Dutch Tattooer's Skin Preservation Business
"Everybody with tattoos has that idea. It's not a new idea, we just found a way to actually do it."
Quoted in the Reuters article "Dutch entrepreneur to preserve tattoos of the dead," these words above, by tattooer Peter van der Helm, has caused quite a buzz among collectors and artists who, indeed, have for a long time thought about preserving tattooed skin; however, even with international media picking up on the Reuters story, it's still not crystal clear how post-mortem bequeathing of tattooed skin plays out in The Netherlands, and beyond.
The actual preserving of skin is clearer. According to Reuters:
Hirschfeld and about 30 other clients of the "Walls and Skin" tattoo parlor, which is tucked away in a canal house in the Dutch capital, have donated their skin to the company in a will and each paid a few hundred euros.When they die a Dutch pathologist will remove the tattoo and freeze or package it in formaldehyde, ideally within 48 hours. It will then be sent to a laboratory outside the Netherlands, where a 12-week procedure extracts water and replaces it with silicone, leaving a rubbery substance.What's interesting to me is the way the laws of each country will treat how these remains can be passed along -- as well as be bought and sold. Will it just be like the treatment of cremation ashes (which have been incorporated in tattoo memorials) or fall under some other legal structure -- or not addressed at all, leaving it for entrepreneurs like Peter van der Helm to fulfill the tattooed's final wishes?
UPDATE: I spoke with Peter van der Helm and here's what he said of the process:
"You are actually donating your body to us and we make agreements upfront on how the tattoo should be handled. Legal wise, the remains become a product after the process we use is finished (by law). So it's not classified as human remains anymore."For more on preserved tattoo skin, see our previous posts: