Well, I'll be damned! Nearly four years since my last entry. I blame Brexit, Covid and the war in the Ukraine. Why not? everybody else is using those excuses. In fact, self-employment is the actual reason but, I digress, nobody cares.
Out of nowhere I got invited to review "The Language of Tattoos" published by Frances Lincoln. This is 221 pages of the collaborative efforts of tattoo artist Oliver "Megamunden" Munden and tattoo expert Nick Schonberger. There are a further two pages of perfectly formed index and, if you've read my last post, you'll know how much I like an index that makes sense.
So, who are these guys who have combined to inform us about tattoos and what they mean?
The pictures are the work of the multi-talented Oliver Munden aka Megamunden. "Ollie" works out of the Rock Steady Tattoo Studio in Worthing, West Sussex. Rock Steady is one of those studios that if you found it was around the corner from you, you'd be very happy indeed. Munden's style isn't one you can pigeonhole. Old School, Neo-traditional and Traditional Japanese are the styles that leap out to me but that's not really the whole story. Check out his Instagram, you'll see what I mean. Munden has illustrated tattoo colouring books, decks of cards, Tarot decks, he's worked on some stunning guitars that I'd be frightened to play for fear of damaging them (but would play them anyway) and the list of things he's worked on goes on and on. I don't suppose you end up being called Megamunden without earning it.
The words are provided by Nick Schonberger who, to be honest, I didn't know much about. Nick is a New York based (so sayeth Google) academic, journalist and author. He has worked on tattoo related museum exhibitions in an advisory capacity and is also a critic on fashion, culture and music. Nick has collaborated on other books about tattoos and also one about contemporary menswear. I'm not sure what he'd make of how I dress. Fortunately, I don't actually care. It is fair to say though that in Nick Schonberger the publishers have found a writer who knows his stuff and is passionate about it and, for me, that's good enough.
So, the book...what about it?
As I slid the tome from the packaging, I was immediately pleased by the quality of the book itself. I don't know why but, I kind of expected a glossy paperback so I was pleasantly surprised by the good, sturdy hardback that I held in my hands (Freud would have a field day with that sentence). The smooth matt outer cover feels good in your hands, the pages are a good thickness (there's no faffing about trying to turn pages that static has stuck together, and the binding appears solid. This is a proper book that isn't going to leave you feeling you've just bought some kind of brochure. So, it's a thumbs up for quality.
Of course, it is what appears on the 223 pages that matter most, right?
The introduction acknowledges and addresses an increasingly large elephant in the room, cultural appropriation. Schonberger deals with the subject of appropriation sensitively, discussing the inevitable crossing of borders, the evolution of the art as one artist takes inspiration from the work of another from an entirely different culture. Nick applauds the artists of the past and acknowledges the debt of gratitude we owe to them for giving us the inspiration for the art we have today. He also, recognises that not everyone fully understands the meaning behind the imagery they have on their skin.
I do have one criticism regarding the introduction. It doesn't go deep enough and, having brought the subject of appropriation up, it really needed to.
Reading the introduction I remembered the story of a young man who had a Polynesian tattoo, because Dwayne Johnson's looked cool. He had the misfortune to bump into some Samoan gentlemen who proceeded to give him something of a slapping when he couldn't explain his tattoo's meaning.
Then later, as I read the page about tattooed images of Buddha, I thought, "Hang on! Buddhists are REALLY particular about where images of Buddha are put. Are they ok with Buddha tattoos?"
A quick Google search revealed an article on Tattoodo that informs that while Buddhists have no issue with tattoos in general, there are those who are going to take great offence to non-Buddhists having The Buddha's image etched into non-Buddhist skin. Also, the placement of this tattoo is a sensitive issue. Having this image on a part of the body that might be considered "intimate" is going to cause deep offence and even having it lower down the body, such as on the leg, is also going to cause upset.
The message that you need to understand the culture you are borrowing from wasn't delivered clearly enough for me to notice it.
With the introduction out of the way we turn the page, and we find Love in section one, cleverly entitled, "Love". I was only a few pages into section one when I sighed and decided that this wasn't a book I wanted to read from cover to cover. I mean, it isn't a novel and there is no chronological order that would be spoiled by jumping in and out of different sections or maybe I just wasn't ready for love. So, jump in and out I did and that was when I really started to get something out of The Language of Tattoos.
