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Little Tattoos, Big Impact

Published September 2023 | In Fall 2023

Emma Madsen’s fine line tattoos are growing in popularity, but in addition to tattooing she’s become passionate about helping cancer survivors feel beautiful again.

Little Tattoos, Big Impact Media

Hang around a tattoo shop for a while and you’ll see all kinds of art pass through the door. Rose tattoos with a loved one’s name, cosmic planetscapes, geometric patterns and meaningful dates. Of course, every shop is different, and at Emma Madsen’s studio, Duende Ink, what you’ll find are graceful fine lines creating elegant designs.

“That’s what I’m most known for,” Emma said. “I do try to incorporate a wide variety of styles, and try to blend my style with what my clients want, but I’m usually known for the fine lines.”

That may be Emma’s signature style, but there's another technique that she’s grown passionate about — microblading. From a technical perspective, this differs from traditional tattooing, which uses a needle to inject the ink into the dermis, the second layer of the skin. Microblading uses a small blade to make fine, hairlike cuts in the top layer of skin, called the epidermis. “After the cuts are made, you gently stretch the skin and then add the pigment,” Emma explained. “It’s considered cosmetic tattooing, and is most commonly used to create or enhance the appearance of eyebrows.”

When it comes to tattooing, Emma is largely self-taught, but cosmetic tattooing like permanent makeup and microblading are specialized skills — after graduating esthetician school at the beginning of the year, she traveled to California for training to master them. Since then, microblading has become popular among her clients, and it's a service that Emma has decided to offer to cancer patients free of charge.

“I had one of my clients here and she works at Monument Health, and I brought up the idea of doing free eyebrows for cancer patients. She was excited and put me in touch with the people at the Cancer Care Institute,” Emma explained. “I told them what I wanted to do — the initial idea was to actually go to the hospital and do the microblading there, but we weren’t able to do that yet. Instead, we started with gift cards for free microblading.”

Meet Tina

“I had breast cancer in 2012, localized on the right side,” said Tina Kettner, one of Emma’s clients. Because of a family history, she opted for a preventative mastectomy paired with chemotherapy and has been cancer free since then. “In the process, I hardly lost any hair, but for some reason I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes.”

Tina was one of Emma’s first microblading clients, and the effects have stretched far beyond simple cosmetics. “There are so many challenges when you’re going through cancer, and you can lose your identity with these changes inside and outside of you,” Tina said. “It made me feel more confident in myself when she did it — it made me feel like a woman again.”

“I think it’s incredible what Emma is doing, giving back to the community and cancer survivors. There are so many people affected by cancer, and this may seem like a minor thing, but it’s so impactful to us,” she added.

Because chemotherapy weakens patients’ immune systems, they need to wait six weeks after their final treatment to get the procedure done, and then get their physician’s approval. Emma is excited to continue to help cancer survivors feel like themselves again and hopes that soon she can work with the Monument Health Cancer Care Institute to provide microblading in the facility’s salon.

Caring for her community

Emma is aware of how much cancer can affect a family and a community. “I had a cousin who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2021. She passed away at the age of 27. A family friend passed away last year from cervical cancer. Everyone knows someone who has been touched by cancer,” she said. Emma credits the experience of growing up in the small town of New Underwood for helping her see how connected people are. When you lose just a few people in a small town, she explained, you see how significant the impact is on the whole community.

“People care about others in their community, and when someone is affected by cancer, we want to help,” Emma said. “This is something I can do. It’s easy for me, but it can be life changing for them — that makes it worthwhile.”

Tina added, “What she’s doing, it can give you hope. It’s a piece of the puzzle moving forward after you’ve overcome cancer. You’re able to look in the mirror and think, ‘this is great, here I am again.’ I can’t say how
grateful I am for how Emma has helped me feel like myself again.”

Written by Wade Ellett

Photos by  Bob Slocum