Chris Wenzel, the late owner of Electric Underground Tattoos, died in his sleep last month. Before he passed, he would tell his wife, Cheryl that he wanted his tattoos preserved before he died.
“He used to always say ‘tattoo till death’,” she said. “I think he really took it to a different context.”
Cheryl Wenzel took to Instagram to announce Chris’ wishes. Shortly after his death, she wrote that she found somebody that would do it. “He was very special to me,” she wrote. “His love was bigger than anyone I have ever known.”
The 41-year-old tattoo artist was from Saskatoon, Canada. He suffered from ulcerative colitis, and died in his sleep at the end of October.
An online gallery of some of his artwork shows detailed colorful scenery, and other incredible tattoos, of everything from mythical creatures and monsters to breathtaking flowers.
And while he tattooed great work on others, he had his own great collection.
In a photo posted to Instagram by his wife, Chris shows off a full chest of tattoos, including two birds of prey and a serpent coiled around his stomach. His arms and shoulders are also covered, and reach around to his neck and back.
Cheryl wrote on Instagram that she had partnered with an American company called Save My Ink Forever to preserve Chris’ tattoos.
Kyle Sherwood, Save My Ink Forever’s chief operating officer, said families can work with a funeral home or the company directly to get loved ones’ tattoos preserved.
The process takes about three months and involves the skin being “surgically excised then preserved with a special formula in a frame.”
“Tattoos tell a story about a person and for someone to get something tattooed on them, that they’re displaying for life, means something to them,” Sherwood said.
On Save My Ink Forever’s website, its mission is stated to be to “help carry on a loved one’s story” by ensuring “the spirit and legacy of your loved ones can live on for generations to come.”
The company says what it does is much more special than taking a picture, because “you receive the ACTUAL TATTOO. This becomes a framed piece of art that is presented to the family in a DIGNIFIED MANNER.”
In Chris’s case, Sherwood traveled to Saskatoon to remove the tattoos because of the unprecedented amount of skin that is soon-to-be preserve. He believes it’s the largest scale preservation in North America, saving about seven tattoos including the back and chest piece and legs and arms tattoos.
Cheryl was delighted to write to Instagram that, “This is the first of its kind at this large of a scale!”
Sherwood said, “You wouldn’t burn or bury a Picasso and that’s what some of these pieces are.”
The whole process could cost as much as $80,000.
To help Cheryl with the cost, a GoFundMe page was created so people could pitch in. It raised about $2,300 of its $30,000 goal by Wednesday afternoon.
“A devoted husband, loving father, and talented artist has returned to the earth. Together we can unite and support the family,” the GoFundMe page says. “These funds will go towards the cost involved in Chris’s special preservation and supporting his family.”
Chris did his first tattoo on his aunt when he was nine years old and became a respected and talented artist in Saskatoon.
“If you know anybody in the city with a tattoo it’s probably one of his,” tattoo artist Marc Wishart, at Electric Underground Tattoos, said.
To see some of his work, click here.