brands, records and t-shirts

Branding isn’t featured often in the online newspapers, so this one, ‘a different brand of body art,’ is worth some attention; not to mention that it’s a good opportunity to remind of a huge figure in the body modification movement (if there is any), Fakir Musafar.

The southern hemisphere represented by two articles on two different subjects: serious problem about rising number of backyard tattooers in Australia and another one about cultural differences experienced by New Zealand athletes visiting Japan.

The topic of Church and tattoos appears again: a bit more info on the English vicar who’s a fan of tattoos (previously mentioned here) and a German article about a local church in Hamburg using temporary tattoos as a way to attract people (as they said, ‘church can be fun!’).

Body modification and world records (or just attempts at them): the most pierced man in the world (interestingly enough, no word about Elaine Davidson) and a failed attempt at world record in CO (noble reason behind).

 Something lighter to end today’s post: Pink’s new clothing line inspired by tattoos (how original!) and a few Harry Potter tattoos.

book review: Living Canvas. Your Total Guide …

Liv Canv pic After ‘Ink. The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide To Getting a Tattoo’ by Terisa Green from 2005 and Elayne Angel’s ‘Piercing Bible’ from 2009 now I also had a chance to read ‘Living Canvas. Your Total Guide to Tattoos, Piercings and Body Modification’ by Karen L. Hudson.

 While reading this new guide I couldn’t resist comparing it with the book by Elayne Angel but this comparison wasn’t very detrimental to Hudson’s book.

 As the title of the guide suggests, Hudson had a broader perspective in mind and aimed at creating a book that covers both tattoos and body piercings while Angel focused on body piercing only (quite understandably, seeing how she’s a master in this field). Apparently not new to body modification herself (tattoo apprenticeship in the past, running a website devoted to the subject and an editor of the ‘Chick Ink’ book already), Hudson could use her experience and knowledge to write a book that tries to show what body modification is about.

 Two main parts of the book focus on describing the processes of getting a tattoo and body piercings and cover all the basic information one may need to go through their experience as problem-free as possible. Chapters are usually short, well organized and trying to answer all possible questions and doubts one may have, from the infamous ‘does it hurt?’ to ‘what ointment and how much of it to use during a healing period of a new tattoo.’ Hudson covers the most popular types of piercings, jewelry, materials that body jewelry is made from and many other useful topics. To make the book even more detailed (it’s supposed to be a ‘total’ guide after all) the author also included chapters on other forms of body modification, i.e. extreme body modification (although this one is very short and barely mentions such fascinating procedures as tongue splitting or ear pointing), cosmetic tattooing (a pretty good section, actually), henna ‘tattoos’ and body painting.

 It’s obvious that the book is mainly addressed to those who are only about to enter the body modification realm and tries to show its readers that modifying our bodies is not necessarily as scary and painful as one may think although it also requires some efforts and research beforehand. Its tone is friendly and encouraging and, as a whole, one reads is with pleasure.

 Well done and nicely researched as it is, however, there are still a few details that could have been done better. The section about metals used for body jewelry isn’t as detailed and informative as in Elayne Angel’s book and while discussing silicon jewelry Hudson doesn’t mention that many people experience allergic reactions to it and doesn’t warn against using silicone for stretching which definitely should be done (to be fair, Angel doesn’t write about it in her book, either). The part about healing times for various piercings is also very short and not easy to find, so Angel’s healing times chart seems even better an idea than when I got to read her book for the first time. Also, Hudson’s book seems to be addressed mainly to Americans which means that it uses only gauge sizes which say nothing to an average European interested in body piercings while Angel’s book contains gauge conversion chart which shows clearly metric equivalents of gauge sizes and thus may be useful to people using the metric system. Finally, many photographs used in Hudson’s book are not only black-and-white only but they are also small and their captions are positioned sideways which makes them uncomfortable to look at/read.

 Having said all of that, though, I must say that I found this book a good read up and I think it’s a nice addition to the publishers’ book offer. The subject is presented in a good, clear way and one may find here many answers to their questions and doubts. It would be good to read both the ‘Piercing Bible’ and the ‘Living Canvas’ to get the best from both titles but if you end up with reading only Hudson’s book, you will still have a chance to become more educated and better prepared for your next body modification.

 Karen L. Hudson, Living Canvas. Your Total Guide to Tattoos, Piercings and Body Modification, Seal Press 2009

world records, religious takes and some ‘bizarre’ stuff

News about the Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth were already posted here but this piece could be published only after the event took place:  ‘Mario Barth breaks world record hosting the show.’

 An interesting piece of news from Florida where the local senator, Eleanor Sobel, is going to visit a tattoo parlor to see herself what the whole tattoo deal really is about.

 Another take on tattoos and religion: ‘vicar to get tattoo to remember congregation’ and ‘San Antonio church believes tattoos are fine, obesity is not.’ I’d actually say ‘Amen’ to the latter one 😉

 Tattoos and jobs in a short article ‘tattoo me, tattoo you?

