A story of ink, skin and roses

Part 1 of Lori's tattoo. Black & grey roses by Ricky Williams

I wrote about my ongoing tattoo design idea on this blog five years ago. That roses concept has stuck with me for a very long time, and I revisited the idea last year when I graduated from my MA. I thought that would be a good point in time to mark, as it very much felt like a new stage in my life. Well, that and the fact that I’d turned 40.

Lori's vintage rose print scarfIn recent years my body has felt like it’s not the one I’d come to love in my 30s – with more weight to carry and an apparent intolerance for common foodstuffs like lactose and wheat, I felt as though I’d got back in touch with my mind only to lose touch with my body. Dancing and yoga had helped to a certain extent, but loving what you see in the mirror is quite a complex thing.

For years I would revisit and then dismiss the tattoo idea because all the roses I saw that I liked were on fabric, or on clothing. I started to wonder if I should just commission Hand & Lock to embroider some roses for me on the back of a jacket, but then I realised that I might not be able to wear it every day because it wouldn’t go with every outfit I own. It might get lost, or damaged… one day the jacket might not fit. When I realised that the perfect roses were on a scarf I bought from Paper Dress Vintage (see above), I set out to look for an artist who could let me take them with me every day.

As two people who are important to me have been tattooed at The Family Business on Exmouth Market in London, I figured that was a very good place to start looking for an artist. Going to the place they’d been felt like another important addition to my artwork’s story, and they have a welcoming atmosphere which is perfect for a newbie. I started looking through TFB’s Instagram feed looking for roses I liked (harder than you’d think as I didn’t want an outline!) and then, last Christmas, I found the rather wonderful black and grey work of Ricky Williams.

Part 1 of Lori's tattoo. Black & grey roses by Ricky WilliamsHaving a tattoo on my back might seem like a strange place, because I can’t see it without mirrors or a camera. However, there is method in my madness and Dr Matt Lodder explains this rather well in an interview on opentranscripts.org where he speaks about whether tattoos are public or private:

People often ask me why peo­ple get tat­tooed on their backs, because you can’t see it. And I’m not exactly sure what the answer to that ques­tion is, other than to say that in the same way that plenty of art col­lec­tors will buy things and lock them up in vaults […] I think most tat­toos for most of tat­too­ing his­tory have been, let’s call them “semi-private.” I think there’s an assump­tion, cer­tainly among the com­menters on news­pa­per web sites, that peo­ple who are tat­tooed are exhi­bi­tion­ists. But that’s of course what we might call the toupée fal­lacy. You only think toupées look awful because you’re never going to spot a good toupée. And in the same respects, the only vis­i­ble tat­toos you’re going to see are on peo­ple who want to show them to you.

As my tattoo is solely for me, and the vast majority of the time it won’t be on show, I wasn’t going to share a photo of it online. However, once Ricky had left me with such a beautiful piece of artwork, it felt like I would be doing him a great disservice by not showing it off and giving him credit. So here is my half-finished tattoo by the immensely talented Ricky Williams at The Family Business. I’m delighted with it and am very much looking forward to getting it finished before Christmas.

UPDATE: Ricky had a cancellation, so I got the design finished in September! You can see the full piece on Instagram.

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