Art that adorns the flesh…
It’s pretty likely that if you’re here at this blog, reading this post, that you have a special fondness for tattoo. I know how you feel. Yet despite my own love for tattoo, one thing that really pleases me and takes me to that next level of tattoo happiness is when I see people doing something different with their tattoos. At this point, you might be tempted to scoff and say “There’s no such thing as a different tattoo anymore. Everyone has everything.” I disagree. Writing about tattoo provides me with the opportunity to really see what’s out there and learn who’s doing what. One thing that I can tell you, there’s arguably more going on with tattoo right this very moment than there ever has been. Some might see that as a bad thing, but I like to see change (as long as it’s good and positive).
I have to admit that seeing a parent get one of their children’s doodles as a tattoo is not something particularly new to me. I don’t feel it’s reached the point yet however, where it’s entirely common and therefore there’s still something quite unique about it. What I haven’t seen until now is a parent getting tattooed with an ongoing series of their children’s doodles and even having their child help out with the tattooing.
Keith Anderson began getting tattooed with the his son Kai’s drawings when Kai was four years old. Every year, Keith selects a drawing and has it inked on to his flesh. He’s had three different tattoo artists aid thus far in this artistic and nostalgic pursuit.
‘So far, Keith has accumulated a daisy, Kai’s name, a house, a maple leaf with “C” for Canada, a seahorse, and stained glass. According to Anderson, the next tattoo will likely be a sword from a drawing Kai made this past Christmas.’
And yes, Kai has actually helped out with the work on his dad, though to what degree, the article does not say. I’m not really sure of the legalities of having a child tattoo his dad, but I mean, if Keith wants his son to contribute directly to the artwork a little, then so be it. I’m sure Kai wasn’t responsible for tattooing his father entirely from beginning to end. I think the best thing about this is how Keith can take a part of his son’s childhood and physically add it to his own life and body. By getting tattooed with Kai’s drawings, Keith will never be without the reminder of Kai and the impact of this on his life. Kids grow up fast and there aren’t many parents out there who are able to have such a lasting memory of that time when their child was a child. Good on you, Keith and best of luck with the tattoo collection!
Not sure if you remember this or not, but everyone kind of went a little crazy back in December when the Seth Rogen and James Franco film The Interview was pulled from theatres because of so-called threats from North Korea. The film, which later became available for download online, deals with the assassination of Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. If you’ve never seen The Interview, I wouldn’t say that you’re really missing out on too much. Still, it put a comical spin on what life could be like in the rogue nation state.
As it turns out, in real life North Koreans like all kinds of things that you and I might like, even tattoo. This article from The Guardian takes a look at how tattoo has been and continues to be popular with North Korean men. And why shouldn’t it be? Too often people get caught up believing things about others based on information that isn’t accurate or information that doesn’t consider the individual. The sole difference between tattoo in North Korea and tattoo in the rest of the world is that tattoo in North Korea is used to praise their nation and their leader. Women in North Korea who get tattooed are looked down upon, but is that really so different than many other places on this planet? I’d say women being shamed for getting tattooed is a pretty common (not to mention unfortunate) reality no matter where you go, no matter how free of a society that you live in.
“There were plenty [of phrases] to choose from, like: Defend the Fatherland! Victory! and Battle! My father and uncle both have tattoos on their upper arms and biceps. They have ‘one against one hundred’ on their arms, to show how they could kill a hundred enemies in battle.”
Not all tattoos are political either, although they do tend to be the most common. It seems that in North Korea tattoos can come in a variety of forms, though there is one form that is completely off limits. No one is permitted any imagery whatsoever of Kim Jong-un or any of the family members.
Absent from the list of desired images, however, is anything associated with the Kim dynasty. Having a picture of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s smiling face emblazoned on your bicep would lead to swift punishment for all involved; while embodying the state with tattoos of government-approved images is tolerated, images of the ruling family are sacrosanct. The state holds the monopoly on the reproduction of such iconography.
