Monday, 5 August 2013

Back on the Tattoo Trail

A smiling Charlotte taken by Ned Pratt.

I first met Charlotte at the Second Cup at the Avalon Mall where she was working at the time.  When she reached forward to serve me I noticed the tattoo on her forearm.  It was of Alice and Wonderland and the style was early Victorian, without colour.  The simple ink of the tattoo was a perfect fit for the etched print.  In response to my compliment she explained that her tattoo was based on the illustrations for the first edition of the book.  I was completely charmed.  The majority of tattoos that I see on women are of flowers:  bunches of lilies, bouquets of roses.  And the best thing I can say about them is that they are inoffensive.  I just hope their owners have more personality than the tattoos.  Charlotte and her tattoos were in joyful contrast and I knew I wanted to interview her.

Charlotte got her first tattoo when she was 15 and in the company of her mother who got a matching tattoo.  And yes, it was a rose.  The days when a daughter's date with mom was for a manicure have been replaced with a trip to the tattoo artist.  But most shops are pretty rigorous about observing a "legal age" limit and strictly avoid tattooing minors.  I would have to wait until the photo shoot with Ned Pratt to see "the rose" as it was in between her hip and lower back.  But I tell you it was no tramp stamp!  Charlotte had the rose transformed into a vivid sugar skull, as the motif associated with the Mexican Day of the Dead is known.  The skull now features two roses, one in each eye socket and a diamond on its forehead.  The red rose had gone from floral cliché to a ruby red focal point that was ideal for the festive Latin aesthetic.  It was an instance of a good idea by a savvy client executed with style and skill, taken that one step further by a tattoo artist.  And no surprise, it was Dave Munro.

A peacock tattoo is revealed as is another facet of Charlotte's personality.  Photo credit: Ned Pratt

You would be hard pressed to find two more contrasting styles than the understated polite lyricism of the Alice in Wonderland illustrations and the vibrant, folk imagery of the sugar skull.  Think Brahms on one hand and Mariachis on the other.  Throw in a Technicolor peacock ("just because it's pretty") on her thigh and a Bible quote–"the greatest of these is love" in classic script below her collar bone and you begin to get an idea of how complex a character Charlotte is.  She is a manager at Sears, avid reader and a burlesque dancer to scratch the surface.  At first I exclaimed to her that the tattoos looked like a study in controlled schizophrenia.  Later, I came to realize that they were complementary facets of a multidimensional-character more akin to the twists and turns of a good plot in a novel.  The other way to regard the tattoos is that they mark different points in her personal timeline, the progressive spiral of her biography.  Life rarely travels in a straight line.

In short, Charlotte is not a conventional person.  Why should her tattoos be conventional –especially when considered together?

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