Art that adorns the flesh…
By this point, you’d either have to be living in a cave somewhere in a desert or completely devoid of all your senses to not have seen the ice bucket challenge. It’s everywhere. Celebrities and regular Joes alike take the challenge, which is a charitable dousing in ice cold water, for ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease research. Lots of money is being raised for a very serious illness and that is a truly great thing. Not too many people would argue with that, right?
Well, yes and no. Some people are critical of the fact that the challenge uses a lot of water while so many people around the world die each year of thirst and have no access to clean drinkable water. When you consider people sitting in countries with heavily polluted water streams while the rest of the world tosses around clean drinking water for kicks, I can see the point in the criticism. I’m not sure of the exact number of people who die each year from thirst, but you can look it up if you’re so inclined – it’s not that hard to find and I’m trying to swing this back around to tattoo before I lose your attention. Sound good? Perfect.
Anyway, yesterday in my post I happened to mention tattoo, er, enthusiast Matthew Whelan. Matthew is most recently known by his legal name King of Ink Land King Body Art the Extreme Ink-ite and his tattoos are quite extensive. King of Ink (I’m going to just refer to him by this name from now on for the sake of brevity), is one of those aforementioned people who feels that water is a very important life source for human beings and other living things and that the people who are denied it should be considered. And so, instead of taking an ice bucket challenge and dousing himself in water for ALS, King of Ink had a tattoo of an ice bucket inked just below his hairline for the charity Water Aid. He said:
‘“While I have most respect for people donating to charity, Water Aid is a fantastic cause and I’m sure there are many people who struggle to access clean water and would not understand the challenge.’
I personally am of the opinion that any form of charity for any sort of worthy cause is a great and noble thing. King of Ink might take a bit of flack for not taking part in the ice bucket challenge, but he’s branching out and doing something different for a very important cause. His actions are going to open the eyes of many people and for that I think he’s doing something really positive. It would be interesting to see people take up his challenge and begin getting tattoos of ice buckets, but I doubt that is going to happen. At any rate, King of Ink’s own tattooed appearance and confidence to push things in another, interesting direction is a great help for the Water Aid charity. Who knows, maybe his example is just what you’ve been waiting for. Go on out there and get a tattoo and challenge someone else for charity – any charity, whichever one works best for you. Or not…
Either way, well done King Ink!
Although there are currently no laws in place in any country that I can think of regarding the legalities surrounding tattoo discrimination, it’s good to see the issue getting some press. This piece recently appeared on the BBC News website and discusses in depth the kind of situation that many employees and employers are facing regarding tattoo. In England, it is not currently illegal to fire someone or refuse them work for having visible tattoos. However, given a little more time and perseverance from the likes of people like Matthew Whelan (or if you prefer to address him by his legal name: King of Ink Land King Body Art the Extreme Ink-Ite), that could all change in the near future.
Whelan has headed up a campaign to protect the employment status of people with tattoos, piercings and other body art modifications. His line of reasoning for doing this is incredibly simple:
‘”If someone can do a job, they should be equal with the next person who has the same CV,” he says.
Tattoos are more than simply a lifestyle choice, he argues – they are an expression of someone’s identity just as much as their religion or other beliefs.
“I was nine when I knew I wanted them,” he says. “People who are modified have an identity because of their image and who they are.”‘
I completely agree with Whelan because what he is saying makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is preventing a fully qualified person from doing a job simply because they happen to have tattoos. Yes, it is well within the rights of an employer to make the final decision as to who will or won’t be working for them. Many employers do not see being tattooed as an appropriate look for places of business. To read this or to hear someone say this might even make a bit of sense. After all, maybe someone with neck tattoos would seem out of place in a law office or an accounting firm. But scratch at the surface of this so-called truth and there’s numerous questions. For example, why does someone being out of place mean that they can’t do their job just as well as anyone else? Physical appearance makes absolutely no difference as to the degree in which someone can perform their job. If the greatest doctor in the world were to one day go out and get completely covered in tattoos, would that make his ability as a doctor any less credible? No, it wouldn’t. The only thing that would change would be people’s perceptions of the doctor and those perceptions would not be based in fact, they would simply be based in prejudice.
