Skin Deep 241

Skin Deep 241 19 August 2014 241

I got back from our Manchester show about fifteen hours ago.

Every show we do turns up something that surprises me. A show review (probably next issue) is not the place to cover those surprises - but here? Here is a great place to lay out the things I have found.

I met at least four people with severe scarring who, for their own personal reasons, chose to cover/disguise/incorporate their scars amongst tattoo art. The surprise comes from exactly how much thought has to go into this before it’s attempted. It’s not an easy thing to get started on these projects - sometimes, that opening conversation with a tattoo artist about what’s required will be the first time the scarring has been talked about honestly and openly in years - maybe ever. I know this to be true. I think it’s incredibly brave to do this - it’s also very clever and requires no small amount of thought and commitment, but I make no bones about the fact that it’s a lot of responsibility for the artist who takes it on. This is when a tattoo is so much more than a tattoo… it’s a life-changer.

But you don’t have to be scarred to get up to this level of tattooing. I also met a guy who came back from death - that’s right, death - and chose to celebrate his second chance on the planet with a wonderful tattoo that was so damn personal and smart, you couldn’t help but be moved by it. Sometimes, when you hand out those awards at the end of the day (which are, after all, based on what you see and not any back-story you may find out later) it makes life seem that little bit more hopeful for everyone.

Then you jump on a train to go home when it’s all over and you find yourself sitting opposite somebody reading the Daily Mail who really doesn’t want to be sitting opposite you when she looks down and sees your arms. There’s a noise those people make to let you know they are thinking this. It sounds like a pig with its head stuck in a bucket. So be it. You spend your life being bigoted about the human race, lady, and I will at least try do something constructive about it. For every flaming torch you choose to throw a blanket over because you don’t like what you see, we - collectively - will light up another one.

I had only been home an hour when I saw a social media comment asking what ‘right’ did we - ‘we’ being Trent, Paula and myself - have to be judging a tattoo competition and being dismissive of people who work hard. If I remember correctly, the comment called us a ‘couple of magazine writers and an enthusiast’ (which to be fair is basically what is says in the show programme) and that we knew nothing about the real life of tattooers. Something like that.

Investigating further, I saw that it was made by a tattooist and it made me a little bit sad that somebody might think the three of us do not spend 16 hours a day shining our torches and promoting the shit out of great work in some way. I don’t mind what anybody thinks, but take away the platform that social media has become and all you’re left with is bitterness.

The next day (that would be this morning) came the emails about the show - the people who had a great time, those who found a new artist to work with, artists who had faith injected back into what they were doing when they thought all hope was lost, artists who arranged to trade chairs and get out a little more - at which point, I really couldn’t care less what a tiny pocket of doom may think.

All of this has not really got anything to do with this show in particular. It could be any show, in any country; these occurrences and many, many others happen all around the world, every day.

Don’t let the torch get heavy. And - always carry scissors to cut holes in blankets.


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