Thanks to the excellent index I was able to dive into the images that I was really curious about. Part of me wanted to compare notes on what I believed an image meant and what The Language of Tattoos says it means, others I just didn't know what they symbolised. In I went to dragons and then hopped over to Norse mythology, flipped some pages to Native American imagery, off to Celtic designs and so on and so forth. Before you know it, I was ready for Love! Of course, approaching the book in this way almost certainly means there are pages I've missed but I know that if I'm ever curious about the meaning of a particular image I can grab The Language of Tattoos and find out.
Before I sit down to write a review, I read other reviews. I like to see how other people experienced the book and what they took from it and, if there's an aspect I missed and need to go off and have another look to see if I agree or not. I was disappointed to see one reviewer call it a "one reader" another "The perfect coffee table book".
This book is so much more than either of those things. Maybe if you aren't really interested in what the different images symbolise, you'll read through it once and never pick it up again. Maybe you will toss it on your coffee table so your guests can pick it up and have an "Oohhhh I didn't know a carp tattoo changes meaning depending on whether it is swimming up or down!" type moment. Maybe, as I did, you'll find this to be an excellent source of reference and would strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested the cultural history and meaning of the images we so commonly see on the walls of tattoo studios the world over. I would go so far as to say that this book should be in every tattoo shop to serve as a starting point to understanding the images you are considering.
The images are excellent and should be particularly pleasing to those who are fans of the Old School, Neo-traditional and Irezumi styles. The text isn't overly long but it is fascinating with lots of light bulb and "aaah" moments, though I would like to have seen a little more about placement and how that can change the meaning entirely and that those meanings can change over time. The swallow is a fine example of this. Once, swallows indicated the miles a sailor had voyaged, on the back of the hand it meant you had sailed around Cape Horn. Now, a swallow indicates a journey or travel and resilience, all of which the text will tell you. It doesn't, unfortunately, tell you that a swallow on the back of the hand is now more likely to suggest you have been to prison (at least it does where I am from both geographically and chronologically).
So, there you go. I really like The Language of Tattoos (despite a couple of gripes, maybe I just think too much) it is a fiesta of well known "flash" tattoos, the meanings of some you will already know, others you won't and some you think you know but kinda don't. There are some great bits of history and folklore, some myth and some legend and overall, I think it's an excellent reference book for those in the market for a tattoo that says a little bit more than, "I saw it and I thought it was cool!".
Just be aware that you might be wise to do a little more research on your chosen image before you go ahead if you are wanting to avoid saying the wrong thing with it.
I have to admit, however, that I did find myself a little conflicted at times. I am a self-confessed tattoo junkie and one or two of the shots felt as though less would have been more. Had I been choosing which of Abbey So's tattoos to do a full page close up of, I'm afraid the "Meow" situated just above her genitals wouldn't have been it. But what do I know? Christian Saint has been a master of his craft for many years, I guess he knows his art better then I do.
I also found the indexing system laborious, bordering on tedious. Alphabetically listed models (who are also numbered), cross referenced with page numbers and similarly tattoo artists listed in the same A-Z fashion who are in turn cross referenced numerically with the model but alas there is nothing to indicate which artist did which tattoo and these girls have a lot of tattoos. The index is as clumsy as my description of it. I gave up in the end.
I digress, these are minor gripes about a book which is, overall, magnificent in both its content and manufacture. Christian Saint's work is once again more Rolls Royce than Ford Fiesta and I'm quite sure that this won't be the last we see from him. While I personally feel there may be the occasional unnecessary display of genitalia there is still nothing tawdry about their inclusion.
If you love beautiful, tattooed women and you loved "Tattooed Super Models" then you are going to love "Tattooed Beauties". As for me, I'm off to contemplate what has gone wrong with my life when 256 pages of gorgeous women with no clothes on leaves me pissed off at the index.
Jas K. Contentedly grumpy since 1970. Notoriously difficult to please, harder to impress and tireless in the pursuit of the perfection in others that I proudly fail to achieve myself.
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Introducing i/U Ink and its founder, Nick Howard-Lanes. Is this the beginning of the end for shoddy tattooing?
What's The Big Idea?
The big idea, is i/U Ink. Now, tattoo related websites are a dime a dozen (I should know, I own one) surely every angle has been covered. Well, you would think so, but there are holes, gaps in the market, so to speak. i/U Ink aims to fill one of these gaps.
