Golli Golli Gosh! Golliwog tattoos…

Words & Photos by Fareed Kaviani

Noddy is no stranger to controversy…

His ambiguous relationship with Big Ears aroused suspicions of homosexuality: having a ‘gay old time in the woods’ no longer meant enjoying oneself in nature’s lush embrace. It meant amyl nitrate and sodomy. Needless to say, there was a moratorium on sleepovers. 

But this was over sixty years ago, during a parochial age where the judicial system was prejudiced against gay couples, treating them like second-class citizens, even forbidding them the basic human right of marriage! Oh…

Toyland (Noddy’s hometown) was apparently also a hotbed for racism.

In the 1951 edition of Enid Blyton’s Here Comes Noddy Again, a group of villainous Golliwogs came to Toyland. Although this wasn’t their first time in town (one of Noddy’s best friends was a Golliwog), it was their debut role as mean-spirited criminals: carjacking Noddy and scaring the shit out of his friends. The following decades of civil rights movements reified Blyton’s portrayal of Golliwogs as a symbol of racial intolerance and insensitivity. What followed was a successful anti-Golliwog campaign to stigmatise and remove the doll from the public arena.

The 1992 edition of Here Comes Noddy Again replaced the Golliwogs with evil goblins, unfortunately rendering Toyland a gated community of predominately Anglo-Saxons, the only non-white colours being the fluff of a brown bear and ghoulish grey of an evil goblin’s face (who, incidentally, looks like an Arab). Although their banishment from Toyland and subsequent establishment of a pure-race utopia may appears palpably more racist than their inclusion, the doll had not been completely effaced.

Golli Golli Gosh golliwog

In April of 1990, an Australian toddler had just finished unwrapping his birthday gift.  Ecstatically, he began shouting ‘Lollilog! Lollilog!’  Clutched between his two white hands was his first Golliwog doll. Twenty-four years later, that same little boy sits before me in a cluster of Golliwogs, discussing the red lipped, bow-tied, black-skinned doll that is tattooed on his leg.

‘When I asked my family why they got me such a taboo doll for my second birthday, they told me that it was because I just really loved him. To me he wasn’t a black caricature or black doll, he was just a doll, and he was my best friend.’

‘Whilst I was concerned about the repercussions of people seeing the Golliwog as a tattoo without knowing why it was there, I was more excited about the prospect of sharing my feelings and ideas with people that were curious, and I hoped that it would spark an interest in people, as opposed to invoking a distaste.’

It definitely whet my interest.

Prior to Blyth’s adoption of the Golliwog for her Noddy series, the (originally spelt) Golliwogg was first introduced to the British public as a ‘horrid sight’ in Florence Kate Upton’s 1895 illustrated children’s book, The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg. In it, two dolls, Peggy and Sarah Jane, acquire the power to live and ‘taste human joys’, which basically consist of gambolling and sharing mundane vignettes. But alas, out of nowhere:

‘… a horrid sight!
The blackest gnome
Stands there alone,
They scatter in their fright.’

The ‘horrid sight’ was a benevolent black doll dressed in red trousers, a high-collared white shirt, blue tailcoat, and red bow-tie. After the Golliwog allayed Peggy and Sarah Jane’s fear with an amicable introduction, the threesome went on to become inseparable friends and featured in twelve more of Upton’s adventures.

The Golliwog was based on a black minstrel doll that Upton had played with during her childhood in America. Minstrels were caricatures of African Americans: initially white people and, later, black people who donned blackface and provided entertainment through dancing, music and comedy, lampooning black people as dim-witted, happy-go-lucky, lazy and buffoonish. Essentially, the Golliwog was a caricature of a caricature; yet, in a limited attempt to divorce her Golliwog from the racial stereotyping inherent in depictions of American minstrels, Upton had introduced an affable and lovable black literary hero into the imagination of British children.

By tattooing Upton’s Golliwog alongside one of the Dutch dolls, Richard’s intent was to decontextualise the doll from the pronounced racism that was recognised in later years and to reintroduce it as the hero Upton had portrayed him to be.

‘I was extremely concerned about the way that it might be perceived. I like the way that tattoos can become topical and make for good conversation. I was mainly concerned that people might jump to conclusions and that I might be harassed about it, but I was willing to take that risk. Removing the Golliwog and pretending that it doesn’t exist, or that he is
a bad character, is not going to combat racism. Education will,’ says Richard.

‘Travelling to America early in 2013, however, was a different story. I was pulled up quite a lot by angry people wanting to know what I was about. At clubs, gas stations, public pools: the response there was a lot different to what I am used to back home in Australia. I just had to be mindful and respectful, and I wore pants to cover it in places that I thought I might offend. That said, I was also approached by a lot of people that were happy to hear my story.’

In retrospect, there is something sinister about white children commanding mastery over black dolls that caricatured the human beings their parents were subjugating. Some may argue that education was the very thing that removed the Golliwog from Noddy and elsewhere, and even if you share the opinion that Upton’s Golliwogg was divorced from the nefarious portrayals of American minstrels, this does not efface an abhorrent history of slavery and subjugation, of which the minstrel is a vestigial reminder. Although Richard’s intent was sincere, the vagaries of perception can tell a different story.


