The first time I heard her voice, I actually had great difficulty understanding what she said. I was in the middle of a shopping centre in Wedding, pressing my phone to my ear and my eyes shut. Some childish part of me imagined I could hear her better if I shut down all other senses except my hearing. It did not really work. Still, I heard her asking, what I wanted.
Well, what did I want?
A tattoo. A nicer one than the one I got when I was 18. One of my two rebellious acts against my parents. It had been a Celtic cross. I am still very happy I chose to be a tattooed person the day I had that crap Celtic cross. It was ugly. Asymmetric. Brown, grey and black. Copied from a book in our local library. Crooked. A crooked, copied, crap Celtic cross. A sign to my parents that I was now taking decisions for my life. A rather dumb decision, but on the positive side I left myself space to grow and progress.
Progression came with Sara.
Sara Rosenbaum had a rather busy boss. Too busy to work with me. So, it was Sara who asked me what I wanted, not her boss, as me and Frau Wedding had planned. Looking back it is one of those moments when you are at first sad, but in the long run you see it was the best that could have happened. At that time I was thankful I had to invest less money than Frau Wedding and that Sara actually listened to what I had in mind.
It must have been around 2006 that I went to Tatau Obscur for the first time. The place was amazing. Lofty ceiling, stairs, Acapulco dishes and a snake on the counter. I was 27, shy and liked to please too much. While Sara never took advantage of this, it made the first session we had very easy.
She suggested, I agreed.
Mostly it has stayed like this, but not because I am still shy. She just has the most beautiful and creative ideas, I never even had to contradict her. There was one occasion when she drew something on my leg, we looked at it rather critical and both shook our heads at the same time.
During that time I entered into the unhealthy relationship that was to become my even unhealthier marriage. While my parents had accepted me being grown up and all the freaky decisions made, this man tried to take a place my parents never took. He tried to control me, my body, my mind. I realized the day I came home from one of my evenings with Sara. We had added flowers to my back and she had included my parents’ birth dates into the ensemble. It was kitschy, but I wanted to honour the good job my parents have always done for me. Letting me grow into a person of free will and supporting me, even though they not always agree with my way. At this time they were unhappy with my relationship. Obviously, I was too, but I did not have the balls to admit that to myself. So, I did the rebel yell and had those dates tattooed, knowing he would not like it a bit. When he saw them he declared ‚I should have asked for his permission‘. I was not sure whether to laugh or to just drown in disbelief. I remember asking why I would need his permission to have my skin coloured. I also remember him answering that this is a huge problem as he now has to see ‚this’ every time he looks at my back while you-know-what. Why did I not pack my things that day?
After I had my son it was hard to get appointments with with Sara. She had become a tattooing-star due to a) her abilities and b) an interview in one of those tattoo magazines. Prices rose, fame went her way. Although it meant to wait for weeks to get inked, this was so well-deserved. Sara is just the woman you can secretly look up to and still she is never to far up in the sky to not chat with you about parenting problems or the last weekend’s blast.
The first time I went to her as a mommy, the whole thing felt like liberation. No pram to push, no baby to feed, no duty to do. It was just me on Potsdamer Platz waiting for the bus. Just me entering the shop, just me everything was about. Me, my body, my dreams. That day we did Dracula’s Lucy on my arm. Lucy, the fictional corruption of the mother role, feeding on children rather than feeding them. Lucy grabbing for the arm of a little boy who innocently runs after her. Lucy, who disobeys all male say and liberates herself from male oppression. At least until they gang-rape her and drive a phallic wooden stake through her heart. Metaphorically speaking. But it takes five men to establish male rule while claiming to free her soul. Talking to Sara about why and how I wanted Lucy on my skin made many things clear to me.
I will never feed on my son.
I will never harm him.
I will never surrender to male rule. Not without a fight.
Being with Sara saves me going to therapy. She once told me that people start to talk while with her, just to cover up their tension. She is a huge keeper of secrets and they are all save with her. Listening to myself narrating the sad story of my greyish marital cage, I realized I had to drive a stake into it. I left.
Three years after we met for the first time, I was where Sara had been then. Happy to be a single mom, leading the life I want. To celebrate this stage, I had a little girl on my lower back. It’s a picture of me as a four-year-old. I walk down a road and everything in my attitude messages ‚my way or the highway‘. A reminder to walk away from things that are no benefit to me.
Over the years my body has become a piece of Rosenbaum art. I have become relaxed with what we do. I bring a picture, an idea and she transforms it into artwork. One day we met at Zoe’s Circus and while Sara still chatted in the kitchen, I talked to Zoe’s customer. What I was about to have tattooed. ‚I don’t know‘, I answered. Shocked silence, followed by a very detailed description what she was about to let Zoe do. When Sara came in, we discussed our options of where and what to tattoo. We agreed fast, she did her magic. While the other women sat in sheer unendurable painful silence, we updated each other on our sons, lovers and which books to read.
It’s been thirteen years now. We have been in and out of relationships, in and out of flats, in and out of workplaces. We have grown as women, grown as artists and we have grown to be friends. There is just one other person in my life who is allowed to tattoo me. Totally different experience, totally different style and totally different way of finding each other. This was rather the friend-turn-tattoo-artist way. My mother is still not happy about that. To her Sara is an absolute genius and whenever someone approaches us to congratulate me on the pictures on my skin, she rattles down her speech on my luck to have found such a talented tattoo artist. Yes, it’s the exact same mother who cried for an hour when I came home with my crappy crooked cross.
Sara makes all the difference.
Why, could you ask, do I think she is the tattoo-goddess I claim her to be?
Why, it is reasonable to ask, do I recommend someone I have such a personal connection to?
Why, the real question here, should you try to get an appointment?
The answer is simple. She listens to every story I tell her about why I want this or that literary figure on my body. She knows about all the family members I wear on my skin. While this is my personal experience, I know this is not an exclusive thing. Friends of mine have her arm rosenbaumed, praising her art as much as her being customer-orientated. My sister-in-law begged me to accompany her to their first meeting. First meeting means to talk about what you want.
Imagine this. Even after thirteen years Sara still listens, advices and explains.
Try to find that in a time where a tattooed line from neck to chest is considered art. I imagine that process of artist and customer coming to a result.
Sara is never in a hurry, never pushy and never unenthusiastic.
She loves her job, loves what she creates and you can see it in every line she draws.
I can honestly declare – I adore her. As an artist, as a woman, as a friend.