Our artists each created a tattoo design that told a special story and we asked the public to vote for their favourite

It started with a blinking cursor on a blank message. 
Out of almost 200 entries, we had five life-changing stories and a lot of work to do.

As tattoo artists and as a part of the greater tattoo community, we see more than simply art worn proudly as a way of expression. Everyday in our shop, we are privileged to witness growth, acceptance, healing and celebration through the stories we are entrusted to tell.   

The 2018 What's Your Story contest winner is Natasha Alexis Grudko, with her story designed by John Scully.

We asked the public to vote and the sentiments were unanimous, proof that a love story never gets old. Natasha and John will also be featured in an upcoming episode of True Blue Tattoo Stories where you will can see the final result. If you're ready to get your own story in ink, click here.

Submitted by: Natasha Alexis Grudko

“My story is one of my oupa who was a Russian major during WW2. He fell in love with my ouma, who was a German. The two then got married in secret and ran away from their birth countries. Defecting and losing all their friends, family and even surname...

...MI5 helped them escape, changed their names and helped them to start a new life in the UK. My oupa was one of my biggest heroes and memories of all he had been through haunted him until the day he died. He wouldn’t even teach me or any of the family Russian or German for fear of the KGB coming after us! Even though it was more than 40 years later!

I would like to get either 4 small Russian nesting dolls down my calf, each one representing my dad, mom, sister and me. Or one big nesting doll with symbols from Russia either on my calf/thigh or forearm.

I chose this story because... it's a daring tale of escape from the clutches of two nefarious regimes to start life anew in another country. It bears a striking similarity to my past.

The tattoo style is Neo-traditional, which is an evolution of the traditional style of tattooing. The linework is more prominent with flamboyant colours while having an illustrative nature."

Submitted by: Steven Card

Sierra Tango Bravo cleared inbound GF No.1. The last words heard before a mechanical failure resulted in my humble Cessna 172 being put into a spiral dive. As the nose lifts, air pressure decreases I feel a bead of sweat run down my forehead...

...Next thing it happens! The nose drops. Airspeed increases reaching Vne, the ground starts spinning towards me. 8000 ft - I need to get out of this 90mph. 7000ft the instruments are off the clock as the world rotates towards me. A positive rudder kick recovers the aircraft and a safe landing executed at FAWB.”

I chose this story because... I am an avid (read obsessed) RC pilot when I was younger and still a big fan of all things aeronautical this story resonated with me. The terror of an unexpected breakdown, the steely calm of only your skill and more than a little luck keeping you from disaster. What an adrenaline rush!  The concept behind the design is an airborne Cessna Skyhawk soaring through the heavens as a reminder of a near miss and a motivation to persevere and succeed.

This tattoo style is Realism which uses shading, contrast and fine lines to make the image appear alive. The impression of shadows are created by using shading which is why tattoos in this style look so lifelike."

Submitted by: Marlize Van Der Walt

“Currently on my left wrist is three words: "Daddy's Little Girl". This is the first tattoo I got, at the age of 20, about 5 months after my dad passed away. Now, six years later, the words are faded and I am looking for something a bit more symbolic...

...On my search for a new tattoo, I found wonderful pictures of wildflowers, cosmos, poppies and lavender mixes that reminded me of something my dad use to say: "Jy sal altyd my blommekind bly" - loosely translated to "you will always be my flowerchild".

And, I admire the stubbornness of cosmos flowers. Nobody plants them, but they keep on growing. And we all admire their beauty, but as soon as we pick them, as soon as we try to change them, they wither. The symbolism to me is amazing.”

I chose this story because... I like finding the beauty of wildflowers in nature. They aren't cultivated by a gardener yet they appear year after year. Their allure is undeniable and all the more precious for its transience. The concept behind the design is a token of something of that is considered temporary and immortalizing it in art.

This tattoo style is Traditional (otherwise known as American traditional) is characterized by its impeccable precision, bold colour palette, thick black outlines and crisp, two-dimensional images."

Submitted by: Jessica Leigh

“When I was 11 years of age my drunk father asked me if I'd like a tattoo and as I've always been attracted to tattoos I obviously said yes. Someone in my dad's girlfriend's family built his own machine and bought his ink from CNA...

...My father gave me only two options: the first one was the words "I love my dad" or a hot stuff devil traced off another chick, so I went for the devil. I'm now 28 years of age and still have this horrible ink on my body, I never show it as it's so ugly and I don't have the funds to get it covered. I'm entering this competition in hope that I can finally have a tattoo on my body I'm happy about and don't have to see the past.”

I chose this story because... the mistakes we make in the past (or are pressured into) shape us and give us strength of spirit to move past our history and overcome obstacles in the present. The concept behind the design is a lion's skull and a Valkyrie. One is associated with strength and bravery, the other with power and control over fate.

This tattoo style is Realism, using shading, contrast and fine lines to make the image appear alive. The impression of shadows are created by using shading which is why tattoos in this style look so lifelike."

Submitted by: Natalie van Heerden

“My husband and I met, got engaged and got married within 3 weeks of meeting. And no! I was not pregnant. 😉 It was a crazy, whirlwind love story that would take ages to type, but it was an amazing time and here we are, 4 years later and still happily married...

...Our anniversary is 26th June. We lived in the UK for about 3 years then moved back to SA last year with our rescue dog Kush (staffy).

I would be honored to get a memorial tattoo of some sort of our love story, incorporating a castle and our dog ! Something crazy, romantic, girly and colourful.”

I chose this story because... who can resist a sweep-you-off-of-your-feet romance with a dog and a castle in! It has an almost fairy tale quality about it that appeals to the little girl in me.

This tattoo style is Neo-traditional, which is an evolution of the traditional style of tattooing. The linework is more prominent with flamboyant colours while having an illustrative nature."

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