book review: tattoo design directory

 Another book about tattoos and this time it’s by Vince Hemingson of the vanishing tattoo fame. It makes quite a good first impression as it’s a sort of hard, black cover and spiral bound – certainly not the usual book format.

The book’s full title is ‘Tattoo Design Directory. The Essential Reference for Body Art’ and it’s recommended as a reference source both for body art enthusiasts and artists. It’s quite questionable, however, as the book is general enough to make it not informative enough for people deeper interested in tattoos and their meanings and yet, at the same time, too thorough for someone who’s thinking about getting one small piece and that’s it. As (one of many) shop reference it may do the job, though.

 What’s worth attention in this one? The introductory part, even though general, outlines tattooing practices around the world in much detailed a way than other general works on the subject. Since Hemingson is interested both in writing and photographing, one can also find here a few very interesting photographs of tattooed people from various cultures (not only Maori men, as we’re quite used to see male moko tattoos, but also Maori woman or Borneo elders; a short section on Haida tattoos is quite interesting, too!). The main part, design directory, is divided into sections such as ‘animals,’ ‘music,’ ‘faith and spirituality’ or ‘zodiac.’ Sections are brief and well-illustrated (for such a small book) and always contain interesting information on meanings and history of particular designs.

Comparing it with the Tattoo Encyclopedia by Terisa Green, one must admit that Tattoo Design Directory is better illustrated but it also contains fewer entries. Both titles present enough interesting information on the most popular tattoo designs to keep their readers interested for some time which doesn’t change the fact that both books are too general for an enthusiast and too packed up with details for a person thinking about their first or second tattoo only.

All in all, a decent reference book indeed but not really worth the money if you’re into tattoos for good (although buying it as a gift for your tattoo artist may be a good idea – it’s useful enough to make a good gift and cheap enough to let you spend more money on your new tattoo).

Vince Hemingson, Tattoo Design Directory, Chartwell Books, Inc. 2009

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