As popular as tattooing has become, tattooing is largely unregulated. Anyone can buy a tattoo machine from the internet for not a lot of money and be tattooing within minutes of its arrival. A lack of training, an absence of talent and poor hygiene are not obstacles to some, they unplug the kettle, plug in the tattoo machine and happily get to work ruining the skin of anyone stupid enough to let them. In fact, all you need to open a "legitimate" tattoo studio is a certificate from your local council to say that your premises are clean (or at least they were on the day they were inspected).
My hope is that one day anyone wanting to tattoo will need to prove that they can, so that they can obtain a licence to tattoo and only using that licence will they be able to obtain a tattoo machine. Until this day, and I'm not going to hold my breath for it to happen, the minefield that is the world of tattooing will still exist. However, Nick's idea could and should provide safe refuge from the minefield.
i/U Ink will provide a database of participating tattoo artists, complete with bio's, location, examples of their work, their preferred style and vitally, for the customer in search of the perfect artist for their next tattoo, the capability to contact and even book with their selected artist. Once the work is done, the customer can then leave a review and a rating. Over time these ratings ensure that the cream rises and, shall we say, the less gifted don't go anywhere.
How does i/U Ink work?
Using the site is just about as easy as it can be. You register as customer (or as a tattoo artist looking for work), you can do this with the one click, Facebook registration or the more traditional quick registration form. Once registered, you log in and away you go. Finding what you're looking for is pretty straight forward, too. Simply type in a location, style or artists name and all the relevant results are returned. These results can then be filtered by distance or by rating and further trimmed by selecting a radius in which you are willing to travel, up to 200 miles.
Once you are happy that you've found the right artist for you, you can contact them, enquire about availability, get a quote for the desired work and ask any other questions that come to mind. Once you're satisfied and you are happy to proceed, you can then book the appointment via the i/U Ink website.
After the tattoo has been done, the clever bit kicks in, only now can you leave a review. As the reviews pile up a real picture of how good that tattoo artist actually is, is created.
Can't I Trust Google or Social Media Reviews?
Most of the time, social media is a great way to gauge how good or bad a business is but, you do need to be aware of some of the tricks that are used to slant reviews and ratings.
Bad reviews can be negated by what I call "friends and family" reviews. One unhappy customer leaves a genuine, justified one star. Friends and family leave five stars and, hey presto! One star becomes four, a bogus score but the stars will not reflect that. Likes and follows can be bought, images can be photo-shopped, cleaned up and out and out stolen from other tattooists. It would take me three days to build a website that suggested I was an amazing tattoo artist, a little longer to get the five stars but in 12 months time, who would know? Until I did a tattoo for them and they saw with their own eyes how not amazing a tattoo by me would be.
Be careful, read the negative reviews first. Are they genuine causes for complaint? Has the studio responded and how did they respond? If they have 20 people complaining about time keeping and response times to enquiries and ten raving about the work, I'd be happier than if they five people complaining about the work and hygiene and 25 unsubstantiated five star reviews.
It's this aspect of i/U ink I perhaps like the most. No tattoo, no review. We are still at the mercy of one individual's opinion but at least it will be a genuine opinion based on an actual experience.
To summarise, I think this is a great idea, I think the tattoo industry needs something like this to help legitimise the good and eventually wash away the bad. The real winners are the customers, a means of finding what they want, where they want it and with real reviews to support their decision which ever way they decide to go.
I wish Nick well with his venture and genuinely hope that one day i/U Ink will be as important to the tattoo world as Trip Advisor is to travellers, it just won't be as funny.
Social media is full of them. Beautiful women with tattoos taking selfies and showing off their art and, very often, as much of their tattooed bodies as the host site will allow. Self-professed models in search of likes, shares and followers. I find it all a bit tiresome. Three hundred selfies and 50,000 followers does not a model make.
However, this does tell us one thing, if nothing else. There are an awful lot of guys who want to look at beautiful women with tattoos, though how many are admiring the art before the arse is another question.
If only they weren’t all the same. If only it wasn’t so tediously predictable. If only there was actually some artistic merit to the photography to go with the artistic merit of the skin.
Which brings me to Christian Saint.