Some would argue that having a tattooed employee doesn’t reflect well on the business that said employee works for. Okay, I can see that as a complaint. I don’t however, think that it is a valid complaint. Tattoos are not dirty, nor do they make a person slovenly or unkempt. Those are merely associations that people have placed on the idea of a tattoo, which is not a reality. A tattoo is ink on flesh so it obviously cannot be moved or smudged or made to look any different than it was when it was first inked into the flesh. A person’s hair or complexion or clothing can be dirty, slovenly or unkempt – not the permanent ink on their flesh. The idea of tattoo not being appropriate within the confines of “serious” public avenues of commerce is no more than an idea – a concept that Western society has allowed itself to be told again and again until it became a truth. That does not mean that it is a truth, however. We have simply trained ourselves to believe in something. Just as we have trained ourselves to believe it, we can untrain ourselves out of believing it. Instead, we can and should focus on training ourselves to believe that a person’s tattoos do not lessen the calibre or moral fibre of that person.
‘Employers – especially those seeking specialist skills – may find they can’t afford to exclude talent. In an effort to tackle a recruitment shortfall, the British Army is reported to be considering relaxing its rules to allow tattoos on the face, neck and hands.’
And that’s the way the future is headed, so let’s all just deal with it. Tattoo isn’t going away, nor are the people who are tattooed. Getting past the insignificant fact that some prospective employees will have tattoos and some won’t is only going to make our societies better places. I for one think it’s high time that we stopped caring so much about what people look like and focus instead on what kind of a person they prove themselves to be. So like I said, it’s great to see this issue getting some media attention and I am confident that it will only be a matter of time – perhaps longer than many of us would like – before discriminating against someone for their tattoos in a place of business is a thing of the past.
One of the great things about tattoo is how diverse the artists who make it their living inking those lovely words and images onto their customer’s flesh are. Any time that I can get a little more insight into a particular tattoo artist the better. In this instance, I came across a great little doc on tattooist Bill German. From his own tattoos to his struggle with his parents, we get a real chance to better understand who he is as an artist and what his choices mean to him. Look:
What’s up everyone? I’m not much of a Metallica fan, but I’m sure many of you out there are. I came across this video of Metallica frontman James Hetfield talking about his tattoos and I thought it might interest some of you (even those of you who don’t care about Metallica). Always cool to see people open up and talk frankly about their tattoos.
Tattooist Boog Star breaks down what motivates him, who he is as an artist and how he sees the world around himself.
We’ve all seen a lot of different tattoo trends throughout the years. If I’m being frank (and I am), they all have a couple of things in common: they all suck and like all trends, they all eventually go the way of the dinosaur. I’ve written pretty extensively on this site about the mere concept of tattoo being seen as a trend and how that concept in itself has got it all wrong. A trend is something that is meant to be brief, something that rises and rises in popularity for a short period of time before ultimately disappearing. Can you therefore think of anything more directly at odds with tattoo than a trend? Nothing permanent should ever be considered a trend and I would be well wary of anyone who tries to convince you otherwise.
Despite this wariness of trends and their relation to tattoo, there is no shortage of people who are perfectly fine with trying to keep up with the impossible task of always staying on top of the latest big thing. The end result is that things go to rather stupid lengths to try and remain unique. The latest of these sorts of endeavours that I have seen comes from India. The city of Gurgaon is currently experiencing a rise in people wanting to get dental tattoos. What exactly is a dental tattoo? It’s pretty straightforward:
Now, I’m hopeful that I’m not alone in thinking that this looks like utter crap. I guess it would depend greatly on who the tattoo artist is that designs the tooth, because going by whoever designed the tooth in the above photo, I’m very far from being convinced that this is a good idea. I guess if it was done by the right people, it could potentially look quite interesting. And I also guess that the best thing about this concept is that it isn’t permanent and can be removed when the bearer gets tired of it. Still, regulating tattoo to a fashion accessory is not at all what tattoo is about. For some people however, this is exactly what tattoo is about. These are also the same people as 23-year old Lakshita who said that tattoos have started to “bore her”. Uh-oh! Sad trombone for you, Lakshita. I guess you’ll just have to keep chasing that elusive thrill of having something that no one else has – for this month, at least.
I’m sure that this will end up growing in popularity and with time and said popularity, it will likely become much more precise. At the very least, the ease of of trends such as this provides people who would otherwise hook themselves up with celtic or barbed wire armbands or ice cream cone neck tattoos with exactly what they crave: the ability to get bored and change things up. Lucky them.