Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s an age old adage but it rings true with Jason Ward.
The New Zealand tattoo artist may at first seem very intimidating: a towering figure covered in tattoos. But beneath the rough exterior, Ward really is a sweetheart.
Every Friday, the owner of Muscle and Ink tattoo parlour has an appointment with Suzie, a woman with Down Syndrome who requests to be tatted up – with stick-on, temporary tattoos.
“The first time she came in, she walked up to the desk, put her things on the desk, and said ‘put these on my arm,’ Ward said of Suzies initial visit.
“In our industry you wear gloves so I put gloves on, it’s a matter of hygiene, and then I put the stick on tattoos on her. She didn’t say thank you or anything, she just got up and left, and that was that. And then she came back the following Friday. And it’s just carried on from there.”
“It started out as something quite funny though, I mean, who does that? Who walks into a tattoo shop to get stick on tattoos? If she was a member of my family and she had have walked into another tattoo shop and they had told her to bugger off, I’d be angry. Why would you say no?”
So for the last three months, Suzie comes in and Jason applies the stick-on tattoos, free of charge.
“She prefers Maori design,” Ward says.
“Someone at a day based thing that she goes to has Ta Moko all up their arm. Apparently she goes back there on a Friday afternoon and compares them”
Ward’s good deed has been receiving worldwide applause.
“You should treat everybody the same. She’s just started to get a little more comfortable now, and I try and engage with her more to get her talking. I didn’t even know her name until Monday, when everything went nuts on the internet but I still don’t know a lot about her,” Ward said.
The tattoo artist has been left shocked at the attention the photo of the pair has garnered on social media. While most people’s reactions have been positive, there are those who believe it is just a publicity stunt.
“It’s crazy. Some people think it’s a publicity stunt but it’s not, it’s just an everyday thing. On Monday I wanted to hide, I had no idea what was going on. It was crazy that a photo that a friend took could on a typical Friday, could just take off like that. Through the Facebook post we have had so many people message our studio wanting to send us some stick on tattoos,” Ward argued.
“But there are people in the community that you can do this for. It’s great that people want to do something for Suzie, but they could look a little closer to home. If you just do one thing for one person everyday that makes them smile, then that’s your day. If everybody does that then everybody’s smiling.”