Perhaps North Korea’s concept of what a tattoo is or should be isn’t the same as yours or mine and the quality of a North Korean tattoo likely wouldn’t be the best; tattoo ink and needles are difficult to come by and ever since sanctions were introduced against the DPRK, supplies like medical swabs have also not been consistently available. Regardless of its limitations and restrictions, seeing that tattoo is alive and well in a place like North Korea only further strengthens my belief that no matter where you go or how removed you are from what you might feel is the norm, tattoo exists. And if tattoo can exist there, then the desire to create, the desire to live and the desire to be human thrives, no matter how small.
Okay, I realised that with these recents videos I’ve been on something of an Asian tattoo vibe. I figure why mess with that? Here are the remaining two parts to that Mutsuo interview.
Check it out kid: it’s Mutsuo from Osaka, Japan.
Here we go folks, the last best of the month collection for 2014! Hope you enjoy.
There is passion in tattoo. Indeed, tattoo has arguably some of the most passionate levels of devotion to be found in any art form or craft out there. People who get tattooed differ – some just get tattooed out of a spur of the moment thing without thinking anything over. The regret usually surfaces several years later. A lot of those who get tattooed however, plan it out and seek out great tattooists because of the reputations these artists have. A lot of people will travel thousands of miles or kilometres to get that perfect tattoo and that dedication itself is a true form of passion. Then you have the tattooists themselves who spend years – lifetimes, even – honing their skills and learning about the craft that they so dearly love. The passions encompassed within tattoo are not easy to shake off or dismiss and I wouldn’t recommend even trying it. When people tangle with tattoo without first really knowing what they’re getting into, there can be problems.
And by problems, I mean enraging the very people who understand and strive to keep tattoo the mentored craft that it is. This past month in Ottawa, Canada, Algonquin College learned the hard way not to mess with what you likely don’t understand. The college was offering up a new programme to prospective students, specifically a tattoo artistry programme that would equip students to enter the tattoo industry upon graduation. The programme would be an alternative to the time honoured tradition of internships that tattoo has always based itself upon. According to David Fairbanks, a representative for the Algonquin hospitality and tourism department, the programme follows the “existing three to five year apprenticeship model.”
If you find it hard to believe that a college course could even remotely replicate the tutelage gained from a genuine apprenticeship, then you’re not the only one. Numerous tattoo artists from the area banded to together against what they feel is little more than a cynical cash grab by the college and created an online petition against the programme.
‘Alyssa Iswolsky, who manages the Dalhousie Street studio and helped with petition, told Metro tattooing has historically been handed down from artist to apprentice and is not something that should be taught in a classroom.
“The idea of turning it into a cash grab for Algonquin College is a little bit insulting and a little bit worrisome,” said Iswolsky Monday. “(Graduates) might not find their way into a shop after paying this money.”
Just before giving a customer her first tattoo Monday, tattoo artist Alicia Alderson said that with more than three years’ experience as an apprentice in the industry, she still has a lot to learn.
“Apprenticeship has always been the way people have been taught to tattoo. If you had more people being taught something without proper guidance, then there’s going to be more people doing the practice potentially not safely or just misguided,” she said. “Having a course for whatever length of time that they’re choosing to do probably wouldn’t cover everything you need to know.”’
Personally, I think that with tattoo’s constantly growing popularity, people forget to think that what they are experiencing whenever they get a tattoo is a craft that has been passed down and learned and that it doesn’t just come out of box with a certified how to booklet. The more common and popular something becomes, the less valued it is often destined to become. This is why I support the petition and why I hope that Algonquin College does not go through with the programme after all. Some things just need to be left alone. Left alone to the people who know how to do it and those who are willing to take an alternate path in life to learn. College is fine for perfecting pursuits that can be defined and quantified through books and lectures. But not all routes lead to college and tattoo is one of them. It takes a special kind of person to become a tattoo artist and if you want to do it, then you need to do it just like all the others that have come before you.