Stick and Poke Tattoos and the charm of imperfection

This week I’m giving the word to Louiza Krokatsis, who will share a little something about her experience and outlook on “Stick and Poke” tattoos, aesthetics and the charm of imperfection. She is a second year Media and Cultural Studies student at London College of Communications with an eye for visual arts and culture. Check out her visual diary if you want to know more about her. Enjoy!

(c) StyleCraze

When thinking of the tattoo process, one imagines a motorized machine poking into skin at high speed. However, the earliest evidence of tattoos dates back to 2000 B.C. of the Egyptians, embellishing their skin by hand. This brings me to discuss the primitive art of “Stick and Poke” tattoos; the do-it-yourself, imperfect tattoos originating from Tebori, the Japanese practice of tattooing by hand.

Tebori, which translates to “carving by hand”, is a style of tattooing produced by repeatedly tapping a rod of wood onto the skin, which contains an ensemble of needles arranged in rows at the end. The act itself is a painful and enduring process but creates gradients and tones that are challenging to achieve with the conventional tattoo machine.

Over time, the culture of hand made tattoos has adopted itself within different cultures and environments. A more recent and common connotation is that of prison made tattoos, proving how self expression holds no bounds within bars. A practice that spawned from the 1930s-80s is that of Russian Criminal Tattoos being used to indicate an inmate’s criminal career and ranking. (Read More about Russian Criminal Tattoos here)

At present, tattoos are an ubiquitous and elaborate art form, with new artists emerging daily, bringing forth contemporary styles and a plethora of opportunities to get intricate pieces embedded onto your skin. With one side of the spectrum providing elaborate and beautiful art, the other side produces the substandard and now mainstream culture of DIY tattoos, with 2015 being hailed as the year for stick and poke. Stick and Pokes are exactly what it says on the tin, you stick a needle into Indian Ink and poke into your skin, repeatedly, over and over, for thrice the time of a machine made tattoo with shoddy results. This substandard style of art may seem unappealing to some but the unique aesthetic of the creations has maintained popularity as a fun way of creative expression.

Tattoos are generally associated with “rebelling against the norms”, especially if you have conservative parents who detest the idea of their untainted child covering themselves in ink. The ability to design what you what, whenever you wanted on your skin for the inexpensive cost of less than £5 seems like an alluring way to gain control of your own body and deeming yourself invincible. Furthermore, a culture of intimacy has grown from the act, with the common narrative being played out; having a few drinks with friends that own some ink and then browsing the #stickandpoke tag on Instagram for inspiration. My first experience follows; a white wine bottle and an hour of prodding later, I was inked up with an arrow adorning the inside of my finger. I proceeded to create the same on my friend and with that a significant bond was made.

Stick and Pokes are never meant to be perfect, it is always about the meaningful and personal experience rather than the final product. The carefree and friendly environment is something unachievable at a parlour and can only be constructed with the surrounding of friends and positive vibes. Whenever I look at this tattoo, I do not see the symbolism of an arrow, that meaning is emptied out and replaced with the sentimental memory created with my friend.

– Louiza Krokatsis

Let me and Louiza know which tattoo style do you prefer by voting here 🙂


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