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A Little Bit of Tattoo History

Contrary to belief of many the practice of tattooing is not a new concept with the majority of countries having tattoos documented throughout history. From our Royalty and Presidents, to marking of rites of passage into adulthood, a practice that is still seen today meaning that tattooing has been around for a very long time.

During ancient times it is thought that tattooing was included as part of healing rituals. With pre-Christian, Celtic, Germanic and other European tribes believed to have been heavily tattooed, using natural ingredients to create the tattoo. Otzi the Iceman’s [who is thought to be 5,300 years old and alive at the start of the Bronze Age] body is covered with a staggering 61 tattoos, with lines and crosses being located on his body in places where there was degeneration/disease; leading scientists to agree that the tattoos were more than likely for therapeutic purposed opposed to decorative symbols.   After making an incision to the skin they would then rub charcoal into the wound to create the tattoo.

Whilst the therapeutic value of tattooing is no longer commonly practiced, having a tattoo in the UK remains very popular with some people eagerly waiting until their 18th birthday. Several people however will opt to either tattoo themselves and their friends or visit studios that disregard the Tattooing of Minors Act to have their body inked. While many people will be happy with their tattoos, some go badly wrong or regret their youthful decisions.

Throughout our lives we will make a lot of lifestyle choices. Most of which are less permanent but done to help us look and feel good about ourselves and feel more confident.   But a hairstyle and an image can be changed. Tattooing it seems is also seen as a fashion concept, with certain designs becoming very popular and our choices even guided by our celebrity obsession. And for a permanent art form there is often little consideration given for either the design or the skill of the artist along with many people being price driven. While the media may call it fashion, many tattoo collectors will refer to their tattoos as a lifestyle choice, and an art form that has been practiced for thousands of years.

So as tattooing moved away from the therapeutic and society developed, tattooing became an art form for the wealthy and elite, with the pigment needed for blue ink once having a higher value than gold. With the Dukes of Clarence and York with their dragons on their arms, the future Edward VII with a Jerusalem cross to Winston Churchill his mother and George Orwell to name but a few. Before tattooing become known more for its links with the basements and back streets.

TV shows and social media have done much for the industry, with more artists now becoming tattooists. Showing tattooing as a credible art form, with more and more people opting for stylized custom designs and less and less for the mass-produced flash work that we were once so familiar with seeing adored to the tattooist walls. Along with the advancement of laser technology the permanence of our tattoos and choices is not such a factor. There are a number of reasons why people look at removing or fading their tattoos. And whilst tattooing is popular it still comes with a degree of prejudice with reports of tattoos having an effect on employment, and even housing opportunities. It is also fact that not all tattoo artists are the same when it comes to getting your tattoo right. And for others they look at removal as a way to make room for new ideas.

So as society continues to move forward, and tattooing becomes more acceptable and mainstream it is likely to remain an art form that is either loved or disliked equally for the foreseeable future. With the more extreme continuing to be controversial and others using tattooing to mark significant life events and beautiful artwork.