Christian Saint is a photographer from Brooklyn, New York with 20 years of commercial photography experience under his belt. Celebrities, fine art and professional advertisements count among the areas he has worked and in 2015 he turned his lenses toward this very area. Beautiful, tattooed women…wearing not much if anything.
His book “Tattoo Super Models” published by Goliath Books, was launched and with it came a challenge to the conventional wisdom that tattooed women were some how unattractive. Well, to say he challenged that notion is an understatement…he smashed it.
Those of a certain age will remember the famous Pirelli Calendars…twelve months of naked women but naked women tastefully done. Pirelli didn’t do tacky and neither does Christian Saint. His images are sexy without being sleazy, they are alluring in a way that doesn’t have you stuffing the book under a cushion if somebody walks in the room. The women are naked, they are heavily tattooed, they are beautiful but then so is the photography. This is photographic art as it should be. A photograph of a naked woman can be sexy without leaving you needing to rush off somewhere quiet for five minutes (you know what I mean, chaps!).
“Tattooed Super Models” was a thing of beauty, an artistic feast. You could leave this on the coffee table and not panic if your mum/wife/girlfriend picked it up.
Three years on and Christian has been at it again. Next month sees the launch of his new book, “Tattooed Beauties”, also published by Goliath Books. The title is one of those, “it does what it says on the tin” things and I expect more of the same but obviously different. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to review the finished article (because I have a professional interest, you understand, not because a book full naked tattooed women is my thing..ahem, cough).
Naked women have fascinated the art world as long as there have been paint brushes, sculptors’ chisels, pencils and cameras and, regardless of the increasingly sensitive and politically correct world we abide in, they always will. There will always be the Hugh Hefners of the world treading the line between art and titillation and there will always be those willing to throw art out of the window and focus purely on sleaze.
It all depends on whether you want a 1984 Ford Fiesta or a Rolls Royce…The Daily Sport or Christian Saint. As with everything else in world you get what you pay for and, personally, I prefer high class over low cost.
Christian Saint’s work is not a 1984 Ford Fiesta.
I'm pleased to introduce the first guest blogger to Tattisfaction; J Michael Taylor of Black Amethyst Tattoo Gallery in St Petersburg, Florida. Hopefully, he'll become a regular contributor as I'm pretty excited about getting not only the insight of somebody from the other side of the tattoo machine but also the other side of the Atlantic, too.
Tattoos That Change Lives
Tattooing is a versatile art that has long been used in covering scars and blemishes. Getting a tattoo can be very life changing for some people with conditions that undermine their self-confidence and self-esteem. This body art can be very helpful for people who have suffered skin damage by burning. Tattoos are also ideal for covering scars from different wounds including surgery. Recently, this art has been used very creatively to help breast cancer survivors cover the scars of mastectomy. This wonderful art is helping thousands of people transform their lives for the better.
Popular designs used to cover breast cancer surgery scars include:
• Bra cup designs – What better way to cover up than with what people would expect to see? Bra tattoos take the form of bra shape. To cover a larger area, the tattoo artist will extend the design to the back just like a normal bra strap would. This tattoo design can be very concealing when it is well done.
• Flower designs - The rose flower motif is the most popular though there are several other flower designs. The tattoo artist tricks the eye into looking at the flower growing up from the belly to a beautiful blossom at the edge of the collarbone. The focal point is shifted away from the scar on the breast area.
• Tribal motifs – These tattoo designs are elaborate and bold, which makes them good for covering up bigger scars. Native American designs and Maori style tattoos are popular and do the concealment job very well.
• Vines and tendrils – Just like vines growing on a wall, a tattoo artist can replicate these designs very well extending from the chest area to the belly and onwards to the lower back. The good thing with tendril and vines designs is that the tattoo artist has more room to experiment with color making them beautiful but not garish and shouting for attention.
Breast cancer survivors deserve a pat on the back for their resilience and courage. The pink ribbon is the universal symbol for this achievement as well as an awareness of this scourge. Some women will prefer to have this ribbon on their scars. The pink ribbon tattoo can be proudly worn on the upper arm or a sleeve as well. The good thing is that it can be made small or big to fit different parts of the body.
Using tattoos to cover scars is a creative way that can be very powerful in making people feel beautiful, whole and with renewed confidence. It is definitely something more tattoo artists should be doing.
