Happy Friday! With the long weekend upon us, it's likely a lot of you are going to be partying it up (we know we will be!), but just as many of you are undoubtedly happy to have a few days to just take it easy at home or on the beach. If that sounds like a plan, why not indulge in some eye-pleasing media while you're at it? Below are some of our favourite body-mod related books and videos. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Sailor Jerry Collins : American Tattoo Master
To call Sailor Jerry a legend would be an understatement, and this book shows us why. Filled with stories, pictures, original sketches, and more, this book is a must-have for all fans of old-school tattoos and tattoo history.
Flesh & Blood
This fascinating documentary takes us into the world of innovative, and sometimes controversial, body mod artist Steve Haworth, and the subculture he helped create.
The Tattoo Coloring Book
Think colouring is just for kids? Think again! This 240 page collection of original tattoo designs lets you step into the artist's shoes and revisit your childhood by filling them in however you see fit.
Tattoo Nation : The True Story of the Ink Revolution
Featuring some well-known celebrities and artists, Tattoo Nation tells the tale of how tattooing in North America evolved from a mark of rebellion to a respected art form.
When I logged into Facebook the other day, this picture, along with this article, were staring me in the face. A group I frequent was debating – and I do use that term loosely – why anyone would do such a thing to themselves. A fair question, I suppose, but one that has no concrete answer. People tossed out everything from mental illness to low self-esteem to a desperate desire to be different, but, having worked in the body mod industry for several years now, none of these replies were satisfactory to me.
So why do people get such extreme mods? What compels people to pierce their heels, or tattoo their entire face? Why would anyone want a 0g tunnel in their labret, or spike implants in their head? The truth of the matter is, only they know. There is no single answer to this question – and that is, in and of itself, the best answer of all. Each and every person that delves into the more extreme side of body modification does it for their own reasons. Daniel, the possessor of the Achilles piercings, didn’t ever offer a reason for doing so, but many others have, and the answers are as varied and controversial as the mods themselves.
Stelarc, a well-known artist and body mod enthusiast, talks about his rather extreme mods – including an “ear” implanted into his arm – in artistic, transhumanist terms. For him, these modifications offer insight into “the increasing intimacy of machines and the human body”. Russ Foxx, world-renowned body-mod artist, offers a vaguer reason behind mods like eyeball tattooing, saying only that the eyes are “a strong communication tool” and that the ink injections can create “amazing and beautiful effects”. James Keen, a young, heavily modified eunuch, cites extremely personal reasons that include a feeling of gender-neutrality and a “primitive urge” to modify.
When looking at, and into, these extreme mods, it seems the relevant question is not “why”, but “what”. They whys are often far too personal, and too difficult, to articulate. It’s the what – the message one hopes to communicate, or the result one hopes to attain – that goes a long way in explaining the desire to have these extreme modifications, and the willingness to push the envelope. Whether the ultimate goal is artistic, philosophical, historical, sexual, aesthetic, religious, or something entirely different, there is a universal theme that runs through them all. Each and every one of these extreme mods is a declaration of autonomy, a powerful and unapologetic claiming of one’s own body. And perhaps that’s where the real discussion should begin. Rather than question the sanity of the people who enjoy these mods, we should be asking ourselves why autonomy is something to be questioned.
“Reality” TV is, depending on whom you ask, the best or worst thing to ever happen to entertainment. Starting out as a small group of contests like Big Brother and Survivor, it has now moved into the realm of documenting everyday jobs (or, at least, the most dramatic events therein), and giving you an inside look at careers you’ve perhaps only ever dreamed of. Among these has been a wide variety of tattoo-related shows, ranging from the lives of exclusive shop owners, to competitions between unknowns. When these shows began littering the cable landscape, many of us working in the field found a new job description added to our list: informing clients of how true to life (or not) these shows really were. So, which shows offer realistic glimpses into the world of tattooing, and which are ratings-bait? We review the good, the bad, and the ugly.
INK MASTER – hosted by the heavily tattooed Dave Navarro, and judged by tattoo master Oliver Peck and multi-media artist and tattooist Chris Nunez, Ink Master gives American tattoo artists a chance to fight for their title, and $100,000. While the show does not depict the standard tattoo career, it does accurately highlight some of the biggest challenges in the industry: time management, convention stress, constantly learning and improving techniques, and adapting styles to suit each client. Add to that Peck’s remarkable eye for detail and brutally honest criticisms, and the result is a truly entertaining and informative show.
MIAMI INK/LA INK – while both shows are now defunct, to not mention them would practically be criminal. Two of the most-watched and most-debated tattoo shows of all time, both walk us through a day in the life of a busy and popular American shop. Allegedly, anyway. With ever-rotating casts/crew, unheard-of artists opening their own expensive and fully-booked shops and getting their own spin-off shows, celebrity clients, and apparent “walk-in” customers in shops that boast year-long waiting lists, it’s hard to view these shows as “reality”. Love them or hate them, these are the soap-operas of the tattoo world.
