Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Northern Art Carbooty 2018 - The Tattooed Lady Returns!

The Tattooed Lady is an end of the pier 1900's style temporary tattoo dispenser I created three years ago for the launch exhibition at HOME in Manchester. She is an interactive art work with flashing bulbs and a friendly 'ding!' that offers audiences the chance to take a piece of art home with them, either as a keepsake for posterity or as some temporary 'ink' to wear proudly on their skin.

I am now bringing The Tattooed Lady to the Northern Art Carbooty next month for a new commissioned piece. August 26th will see me and the Lady at Saddlers Yard and PLANT NOMA in Manchester:

'The event is an extravaganza of art, craft, live performance, workshop activity, food and music. Northern Art Carbooty works with artists and designers to encourage new artistic collaborations with the communities located around the event'

For this new work I am concentrating on 100 years since women got the right to vote in the UK and I have been designing a special tattoo to celebrate not only this landmark event but also Manchester's crucial role as the place where women's suffrage was born! I love my city not least because it has a rich history of being bloody minded and bolshy but it has led many a revolution influencing social and political change.

I began by looking at famous Manchester figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst, Annie Kenney and Hannah Mitchell, all fantastic people in their own right. However I found the photos of little known Manchester suffragettes marching and being arrested really moving and inspiring. They brought home the fact that these women risked so much not just for themselves but for the sake of every woman since.

For that reason, rather than concentrating on one person I decided to design a Mancunian 'everywoman'. My suffragette was very inspired by these two photos; the first being two local women wearing news sheets as aprons...

Mabel Capper (left), who by 1913 had been to prison four times in the cause of obtaining the vote for women, and Patricia Woodlock (right) advertising a meeting to be held in Heaton Park, Manchester, Lancashire, 19th July 1908

...and this fantastic Manchester banner once lost in time but now proudly on display at the People's History Museum in Manchester. I think the words on this banner are so powerful and say so much about the city and it's people,

For the tattoo design I wanted to incorporate mills and factories in the image not only to emphasise Manchester's connection to Suffrage but also the fact that many women who became involved in the Manchester movement came from a working class background. With the city booming in the 1900's thanks to the cotton industry, factory work was a mainstay for many of it's growing population.

This was my first design and I looked to Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman for the stance. I always thought Lynda looked strong and assertive when she stood like this with her hands on hips. (Interestingly, Wonder Woman's origins come from a Suffrage background as the creator was a firm supporter of women's Suffrage and his mistress's aunt was Margaret Sanger, an advocate for birth control and a women's rights activist). 

The tattoos are to be just 2" x 2" to fit The Tattooed Lady and I decided once shrinking this design down that it was packing too much into such a small space. Plus I wanted to push the Manchester connection even more within the image so it would be more obvious. I tried playing about with scale and placement but I still thought the whole thing wasn't immediate or 'tattooey' enough (I do like the original image though so I may use it for something else in the future).

In the end I decided to focus mainly on the suffragette's head and shoulders and create a tighter pulled in design. I added a banner for the words 'First in the Fight' and also the Manchester Bee which reflects the city's history and continuing unity in the face of adversity.

The suffragette stands in front of the chimneys (a bit phallic I realised, but they do reflect the male dominance of the era) wearing her hat with its green white and purple ribbon symbolising the movement; purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. The white roses stand for the white that suffragettes wore on their protests and also more recently recalls the white roses worn by celebrities on the red carpet to support the #timesup and #metoo movements.

I felt that this image worked better overall and will have more impact when applied to the skin. With the design now sent off for printing I'm looking forward to getting the finished temporary tattoos in my hands and trying them out! You can get your own at Northern Art Carbooty on 26th August! You'll find me there with The Tattooed Lady appearing as a Manchester suffragette myself! More on that to follow, stay tuned!...

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