Friday 19 December 2014

Some good reads

Since I've been focusing on vintage fairgrounds/travelling fairs and sideshows as inspiration for my tattooed lady project, I've been reading some great books to get me in the mood!

There's nothing I like more than being transported to another time and place through a good book, here's some of the best ones I've read so far...

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, has been a bestseller for some time now, and there's plans to make it into a film. The story is about a magical circus that only opens between dusk and dawn and is filled with fantastical characters and settings; the audience are treated to many tents instead of just the one and each tent houses an individual fabulous spectacle. The novel is filled with beautiful descriptions of decadent costumes colours and ornament which I really enjoyed and the imaginative ideas behind each entertainment was impressive. I found the love story a bit tepid and the fact there was no real threat meant the story lacked any bite or danger, but it did conjour up the theatrical world of the circus and that was what I wanted!

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury was a different kettle of fish entirely. A book of short science fiction stories held together by the idea that each one appears as a tattoo which comes to life at night and all reside upon the body of the Illustrated Man. I found this one pretty hard going, I'm not used to sci fi books but I was willing to give it a go, however after the sixth story featuring a rocket, a human settlement on a different planet and the pervading feeling that we're all doomed by our own evolution I'd had enough. What I did like was the premise; that the man had been working in a sideshow and decided to earn his keep as a tattooed exhibit. Unknown to him, he was illustrated on by a witch, who marked him with tattoos which told tales of the future and cursed him to never settle in one place too long so unnerving is the art work once witnessed. I really liked how the tattoos equated to stories as that is something I am investigating in my own project, and it is an imaginative take on the traditional story telling of the tattooed man or woman.

The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall is a book I read years ago but decided to re-examine due to it's perfectly suited subject matter: This novel follows young Cyril Parks as he evolves from awkward adolescent to apprentice of Morcambe's formiddalbe yet hugley talented tattoo artist Elliot Riley. Beginning in the 1900's during the travelling fair's golden age this story focuses on the Cyril's relationship with a mysterious young woman who commissions him to tattoo her entire body with eyes. The morbid thrill of following his progression with both relationship and needle is fascinating. Plus the gritty and realistic depiction of both the magic of the sideshow and the darkness behind the scenes is powerfully evocative. It is a real inspirational read and well researched. Perfect for the vintage tattoo inspired project I am working on!

Do you have a tattoo tale to tell? Share your stories of outdated love tattoos on the facebook page or anonymously on my website. All stories go on to inspire my work for the project The Tattooed Lady: Tales of Love and Regret to be exhibited in Manchester in the Spring.

Friday 12 December 2014

Being on the radio

So last night I appeared on the Alison Butterworth late night radio show on BBC Radio Lancashire to talk tattoos for my project The Tattooed Lady. It was a great experience; I met Laura another guest and tattoo fan who has roses and cupcakes decorating her skin, and had a real knowledge on contemporary body modification thanks to her job as a professional body piercer.

The show also featured some fantastic callers who rang in to discuss their tattoos. There was Pete, the man who you don't know whether to speak to or read, so covered is he in body art, who got his first tattoo in his 20's and is now hooked. Then there was Paul who was proud of his tattoos and after suffering a bad house fire was considering getting some flames tattooed to commemorate getting through the ordeal.

We covered everything from when is the right age to get your first tattoo through to fads and fashions which dictate tattoo styles, we talked cover ups and bad decisions not to mention wrinkley tattoos of the older generation. It was all fascinating and so great to hear real people share their opinions and personal stories about the controversial art form. Oh, and I got to read the weather! It was all pretty cool!

I have to say a big thank you to presenter Alison and producer Helen for being so welcoming and helpful and making the whole experience fun and interesting.

Remember, you can still get in touch with your ex love tattoo tales to take part in the work I'm doing for HOME in the Spring. Just add your picture to the facebook page The Tattooed Lady: Tales of Love and Regret with a description. Or if you'd like to stay anonymous you can post your story on my website in secret using the form provided. If your tattoo is an outdated declaration of love, be that for man or beast, film star or football team, whatever your past passion, I want to hear from you!

Monday 8 December 2014

Outdated declarations of love

I'll be travelling to Blackburn this Thursday to take part in BBC Radio Lancashire's night time phone in show as a guest talking about tattoos and tattoo regrets. This is part of the work I'm doing for the opening exhibition at the new multi disciplinary arts venue HOME, next Spring.

Up until recently I wasn't able to say exactly where the theme for this group show came from as the programme hadn't been announced, but now I can reveal that the idea for the show is based around the play Kasimir and Karoline which will be showing at HOME in a new version called The Funfair.

Taking the themes of the play into the galleries, the opening exhibition explores heart break and the dark side of the funfair and this is where I decided to concentrate on the concept of the freakshow and specifically The Tattooed Lady.

People love an oddity, but as one sideshow manager put it, 'it was not the show, it was the tale you told' which brought in the crowds. The tattooed exhibits of the travelling fairs, circuses and side shows were no different; as well as giving the public a chance to see naked flesh (always a draw!) they also treated  them to  a story or two about the pictures adorning their skin.

I have always been drawn to the vintage aesthetic of tattoos and this mixed with the fact that currently one fifth of the British public is tattooed seemed a great subject to explore. With the idea in mind that many people get tattooed for love; be it true love or a personal passion like a sport, film star or band, it isn't unusual for the passion to subside, the relationship to move on, but the bearer be left with an outdated declaration of love on their skin for the rest of their life. 

Not to mention that emotional scars can run as deep as phyiscal ones; a tattoo is a scar that can act as a lasting reminder of love, impetuousness, naivety, and also sadness.

I want to collect people's stories about their ex love tattoos as part of this project with the aim to create a tattood lady based on modern tales of love gone wrong and this Thursday you can share your own tales on the Alison Butterworth show 10pm-1am on BBC Radio Lancashire.

It promises to be an interesting night with tattooed guests and tattoo artists included. I look forward to hearing your stories and opinions!