 This British article focuses more on a canoe than on tattoos but it’s interesting anyway: ‘Canoe project for tattooed Maori.’

 Finally, something to look at: Kavadi shot in a Belgian post titled ‘the most bizarre piercings’ and an American gem ‘the best of the worst tattoos in mugshots.’

conventions, faith and splits

Best wishes to Hello Kitty as apparently today it’s her birthday; the occasion is celebrated in Las Vegas, NV.

 An interesting choice of place for a tattoo convention in Philadelphia where a tattoo festival took place on a warship – a kind of tribute to all these seasoned sailors who brought tattoos to Europe and loved it for centuries. An upcoming convention, probably in a less interesting location, in Vienna, Austria in November.

 Tattoos and religion in ‘religious tattoos question faith’ and ‘church where tattoos outnumber ties.’ Probably it’s up to God how to look at tattoos and people who have them.

 In the last post I linked to an article about a British shop openly advertising tongue splitting; here an article why at least Vigo county, IN, shops should not do so: ‘ordinance to outlaw tongue splitting.’

getting ready for Halloween

Marisa Kakoulas of needlesandsins in an interview and a short post about Halloween customs exploiting tattoo culture; and just to confirm this point two other articles on the subject: ‘temporary Halloween tattoos’ and ‘glitter temporary tattoos to advertise a business.’

 Another big figure in the tattoo world, this time from Germany: Herbert Hoffmann in an article describing his life and tattoos.

 The article about Coptic tattoos was linked to in the last post; here’s another one on the subject: ‘missing the point of Coptic tattoos.’

 It’s quite unusual to see a shop advertising more extreme procedures: ‘branding, tongue splitting services coming to North Devon.’

Indirectly related: ‘the agony of body artist’ about ‘high art’ using body as a medium; a short story by Kafka, the Hunger Artist, is linked to it, so make sure to check it out, too, if you click on the article.

 ‘Popeye arm’ to end today’s post – human body really is amazing.

miscellaneous stuff

Otzi was mentioned on here at least a few times but it’s always interesting to read about him (although I don’t like looking at him much), so here’s another short one on the subject: ‘Otzi remains mysterious.’

 An interesting addition to my ‘anthropology’ category: ‘Egypt’s Christians uphold tattoo tradition.’

 Health and body modification: ‘tongue stud ‘brain fatality risk’ and ‘Kendal hospital unveils nipple-tattooing machine.’

 A German article ‘between art and madness’ hints on the latter while discussing the current trends in body modification while a text from India focuses more on the question of addiction when tattoos are concerned.

 No more secretive piercings and other mods? New full body scanner is supposed to reveal everything!

 One of the human marvels, the Enigma, in a short review of one his shows.

 Finally, a pretty cool one from Omaha, NE – creative captions contest, body modification-related, of course.

usual and unusual people and othe rinteresting stuff

Two big figures for starters: Stelarc in the news again and an upcoming documentary about Sailor Jerry!

 A sudden wave of journalists’ interest in people’s tattoos in ‘tattoos in San Diego,’ ‘Tucson Citizen readers show off their tattoos’ and ‘Canyon Lake ink.’ Kind of tacky as it is, it might actually show that tattoos can be a meaningful form of art.

Other interesting ones I’ve come across include: ‘female tattoo artists defy trend’ from Canada, ‘dermatologists warning of tattoo and piercing dangers’ from Spain, American articles about ‘Jews with tattoos’ and ‘vintage gadget tattoos’ and two Polish ones: ‘tattoo night in a pub ArtElier’ (although I wouldn’t say that a pub is the best place to get a tattoo done!) and ‘tattoos in private places.’

organs, trends, codes


This pretty nice “tattoo” was used for a German campaign promoting organ donating awareness (after click you’ll find an article about it and two other examples of the designs used for the campaign; the ‘tattoos’ look quite tasty, methinks). Tattoos are also used in the new Suzuki campaign.

 An article about tattoos used for medical purposes from India: ‘Jharkhand children tattoo navels to ward off ailments.’

 Tattoos and fashion: after Rodarte show also other designers are going the tattoo route: temporary tattoos on Gaultier and Chanel fashion shows.

 ‘Bodymod trend’ from Germany where, apparently, tattoos are ‘out’ and ‘flesh tunnels’ are in.

 An interesting piece of news from Belgium where ‘less than a half of the practitioners have the right education.’

 A bit unusual and still interesting: an IA guy whos’s not only a tattoo artist but also an ordained minister and an article from Asia: ‘teen working for loan sharks to get cash for tattoos.’

