The Bristol Tattoo convention is an unpretentious event, concentrating on tattoos and nothing else. It was not a place where I expected to come across what might be called a tattoo celebrity.
But there was the elfin like Grace Neutral, unmistakeable with her blue and I mean blue eyes, and missing belly button.
I interviewed Grace and when I played it back and did some cross checking with other articles published on her, discovered that I had asked her all the same questions as everyone else, or at least she had told me the same things as she always says to boring people like me.
Not that she looked bored. She is a very engaging personality and was only too happy to concentrate on helping me out as she stood behind her stall, where she sells her merchandise.
I asked her what next in her body modification world and she told me she is planning to get all the ink on her legs reworked by Guy leTatooer in Toulouse http://guyletatooer.com She is having her legs extensively changed by him when he visits the UK. His style specialises in dot work.
Will she get full coverage? Yes. Her head? She's not thought about it but she wouldn't rule it out either.
The procedure to get her eyes done involve the use of a syringe. It is not done in one single go. She thinks laser eye surgery would make her more squeamish, because in that case you actually get the cornea cut.
She had the whites of her eyes changed to blue in part because she worked with the person who invented the procedure for about three years. She has also had her tongue split. There is scarification on her face, very subtlely placed and pretty. She is thinking of having some more small work done on her face but has no immediate plans
She has her the piercings in her nostrils stretched to 8 mil and her ears and septum but doesn't wear jewellery any more now she is 27. It's like changes in hairstyles. As you get older you like different things she says.
I said her extreme modifications would not be a problem for someone who planned to work in the tattoo world for the rest of her life. Grace said that while tattoos are her bread and butter that she does have other things in her life, like journalism. She made a documentary in Korea about the illegal tattoo scene, made by i-D on Vice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEUWBlUuUHU Over three million people have watched this video already!.
While she does gain a lot of acceptance from her own generation for her extreme appearance, older people can be judgemental even in today's world. Western society is better in the last ten years but extensive cosmetic surgery is still more readily accepted that tattoos, scarification and stretched piercings.
She says it is still harder for women. "I get comments like you are such a pretty young girl, why would you do that? I don't know any female in the tattoo world that hasn't had some sort of judgement on her because of her sex. I know mothers who have people turn round to them and say you're a mother, you don't deserve to have children looking like that. There's a stigma but that's not about tattoos but about the stigma in the mind of the person saying it. It could be because of gangs or the military." But things are changing all the time.
And long may the delightful Grace continue to change her body.
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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