British Tattoo Art Revealed Exhibition

Around 1 in 5 people in Britain today are tattooed. Whether that’s a star, cross, bird or name…the British public have taken to inking their skin seriously and it’s bloody awesome.

Back in December I headed to Great Yarmouth of all places to visit an exhibition I’ve been wanting to see for months. It’s been touring round the country which I think in itself is great as it’s enabling a whole range of people to see it. The exhibition itself was curated by National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

As you might already know, I’ve got quite a few tattoos and the number is ever growing but apart from having them myself, I have this fascination with the history of tattooing and tattoos themselves. If I had the balls, I would go up to so many random people and ask about their tattoos, I just love seeing so much walking artwork everywhere. I’m so glad tattoos are becoming even more popular and widely accepted in this day and age.

The exhibition is currently at the Time and Tide museum in Great Yarmouth which is the closest it’s been to me even though it was nearly a 3 hour round trip. It’s been there since 19th October 2019 and will be there until 8th March 2020 so there’s still plenty of time to see it if you’re around the area. The exhibition didn’t cost any more than the museum admission fee which was good value for money regardless of the additional exhibition. We made the most of the ticket and wandered round the museum which is centered around life within Great Yarmouth. The tattoo exhibition is the last or first thing you visit depending on the way you plan your visit at Time and Tide.

What I liked about the first impression of the exhibition was you could instantly tell that it was about the history of tattoos with amazing artwork adorning the walls and this sense of pride of the craftsmanship throughout. There are over 400 original art works, photographs and historic objects on display, some of which have never been seen in public before and unique commissions from today’s leading tattoo artists and studios.

The layout of the exhibition is helpful; following the progression of the skill of tattooing and also how different styles develop over time. It’s amazing to think the technique of putting a stencil on before actually doing the tattoo has stuck around so long. Seeing a stencil from 1910 of a tattoo design really made you realise how some things just work and stick around no matter what. For people not as familiar with a lot of tattoo history, it really made it easier to follow the journey of tattooing.

A particular favourite part for me was being able to see so many incredible tattoo flash designs. It made you feel like you were stepping back in time to an old tattoo studio. It definitely got my creative juices following and will probably heavily influence what tattoos I end up getting in the future.

The exhibition is kind of split into two different sections which I think worked quite well. The first half being more about early tattooing and the early 1900s when more traditional styles of tattooing came into fashion with sailors and soldiers. A notable feature was a section about Sailor Jerry who most people know for the spiced rum but his actual name was Norman Collins who is known to be one of the most influential tattoo artists in the world whose work still influences tattoo artists today. On show was a tattoo machine made by Collins himself, a business card and the original Sailor Jerry acetate. Next to this section was a torso sculpture adorned with the most fantastic tattoo art by artist Matt Houston. Heavily influenced by such styles as Norman Collins, I was blown away by the detail and vast space that he managed to cover. Another notable mention is the selection of old tattooing equipment that was next to a section about George Burchett who was the first tattoo artist to appear on television.

The second half of the exhibition or at least how I saw it, definitely had an eye catching centrepiece; a wall of 100 hands. Labeled as a celebration of UK tattoo artistry today and my gosh it definitely is! I was blown away by the artwork adorning each and every hand. I think I spent at least half an hour walking up and down admiring every hand and the amount of detail, time and effort that had gone into each one. It really is an amazing showcase of how the UK holds so many talented tattoos artists and allows their work to be seen by even more people. Personal highlights for me was a Big Bang Theory themed hand with the most incredible portrait of Sheldon, a hand with Mickey Mouse smoking a cigarette and a traditional black and grey style one with styles I love. I definitely felt proud to have as many tattoos as I have looking at this wall. For me it represented more than 100 artists, it represented the fact that people aren’t afraid to be different and celebrate having beautiful artwork across their bodies.

Other highlights of the exhibition also included mock up versions of 2 tattoo studios. One of which was famous female tattoo artist Lal Hardy’s, who tattooed punks, skin heads and teddy boys throughout the 1980s and was a pioneering artist that led the way for lots of female tattoo artists today. The mock up felt so real, the buzzing of tattoo machines really helped with that but there was this feeling you got as if you were walking into a tattoo studio again…that buzz, excitement and anticipation. The other studio mock up that of Charlie ‘Cash’ Cooper of which you weren’t actually allowed to take photos of. It was small, cramped but resembled what most people would think of when tattoo studio comes to mind. Tattoo flash sheets framed on every bit of empty wall space.

The end of the exhibition is marked with a sculpture inspired by The Great Omi which was done by Anthony Bennett. The Great Omi was fully tattooed man in the 1940s who performed at circuses and sideshows. It’s a great reminder of how far tattoos being accepted have come but also how far they still need to go.

All in all, it was well worth a visit for someone who has an interest in tattoos but also a way for people to just gain an interest or learn about a different kind of history…something my boyfriend definitely found out. It’s great to see that people are starting to recognise the rich history of tattooing and how it needs to be told and celebrated.

You can find out any more information about the exhibition whilst it is still at the Tide & Time museum in Great Yarmouth here.

Be sure to check back next week for a brand new post.

Until next time,

adoseofapril x

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