LOWER EAST SIDE — As "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" won praise at the Academy Awards, the real life version of the movie is taking New York by storm.
Fans of the mythical creature are having it inked in studios across the city, inspired by the Chinese zodiac as well as the movie which won the Oscar for best film editing Sunday night.
Amy Kurowski, a 35-year-old veterinarian from the Upper East Side, has been preparing to cover her back with the mythical creature for the last 18 months. But it's been an ambition put in place by the year of her birth — 1976, a Chinese Year of the Dragon.
She committed to getting an elaborate design of two intertwined water and fire dragons clutching a pearl of wisdom that involves a seven-hour process on the table of tattoo artist "Sweetie" at Rivington Tattoo on the Lower East Side.
Kurowski had mulled getting a tattoo for two decade. She decided to wait until the Year of the Dragon rolled around again, as it did in 2012, to get inked.
The year also coincided with the release of the movie that starred Rooney Mara, a confluence that tattoo artists say has led to a surge in requests for dragon art.
Ethan Morgan, 47, Rivington Tattoo's owner, said he's noticed an increase in dragon inquires since the Year of the Dragon began on Jan. 23.
“The dragon is a mythical beast," he said as he worked on a dragon piece for client Julio Martinez.
"It is a pretty special symbol. They can be frightening and scary looking, but also docile and deeper then just the teeth and the claw.”
"Dragons are cool, bottom line.”
The dragon is widely considered the luckiest sign in the Chinese calendar, symbolizing virtually every positive attribute imaginable. The sign is considered so prized that people even timed their biological clocks to the Zodiac to ensure their offspring is a “dragon baby.”
Morgan said he injects his own style into dragon design concepts presented by clients, including one for Martinez, 38, of Ohio.
“I faced the dragon inwards towards his heart,” Morgan said, as he dipped the tattoo needle in ink while Martinez braced himself. The dragon’s gaze led in the direction of Martinez' chest while its body and tail wrapped around his right arm down to the wrist.
“When [Martinez] moves his arm, the piece moves with him, it becomes part of him,” Morgan said, adding that he finds it very important to link design with the functionality of the human body.
“It can cause things to come to life.”
Martinez, a father of four, said he chose the dragon because of its symbolism.
“It is a protector and I am protector of my family,” said Martinez, looking down at the dragon tattoo that now clings to his arm. “It is said to be the protector of precious things.”
For Kurowski, although her dragon tattoo is only half complete, she's already starting to feel postive effects.
“I do feel a little bit of empowerment and betterness in my life,” said Kurowski, who identifies with the characteristic qualities attributed to the dragon: intelligence, drive and hot-headedness.
“I was glad I didn’t get it last dragon year [in 2000],” Kurowski said. “I wasn’t ready for something that large and now I have become more self aware.”
Darren Rosa, tattoo artist and owner of Rising Dragon Tattoos on West 14th Street, has also noticed a spike in requests for dragon tattoos.
“It is something to be proud of, this incredibly energetic creature with limbs sprawling out in every direction, taking over his space,” said Rosa, 47, who was also born in a Year of the Dragon. “It is very magnificent and wonderful to me.”
Rosa recalled the last dragon year was prosperous for his 27-year-old business, and hopes for a repeat this time around.
“I do believe this dragon year will be auspicious for us,” he said. “The whole reason I used Rising Dragon [as a name for his business] was I tried to use the symbol of the dragon, the kind of energy I aspire to.”
Motoko Oguro, an assistant at Rosa’s shop, had a dragon tattoo inked in 2000 to symbolize her and her now 12-year-old son’s shared zodiac sign.
“When I describe the year of the dragon, I am exactly that,” said Oguro, 35, who said she's tempermental, fiery, outgoing and outspoken.
“It starts to make sense to people.”