Leave Your Tats to Loved Ones When You Die

Dutch foundation will remove and treat inked skin
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2014 3:50 PM CDT
Leave Your Tats to Loved Ones When You Die
An Oakland Raiders fan shows his tattoo before an NFL preseason football game between the Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks in Oakland, Calif., on Aug. 28, 2014.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

People bestow money, pictures, jewelry, and even their ashes to loved ones when they die. Now an entrepreneur in Holland wants to help people take it to the next level—a level that's incredibly personal and somewhat macabre. Peter Van der Helm last year established Walls and Skin, a foundation that removes deceased customers' tattoos and preserves them for all eternity, NPR reports. The process sounds relatively straightforward, if a little bizarre: A pathologist here in the US will slice off the erstwhile owner's body art, then freeze or store it in formaldehyde for its journey to an unnamed European lab. There, pathologists will transform the skin strip into what's basically a piece of plastic by taking out the water and fat and injecting it with a liquid polymer like silicone.

Customers can then either choose to let their tattoos be displayed by Walls and Skin or "loaned" to family members (just make sure you put in your will who gets which tat so there's no fighting). Van der Helm, a tattoo artist himself, says he was partly inspired by hearing his own customers say, "When I die, I want to be in a museum"; he says he already has close to 60 people who've signed up for the service, though everyone who has expressed interest is still among the living. The cost to preserve a piece of your inked body? About $400 per 4-inch tat. "[It] makes you kind of immortal, and I think many people like that," the foundation's chair tells NPR. "[Tattoos are] an art form that shouldn't just get lost when people die." (More tattoos stories.)

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