our Flower Tattoos Meanings page.Traditional Swallow TattoosThe swallow tattoo actually derives from the British sailing tattoo tradition. The swallow tattoo suggests that the wearer will always return to, or be loyal to, their friends and family.
It also has a connection to turn of the century street fighting in England and Scotland when worn on the back of the hand.To further the symbolism of the swallow tattoo for sailors, it was also believed that a sailor who died at sea would have his soul carried home (or to heaven) by these birds. In both instances the traditional swallow tattoo symbolizes a safe return from a journey.Traditional Dagger or Knife TattooThe image of the knife or dagger is one that appears in many cultures. The traditional dagger tattoo was common among soldiers in the Army and Marines from WWII on.
For them it not only symbolized death, but life–as well as the tool by which they lived. A dagger paired with a heart often refers to the wearer having experienced a broken heart or lost love. The meaning of these tattoos is generally derived from the two individual elements, the dagger and the animal. Most often the skull tattoo will represent death, but it can also represent the idea that we all die, or that life is short.
However, the traditional skull tattoo has also been known to signify triumph and rebellion. This is especially true in Mexican culture and in the religious beliefs held by Kabbalists, Hindus, and Christians.
A In terms of the meaning of the traditional wolf tattoo, it usually represents a hunger for something–be it wealth, success, happiness, or pretty much anything. It can also be used to represent someone who has survived hard times.A A traditional wolf tattoo that features a dagger through the head of the wolf can mean that the wearer has overcome hardship or hard times, as well as a vow to never be defeated by personal struggles.



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