 And finally something indirectly related in ‘the rise of the barcode’ (my own barcode tattoo is the code from my ‘learner’s permit’ from the times when I’ve been working toward my driver’s license – not the best work ever but I’m not gonna cover up this one!)

events, passions and lists

A few articles about tattoo conventions for starters: Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth (nice interview with Mario Barth), a short one about Tattoo Expo in Barcelona and another one about recent TattooFest in Warsaw, Poland (not a mind-blowing event, mind you, but I’m being ‘patriotic’ for once;)).

I don’t know how many people will be able to go through another one in Polish (wonderfully nasty a language it is) but here’s an interesting interview with a editor of one of the Polish tattoo magazines talking about tattoos and people getting them done.

Climate justice tattoo’ is a great example of tattoos being not only about whims and trends but also about true passion and commitment to ideas.

A bit of history in ‘tattoos and the army – long and colorful tradition.’

Another Spanish one (because I’m enjoying reading trying to read in Spanish again) – the sexiest tattoos of 2009; and just for balance’s sake another silly list in ‘top 12 worst celebrity tattoo ideas.’

As a bonus a VIP touch in short interviews with VIP’s attending the convention in Vegas and an article about a(nother) tattoo-inspired clothing line (hmmm, ridiculously expensive these t-shirts, ain’t they?)

book review: The Tattoo Artist: A Novel

book picIt’s a simple book in an inconspicuous cover but its contents may be deep and shallow, interesting and trivial, unique and unoriginal. It’s a complex book that, I think, may be read in many ways, depending on who is actually doing it.

Four parts of the book, City of Coffins, Gan Eden, Body of Work and On Display, show the main character, Sara Ehrenreich, in four main stages of her life and in the process of creating and then becoming art.

The idea of a woman stranded on a distant, tropical island and then forcefully tattooed is not new and it was already used countless times by sideshow artists in the past. The author uses it skillfully, though, and instead of an illiterate farmer’s daughter or an adventurous sailor we’re introduced to a Jewish shopgirl dreaming of becoming a part of avant-garde movement in NYC, filled with feverish dreams of the better future for the poor. When the Great Depression hits hard, Sara and her husband Philip set out to the South Seas to collect masks for a European museum. What was supposed to be a chance to escape the Western nightmare and a passing adventure turned out to be a lifetime experience. Once on the Ta’un’uu island, they involuntarily cause a problem resulting in death of a few islanders and their faces are forever changed by tattoos obscuring their features. During next decades Sara becomes a skilled tattoo artist herself, using her talent and tools not only to adorn her own body and those of the villagers but also, or maybe above all, to commemorate people and events dear to her and by means of which to cope with her losses and misfortunes. It’s a process that transforms her and allows her to see her own and others’ life from a new, different and richer perspective.

The language the book is written in is simple and some of the points the author makes are very obvious (‘tattoos as a pictorial narrative,’ ‘permanence is what gives the tattoo its power,’ ‘tattoos aren’t written on the skin, they’re written inside the skin’) but they can resonate quite deeply with a reader, especially if a reader is tattooed themselves and claims to be passionate about and committed to their tattoos.

Seeing how I’m tattooed myself and how I’m pretty convinced that body modification is one of the main passions of mine I couldn’t resist to look at the book from this perspective.

I see this book as a novel about life imbued with art to the point of finally becoming a living art but it’s also about tattooing itself, both in its first, ‘tribal’ form and this evolved, ‘bastardized’ form present in the Western society (when Sara is back in NYC, after decades spent on the island, she visits a tattoo shop and both the atmosphere present at the shop and the artist himself differ so strongly from what she experienced that she must feel lost. Her tattoos are a part of something bigger and older while the NY artist’s tattoos are just flash, totally cliché and meaningless in their countless and mindless repetitions on people’s arms and backs).

The book is about one woman’s life but it’s also about tattooing itself as in asking questions what tattooing really is, how it can affect people and the way they look both at themselves and the others, how it defies our (as in ‘Western’, ‘civilized’) concept of pain and how it creates and unites beauty and pain.

One of the points Ciment makes, I think, is the effect of tattoo on us. While on the island Sara is slowly becoming a part of the Ta’un’uu society and being incorporated into their Tapestry, a creation of tattooed bodies replaying the same elements and meanings over and over again and thus cultivating the values and traditions of the society; when back in the Western world, Sara becomes a curiosum, an other whose looks and actions are incomprehensible to people. Leaving the island Sara removed one element of the Tapestry, herself, but she also felt that ‘her absence hardly marred the grand design.’ Appearing back in the civilization, Sara is only a passing attraction; she doesn’t bring anything of importance to those looking at and reading about her and soon they’ll move their attention to new people and events. In a way, it shows how the Western society perceives and uses tattoos – not to embrace people but to set them apart, not as a sign of belonging but rather a warning – but also how alienated we all are.

Ciment writes about tattoos with respect. I don’t think she’s tattooed herself but she’s able to notice in them feelings and stories that may be in there. She sees the vast anthropological background and the personal potential at once and invites us to reflect on the subject on our own.

Jill Ciment, The Tattoo Artist, Vintage Books, 2006