My first Berlin tattoo

July 25, 2014

esto fortis latin script forearm tattoo_ black and white background Ever since I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to be tattooed. Perhaps it was the influence of my artistic mother, but I always appreciated beautiful things and the idea of having something beautiful on my body forever held a strong pull. I spent my childhood going through all kinds of temporary tattoos while I waited until I was old enough for the more permanent variety. I got two small ones during my college years and while I always wanted more, I never got further than creating a ample Pinterest board of body art inspiration. In recent years, especially once I learned we were moving to Berlin, capitol of some of the world's most talented tattoo artists, I felt the intense desire to add to my collection.

A few years ago, a good friend complimented my strength at a time when I was filled with self-doubt and I knew this was a reassuring reminder that I wanted to carry with me in a permanent way. I had played around with ideas and different languages for a tattoo of words, but nothing felt quite right. It wasn't until I was in the hospital earlier this year, that I was reminded again by someone that we are braver than we think we are. Laying there, looking at my bandaged and IV-clad arm, I was struck with what I wanted. So often we are told to 'be strong' when things are bad, but bravery isn't something that we call upon only when confronted with an obstacle, it's something we harness in a proactive pursuit of the things we want in life as well. It has an almost heroic connotation. It's more than just strength during the hard times, but optimism that we will succeed in the good times as well.

While I liked the word 'brave', English lacks the romance and timelessness that I wanted, so I looked to the language that is the foundation for so many others: Latin. 'Fortis' can be used to mean both 'strong' and 'brave', which seemed to fit perfectly. Antsy to make it happen, I quickly booked an appointment with an artist recommended to me by a Berliner who has script tattoos that I admire.

esto fortis latin tattoo font samples esto fortis latin tattoo font sample on foreaarm

In the more than a month until I was set to be permanently inked in the most visible place I had been tattooed yet, I agonized over exactly what I wanted it to look like. The words themselves are only one piece of the puzzle. This was art, very permanent art, that needed to look as good as how strongly I felt about the words themselves. After many hours of font research, writing samples and several test runs with a black semi-permanent marker, I finally felt I had hit on something. I had taken a font that I liked, reworked the elements I didn't like, linked the words together and extended the beginning and end for that linear look I was going for... and came up with something I thought I would be happy to look at every day for the rest of my life. It was pretty when I looked at it directly, but I almost loved it even more when looking down my arm at it. Seemingly compressed, the rise and fall of the script almost resembled a heartbeat. The way it wrapped around when I twisted my arm gave it beautiful movement.

Tattoo artist Ela Pour at work latin esto fortis tattooing at Pech und Schwefel Berlin

My artist, Ela Pour at Pech & Schwefel, was very patient as we finalized the design details in my less-than-stellar German at my appointment. She was careful not to push me in any direction with the decisions, but was very diplomatic in offering her artistic opinion as we worked on finalizing the design. The last time I had been tattooed was over a decade ago and I admit when we first got started, I had forgotten how painful it was. In all fairness, during my research I had read that the inner arm is among the most sensitive places to get tattooed, so I wasn't too hard on myself about it. Though my latest piece is still relatively small, I did start to feel what I have heard from many who have had much larger pieces done, in that after awhile, you almost 'zone out' from the pain and become rather numb to it. Even so, I'm definitely going to need to channel the reassuring mantra that is now forever in my skin whenever I decide on my next piece of permanent art.

esto fortis latin script forearm tattoo_ from above kate wirth latin esto fortis script forearm tattoo and warby parker burke eyeglasses in shadow Pech und Schwefel tattoo store front Berlin Kreuzberg

Pech & Schwefel T├Ątowierungen
Mehringdamm 81
10965, Berlin-Kreuzberg
U6/U7 Mehringdamm
030 22509264


  1. Beuatiful! Thanks for sharing about the process. I love hearing the stories behind tattoos.

  2. Beautiful in every way! The stories behind tattoos are often the best. Hope all is well.

  3. this is lovely - the meaning, the script, the placement...very much reminds me of a latin quote i have on my rib cage which is done in a similar script.

  4. Very nice! Great read also!

    What is the name of the font ?

    1. Thanks Jamie! I actually worked from the Carpenter font, rewriting it myself and making it my own.


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