A little over a year ago Ink inspired me to write my first ever book review so I've been champing at the bit to get my hands on the follow up and I wasn't disappointed. That said, it's taken me longer to work out how to review it than it did to read it.
If you've read Ink (and if you haven't why haven't you?!) you'll know about Leora Flint, the confused teen-aged, tattoo prodigy and her struggles with faith, trust, friendship, a quietly oppressive government and her own somewhat shrouded heritage. Leora has a lot on her plate, right now. In Spark (and I'll try not to spoil things too much) these struggles continue and when I say continue, I mean "get worse".
We resume to find Leora tramping through the woods, she knows where she's going but she doesn't know where it is.
Of course, I could tell you where she's going but that would spoil it. In fact there isn't too much I can tell you about Spark without spoiling something so.....hmmmmm. What do I say?
There's political intrigue and skulduggery, a young girl taken out of her comfort zone, conflict, sabotage, rebellion, double-dealing, betrayal, redemption, murder, acts of heroism and acts of war. It's well worth a read, that much I will say.
Spark is a very thought provoking book, at different parts of the book I was put in mind of Monty Python's The Life of Brian, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Soul of a Butterfly, by Muhammad and Hana Ali, without the book ever directly being remotely similar to any of them.
Alice Broadway's "slow burning" style reminded me of The Picture of Dorian Gray (a book I love) in that she keeps you turning pages even when very little seems to be happening. Every page teases you expertly onto the next, each page gently building towards the cliff hanger of an ending that isn't happy with just one twist.
There is no need for an all action, break necked pace here. Leora is still growing as a person, still developing, still learning that every story has more than one side. Of course, Alice could have given us more action, certain events within the book could have been given more graphic detail but I feel had she done this we would could have lost sight about what this book is really about, or at least what I believe it's really about.
Leora is a teenager and while she may be physically mature and artistically gifted she is still just a child, in need of guidance. As we discovered in Ink, her father has died, her mother isn't actually her mother and she's desperate to find out about the woman who did bring her into the world. Leora is naive and pliable, easily manipulated and exploited. She yearns to fit in, to belong. This is just a young girl, trying to find her place in the world but has no idea who to trust in helping her find that place and she inevitably makes mistakes along the way.
In addition to all of these quite normal teen emotions, she finds that the belief system that has moulded her opinions is fundamentally flawed, the fabled heroes of the stories she was raised with are the villains of ever so similar yet strikingly different stories told elsewhere. While Leora struggles with her evaluation of the faith she grew up in and begins to wonder if this new version of events might be more suited, she finds that this new belief system is also flawed.
Is everyone following their own version of the same thing, as Muhammad Ali believed? Was there a moment when, just as there was in The Life of Brian, a small event that caused a massive shift in belief? Was it something as simple as Brian Cohen giving away a gourd or losing a shoe that caused the people in Leora's world to follow the way of the Marked or the Blanks? Should they all do as Spike Milligan did, after Brian Cohen's followers went their separate ways, and just wander off to find their own truth?
Many of the stories told by the Blanks and the Marked lean on well known fairy stories, maybe that in itself is part of the dilemma for all of us. Is religion the truth or is it just a collection of fairy stories packaged as the truth? I don't know and neither does Leora Flint.
Am I just reading too much into what is, after all, "just" a book for young adults?
Ink and Spark are in someways representative of this debate, they are the same story but they are not the same. When I reviewed Ink, I called it a, "very clever book", Spark is no less intelligent but it is far more thought provoking than it's predecessor, yet Alice Broadway has managed to provoke thought without forcing the idea that you should think down your throat.
That's a pretty neat trick, if you ask me.
You can get Ink and Spark via my Amazon affiliate links above. Go, on....treat yourself.
Well it's been a while since I blogged a blog so when I was approached by Fern Kenney, of Leicester University's Feminist Society, about a cross-promotion opportunity for tattisfaction.co.uk and the tattoo competition she is running to celebrate International Women's Day, I thought, "I've never done that before....why not?"
Cutting a long story short, she asked me to judge the competition. Well, at that point panic set in....Do I know enough to judge a tattoo competition? erm.............not really, I'm just a hard to impress, grumpy, old man with tattoos and a website. So, I called in some favours, did some begging and ultimately managed to rope in two incredibly talented young women to help me out, but more about them later.
As a 47 year old bloke, I apologise in advance for my ignorance.
