Tattoos with ashes blended into the ink are a new trend in a long tradition of memorial body art. Only a few tattoo studios in the UK offer it at the moment - but it’s growing in popularity.
Why do some people want ash tattoos?
Cremation tattoos are a way to keep someone close
Memorial body art has been popular for a very long time - just without adding ashes. Many people like to get a tattoo to pay tribute to someone who’s died and keep their memory close. Some get tattoos to memorialise pets, too.
Cremation tattoos - created using a blend of normal tattoo ink and a small amount of cremation ashes - are an evolution of this idea. Some people find this gives them a physical connection to someone they’ve lost as well as a permanent reminder of them.
Tattoo artists may use different terms for this like ‘memorial tattoo’, ‘ash tattoo’, ‘cremation tattoo’ or ‘cremation ink’. It’s something more and more UK studios are considering offering, as demand for it increases - and as artists get more experience doing it.
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How does it work and is it safe?
Only about a teaspoon of ashes goes into the ink
It’s not very much at all, and it needs to be a very fine dust in order to blend with your chosen ink. The artist will then tattoo you as usual – using a tattoo machine to inject the infused ink into the middle layer of skin.
Gods of Ink in Gloucester and Bubblegum Ink in Cheshire are among the few shops in the UK offering cremation tattoos – costing no more than regular tattoos. If it’s something you’re interested in and you’re not sure if your tattoo studio offers it, it may be helpful to call and discuss it.
Some studios use inks made by UK-based company Cremation Ink. Using a small amount of ash that you send to them in a kit that they provide, they mix the ashes into your chosen ink and send it to your tattoo studio, safe and ready to use. These inks cost around £150.
With proper handling, there’s almost no risk of infection
Cremation ashes are very safe to use, given the process they go through.
We’re going to be talking about what happens in a cremation chamber. If you do not want to read this bit, skip to the next section on memorial tattoo ideas.
Cremation chambers reach a temperature of between 1000°C and 1300°C - making it almost impossible for any bacteria to survive. Once the ashes are cool, magnets pull any metal out, before a grinder called a cremulator turns any bone fragments into a white powder.
A skilled tattoo artist will further grind it to create a dust, handling it carefully and blending it with sterilised inks.
A tattoo made with ashes will look the same as a regular one
The artist will use a small amount of ashes, and will blend it well with your chosen inks - so there’s not really any noticeable difference. For people who’ve had a cremation tattoo, the significance can lie in their knowledge of the ashes being part of their ink.
Some say it’s a little bit itchier than a regular tattoo as it heals. So those who have particularly sensitive skin may want to see their GP or pharmacist for advice beforehand - they can suggest ways to soothe your skin as the tattoo heals.
Human ashes are non-toxic and safe to touch
They consist purely of bone matter and trace amounts of minerals like sodium and potassium. Sodium is the main compound that forms salt. Potassium is a nutritious mineral found in certain foods like potatoes, bananas, broccoli, and spinach. Neither are toxic or unsafe to touch.
Ashes are usually odourless. In a small number of cases, people say they can detect a slight metallic smell. But it’s more likely that ashes will not smell of anything at all. Find out more about what human ashes are like in our guide.
What are some memorial tattoo ideas?
Memorial ink designs can feature anything you like
There’s no right or wrong thing to feature in a memorial tattoo - whether you’re including cremation ashes or not.
Some things people include in memorial tattoos are:
The name or nickname of the person who’s died
A portrait of their loved one
Their date of birth or death
Meaningful proverbs, sayings or words
Motifs like flowers or hearts
Religious or spiritual symbols
How long after a cremation do you get the ashes?
It takes between one and two weeks to receive the ashes after a cremation. With direct cremation, these are usually hand-delivered to you in a temporary urn.
But if you arrange a traditional cremation with a funeral director on the high street, you may need to collect the ashes from the crematorium or funeral home. Find out how long it takes to get cremation ashes.
Other creative ideas for cremation ashes
There are many alternative things you can do with ashes
If you’re looking for something a bit different to scattering ashes or keeping them in an urn at home, but a tattoo is not right for you, here are some other memorial ideas:
Jewellery: some jewellers in the UK can embed a little bit of ashes into jewellery like beautiful rings, necklaces and beads
Paintings: you could commission an artist to paint a portrait using some ashes mixed in with the paint
Fireworks: it’s possible to blend some ashes into fireworks and create a unique memorial fireworks display
Trees: you could bury the ashes with a sapling tree and watch it grow as a memorial to your loved one
Vinyl: UK-based company And Vinyly presses cremation ashes into a working vinyl record
Toys: you could add some ashes to the stuffing of a much-loved cuddly toy that may bring comfort
You do not have to do anything with the ashes straight away
There’s no time pressure to do something creative like get a tattoo - or to do anything at all - with your loved one’s ashes once you’ve received them. Inspiration can strike straight away, years later, or not at all.
Whether you scatter them with a simple ceremony, send them off in a fireworks display, or keep them in an urn on the mantelpiece, the important thing is that it feels right for you and your family.
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