Why women choose to get tattooed later on in life

Meet Joyce, a 59-year-old mature post-graduate student at the University of Aberdeen studying for an MSc in Sociology. She got in touch with us to help her find more women like her… read more below.

“I am carrying out a research study on why women choose to get a tattoo – especially those who get their first one later in life. It’s a bit hard to define this age group without insulting people or being stereotypical. What I mean is, those women who didn’t get tattoos before they were around 60ish. Women like me! I’m 59 and three quarters. I really want to interview women face to face over a coffee or tea, but as I live in Aberdeen that might prove impossible for some, so email or Skype would be great too.

“I’ll probably only need to meet/talk once, but it would be lovely to meet before and after a tattoo too – as a follow up and to see the finished artwork. The risks involved are minimal – I’m friendly and if there are any questions you don’t want to answer or topics you don’t want to talk about, then that’s fine too.”

If this sounds like something of interest to you… please get in touch with Joyce at  joycebowler@hotmail.com 


Tess Metcalfe – Pigeon Jewels

Things&Ink met up with Tessa Metcalfe to talk tattoos, inspiration and pigeons… as published in issue 7 of Things&Ink magazine, The Identity Issue.

How did you get into jewellery making?
I was making a taxidermy pigeon hat for myself one day, and I had the feet left over. I dried them out and eventually started casting them. I loved all the possibilities they gave me and I just got carried away. I’ve now cast the feet, oh, hundreds of times and I’ve made a whole collection from them.

What inspires you?
Growing up in London, it was very grey. My Granny gave me two volumes of fairytales, Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm, and I would read them again and again. They were wonderful, full of wildlife, with sometimes dark and heartbreaking stories. Being a little girl I wanted to be in a fairytale but all I had was this grey city and these pigeons. I must have started to think about the lives of these birds and what they were thinking. I like to play out my childhood London fairytale through my pieces, its like proving it was true all along.

What draws you to jewellery?
I love that jewellery is something purely for pleasure, an object for the sole purpose of making you happy. Something you don’t need, but that you want. Like a tattoo I guess.

Is your work inspired by tattoos?
I love that a tattoo can tell a story, much like jewellery. It’s something that you should treasure and lasts forever, it is like a piece or form of you.

What is your favourite piece you have created?
I think I’d have to say the clawed pigeon feet rings that also have rings on their claws. I make miniature jewellery for the claws and I gold plate their nails too. I love the idea that they have the same feral lust for jewels as us and I think they deserve it.


Can you tell us a bit about your tattoos?
My two largest pieces are birds, of course. I have a swan covered in jewels on my left arm and a pigeon on my right. I love the juxtaposition of the birds and the connotations connected with them. I also have the Hackney Council logo on my foot, everyone needs at least one drunk tattoo, and I’ve never regretted it. I’ve got wartime stocking seams up the back of my legs, with spiders at the top so the line is like a silk thread. And at the bottom I have upside down fleur de lis. I hand poked them myself, so they’re not symmetrical.

Who are your favourite tattooists?
My best tattoos are my birds both by Brian T Wilson of Scapegoat Tattoo in Portland. I love his detail and he draws from wildlife book illustrations, which makes them realistic – I love that. I’m thinking of getting a royal orb shackle below my swan to add the suggestion that she may, or may not, have stolen her jewels from the Queen when she broke free. Next I want a tattoo of my Frenchie, Meatball, with her snaggle tooth and floppy ear, any takers? Course I’ll have a whole flock of pigeons one day, I’d love one by Rudy Fritsch.


Do you have any jewellery inspired tattoos?
In a word, yes. My pigeon has her own set of rings that she wears, just like my collection, and a centre stone set into her bejewelled chest. Brian drew straight from a ring I inherited from my Grandma that I was wearing. I lost the ring when I moved house, so I’m really glad it’s immortalised.

Do you think there is a relationship between tattoos and fashion?
Fashion is, in its nature, changing. It’s influenced by trends and so many things. Tattoos are for life and I make jewellery for life too.

What future plans do you have for your company?
I don’t feel confined to jewellery. I’m self-taught and we’re in an age that if you want to learn something you can. I love to embrace that notion. When I fall in love with an idea I’ll see where it takes me.


Photos of Tessa by Samuel Butt
Photos of jewellery by Kristy Noble Styled by Sarah Anne Smith

Songbird Tattoo Studio

Songbird Tattoo Studio has recently moved to Exeter’s High Street, becoming the most central shop in the Southern City.

This beautiful emporium is a custom shop, which is open to the public but maintains the ambiance of a private studio. A highly unique space with much to spark the imagination, the studio has an air of relaxation and friendliness about it.

Studio owner and tattooist Nic Smith works mainly in Mehndi, geometric pattern decorative styles, and also enjoys colour work. She’s inspired by patterns, fabrics and varied religious iconography. All of these things not only inform her work but have impacted on the shop’s interior.