Thursday March the 8th is International Women's Day (IWD), for those who aren't familiar with it, IWD is "global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity"
To mark this day of celebration Fern and her friends over at the University of Leicester's Feminist Society have decided to run a tattoo competition to demonstrate that any stigma attached to women for having tattoos is wrong and is disappearing. Fern wanted to give the tattooed women of Leicester University an opportunity to share their tattoos and the stories behind them.
This "double-barrelled" competition is open to all self-identifying women who are currently students at Leicester University.
The first "barrel" will be judged by myself, my tattooist and best mate Laura TCB of Voodoo Tattoo in Warrington and tattisfaction.co.uk's first Featured Artist, Libby Wells currently of Needlework in Lightwater (mostly by Laura and Libby if I'm honest). You can enter by contacting Fern via the University of Leicester's Feminist Society Facebook page (the link is in the pictures). All you have to do is send a photograph of your tattoo to Fern (with or without a background story, that's up to you) and you're in. Free, Gratis and for nothing.
The winner will be notified by Fern in due course.
So what do you win?
The lucky winner will get what every tattoo nut wants...free tattoo time!
Tattoo 2000 in Leicester have kindly donated a £50 voucher so that the winner can take themselves off and have their fix of ink related discomfort without having to worry about the money. So, come on ladies, share your tattoos they might just win you another one.
The second "barrel" is an entirely new concept to me, you can actually enter this tattoo competition even if you haven't got a tattoo.
Fern is also looking for the best feminist tattoo design, so this is your chance to get in touch with your artistic side and design a new feminist tattoo. Fern and the ladies at the UoL Feminist Society will pick a winner who will receive some (I believe) original artwork kindly donated by EmJay Tattoo in Leicester.
So that's it, if you're interested in entering or just want some more information, get in touch with Fern via Facebook. The competition closes on Friday March 9th so you need to get cracking.
About the Collaborators
Fern Kenney - The Instigator
Fern is a second year Sociology student at the University of Leicester and is the Feminist Society's Publicist. While she has no tattoos herself, she does see them in her future. Fern's fascination with tattoos stems from her father's extensive collection and from watching Kat Von D on LA Ink. Fern had ambitions to become a tattooist herself but says that the dream went out of the window when she accepted that she can't draw (I feel your pain, Fern).
Fern had the idea to run a tattoo competition after seeing a picture of an elderly woman, "she looks bad ass!", thought Fern. That photograph got Fern to thinking about how many women she knows who have tattoos that don't fit the stereotype of "inked women" and before you can say, "Bob's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt".....the first University of Leicester Feminist Society tattoo competition was born.
Laura TCB - Judge
Laura is a very talented tattoo artist with a background in graphic design. Fourteen years ago she turned her hand to tattooing and never looked back. She's currently part of the team over at Voodoo Tattoo in Warrington, owned by the award winning Paul Saunders (son of Northern tattoo legend Saz Saunders). Laura is an incredibly versatile artist, my best mate and the artist I now trust all of my tattoos to, racking up over 40 hours in her company while she jabs with with needles.
I particularly love her colour work (to the point of spending 24 hours and a lot of money on getting her work on my back), she's a cover-up specialist and an accomplished belly dancer, not that that will help much here.
Libby Wells - Judge
Libby was the first and sadly, so far only, artist to take up the tattisfaction.co.uk offer of free promotional work for tattoo artists. Lucky me! She's brilliant! Libby comes from a very artistic family and, fortunately for people who prefer their art in their skin, she picked up a tattoo machine and the rest is history.
In addition to being a very talented tattoo artist, Libby is a dab hand with a brush, paint and canvas. I love her black and grey work in particular and I'm still struggling to find an artist who does birds better than Libby.
Jason K (AKA Me) - Grumpy old git/Middle man
Having almost zero artistic ability, I find myself working in the sales department of a marketing company. I've been a tattoo nut since the lick 'em and stick 'em days of Bazooka Bubble Gum and became a keen student of tattoo history and have spent 50+ hours (I reckon) slowly turning my pale Irish skin blue and green and red and you get the picture.
I put this site together to hopefully give some assistance to those of virgin skin, for whom getting that first tattoo can be a pretty daunting task. The aim being to steer people away from bad tattooists and bad tattoos. I live in hope.
