Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Inspiration: Tattoos in the Life of the American Sailor

Last week my kids and I visited Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. We're members, and it really is an excellent place to visit, although we usually skip the village part and focus on the boats, the playscape, and the inside exhibits, which always include something interesting. Skin and Bones: Tattoos in the Life of the American Sailor is there for a few more weeks, and while I'd like to get back and have a bit more time with it, I'm glad I didn't miss it entirely.

I was drawn to those three blocks right away. These were displayed at the beginning, and--how I wish I took notes or at least a picture of the text, too--I believe these are examples of tattooing that early sailors would have come in contact with. This case has instruments from the Dayek peoples of Borneo--I'm just reading the paper right in the case that you can see in the photo, because it's awfully difficult to read anything when your youngest doesn't want to walk, but also doesn't want to sit, and instead is working on slithering right out of the stroller just to see if she can. Anyway, I managed to cut off the bit of the paper that says exactly what those are, but they're tattoo designs of some sort, and I can't help but note the similarity to carved stamps. I really want to get a better look at these.

The exhibit is full of flash--tattoo design samples--including some in books. My 7yo, who loves dragons, wanted a photo of this one. Again, although the artist's name was displayed along with the book, I don't know it.

I really had to twist to get that photo, and then I realized the museum had thoughtfully made copies of the designs, laminated them, and reassembled them as a book that you could flip through, so I took a few more pictures of other designs, directed by the kids.

The kids and I agreed that "tattoo artist" was definitely the right description--these folks are amazing artists. (The exhibit also included a big-screen TV that was showing examples of modern tattoos from area tattoo artists.) I have two tattoos, but they're small, basic, one-color designs: a salamander (oh surprise!) and the zodiac symbol for Virgo, both from the year I was 21. I'm considering one more, but I can't settle on what.

But I don't intend to say these are inspiration for a third tattoo; they're too big for me. But they are inspiring--the designs, the artwork, the level of skill and detail. Just to be able to draw that on paper, never mind transfer it in ink to someone's skin--it's an art and a craft and a skill. And if I leave an exhibit feeling inspired to draw based on what I saw, that's pretty cool all by itself.

What about you? Are you a tattoo person, or not so much?


Michelle said...

I really, really want a new one, but I can't decide what or where. That first dragon is gorgeous, but yeah, a little big. :)

lamina @ do a bit said...

The exhibit of sailor tatoos sounds really interesting!! My little man can be not very co-operative sometime too! Lucky you got some photos :)

ps. Yes my new camera is a digital SLR! I did a lot of research and found Canon was the one to go for :)

Bells said...

tattoo art can be so great! Sean has a tattoo done by a woman who is a fairly well known artist but does tattoos as a sideline and they're really something else.

My two aren't by anyone special like that and it shows, but I love them.

The dragon is very cool. Probably not what I'd get either but i can see why the kids were impressed!

Donna Lee said...

I have two smaller tattoos. Nothing that has meaning, just feminine touches that i waited until I was 47 to get. They're also on parts of my body that are less likely to sag as I age.

I think about another but have no idea where I'd put it.

Jill said...

I sometimes think about a tattoo, but with no compelling desire for anything specific. And, really, when I get a little money I buy yarn (with apologies to Erasmus).

Rose Red said...

I don't have any tattoos, but that's more because (a) I'm a wimp and (b) I don't think I could decide on a design that I would be happy with formthe rest of my life!

I don't mind a meaningful tattoo, but dislike the " trendy ones" and most especially the tramp stamp.

denise said...

I found you through a blog linking trail. I want to see the sailor tat exhibit but thought It was done. Glad to have seen a bit of a review and will look further into days and times. Thanks.

amy said...

Denise, I hope you make it! I don't think I'll get back a second time (geez, summer is finishing up fast) but it's definitely worth a trip.