TATTOOS AFTER DARK – from the producers of Jersey Shore (yes, that tells you all you need to know about it), T.A.D. is less reality show and more freak show. Featuring the most over-the-top clients one could possibly imagine, episodes have thus far included flamboyant performers wanting tattoos of themselves, pregnant clients begging to have their tummies tattooed (thankfully, even ratings weren’t enough to convince the artists to go for that), a couple that just met that night wanting matching tattoos to profess their undying love, and a marriage proposal or two. While T.A.D. may be a bit too much for many, it is unarguably amusing, and sets itself apart by featuring not just tattooing, but piercing as well – a side of shop life that is shamefully ignored by most reality shows.
TATTOO RESCUE – this Spike production may just be the golden nugget of tattoo TV. Rather than focusing on petty disputes and forced drama, tattoo veteran Joey Tattoo visits failing shops and gives them the wake-up call they desperately need. And, best of all, he does it by ripping apart their health and safety standards, calling attention to unsafe practices and poor image. Not only does his show aim to improve standards worldwide, it also offers sincere and extremely important information to potential clients everywhere.
BAD INK – a seemingly perpetual advertisement for the hosts’ various ventures and History’s “Vikings” (a friend of theirs is a crew member), it’s difficult to tell where the show begins and the commercials end. Bad Ink’s hosts cruise the Vegas strip in search of bad tattoos to ridicule, and, occasionally, fix. While the show itself may leave a bad taste in some mouths (and leave most of us wondering where the line between reality and fiction now sits), there is one valuable lesson to be learned from it – as host Dirk is prone to repeat, don’t drink and ink.
With a new year comes new things, and I-Kandy has plenty of them in store. One of the biggies is a new website, which will be launched in the next week. As we put the final touches on the site, we’d like to hear from you!
What would you like to see included on the website? What blog topics are you hoping to read about in the new year? What are you hoping to see in our soon to be launched online store? Let us know in the comments of this post.
It can be assumed that most of our readers are from the lower mainland, and therefore already know about the fantastic Vancouver Tattoo & Culture Show, scheduled this year for April 25-27. But what if you live elsewhere, or are prone to world travel? Here are 6 must-visit tattoo shows happening around the world this year.
Over the past year, the I-Kandy blog has reported on newsworthy topics, ongoing stories, and documentaries, books, and sites of interest. As the year draws to a close, so too do some of these tales –while others are just starting to get good. Here is our almost-year-end collection of follow-ups and things to follow.
In researching last week’s post on the crazy Arkansas bill outlawing certain types of mods, I became a little concerned. If this can happen in the so-called “land of the free”, what is stopping it from happening here?
A lot, apparently. Canada does not have any federal laws regarding body modification, and even the strictest of provincial laws merely prevent shops from offering services to those under 16. Legal guidelines are restricted to the health and safety side of things (laws that we can all get behind), ensuring clean equipment, hygienic procedures, and proper ventilation are used.
But these are laws that apply in the U.S. as well – so I decided to dig in a little more, and examine our laws regarding freedom of expression. Section 2b of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants us all “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”. What counts as free expression is a bit vague, but the Charter goes on to explain that the only restriction on this right is overt hate speech or public calls for violence – this could potentially interfere with your decision to get Nazi propaganda tattooed on your forehead, but even that would be a legal stretch.
Judging by some of the more frivolous Canadian lawsuits, and proposed bills, in recent years, and the swiftness with which they were shot down, Canadians can, at least for now, rest easy. As of today, not a single proposed law regarding the freedom to alter one’s body has been passed.
And that, my tattooed and pierced friends, is just another reason why Canada is awesome.
Remember that whole “constitution” thing? Arkansas apparently doesn’t. Last week, in an astonishing 26-4 vote, the Arkansas Senate passed a bill that will ban “non-traditional” body art and implants. Included in that definition is scarification, branding, and dermal implants/microdermals. The bill was sponsored by Senator Missy Irvin, and was passed quietly last Tuesday. It still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives, and many speculate that is where it will die, but that does little to ease the minds of many – body modification enthusiasts, civil rights groups, and anyone that places any value on the freedom of expression are understandably irate that this bill was not only proposed, but passed by such a huge majority.
In a day and age where body art is widely accepted and the freedom to express oneself is viciously defended, it’s hard to see this bill as anything but a major step backwards. It’s even harder to understand the reasoning behind it. Senators involved in the bill have done very little to explain their positions, or even offer a reason that this was an “issue” they felt needed addressing. One thing is certain, though – if this bill passes the House, it will set a worrying precedent. Many argue that the government already has too much control over our personal lives – permitting them to tell us how we can (and cannot) adorn our own bodies is a very slippery slope.
We will be keeping an eye on this bill, and posting updates on its progress.
The answer to that question may seem obvious – but it isn’t. The last 40 years or so have seen a huge growth in people making their physical ailments and desires known by way of tattoo, but the question of whether those tattoos have any legal validity or not has remained unclear.
