Helen Lambin had never been inked, until six years ago when she celebrated her 75th birthday—now she displays more than 50 tattoos and revels in how it has changed her life. She spoke with DNA Info Chicago about her ink, what it means to her, and how people perceive her now. Her story makes her one of the most hard core 81-year-olds out there.
Lambin can pinpoint the moment she realized she might want a tattoo. It was 20 years ago when her grown daughter visited, sporting a new tattoo. “If she could do it, maybe I could do it,” Lambin remembered thinking at the time.
When she finally got her first tattoo she immediately knew it wouldn’t be the last. A retired secretary, Lambin says her multiple pieces of body art have led her to talk to people she never would have before. For Lambin the tattoos have helped her approach others, and a therapeutic outlet in the face of aging and loss.
“Because when I talk to these people of all different ages, they find it very entertaining that yeah, there’s this white-haired lady with tattoos but the way they’re talking to me is different. It’s like, “Oh it’s okay we can talk to each other.””
She describes having tattoos as being a part of a community. “What I discovered, [tattoos] became a bridge. It makes you sort of a band of brothers and sisters,” she told DNA Info. “When someone will say, “Nice ink,” you know they have tattoos. And then you say, “Oh what do you have?” And you just start talking.”
Lambin has partnered with David McNair, a tattoo artist at Chicago Tattoo Co., for all of her work. When she is inspired with a new idea, she presents it to McNair who then translates it into a workable design. McNair says he loves to work with Lambin, particularly since so few at her age dedicate to body art with her passion—and that nothing compares to her face, when she sees a new finished tattoo for the first time.
Lambin’s tattoos represent many facets of her life, personality, and experiences. The words “Via Media” on her back are just the latest to her collection, representing her spirituality. Another piece—a pink rabbit—pays homage to her husband’s nickname for her, while a colorful lizard decorates her forearm as a symbol of shedding new skin. She also has a penguin, Celtic symbols, and the names of her children.
But for Lambin, the boldest decision was getting tattoos on her fingers—which she said was “going hard core.”
You can read more about Lambin’s story here, and check out more of her ink in the slideshow above.