BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
It’s almost more rare to find someone without a tattoo than with one these days. We spend money, time, thought and endure a bit of pain to keep these images on our bodies forever. But, until now it wasn’t actually for ever. The tattoos only actually last until you die. Now, a non-profit organization is making sure your tattoos do last forever by preserving your tattoos, skin and all, after death.
The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) began after Charles Hamm, NAPSA founder and tattoo-enthusiast, was curious as to how the ‘beautiful artwork’ covering his body could live on past Charles himself. According to CBC, he assembled specialists, including a master embalmer, a doctor and tattoo artists, to investigate how his idea could become a reality.
The result was a non-toxic chemicals bath. The formula was first tested on Charles to ensure a client’s tattoo wouldn’t be wrecked and when the outcome was successful, NAPSA began. According to their website, the program once worked through a membership program ($115 USD initial fee and $60 USD annual fees), but now the organization is trying to go directly through funeral homes. The organization stretches across North America.
To ensure your body art will remain art forever, your appointed beneficiary must notify NAPSA within 18 hours of the death. The timing is crucial to ensure the effects of death don’t ruin the ink before preservation. NAPSA will then send the funeral home a preservation kit complete with all the tools an embalmer will need to remove the tattooed skin and the shipping materials to send the skin to NAPSA for framing. The tattoo will be removed at the funeral home and NAPSA’s formula will be applied to the tattoo before it is shipped to NAPSA headquarters. NAPSA treats the tattoo, that now looks like leather but feels like parchment paper. They then frame it and send it back to your loved ones.
Charles admits that the initial reaction some people have is negative and the idea of preserving body art can make many uncomfortable. However, according to the Great Big Story, Charles said once people see the final product, they begin to warm up to the idea and appreciate the thought behind the process.
Personally for Charles, many of his tattoos revolve around his family. His chest holds a tattoo of a gorilla with his wife’s name underneath. Gorillas are known to protect their females, and this tattoo is an ode to his promise to protect his wife. Once Charles passes, this piece of artwork that undoubtably is important to both Charles and his wife, will be framed and will forever remind his wife of Charles and his promise.