Hand-Poked Dotwork Tattoo by Goldilox (Clare Deen)
01:27 PM
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Hand-poked. Dotwork. Skull.

Three of my favorite words in the tattoo language, so naturally, I had to know more about this chest piece on musician Johnny Kowalski tattooed by Clare Deen, aka Goldilox.

The work was done all by hand over eight hours in a couple of sittings. Beyond the logistics, the stories behind the tattoo are what's really compelling. Johnny wanted a tattoo to celebrate his thirtieth birthday and here's the inspiration behind it, in his own words:

 "I've always appreciated the beauty of animal skulls, and it seemed an appropriate symbol of adulthood because of the obvious connection with hunting. I also liked the connection with the Norse rune Algiz, which I have tattooed in red ink on my left big toe.

Above all, I knew that the tattoo would look fucking cool. I think that the cliche about knowing when you are in love also applies to finding the right tattoo design--you just know when it's right.

I chose Clare because I have held her artistic abilities in extremely high esteem for a very long time now, since before she started tattooing. One of her great strengths as an artist, on skin or on canvas, is that she has an amazing gift for depicting natural forms, whether that be as a painted portrait or a tattooed butterfly. The stag skull was a departure from her normal style, but once we had discussed the idea and she'd done a few preliminary sketches, I knew we were on the right track.

We both agreed that hand poking would be the best way forward for the tattoo, both in terms of allowing Clare to get as much detail she thought the tattoo needed and would hurt less for me. Having both machine and hand poked tattoos, I can safely say I prefer hand poking--it feels less traumatic and spares you the incessant buzz of the machine. However, despite the relative ease of hand-poked tattoos, I still found the tattoo extremely painful in places, which was in a strange sense what I was looking for:  a big, bewildering experience that would push my limits beyond what my experiences had previously led me to believe I could handle and to be left with an amazing image on my skin at the end of it to mark my thirtieth birthday." 

I like these kind of stories. But I'm nosy and wanted more.

Considering the large work, I asked Goldilox about her process in hand-poked tattoos and surprisingly, she told me that she had only been tattooing by hand for about a year (she had been using a machine since her start in the art). Goldilox is a self-taught tattooist, originally from rural Wales and now working at Painted Lady Tatoo Parlour in Birmingham, UK. She's has worked in many artistic disciplines: pin-striping cars, sign-writing, airbrushing, sculpting, drawing, painting, and sewing (among others) and so working by hand in tattooing "feels right" to her.

Here's more on what Goldilox said about her hand worked tattoos:

"I started tattooing by hand initially on myself. It felt intuitive. The fine lines I could create using just a needle just inspired me. My artwork has always been intricate, and tattooing like this felt like an extension of this...a very natural progression, and within no time at all, all my clients wanted hand-poked work...

To me, another wanting my artwork on their skin is an immense honor, and I feel that tattooing by hand,adding every minute dot one by one in the same way it has been done for millenia makes the tattoo all the more precious...it adds a certain magic!

I like working with color. Many hand-artists avoid it because colored inks have less saturated pigment so it takes a lot longer than black to actually get the color in the skin--but I like challenges!

I draw lots of my inspiration from many sources-old Victorian botanical plates, mehendhi art,Islamic geometry to name a few.I really love reinterpreting ancient artwork into the modern day using what is essentially an even older technique."

It looks like I'll be seeing Goldilox at the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival this weekend, and hopefully, will bring back more examples of her work.

Check more of her work here. And hear Johnny's music here.

Much thanks for featuring this Marisa. I'm still chuffed to bits with this tattoo, and it's like extra fancy icing on the world's best cake to see it featured on here............
Johnny x

I love how the antlers come to a point, resembling fingers that are attempting to make the "om" gesture. Whether this is intended or not, or whether it is just my visual interpretation of the art, I think it adds an extra special meditative quality to the tattoo. Brilliant work!

dying to hear more about the Artist's hand poke proceedure.
tebori? pacific island style? needle & thread?

Well done clare bear, not long now till ya famous always told ya u would x

Thankyou guys!
That wasn't the intention,but it's always amazing to hear other people's interpretations of my work,...
I work with tattoo needles,but by hand. I do also work with a machine from time to time,but with organic pieces like this one I can only achieve the depth I want by working without a machine,adding each dot one by one and building it up in layers............ I also think that beautiful and inspiring pieces like this deserve to be hand-poked!

My uncle just got a tattoo of an old school pin up girl. It was fantastic work. Looked great. Does anyone else see 60+ year old men, who have never had a tattoo, getting them. He isn't going through a mid life crisis, no divorce or other life changing happenings. He just got one. WTF was he thinking.

Excellent information here. This interesting post made me smile. Maybe if you throw in a couple of pics it will make the whole thing more interesting.

Hey mate! I thought I might write a comment and assure you that your webpages theme is really smudged on my iPhone 4. Appears to work okay in Opera though. Anyway keep up the fabulous work!

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