A pathologist quoted in the Huffington Post last year himself has “NO CPR” tattooed in the centre of his chest, to indicate his wishes to any medical professional that may see it, but the same article states that, in the U.S. at least, medical tattoos carry very little legal weight, and that paramedics would likely still perform CPR on the patient, unless a legal “do not resuscitate” document was also found. Lawyer Cheryl David agrees: her website advises that no American states have laws that address medical tattoos, and that a medic would most likely err on the side of caution. An American Paramedics group takes that statement even further, making clear that they are not trained to look for medical tattoos, and wouldn’t even begin trying to interpret one in the case of an emergency – DNR could mean “do not resuscitate”, for example, but it could also be your husband’s initials, or your favourite band. Despite this all sounding like a very resounding “no” to the question of legal validity, it’s unfortunately not that straightforward. Medic alert tattoos have become common enough that some doctors are actually recommending them to patients – particularly diabetics, and those with life-threatening allergies. Dr. Aldasouqi of Michigan State, who has written about and long been interested in medical tattooing, admits that the guidelines are unclear, and expresses concern that ignoring this trend “leave(s) our patients kind of afloat”. He is working to bring together the medical and tattoo professions to develop a legally recognized standard for these sorts of tattoos so that American medics will know what to look for.
As for Canada, finding even vague information proves difficult. Canadian MedicAlert Foundation CEO Robert Ridge last year told the CBC “it doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but there’s a few issues that we have with it”, reiterating concerns that paramedics are not trained to look for them. As for their legal status, no one seems to know for sure. Different medical associations have various views, and there is no reference to medical tattoos in Canadian law. Tattoo artists, also likely to err on the side of caution, will gladly give you a medical tattoo, but will advise that they do not replace legal documents.
So, what’s the story? Will your “diabetic” tattoo be taken seriously or not? What about the biggie – “DNR”? The general consensus seems to be that if a medical professional happens to see it, and if it is extremely clear and matches what would be found on a MedicAlert bracelet, and if it simply advises of a condition, rather than asking you not be treated, it might be respected. When it comes to “no CPR” or “DNR” orders, however, the only ink that matters is that on a legal document, signed by both you and your doctor.
A commonly asked question by those outside of the body-mod culture is why do you have to get so many? Most people don’t mind a dainty little jewel in a woman’s nose, or a tasteful tattoo on an easily hidden body part, but can’t understand having several facial piercings or tattoo sleeves, for example. To those folks, I present the world’s most pierced and tattooed people. I assure you, your sister’s industrial won’t look quite so extreme by the end of this post.
Guinness World Record holder for 12 years and counting, Elaine is the most pierced person in the world. Guinness has her at almost 7000 piercings, but her most recent count brought her to just over nine thousand. Of those, over 200 are on her face, and over 500 are “below the belt”. A former nurse, Elaine developed a passion for extremes at a young age – aside from her piercings, she is also known for sleeping on a bed of nails, fire-walking and glass-walking, and is an avid skydiver. And, just to defy every stereotype out there, she does not drink, do drugs, or smoke cigarettes, and is married to a man with absolutely no tattoos or piercings. Elaine now runs an aromatherapy and body-mod shop in Edinburgh.
Lucky Diamond Rich (born Gregory McLaren)
Lucky has held the record for most tattooed person since 2006, with nearly 100% of his body, including his foreskin, the inside of his mouth, and his eyelids, covered. The New Zealander became fascinated with tattoos at a young age, and his interests soon turned to the most tattooed people of the world. As a child, he would collect large piles of temporary, bubble-gum tattoos and apply them all over his body, trying to duplicate the look of a heavily tattooed neighbour. By his teens, he was a well-known circus performer, which led to a career in street theatre. He eventually became the highest paid street performer in London, and among the most popular in the world. His act includes comedy routines, extreme juggling, sword-swallowing, and more, all atop a giant unicycle. When he’s not on the road, he is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a tattoo artist. Not content with being the most tattooed person in the world, Lucky is now having his ink gone back over to add brighter colours.
At 453 piercings, Rolf probably won’t surpass Elaine’s record anytime soon, but he has just made his own as the most pierced man in the world. In 2012, he entered the Guinness books, beating the previous holder by nearly 200 piercings. A German computer expert, Rolf keeps fairly quiet about the reasons behind his obsession, saying only that he decided at 40 to enter a world he had previously enjoyed from afar. The majority of his piercings are around his mouth and below the belt, though 50 or so are spread across his body. He got his first piercing and first tattoo on the same day, and soon after became a suspension enthusiast, having now done over 100 suspensions. Aside from his many piercings, Rolf also boasts a full body tattoo.
Known as “The Illustrated Lady”, Julia has over 95% of her body tattooed, and holds the record for most tattooed woman in the world. Julia’s story is a bit different, as well – while many other record holders naturally enjoy extremes, she began getting tattooed for another reason entirely. In her mid-30s, Julia developed porphyria, a condition which causes skin to badly blister if exposed to sunlight. Rather than live with the ugly scars porphyria patients suffered, she sought the advice of a cosmetic surgeon friend, who recommended she try getting skin-coloured tattoos. When that didn’t work, she began having them tattooed over in the traditional way, resulting in an almost complete covering of her body. While it started as a cosmetic treatment, Julia admits to now being “addicted”, and is always looking for ways to add to her ink. She’s also made someone a very wealthy artist – every single one of her pieces was done by the same person.