Devon Harvey doesn’t know offhand how many Edward Gorey tattoos she has. Stopping to count, she settles on five.
Gorey, an illustrator and writer famous for his creatively morbid scenes and story lines, has always held special significance for Harvey. She learned about his books, like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, as a kid, bonding with her father.
“Edward Gorey was always something that was ours,” Harvey said, adding that her mom and brother were never into it. “When I look at [my tattoos] I don’t just see Edward Gorey; There’s memories of my father.”
Gorey, who passed away in 2000, would’ve turned 89 today.
Much of his work is reminiscent of illustrated children’s books, though the scenes he depicts are often unsettling and frequently deal with death. Harvey’s first tattoo: A scene showing “K is for Kate who was struck with an ax,” from The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
“As I’m older I’m more drawn to the illustration, but I also find myself when I read it now like, ‘Wow, there is no way I understood all of this as a kid,'” she said.
That sentiment resonates with plenty of people exposed to Gorey’s line work, be it in his own works or alongside writers such as TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf or John Updike.
Harvey’s Gorey books are marked with post-it notes, tabbing pieces that particularly strike her and that one day may appear on her body. She’s even thought about getting a sleeve of his illustrations.
“I don’t intend on stopping but I don’t know how far it will go,” she said.
Harvey’s first Gorey tattoos came almost 10 years ago. A recently retired Greensboro Roller Derby girl (known as Devon Brody Slaughterhouse), Harvey’s more recent pieces are the work of Seven Sagas tattoo artist Paula Enscore.
Harvey isn’t the only one going to Enscore for Gorey ink, but she is the most dedicated, Enscore said. Since finding Enscore, the pace of Harvey’s Gorey tattoos has accelerated.
“The lines that [Gorey] does are so precise and you’ve got to find somebody who can do that, and Paula is amazing at line work,” Harvey said.
Now the question is just what else will fit.