Tattoos are markers in our lives and each one has it’s own story. You choose the design, the placement on your body, when and where you have it done, who does it and who you then share it with. By conducting a series of audio recordings to explore these choices, we have been uncovering peoples’ tattoo tales as part of a community engagement project working alongside the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.
One thing has become clear; our perceptions of tattoos are undergoing massive changes. Once generally reserved for the Navy, armed forces and those who have been in prison, tattoos are more common than they have ever been. Indeed many young people we have spoken to point out that it’s more unusual not to have a tattoo than to have one.
We have spent the last couple of months travelling all over Cornwall to collect these stories and document the tattos themselves. This has included days spent at the Royal British Legion social club in Tideford, Woodlane campus at Falmouth University, around Falmouth town and up to Battling On, a wonderful charity in North Cornwall.
Tattoos have provided such an interesting and evocative way of capturing peoples life stories and we have been blown over by how open people have been when sharing these. The stories we have collected are each unique, with huge variations in people’s motives and design choices. There has been humour and sadness, beauty and the grotesque, celebrations and losses. As always it is a privilege to hear these stories and be able to honour them as part of this work. We say it often, but it’s a human need to be listened to, to be heard.
Over the next couple of months we will be warmly tucked away editing these stories, which will feature in a ground-breaking contemporary exhibition exploring this history of British tattooing at the Maritime Museum Cornwall from March 2017 (read more here). These will be in the form of both written stories and digital stories. Here are just a few snippets so far…