Once upon a Saturday afternoon in 1987 a 17 year old Psychobilly sat on the 632 bus, his hair stuck up in an outrageous quiff, his leather jacket battered, his jeans ripped, a Marlboro hanging from his mouth and a newly acquired copy of the 1984 album "Stampede" by The Meteors in his hands.
As he sat examining the sleeve of his new acquisition (in a way that only people over a certain age will remember) he read the immortal words, , "Cheers to Lal Hardy for providing the tattoos". He decided that day, that one day, he'd get himself to London to get tattooed by the same guy as The Meteors' lead singer, Paul Fenech.
Well, that never happened but....
...thirty years later, an email arrived via his website asking if he'd be willing to accept a copy of Lal Hardy's new book and do a review for it. I didn't need asking twice.
So enough of the preamble...Tattoo: An Illustrated Miscellany, is it any good? You bet your arse it is!
I have to admit, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, books filled with great tattoo work are ten a penny and I wasn't sure that I'd be impressed with yet another, even if it did have Lal Hardy's name on it. To my joy, I found that that is exactly what "Tattoo: An Illustrated Miscellany" isn't.
So what is it, exactly?
Well, it's difficult to be exact about a miscellany because...well, it's a miscellany. The best way I can describe it is that, it's a tattoo museum in book form, if you love tattoos, love history and find fascination in curiosities then you will love this book. I find myself guilty as charged on all four counts.
We begin with a foreword by Essex University's heavily tattooed Dr Matt Lodder. Dr Lodder is, in his own right, a fascinating guy and one of the world's leading authorities on the history of tattooing and, as such, is the perfect person to introduce us to Lal Hardy's new book.
The rest of the book is a treasure of previously unpublished photographs of tattoo related collectibles, artifacts, equipment and novelties gathered together by Lal and other collectors of tattooing history such as Dutch Master, Henk Schiffmacher (AKA Hanky Panky) among others.
Everything you can imagine is in here and a good few things you wouldn't have imagined. Of course, there are tattoo machines and a variety of tools used to apply tattoos before the advent of electricity. There are toys, flyers, fan cards, cigarette cards, and badges. You will find autographs, a collection of old "lick and stick" tattoos from bubble gum, (I even remember applying some of them back in the day) and there are even instructions on how to tattoo your chinchilla.
All of this is neatly divided into short pictorial chapters, each with a short introduction or anecdote from Lal Hardy. I have spent hours slowly and carefully poring over the pictures, each of which has a usually fascinating explanation of what it depicts or why that particular item should be considered historically important to the tattoo world.
I can't overstate how much I love this book, the quality of the finish is superb, it not only looks good, it feels good in your hands. The written parts of each chapter are just long enough to keep your interest and not long enough to have you abandoning it half way through to look at the pictures....and it is the pictures that had me enthralled throughout and to which I keep returning.
If you have any interest in tattoos, tattooing and how the art got to where it is today you should get yourself a copy before you do anything else.
As for me? I'm off to buy a chinchilla !
Tattoo: An Illustrated Miscellany by Lal Hardy yours for a measly £20.
Well this is a first! I'm reviewing a book!
That means that for the first time in a long time I've actually read a book. The book in question was "Ink" by Alice Broadway and I've been looking forward to this one for a while. A novel about tattoos? Of course I'm going to be all over that. "Ink" isn't what I expected, not what I expected at all but, you know what? That's a good thing!
So....anyway...away we go!
Well first off, this is one good looking book. Quite possibly the best looking book I've read but should we, given the story it contains, judge a book by it's cover?
Secondly, at 46 I am a long way from the target demographic that this novel is aimed at. Young adult, I am not. That said, I really enjoyed this book, loved it in parts, bemused by it in others and was genuinely surprised by the ending. So what's it all about?
"Ink" is the story of Leora Flint, a teenage girl coming to terms with the passing of her father, final exams and the start of her working life. All very straightforward, teen angst, grief and stress, or so you would think.
However, Leora lives in a Saintstone and Saintstone isn't like other places. In the world that Leora lives each and every inhabitant is tattooed, their life's successes and failures, their age, their family history, everything even their name (which is tattooed at birth)...all documented and immortalised in "marks" in their skin and many of these marks are obligatory, state approved tattoos. Of course, the residents can continue their own story with designs of their own, but the basics? They are determined by the state.
