Mick Beasley was a good Catholic girl, a young suburban housewife raising five children, when she tried to save her marriage by taking a walk on the wild side.
She decided to wear her love on her hip. Taking the advice of a marriage counselor, who suggested displaying heraffection, Beasley headed to the nearest tattoo parlor and had her husband's name and a big pink rose applied to her hip.
Two days later, she went back. By the time she finished having another flower tattooed to her chest, Beasley had fallen in love.
That was seven years ago. The flowers now are covered up under a jungleof tattoos, a seamless painting of wild flowers, a red-crested crane, a water baby nestled in the lilies, the face of her second husband and a huge dragon stretching from the nape of her neck to her bottom.
"It's art," she says, proudly displaying her arms and chest in a sleeveless, white mini-dress. "We just like to wear it on our bodies instead of hang it on our walls."
Even though her first tattoos didn't succeed in keeping the marriage together, Beasley still remembers the experience as a turning point in her life. Intrigued by the craft, she became a well-known tattoo artist, co-owner of the Dragon Moon Tattoo Parlor in Glen Burnie, and the latest cover model of Tattoo Magazine.
She's leaning against a motorcycle with a sultry pout onthe magazine's July cover. Her blond hair is carefully tousled, and she's wearing a black leather tank top to show off her tattoos. She looks sexy and a little dangerous.
Inside the magazine, a four-pagecolor spread is devoted to "Ms. Mick -- An Introduction to the Sacred World of Tattoos," in which she confesses the truth.
"My father always wanted me to become a nun."
That's right, a nun. Her grandparents own a former rectory, and her parents just bought the old convent in her hometown in Colorado.
So just how did the product of a strict Catholic home, the second-oldest of nine children, a 32-year-old, college-educated mother of five, wind up with wild tattoos covering nearly every inch of her upper body?
"Basically, I just fell into it," she admits.
Yet she doesn't find any irony in becoming a tattoo artist instead of a nun. In fact, she thinks "perhaps, becominga tattooist is as close as I will ever get."
Running a successfultattoo parlor doesn't require the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. But it does demand a lifelong commitment and almost all of hertime, she says.
"We have no time for anything," Beasley complainson a break between customers. "No time to socialize, no time to go to the movies. It's kind of like asking Mother Superior for a day off,you never know if you can ever get one."
Two weeks after she got her first tattoo, the pink rose she now remembers as "this really ugly, stick 'em on kind," Beasley started learning the trade. The woman who ran the parlor in Prince George's County invited Beasley to try her hand. On Memorial Day weekend in 1985, they opened a tattoo parlorin Takoma Park.
After eight months, she quit and moved to anothertattoo parlor in Virginia. While she was working there, her partner started driving to Glen Burnie every week to get large panels designed on her arms and chest. Beasley was impressed by the work of the manwho became her husband, especially one panel showing a sushi-eating Santa Claus.
She headed to Dragon Moon one day and asked Tom Beasley to do some tattoos. Within a few months, they were dating. She moved to Glen Burnie, and they married last March.
"I had this one done before we got married," she says, flexing her arm to puff up Tom'sface, tattooed on her left arm. "He's starting to fade a little."
Beasley now knows all the tricks of the trade, from eating a large breakfast when she's sitting all day for a tattoo, to creating designsfor customers. She prides herself on being an "artist," a descendantof a creative family of writers and painters who enjoys working on the human body instead of canvas.
"If my ancestors can cast bronze doors for cathedrals in Italy, creating a work of art on the human temple was to me acceptable," she told Tattoo Magazine.
With her newfound fame and Dragon Moon's growing collection of awards, Beasley isbasking in the attention and thinking about her legs. She wants to have panels done on both, but the work could take up to several years and would be painful in spots.
"It's really intense when it gets near bone and there's a lot of detail," she says.
Beasley also is beginning to relish her access to a side that many people prefer to keep hidden. Unlike the popular stereotypes, she says, her customers range from bikers to bankers, from politicians to suburban housewives.
She stops her tattoos several inches above people's hands and feetso they can wear conservative business clothes and hide their art ifthey want.
"We really tattoo a whole cross-section of people," she says. "Everybody wants a tattoo. If you're human, you want one. Youjust might be scared to do it."