Tattoo Tales: Emma Maaske

Emma Maaske shares her expertise on tattoo design and placement, revealing the meanings behind each of her tattoos and offering advice on how to communicate desired designs to artists. Photo by Faith Delamarter


Content warning: mention of suicide 

“Tattoo Tales” is a series in which The Butler Collegian speaks with a Butler community member about their tattoos and the stories behind them

Emma Maaske, a senior speech, language and hearing sciences major, has tattoos that carry profound personal significance for her, revealing stories behind each design. From a butterfly with a music note on her wrist to a sea turtle on her ribs to a cross with a Scripture on her ankle, Maaske embraces a spontaneous approach to body art with the goal of memorializing meaningful people and moments in her life. 

THE BUTLER COLLEGIAN: Would you be willing to give a tattoo tour? 

Emma Maaske: The first one is on my wrist, and it is a butterfly with a music note in the middle. Music has always been a backbone for me. My brother drew out the design for me. I have another one on my ribs [which] is a sea turtle. It symbolizes my parents’ move to Florida, and that was one of the first things my mom and I saw together near [my parents’ house there]. The third one is on my ankle, and it is a cross with the Scripture of Timothy 1:7, which [says] that you’re not alone in your journey of life. My brother and I share that tattoo. He has it on his thigh. 

Maaske’s butterfly tattoo symbolizes the love she has for music. Photo by Faith Delamarter

TBC: When did you get each one? 

EM: Over the summer before my freshman year was when I got my first. I got the sea turtle last spring break when I was in Florida, and then I got the cross this past September. 

TBC: You said that your brother drew the music note with the butterfly. Where did you find the inspiration to get all the tattoos you have? 

EM: For the butterfly with the music note, I saw a lot of people with butterfly tattoos, and one of the reasons it stood out to me is because one of my best friends died [in] my junior year of high school. He took his life. After he passed, I saw a lot of butterflies around, and his mom is a big butterfly fan, so that’s kind of how we put those two together. And then for the sea turtle, I wanted to get another tattoo and was thinking that was probably one of the times I felt most connected to my mom. Lastly, my brother came up with [the cross tattoo]. We wanted to do something religious, so he found a Scripture that we both liked. 

TBC: You said you got the first one when you were going into your first year of college. Were you nervous at all to get this tattoo? 

EM: Honestly, I was most scared for [the one on my wrist] because it was the first one, but [it] hurt the least. When I got my second one, I was less nervous. When I got my third one with my brother, I was really nervous because that one was so close to the bone. 

TBC: What would you rate the pain levels for them? 

EM: The one on my wrist [I would rate a] two out of ten. My ribs [were] probably a five, and then my ankle was a seven. 

Emma Maaske’s Scripture tattoo represents her faith. Photo by Faith Delamarter

TBC: Did you reach out to a tattoo artist? How did you go about it? 

EM: I reached out for my first one in my hometown because you don’t want [the artist] to mess it up. I got [the second tattoo] with my friends. They were all [in Florida] for spring break with me, so we went to a random tattoo place. For my third one, my brother had a couple of artists in mind. 

TBC: Did you go with anyone your first time to get the butterfly tattoo? 

EM: I went with one of my friends from my hometown that I was close with, but we were not nearly as close as the friends I have here at Butler right now. 

TBC: Are you happy with your decision to get all of them? 

EM: I definitely am happy about it. I’ve always wanted to get tattoos, so I recommend everyone to think about getting one. 

TBC: I know you went into the story behind each of them, but how do you feel your tattoos represent you as a person? 

EM: As far as the cross one, my whole family are Christians, [so] religion really represents and resonates with me. For the sea turtle, that one was new for me. I’ve never lived near the water. I grew up in Chicago, which is not very similar to Florida. For my music note, like I said, music has always been a backbone for me. Any time I’m down, I listen to music. I used to write songs. I did that all through high school and tried my best to continue that through college.  

TBC: Do you have any plans for future designs? 

EM: Not yet. I definitely want to get more and am looking into tattoos with color because all the ones I have right now have black ink. I have ideas, but a color [tattoo] is a priority for me. 

TBC: Do you have any ideas for a design? 

EM: I had an idea to take each of my grandma’s favorite flowers and make a bouquet. I don’t really know placement yet for that one, but I am excited to get that one. 

TBC: What advice would you give people who are thinking about getting a tattoo and where should they go to find inspiration for them? 

EM: I think if you have an idea but you’re not quite sure where you want to go with it, Pinterest is a great tool. That’s how I came up with the butterfly, and I put my own spin on it. [It was the] same with the sea turtle. I would recommend reaching out to an artist because a lot of times prices will vary based on size, and they can tell you if it’s possible to do. Don’t be afraid to say, “This is the one I want.” It’s your body. It’s permanent and can be very expensive to remove.


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