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The Body Art page

Emily's tattoo

My back was tattooed by Curly at Into You (London) in 1997.
What you see in black is actually the negative space of the image that I brought with me to the tattoo studio on the day I had the outline done. The recommendation to ink the negative, rather than the positive spaces was made by Curly and the other artists at Into You. I was initially reluctant to change my carefully planned design, but I quickly understood that doing so would improve both the visual impact and the longevity of the tattoo; it was sound advice. The image originally came from a square shaped Celtic knot work. I first saw it as a butterfly shaped adaptation on a tile made by my friend Martin Smith. I further developed the image from the tile through photocopied enlargements, Martin's skilled assistance with Adobe Photoshop and his patience in measuring and fitting it to my back plus the many hours that I spent painstakingly re-drawing the whole thing. Only by working on the many details by hand did the image really come together and become uniquely mine. Martin still deserves a lot of credit for the design and, of course, and credit for excellence in execution goes to Curly.

Upon first sight of this image I was immediately struck by the many deeply personal resonances it held for me. I knew immediately that it would go on my back and I actually said out loud "I want that on my back. I have to have that on my back. I will have that on my back." (more to myself than to Martin.) It was a need, not a fancy. It is about the beauty of strength in the female body, my body. It represents various muscles and bones of the body. It is about the recognition and acceptance of the process of aging, as well as it being a commitment to the pursuit of good health and an intensely physical experience of life. I am a performer, a trapeze artist, a dancer, a circus-theatre artist. My tattoos are a form of contract with myself to pursue my needs and interests in life and work. They are better described as parts of me rather than as things on me. As totems they have worked for me when I have needed them as reminders not to lose sight of my passions and to be active in creating opportunities for myself.


me and emily

This is Martin and Emily together at Spitalfields vegetable market, May 1999. Many thanks to Mia for taking the photo.
Hi Mia, nice to see you.