Handpoke Tattoo: 23 Artists' Words and Ink
07:27 AM
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The gag-inducing piece entitled "Enter 2015: Stick and Poke Tattoos Are the New Septum Piercings," could turn anyone off to hand worked tattoos, or even tattoos in general, as it talks about the "coolest style" on models and makes tattoos seem like the newest "It" handbag.

The piece references the Stick & Poke Tattoo Kit, which I wrote about here last January (that photo editor of Style with her poked tattoo is not at the forefront of trend as they say). In that post, I talked about how I felt really uncomfortable having stick & poke kits available in a neat little box with a price tag for the mass trendsetters, despite loving hand work (and having giving one -- a bad one) myself.

Thankfully, I can now articulate the difference between the consumer kits and real artists using this technique by pointing to Charles Boday's recently released Handpoke Tattoo: 23 Artists' Words and Ink. Charles informed me of his project last March at the NYC Tattoo Convention, and when I found that he met his goal of creating a book that features the work -- and words -- of artists who excel in handpoked tattooing, I followed up to find out more.

When I asked Charles to explain further about his interest in this type of tattooing, he explained:

A few years ago I wanted to learn how to tattoo [...] A friend suggested I start by hand for the expedient reason that if I made a mistake, it would be easier to correct. I started working on myself, and also looking online to see who was doing similar work. Two things happened: I discovered how much I loved the sensuous nature of the needle entering the skin, without the distraction of the noise and the blood inherent in machine work, resulting in work that was just as black as with a machine (and a quicker healing process), and also that there was a community out there, some of whom worked exclusively by hand, and others who mixed it in with their more remunerative machine work, especially at conventions.

I contacted a number of artists, including those working in traditional style in their own cultures. But the idea was for them to be moving outside the framework of tradition. Or reinventing it if it had been lost.
Charles also noted that women tattooers are more represented than in the traditional machine tattoo world. Considering how, in certain indigenous cultures, tattooing was traditionally done only by women, it's interesting to see how that has carried over.

I also asked Charles what he thought about the renewed interest in handwork, and he said:

There clearly is a resurgence in hand tattooing, on a number of levels. I think in the '70s and '80s, when the west was discovering the power of tribal design, epitomized by the work of Leo Zuluetta, there was a related decline in the cultures of their origin. I remember reading stories of Borneo tribesmen just wanting an American eagle tattoo. In a way, all this is fine-- there always will be an ebb and flow in cultural expression. But there is a real resurgence in tribal artforms in their place of origin. In the Philippines, in Borneo, in New Zealand. Furthermore, people like Colin Dale are exploring their long lost cultural art identity in Scandinavia, and also promoting Inuit traditional tattooing. Not to mention the burgeoning flower that is England and chopsticks, following on from the granddad of them all, George Burchett!
But what about stick & poke tattoos in popular culture? Charles adds:

Perhaps there is a less vaunted resurgence, which is that of the DIY tattoo...I belong to a few sites on Tumblr myself. What can I say? There's an interest in the non-professional. It's rough. It's punk. Mostly, it's crap...scratching, really. But out of this can be borne a true artist. I really believe this. I also believe you can do it yourself. In this medium. Without a Master (which is not to say without a mentor...We all need help!).
I agree with Charles' view of seeing art in all forms (although we did not discuss the commercialization aspect with the stick & poke kits). And what he has accomplished with Handpoke Tattoo: 23 Artists' Words and Ink is highlighting exceptional art by exceptional artists. I highly recommend picking up the book.

[Many thanks to Colin Dale for the link. Colin is also a featured artist in Handpoke Tattoo: 23 Artists' Words and Ink.]

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