Time is the one thing that we can’t possess or control; it doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. For this reason, time is so valuable in our lives, it marks milestones such as the birth of a child, it shows us how much we have grown and it also delivers experiences that shape us into the people we are today. One of the most permanent and meaningful ways to capture the memory of time, express our relationship with time or to pay homage to time is through a time-themed sleeve tattoo.
Time themed sleeve tattoos are a common choice as most of us have had meaningful times in our lives. The most popular ways that time is represented in a sleeve tattoo is with a clock or an hour-glass. The time on the clock can be tattooed to a specific time, such as a birth, death or anniversary.
To give the tattoo deeper or more specific meaning, motifs and other elements can be added to the tattoo. Popular time themed sleeve tattoo design additions are;
Broken or Smashed Clocks:
This imagery is a powerful representation of time. A smashed clock could represent not being limited and confined to the rules of time and living freely. It could also mean that time doesn’t define you or how old or young you feel.
This is one of my favourite time-themed tattoos. The melting clocks are borrowed from the famous ‘Persistence of Memory’ painting by Spanish artist Salvador Dali. This image came to him through a meditative state of self-induced psychotic hallucinations. Many believe the clocks symbolise the passing of time, melting away but it could also be the passing of time as how we see it in a dream.
For the watch or engineering enthusiasts, this time themed sleeve tattoo could be the design for you! A deconstructed clock design looks like a bionic sleeve. The design could represent how time can be pulled apart and manipulated simply through a one’s perspective. It could also show the beauty and detail in clock work.
Many time themed sleeve tattoos have a compass accompanying them, showing a combination of time and place. This could represent travelling throughout time or life’s direction in general.
Stairway to heaven or railway tracks:
This strong imagery represents traveling in the direction of heaven or death as time draws us closer.
The eye in a clock, whether it is a human eye or animal eye is a popular design. It represents keeping an eye on time, not wasting time and living fully. Some people also interpret the eye to be God’s gaze upon us.
A skull with a clock is a popular tattoo among males and it might not be just because they look cool. Skulls represent death and coupled with a clock could mean that time is ticking and death is always looming.
Trees and their roots:
Trees are a great representation of life because not only do they grow over time but they also go through the seasons, shedding their leaves and rejuvenating over the year, just like people go through different seasons in their life. The roots represent setting down our roots, with family, a home, a career and even with self-identity.
Birds are a common symbol of letting go and living carefree. They represent being released from the shackles of time. For some this tattoo could be reminder of a way to live by or it could represent a loved one who has passed on.
Flowers around a clock or hour-glass tattoo look beautiful. They soften the harsh mechanical design of the time-piece and show that time is a beautiful concept that gives us so much throughout our lives.
Parent and child/ family silhouettes:
This is a powerful tattoo that captured time with family. It could show how family sticks together throughout time and it could also represent holding onto a time in your life that you cherish, such as a father/son moment.
As you can see, there are a plethora of time themed tattoo sleeve designs with powerful meanings and you have creative licence to design one that is perfect for you. Below is a comprehensive collection of the best time themed sleeve tattoos to give you some inspiration for your next piece…