Tattoos are a combination of art and craft
Tattoos are one of several types of body modification that are achieved by introducing ink under the skin.
Today this is performed by a machine commonly referred to as a tattoo gun which operates by rapidly puncturing the skin with a needle, injecting ink into the dermis layer of skin leaving a permanent pigment change.
Fundamentally, this type of gun has remained unchanged since its inventor; Samuel O’Reilly adapted the electric pen to perform this function.
Finding a single origin of where tattoos were first used is lost in time but from evidence gathered in numerous parts of the world it is conceivable that no one culture first used methods to mark their skin but many ancient civilizations throughout the world gained knowledge and technique to dye their skin for a variety of reasons at different times.
The motivation behind such practices is unclear but suggestions like identity and status are popular beliefs by researchers of ancient cultures.
Early evidence of tattooing comes from artifacts discovered throughout the world, several in particular with the now famous Ötzi, a Bronze Age man recovered from the Alps region, becoming known worldwide. His mummified remains that approximately date to 3,300 BCE revealed a man clearly bearing tattoos of various sorts that included a cross like image on his knee in addition to other designs.
Similar markings have been found on exposed mummified bodies in Siberia that carbon dating suggests many lived during the Iron Age of Siberia from a culture known as Pazyryk.
Thanks to these sub-zero regions human decomposition has been all but altered giving scientists and archaeologists a glimpse into life thousands of years ago and with it an invaluable understanding and insight into skin art.
Tattoos from this period are abstract and with the recent surge in modern tribal designs skin art has come full circle with ever more sophistication and ability that has seen some remarkable artwork appear on the market.
The term tribal is a loose expression that describes tribal tattoos thick bold lines that resemble various diverse cultures primarily developed by islanders in the South Pacific like countries such as Borneo, Tahiti, New Zealand, Hawaii, Marquesas Islands, Samoa, Melanesia, Rapa Nui, Tonga, Fiji and elsewhere.
From their ancient traditions and kept alive customs, Western societies have seen artists recreate fantastic designs that are largely made up of sweeping symmetrical black lines that taper to a point with spaces dividing them.
Perhaps the most recognizable design from the South Pacific is New Zealand’s Maori tattoo and not only for its distinctive facial placement but also for the manner in which it is applied.
Certainly no other culture, modern or primeval has had an influence on contemporary tattoo art like those cultural traditions found in the South Pacific region and furthermore, perpetually transformed Western society when explorers and sailors came home bearing such designs.
This is not to say that skin art had not been practiced in Europe or the West, it had but the Polynesia customs brought back by maritime explorers and adventurers had reintroduced a new enthusiasm for those interested in body art.
It’s clear that throughout history tattooing has passed through a diverse range of backgrounds leaving no country untouched by its primitive but also dynamic lure.
There are those countries that still practice traditional tattooing including Africa, India, Nepal and Japan where choosing a design is an integral part of the modus operandi. In these societies it is widely believed the choice of design can be detrimental to the well being and good fortune of the bearer.
This is clearly visible with the vast majority of body art in Nepal, where there is a current Hinduism theme, countless images depicting gods and goddesses besides the accepted illustrations of flowers and birds. In parts of India, particular in the northwest and those situated in and around the Gujarat area, tattoos frequently consist of a series of dots or symbols that together forge patterns to promote and ensure fertility amongst other beliefs and superstitions.
In addition to the African continent, oriental body art found in parts of Southeast Asia, in particular Japan, China, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand are home to some spectacular tattoo designs, many covering the lower torso from the neck down.
There is a vast variety of themes that stretch across this extremely populated, massive content with many tattoos holding a close relationship with religion. Individual pursuits of spirituality, courage, strength, honour are amid just a few of the intrinsic worth or virtues that people seek and desire. Thailand is renowned for its Buddhist monks and their peaceful beliefs but also these very same monks giving and receiving tattoos just as they do prayer and free offerings to the countless people searching for guidance.
However, another popular widespread thesis in Southeast Asia is the idea that wearing specific designs can ward of danger and protect from evil so the process of choosing a tattoo can be intensive in search and anxiety. This is a permanent talisman, embedded into the bearer’s skin, traveling as one through their life’s journey encouraging positive aspects to their existence.
New World tattooing which refers to skin art in the Americas appeared to be reasonably established prior to European explorers landing on the continent. Native North American people or Indians showed an assortment of intriguing images that they themselves developed that were then passed down through each generation along with the techniques learnt and used by their forefathers.
In today’s modern America, alongside several other European countries, particularly Britain, tattooing is now a popular mainstream attraction that appeals to the many from all walks of life.
Tattoos are a combination of art and craft that do not discriminate against age, sex, size or creed. They can forge relationships based on similar ideologies and a love of skin art that familiarize those that indulge. Cultural anthropologists suggest that there is a connection with those societies that lack communal rites, giving those that take part and bear a tattoo a sort of ritual gathering. It is conceivable that for these very reasons and additional hypothesizes that America embraces such body art.
Not enough emphasis can be placed on the awe inspiring tattoo artwork being created today by adeptly talented artists. Portrait and representation designs have superseded all that have come before in their realism and total brilliance. Artists are now beginning to receive much deserved recognition for dedicating their time developing their artistic style producing astonishing works that fill the walls and flash sheets of tattoo studios.
Thinking of a tattoo for yourself?
Find out why people get them, the health risks involved, and your options if you change your mind.
P.S. If you have any questions, consult a tatoo artist and not someone who has just received a tatoo. Alot of people think they know everything about the tatoo process because they have gotten a tatoo. It’s really not the case. There are alot of myths that are spread about tatooing because of people making guesses and assuming they know things just because they’ve been tatooed. I even see wrong answers about your question. So go see an artist. Enjoy and good luck.