Tattoo trivia

Here is some more trivia I found on the web while he was researching this week’s post:

Tattoo enthusiasts may refer to tattoos as “ink”, “pieces”, “skin art”, “tattoo art”, “tats”, or “work”; to the creators as “tattoo artists”, “tattooers”, or “tattooists”; and to places where they work as “tattoo shops”, “tattoo studios”, or “tattoo parlors”.

First-time receivers of a tattoo are known to tattooers as “Freshcuts.”

The Japanese word irezumi means “insertion of ink” and can mean tattoos using tebori, the traditional Japanese hand method, a Western-style machine, or for that matter, any method of tattooing using insertion of ink. The most common word used for traditional Japanese tattoo designs is Horimono. Japanese may use the word “tattoo” to mean non-Japanese styles of tattooing.

Anthropologist Ling Roth in 1900 described four methods of skin marking and suggested they be differentiated under the names “tatu”, “moko”, “cicatrix”, and “keloid”.

Early Christians often had the sign of the cross tattooed on their bodies, particularly their face or arms. Such tattoos were seen as a permanent mark of the believer’s faith. However, around AD 325 the Emperor Constantine outlawed tattooing of the face because he believed that the face was in God’s image and should not be disfigured. In AD 787, a council of churches renounced all forms of tattooing and sealed the fate of the practice in the eyes of the Christian church once and for all.

The severity of pain experienced when being tattooed depends on the location of the tattoo. The most painful areas are those where the skin is very close to the bone, such as the ankles, elbows and knees. It is less painful to be tattooed on more fleshy areas such as the chest or upper arms. Pain was an important part of tattooing for Polynesian societies. In Tahiti, the chief’s son was watched closely as he was tattooed for signs of pain. In Samoa, it was often said that tattooing was the equivalent for men of the great pain a woman endured when giving birth.

In the late-18th and early-19th centuries collecting tattooed Maori heads became so popular in Europe that many Maoris were murdered to supply the trade. The Maori people in New Zealand tattooed their heads (moko) and buttocks by chiselling a design into the skin and rubbing ink into it. If one of their chiefs died, they would remove and preserve the tattooed head, keeping it as a treasured possession. Europeans considered these heads to be curiosities and before long a trade sprang up, with the Maori exchanging heads for firearms. Soon the Maori began to trade the heads of their enemies killed in battle, but when demand started to exceed supply, men began to be murdered in cold blood for their tattoos. In some cases, slaves were tattooed so that their heads could be cut off and sold. In 1831 Governor Darling of New South Wales took steps to outlaw the practice.

Lucky Diamond Rich of New Zealand is the most tattooed person in the world, and after running out of space, has started putting lighter tattoos on top of the darker ones, and vice versa.

The longest tattoo session lasted for 50 hours and 10 minutes was achieved by Dave Fleet who tattooed James Llewellyn (both UK) at the Grosvenor Casino, Cardiff Bay, UK, on 27-29 October 2011.

Dave runs Abracadabra parlour in Blackwood. James had tattoos of of scenes from the Bible and classic works of literature, including designs on both legs based on The Fall of Man, described in John Milton’s poem ‘Paradise Lost.’ They raised £2,300 for Cancer Research Wales.

The world’s most tattooed person is Tom Leppard from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, who has 99.9 per cent of his body covered with a leopard-skin design. Guinness World Records states that the only parts of Tom’s body that remain untattooed are the skin between his toes and the insides of his ears.

73 year old Isobel Valley, the world’s most tattooed women, has every square inch of her body tattooed, except her face, and also has fifty piercings, 15 of which are visible. The majority of the piercings are below the belt because she wants to jingle when she walks, she says.

A pig tattooed on one foot and a rooster on the other were said to protect a seaman from drowning. Neither animal can swim and it was thought they would help get the sailor swiftly to shore if he fell into the water.

Other popular tattoos amongst sailors are also attributed with particular meanings:

A full-rigged ship shows the seaman has sailed round Cape Horn

An anchor indicates he has sailed the Atlantic Ocean

A dragon denotes that the bearer has served on a China station

A shellback turtle shows the sailor has crossed the Equator

‘Hold’ tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and ‘fast’ on the other were said to allow the bearer to grip the rigging better.

Urine was sometimes used to mix the colouring matter of early tattoos. Early colouring materials for tattoos included soot or ink for blue-black and brick dust for reds. To work, these needed to be bound together by a mixing agent. Often the tattooist used his own spittle to mix the colour but occasionally urine was used instead. Until 1891, when the first electric tattooing machine was patented by Tom Riley, all colours were applied by hand. Early tattooing tools were rather like pen holders with a number of needles set into them. The tattooing machine is based on the design of the doorbell. The quick poking action of a tattooing machine, which injects the ink into the skin, is driven by an electric circuit very similar to that which operates the household doorbell. Modern tattoo artists work with a number of tattooing machines, each reserved to inject a different colour. The number of needles set in the machine and their fineness depends on what the machine is being used for. Finer needles are used for outlines, while coarser needles are used for filling in or for shading.


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