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Inked with love: Tattoos that honor Mom

By Rachel Rodriguez, CNN
updated 7:50 AM EDT, Fri May 10, 2013
John Clarke got his "mum" tattoo -- his first and only -- on his shoulder <a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-967264'>at age 50</a>. He revealed it to his mother at her 70th birthday party, despite knowing that she hated tattoos. "Now, many thousands of miles away from home, every time I see the tattoo in the mirror, I can smile about that evening and my mum's shocked expression," he said. John Clarke got his "mum" tattoo -- his first and only -- on his shoulder at age 50. He revealed it to his mother at her 70th birthday party, despite knowing that she hated tattoos. "Now, many thousands of miles away from home, every time I see the tattoo in the mirror, I can smile about that evening and my mum's shocked expression," he said.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • For more than 100 years, tattoos have been a popular way to honor mom
  • Designs range from the iconic banner and heart to custom portraits and handwriting
  • "It's hard not to show some love with ink," says one woman with a mom tat
  • Have a mom tattoo of your own? Show it off on CNN iReport

(CNN) -- Tattoos have had a variety of purposes over their 5,000-year history. In cultures from ancient Egyptian to Polynesian, they've served as medicine, rite of passage, good-luck charm, punishment, decoration, religious, political or status symbol, and, of course, tribute to a loved one.

And many times, that loved one is Mom.

"Just about anybody that's heavily tattooed, if they don't have it already, [a mom tattoo] is definitely on their list of things to get," said tattoo artist Alan Flores, who works out of 13 Roses Tattoo Parlour in Atlanta.

What's thought of as the "traditional" mom tattoo -- a heart with a banner, stereotypically seen on World War II-era sailors -- is still a popular design. "I've done plenty of mom tattoos with banners around hearts," said Flores. But custom motifs, handwriting and even portraits are gaining ground -- check out the gallery above.

"I did one the other day on a guy; his mom is a tennis player, so I drew up a head with a tennis racket," said Flores. And sometimes customers just come to him with general ideas -- "favorite flowers, things she likes" -- and then "it's up to me to create that image that they're picturing."

In Flores' experience, people usually get mom or dad tattoos as memorials for a parent after they've passed away. Of course, they can also honor a special occasion or serve as a tribute. Kyle Divine, in the gallery above, got his tattoo on Mother's Day in 2006, and John Clarke got his for his mother's 70th birthday. Amanda Clifton and her mom got matching tattoos during a mother/daughter vacation.

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"When you have so much love for a person, it's hard not to show some love with ink," Clifton remarked.

Pondering a tattoo of your own to honor mom? If you're thinking of a custom or unique piece, like a portrait, Flores recommends bringing in your tattoo artist from the start to refine your vision.

"I know what works as a tattoo and I know what doesn't work," he said. "A lot of art can't be translated to skin."

Once you've got your mom ink, be sure to share the love and show off your design on CNN iReport. Happy Mother's Day!

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