Friday, August 31

Yesterday I made a trip to get the first stages of a thigh tattoo started, and I thought I’d share the to date photos as a memory of what it’s like at the end of the first session. I get the shading and colouring finished in about four weeks time and I am already pretty excited! I already have a small piece, but it was something I did without planning about 7 years back. This is the first piece I’ve had done with lots of planning and with a tattoo artist I respect and who came super highly recommended (for anyone in Yorkshire it’s Gareth from Black CrownTattoo, a studio which literally came recommended from pretty much every tattooed person I know!).

I chose to have my thigh tattooed because it’s maybe one of the fattest parts of me, and it’s a part of me that I’ve always felt strong and powerful in. I remember hating being stocky when I was growing up, having a bit of a hockey players build which was impossible to clothe. I’ve always been clumsy too, which has resulted in more bangs, bruises and scabs than I care to recall. It’s funny now actually, I seem to not even notice the bumps and surprise myself with a new bump regularly. I can’t even articulate how uncomfortable I felt growing up like this – I grew up in a very middle class area (albeit in a housing estate in the area in a working class family), and I used to feel like these marks betrayed me – they made me conscious of my inability to fit places, of my need to work in manual labour jobs where my friends didn’t. I never really stood a chance of having an unmarked body. Now I’m proud of my shape, the way I’m taller than most women and built to take up space. I like that I’m stocky, that I’m strong and powerfully built, and however that resonates with my family of similarly built bodies. I’m not traditionally feminine, but I employ femininity anyway (as well as masculinity sometimes too), on my own terms. I wear dresses with my bruises and bumps, on my body that I’m supposed to cover up in the interest of the general public.

Being tattooed is embodied art, and where you have pieces factors into your experience of that piece. I’ve written before about the politics of having a “marked body”, but mainly from the perspective of being fat and having stretchmarks, scars, lumps and bumps etc. I know that tattooing is fairly mainstream now, however, I still feel it’s transgressive because it rails against the logic that (particularly as women) we should be clean, unmarked, chasing after youth and the innocence that a completely unmarked body (hairless, bruiseless, smooth, without bruises or scars or marks of any kind) seems to suggest. I chose to get a sewing machine tattooed on me because it’s a part of my history – working class crafting, making something out of no or few resources, and body acceptance too, which is what started me making clothes regularly again. Choosing a personal facet of my history and having it inscribed on me acknowledges that my history has shaped me, my body and my experience of it.

(Also, it’s just beautiful!)

It was a really empowering experience – I didn’t really expect that actually. I knew that I felt strong enough to deal with the pain, but I was nervous that I would be a wimp throughout, that I’d need to stop or wouldn’t go back for the second half. I was surprised at how easily I dealt with it, at how strong I am when I need to be. I’ve been through things, and they’ve shaped me in a way which makes me strong and tough in moments like this, and that in itself is awesome. 

Roll on shading and four weeks time!

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