When Suzie Barry walked into Hamilton's Muscle and Ink tattoo studio and asked to have her stick-on tattoos put on her arm, tattooist Jason Ward happily obliged.
"The first time she came in, she just walked in, slapped a couple of stick-on tattoo packets on the desk and asked me to put them on her arm. I said, 'what?' And she said it again so I sat her down and put them on," he said.
Jason said he treated her the same as he would any client, except he didn't charge her for his work.
Suzie has Down Syndrome.
"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."
Jason said Suzie has been in every Friday for almost four months now, and every week it's the same drill, gloves on, tattoos on, then she's gone.
"It started out as something quite funny though, I mean, who does that? Who walks into a tattoo shop to get stick on tattoos? But 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? 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," he said.
Suzie attends a vocational day base facility through the Intellectual Disability Empowerment in Action (IDEA) a subsidiary of IHC, and Jason said Suzie likes to show off her art work there.
"She prefers Maori design, and apparently one of her caregivers just told me someone at a day base thing that she goes to, has Ta Moko all up their arm. Apparently she goes back there on a Friday and afternoon and compares them. She's got a good spirit too you know."
Jason said that he's shocked at the attention the photo of the pair is receiving on Facebook, and while most people's reaction has been positive and supportive, some are claiming it is all 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," he said.
"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."
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