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Skin Statements

Conscious Ink’s quest to spread positive messaging with tattoos

Shannon Claywell is fighting cancer, but she’s not doing it alone. Her girlfriends are surrounding her with love, both figuratively and literally. Claywell’s band of friends all got “love” tattoos to remind her of their friendship and to send a message of support right before she got her head shaved as a result of her cancer treatments.

These middle-aged women weren’t really about to get tattoos or undergo the painful needlework involved in getting a permanent tattoo. Rather, they discovered local company Conscious Ink and its temporary tattoos, meaning they can easily change their tattoos to fit the moment, and the mood.

“These are perfect because they’re temporary tattoos that look so real, and they keep me mindful of what’s really important,” explains Claywell, 47, who is battling stage 3 breast cancer. While it’s been an extremely tough year, Claywell has managed to stay positive, with her sense of humor intact.

That positive attitude is exactly what Concious Ink founder and CEO, Frank Gjata had in mind when he started his business in 2010. Gjata, 50, a certified life coach, says the positive affirmation tattoos keep wearers looking at and saying a meaningful word to themselves repeatedly.

“This is a fun, unique way to keep my clients focused on their intentions. It’s a good reminder,” explains Gjata, while wearing one of his “play” tattoos on the inside of his forearm. “Being busy with this business and my life coaching, sometimes I also have to remind myself to ‘play’ more, or just ‘breathe’, which is also one of our word tattoos.”

Gjata is passionate about his business, which he says is the first one to make temporary, non-toxic, soy-based tattoos for adults. The idea came about when his daughter attended a birthday party years ago. In her party favor gift bag was a temporary tattoo, which his daughter promptly put on herself. “What struck me was how real it looked,” says Gjata. “Then I thought, what if you could have a tattoo with positive messaging, and wear it without the pain of getting a real tattoo?”

Five years later, Gjata’s Conscious Ink business has outgrown his home office and has moved to a bigger space in downtown Bend. Conscious Ink offers more than 200 positive affirmation words and messages. Each one lasts anywhere from three to five days.

Recently, Gjata introduced temporary tattoos to the teenage demographic to help with anti-bullying communication, or to create positive body image messages like “Be Kind” or “You are Beautiful.”

“Words that have meaning and positive messages have been proven to help,” says Gjata. “Have you heard of the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto?” Emoto was a Japanese author, researcher and entrepreneur who claimed that human consciousness has an impact on the molecular structure of water. “He filled a jar of water with negative, hateful words, and another jar of water with positive words, and then froze the bottles. The bottle with positive words formed perfect, beautiful ice crystals, while the jar of frozen water with negative words formed incomplete and malformed ice crystals.”

A Booming Trend

According to the latest Harris Poll, one in five Americans don at least one permanent tattoo in a lifetime. “What I’ve found, wearing my tattoos is that people will come up to me and say something about it and then they show me their tattoos, and these tattoos are very meaningful to people. Every one of them tells a story,” says Gjata.

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If Gjata’s predictions are correct, tattoos will only continue to grow in popularity and acceptance, as will his business. “I believe there’s enough reception, acceptance and enthusiasm about tattoos now. But we make it easy, because our temporary tattoos are painless, and take less than a minute to apply.”

Most of Gjata’s business is still done through the Conscious Ink website. The tattoos average about $2.50 apiece, but several specialty packs offer eight tattoos per pack. Dozens of stores and boutiques throughout Central Oregon also sell Conscious Ink tattoos. The popularity of the company has boomed nationally as well and more than 500 outlets now sell these tattoos throughout the country.

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Claywell’s tight-knit group of friends got all “tatted up” again this summer to do the Heaven Can Wait run in Bend, this time sporting the words “courage” or “believe” on their upper arms. Gjata’s goal is to support people’s intentions and dreams one tattoo at a time. “We are a consciousness brand, a lifestyle brand. We want people to feel good and positive about themselves,” he says. “Whatever you may be working on in your life, we say, ‘we have a ‘tat for that’.”

Opening image photo: from left Katie Rooks, Shannon Claywell, Terese Nitzschke, Ann Marie Lybarger  

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