Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A trip to the'Pool

Yesterday I visited the maritime city of Liverpool. After reading the books, watching the films and studying the artwork I wanted to get a one on one feel of the nautical scene for my new seires of work based on vintage pin-up sailor tattoos.

Liverpool has a rich history of maritime connections having once been one of Europe's busiest and most successful cargo-handling ports. The city is dominated by the River Mersey and you can see the strong sea faring influence in the architecture and details all over the city centre. Check out the dolphins wound around the lamposts as you arrive from the train station:

There are also Neptunes and mermaids scattered throughout the area if you look for them. They give a glimpse into the glory and success of Liverpool's ports during the Victorian era as they hold aloft a horn of plenty:

The main reason for my visit was to see the Merseyside Maritime Museum. I really wanted to get a feel for the sailors and shipmen who might have had the tattoos I've been looking into. To get there you first have to walk into the dock area with its great view of the Mersey and various small scooners and yatchs moored up. But the piece de resisitance for me was the enormous anchor situated right by the entrance!

Just look at the size of it!

Once inside the exhibits begin with huge models of ships including the famous Titanic, Lusitainia and The Empress of Ireland. This was a really moving part of the museum and focused on their tragic sinkings and the heroic dealings of some of their crew and passengers. There was some great irish jigs being played in this section too, which lifted the atmosphere a bit.

Moving on, we went on to explore the 'Battle of the Atlantic' and then the part most helpful to me, 'Life at Sea'.
In this section you are able to see what everyday life was like for merchant sea farers and saliors over the last three centuries. There are mock ups of sleeping quarters complete with hammocks and examples of tools used aboard ship like this wax pot used to stamp food that had passed the quality check:

It might not seem like much but it's small details like these that help fill in the gaps between the popular image we have of sailors and the real gritty elements of their working life. I like the shape of this pot and it's functional form.

I also really enjoyed this small section about 'Sailortown', the sleazy districts near the ports where sailors usually ended up in the hope of having a good time. The allure of drink, the company of the opposite sex and gambling was usually a powerful draw, despite the fact that these areas could also be extemely violent and dangerous. This was probably a similar place to where Sailor Jerry set up shop as a tattooist in Honolulu and perfectly illustrates his famous 'Screwed, stewed and tattooed' moto. My favorite part in this section is the piece written about the red cap you can see on the right;

'Sailor Trophy 1950's'
'This headband was worn by a waitress at the Moulin Rouge Club at the port of Recife in Brazil. These were much favoured trophies amongst seafarers visiting the club'

It's similar to a tattoo to mark the occasion or remember a lost love, or maybe just a memento to take home and brag about! Probably the last is most likely. While at the museum I also picked up this fab book, specifically about naval slang and it's use in everyday life. Perfect for my nautical tattoo pin-up series illustrating this very theme!

After visiting the Maritime Museum we took a quick walk around the Albert Docks. There lots of small scooners moored up and I liked the fact you could see all the paraphanlia neatly placed upon most of the decks. It was good to see the anchors and the chains and ropes that work them.

In all, Liverpool gave a fantastic insight into the maritime way of life and a deep sense of history. I definately got some ideas about how to refine my designs for the pin-up sailor tattoos I've been working on and feel in a better place to move ahead with them now.

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