Monday, 11 February 2013

Craft and the blonde bitch goddess

Part of my fascination with tattoos started in 2008 when I encountered a German artist who was tattooing pigs with images from religious art and then putting the pigs up for auction.

Why do we expect things to go as planned?  Each week I start out with a work plan:  I plan the work and then work the plan.  If I can screen out the distractions, I usually do a good job of meeting deadlines.  In my life there are a wide variety of short term and long-term deadlines.

E-mail and phone calls are definitely distractions and with a certain project mine have definitely gotten more colorful than previously.  I have received messages with subject headings such as: "I can feel your sizzle", "another town to paint red" or "your king-size bed is booked" in reference to a new assignment, I have been referred to as "the Highway to Hell girl" and my all time favorite "blonde bitch goddess".  If this doesn't sound like your usual fine craft goings-on you'd be right.

For several months now, I have been talking, thinking and investigating tattooing.  I am very taken with the craft and narrative behind the contemporary practice of tattoo.  Here in Newfoundland, tattoo has been associated with sailors, soldiers and prisoners.  Where I come from in Quebec, the association has often been with bikers.  Somehow, I never dreamed I'd be interviewing Hell's Angels in the name of craft but there you go:  never say never.

It is clear to me that tattooing has made the transition from being part of the fringes of society to the mainstream.  A quick troll through the TV channels: Miami Ink, Ink Masters, Tattoo Nightmares and more makes it plain.  And when I heard on the Dragon's Den that there were currently more tattoo parlors in the United States than Star Buck's, I was convinced that tattooing had reached a new height in the contemporary psyche. Tattoo Life has become part of my required reading.
 I believe this tattoo is worn by Dolly Cool Clare in the U.K.  Feltmaker Trine Schioldan sent me a whole raft of craft related tattoo images.  Thanks!

The joke has become if you want to find Gloria in a crowded place just look for the line up of men taking their clothes off.  When I was at this past summer's Folk Festival in downtown St. John's I asked lady potter Maaike Charron if I could see her medieval-inspired tattoo.  Both she and I studied at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies in Toronto at one point.  Maaike obliged me and to my surprise it sparked a chain reaction that was instantaneous. Before I knew it there was a line up of strangers quite literally taking off their clothes to show me their ink.  I remember looking up from the craft tent and seeing the line up and thinking, "I will never make it to the beer tent before closing time."

Why does someone make the commitment of using their body as a canvas?  How do they choose their designs?  How do the designs reflect taste and society?  Where do they choose to put it?  Tattoos are both private and public and the narratives are endlessly engaging.  I've talked with young men who have brought their own drawings to ink masters and it appears that some are even doing their own inking in a version of the Do-It-Yourself movement.  I think I've stumbled into an area of contemporary craft with huge accessibility.  Think street culture or graffiti and sketching meets embroidery.  My imagination spins with how the show might look, the combination of wall-hung images and living models.  The programming has endless possibilities…

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