I have often referred to my conversations with my tattooist, Ben Boston. Well here he is preparing for his next session with me today. A few minutes later and I was lying on the bench right here as Ben began the recolouring of an old tattoo.
As he did so I commented on the ageing of tattoos - a worry many people have. I said all you have to do is from time to time get them re-lined and coloured. But it seems it is not necessarily as easy as that. Everybody's skin is different, he said, with varying capababilties to absorb ink and the life span of a tattoo is much affected by that. He has a few clients whose tattoo looks brand new even after a few years.
It also matters how you live your life. For those engaged in jobs with a manual content, such as lying under cars in a garage or working on building sites with cement and concrete dust around, then the healing of the new tattoo can be seriously damaged. Then there's the obvious problem of sunbathing. Don't expose tattoos to the sun at length, especially in the first year of a tattoo's life.
Ben believes women pay far better attention to their skin than men so generally their tattoos will last better and presumably respond better to any reworking. It is really worth moisturising your skin regularly, especially just before a tattoo session. The elbow needs most attention. After the tattoo session go straight home and get a hot facecloth onto the new tattoo and hold it there. I've always done this. Repeat this during the first few days. People will use different ointments, find out what works for you. The rate that people heal varies considerably too. I use Preparation H, and have no shame in asking for it at the chemist's.
After that treatment with ointment finishes then begin with a moisturiser. This is going to be hard for me after sixty seven years of not using one. Old dogs and new tricks. Oh dear.
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My mind is focussed on just one kind of extreme body modification - heavy tattooing. My body appearance has changed drastically in the past five years. But what are other people's body modifications of choice? One is a practice known as "tight lacing", in which the users of corsets embark on reducing their waist sizes to as small at 17 or 18 inches, if they can. It's not something that grabs me but Lacie here ( www.staylace.com ) has dedicated herself to the practice. There are others like her who take it very seriously. It's a fetish and not necessarily permanent. If you give up regularly wearing this special kind of corset then you will eventually revert to normal. I have no plans to embark on this myself, but before I pass any judgement must reflect that what I am doing to myself is even more extreme. The images here are truly eye catching. I have never knowingly met anyone who is into tight lacing yet there is a big community out there who do it.
The work in my groin and pubic area has been completed. Years ago Louis Molloy did the central figure in this picture but avoided going all the way. Now Ben has tattooed a circle of clouds all around the image that goes as far as it can without inking my genitalia. This completes the work on my torso. Added to that Ben has worked some hair detail on a much older art nouveau image originally tattooed in the nineties. Months ago Ben covered the black hair with brown. Today he gave the hair some texture. To mark the end of this phase Ben took some pictures of my whole body.
I went to the Newport, South Wales convention yesterday. Before getting there, I spent two and half hours with a face painter who gave me fake face and neck tattoos. It was painstaking but very pleasant and enjoyable. Sam Fisher, the face painter from Longwell in Bristol, did a wonderful job and the reaction I got at Newport was quite electric. All tattooists spotted the fakery immediately and most heavily tattooed people didn't take long either. But many were unsure. One way or another I caught the eye and it led to many conversations with those attending the convention. It was an opportunity to talk about face tattoos and how far people were willing to go. I was struck that a significant proportion of those there with some face tattoos were women. I'm not sure, but maybe more than half. One young woman I photographed, but unfortunately can't name check, has at her tender age advanced very far on neck and face. She said she may well take it furt