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