Written by Geoff Vaughan in Body Arts
Viewed by 406 readers since 03-18-2009
One way that people all over the world show their individuality is though a tattoo. Whether it’s a small rose on a woman’s ankle, or a huge eagle splayed across a guy’s back, a tattoo is considered by many to be a form of art. Fundamentally, it’s pigment in the skin in the shape of a design, and there are various methods of getting that coloring down into the dermis so it’ll stay.
Most common in the western world is to use a tattoo gun. Patented in 1891 by Samuel O’Reilly and inspired by Thomas Edison’s autographic printer, the tattoo gun, or tattoo machine, uses power to repeatedly inject a needle into the skin extremely fast. Although the first versions of this machine used rotary technology, the tattoo guns of today use a system known as dual coil technology. Electric current flows through two different coils, causing a bar to move back and forth between the two coils as the circuit is opened and closed. At the end of the bar is a needle, which travels through a tube that contains a reservoir for ink. The bar moves up and down at a rate of 80 to 150 times per second, causing ink to be repeatedly injected into the skin. By moving this gun around the skin and using different colors of ink, the tattoo artist can create the design of a person’s choosing.
In Japan there is a tattoo technique called Tebori, which means to hand carve something. Naturally, this is a tattooing method that is done by hand and is a traditional way the Japanese have used to adorn their skin. Tebori is done with a simple tool that’s made up of a typically bamboo handle with needles at the end. Different sized tools are used depending on the level of detail that’s desired in the area being worked on. The tattoo artist practicing this method will dip the needles in ink and then pierce the skin with the ends of them, while stretching the skin with the other hand. It takes a lot of practice to perfect this imperfect technique, as the right depth has to be judged in order to create a tattoo that will stay. Too deep and the blood will carry the ink away from that spot. Too shallow and the ink will remain in the epidermis and will eventually fade away. Although this is true for all other tattoo techniques as well, it’s a factor that’s especially relevant to the Tebori practitioner.
In Polynesia, which is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, a traditional method of tattooing skin is to use a tool referred to as a comb, rake, or chisel. This simple instrument consists of a wooden handle shaped like a rake, with needles attached. These needles are typically made of natural materials such as bamboo, turtle shell, or bird bones. They are dipped in ink and applied to the skin, while the handle is tapped repeatedly to inject the needles and ink into the skin. The tattoos created with this method are usually very distinctive and one can easily recognize the designs the Polynesian method produces.
Regardless of the method, the art of tattooing skin has been around for eons and isn’t likely to fade away anytime soon. Although the technology may change, tattoos will always remain a permanent way to express oneself through the creation of designs on the skin.