The other day, I received an interesting email from our friend and one of our favorite tattooers, Colin Dale of Skin & Bone tattoo studio in Copenhagen, Denmark. Colin particularly specializes in hand-poked dotwork, creating gorgeous pieces, large and small, with a particular bent towards Nordic art and mythology (although he works in a variety of genres).
In the message, Colin sent these photos, shot by his partner Nana, of him tattooing their friend Eric Frederikson with soot mixed with the ashes of Eric's deceased father to make the ink. As Colin said, "It doesn't get more tribal than that."
Considering my fascination with memorial tattoos using cremation ashes, I asked for more to the story, and Colin obliged. Here's what he wrote:
Leviticus talked about cutting and marking the body in reverence to the dead. The Hawaiians used to cut themselves with shells (scalp) and smear the funeral pyre ashes on themselves. And I know several people have done this in modern times before me...I seem to remember Bill Tinney (Photographer for Outlaw Biker, Tattoo Review, etc.) got a portrait of his mother (or grandmother) done by Brian Everett, I believe, with some ash mixed in the ink. However, I actually wanted to make ink out of the ash!
Unfortunately human (animal) ash is very light, so I mixed it with soot to darken it up while still trying to stay as prehistoric as possible. I don't know if you should give the recipe out [Editor's Note: yup, I am], but it was half ash, half soot -- and then an equal portion of 55% Vodka! The human ash was quite grainy, so I had to mill/mortar it, which was no problem at Lejre [Denmark, where the tattoo took place]. In the studio, I probably would have hit it with the ultrasonic for a few days. But Eric is from Minnesota (Minnesota Viking!), so my only concern was that he might catch Mad Republican Disease!