The "Marked" live happy lives, they are kind and truthful, honest and caring. There is almost no crime, the future is mapped out for them, their skills assessed and their place in society determined by the time they leave school.
When the good folk of Saintstone die, their story is flayed from their body and turned in to the pages of their book. This book and the tale of the soul who owned it are then "weighed" to determine how good or bad the soul was. The good books go back to the family to be placed in their libraries, their stories there to be re-read and remembered for all time, the bad books are tossed into the fires of judgement and destroyed, their owners doomed to become "The Forgotten".
The only cloud in the idyllic Saintstone sky is the one they call "Blanks".
"Blanks" are long since banished, wholly despicable, murderous, child stealing terrorists who have no marks and who are a constant threat to the Saintstone way of life. At least that's the official line.
It is in this environment that the incredibly gifted but shy, Leora embarks on an emotional journey of discovery, nothing in her life is at it seems. Truth and fiction blur, everything and everyone she has known is not quite what their tattooed stories suggest. Everything she has believed comes into question, her very faith is shaken and her very own life is something very different from the one she knew.
Fans of the Divergent series, Hunger Games and Maze Runner will find a comfortable familiarity in "Ink", itself the first part of what will be a trilogy. I for one would look forward to seeing "Ink" on the big screen.
Where "Ink" differs from it's predecessors is that it lacks the all action battles, the acrobatics and the heroine, while clearly destined for greatness of some sort in the future, displays little more than being a confused teen for the most part. Talented, smart and a little awkward, Leora is a champion for geeks everywhere and she does it all without the grace of her more famous counterparts.
Yet, when she does eventually open her wings to fly, boy does she fly!
If you want to know more, read the book. I'm not going to spoil it for you by spilling the beans on the tale itself. It is worth the read and that's all I have to say about that.
I found some parts of the book quite predictable but I say this more because I'm thirty years older than the target demographic rather than because the book is predictable (if that makes sense). The stories taken from Marked faith lean very heavily on well known fairy stories and famous mythology, but I suspect there is a message in this fact rather than a lack of creativity, as some other reviews I've read have suggested. The tale that tells the story of how the Marked and the Blanks came into being isn't one I recognise and, if it is original, the Brothers Grimm would have been very proud of it.
Alice Broadway tells a great story, it is clever in it's originality but it has the comfortable feeling of familiar ground. There is political intrigue, religious doctrine and an "Inker" who reads minds (much like my tattooist seems to read mine...hang on...she's called Laura!). My own struggle to understand Faith and religion and the difference between the two are mirrored in Leora. The sabre rattling speeches of Enoch Powell, Donald Trump and others of their ilk would find a happy home among the leadership of the Marked and the real or imagined shadow of the Blanks could just as easily be the spectre of Islam that, as we are so frequently reminded, looms over the West.
For me, "Ink" was a refreshing change, the lack of "action scenes", in my opinion, allows the reader to know more about who Leora is, rather then what she can do. It allows us to focus on her emotional development rather than her development of martial arts. We've all seen the feeble young girl get knocked out only to avenge the defeat in spectacular fashion. She isn't Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior, not yet at least, unlike Katniss and Tris, I won't have to use Google to remember her name. What ever the Scales say when the time comes, Leora Flint will be remembered.
"Ink" is an incredibly clever book.
Get "Ink" by Alice Broadway by clicking the link. You might just thank me for it.
This could be the ultimate demonstration of love and trust or maybe just a demonstration of how nuts you are. Whatever it is, it sounds like it will make for good viewing.
At the moment Gobstopper TV are casting for a new TV show to be filmed at the end of November and early December in which friends, family and lovers entrust the design of their next tattoo to each other.
The details are all a bit hush hush at the moment but Amy at Gobstopper TV tells me that this new show is for a huge, global TV company and will feature top tattoo artists who can boast "big hitting" clientele.
So, if you are outgoing and have a similarly outgoing friend, family member or significant other and you have a desire not only for your fifteen minutes of fame but a top drawer tattoo, done by a top drawer artist why not drop Amy a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to send a recent photograph of you both and your contact details (oh, don't forget to mention that you saw it on Tattisfaction, it won't help you land a place but it would be nice to know if a Tattisfaction reader got on the show).
More details of the who, when and where will be released in due course and I will update this post as soon as I have more news.
Cheers and good luck.