Syluss focuses his attention on custom illustrative work and also excels at portraits and black & grey.

Ryan Ousley works primarily in a bold new school style, favouring bright colours.

Email songbirdtatoo@live.co.uk for booking and enquiries and follow Songbird Tattoo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for studio updates and more tattoos.




Cute mini Sun Jellies bag when you buy the latest issue

We’ve joined forces with Sun Jellies, to offer you a super-cute treat when you order the latest issue of Things&Ink – The Anatomy Issue, issue 10. Visit Newsstand to order.

The lovely people over at Sun Jellies have given us the cutest mini jelly bags to give to our readers – as a reward for being totally awesome. And if you fancy owning one of these lovely little woven bags that are really giving us a warm feeling of nostalgia, then go order your copy of The Anatomy Issue of Things&Ink… there’s only a limited number available, so order now to avoid disappointment. Go to thingsandink.com now…

Issue 10 – The Anatomy Issue cover star reveal… Cally-Jo

We are SO excited to announce that the cover star for issue 10 – The Anatomy Issue – is the insanely talented tattoo artist CALLY-JO… get your hands on a copy now… thingsandink.com

We love collaborating with tattoo artists to create interesting and innovative photo shoots, and this one is simply divine… the cover looks like a modern-day Death and the Maiden… order the latest issue now to see the full photo feature and read an exclusive in-depth interview in which Cally-Jo reveals all about her move to New York, how she has grown artistically as a tattooist and what it was like creating this stunning cover…

The new issue can be purchased from Newsstand… plus the first 100 people to order will receive a free treat on us from our friends at Sun Jellies

Photography and Art Direction by Philip Rhys Matthews
Hair, Make-up and Styling by Adrianna Veal


Beauty is not only ink deep – a tattooed photographic portrait series

Have you seen the latest project focusing on tattoos? Photographer Niall Patterson has created a personal project to show the beauty in tattoos and those who wear them. He wants to move away from the stereotypes and negative social prejudices attached to tattoos and instead show the world how truly beautiful they can be. The project is called Beauty Is Not Only Ink Deep.

Each photograph in the collection displays a quote from the person in the picture, describing how they feel about their tattoos and what they mean to them.

Images from Beauty is not only ink deep.

Our pick of the artists to watch out for at Brighton Tattoo Convention 2015…

Artists chosen by T&I editor Alice Snape, T&I editorial assistant Rosalie Woodward and T&I managing editor Keely Reichardt

Here at Things&Ink magazine, conventions are our favourite… like being in a tattoo bubble… we can spend forever searching for artists, and looking at their back catalogue of work. So we’ve compiled this little round-up of some of our favourite artists who are attending the Brighton Tattoo Convention this year, with reasons why we like them. Hopefully we’ll see some of you at the convention, as we will have a stand there all weekend, and you can let us know if you agree with our picks – and crucially who you think we missed…

Kid Kros from Casa Occulta in Split, Croatia @Kidkros
“I love his animals, they range from unbelievably cute to downright frightening, but always intriguing and he perfectly captures their latent personalities. His detailing is mesmerising, especially his jewellery inspired pieces and he’s really finding his feet style wise.” Rosie

Rafaela @rafaela2die4 Tattooing at ‘To die for tattoo’ Leverkusen, Germany
“Rafaela continues to create beautiful women but with a sadness in their eyes that captures my soul. Her colour palette is divine, a wash with pinks and blues, whose depths reflect the tone of the piece.” Rosie

Alix Ge, France @alixge
“I love the way Alix Ge experiments with style and inspiration, including Japanese influences and a more traditional range of colours. Her women are soft with almost plump faces, as if they have been plucked from period dramas, forever suspended in time on someone’s skin. Definitely on my tattoo wish list!” Rosie

“Alix Ge is someone I am saving the top of my arm for (this is a big deal for me, as I used to not want my arms tattooed at all)!  I love the romantic expressions on her lady faces and the rosy coloured cheeks she gives them.  Her style is really interesting in the way she mixes traditional Japanese with beautiful soft women’s faces who look like they have stepped straight out of a Jane Austen novel!”  Keely

Greggletron @greggletron, Scapegoat Tattoo, Portland USA
“He’s just one of the many incredible talents that work out of Scapegoat in Portland (I would get tattooed by all of them). Greggltron uses such a beautiful palette of colours, reds, warm colours that have a wonderful vintage vibe – kind of  traditional with his own twist. The girls he creates are stunning and their eyes are hypnotic.” Alice

Danielle Rose, The Illustration Issue cover star and travelling tattoo artist @DanielleRoseTattoo
“Danielle Rose was our cover star for ‘The Illustration Issue’ and has become one of the most sought after artists of the last 18 months. I have a Larry David portrait by her from 2013, which is still one of my favourite tattoos.  She is particularly well known for her weeping lady faces who have all been characterised into different scenarios – the beekeeper, the punk rocker, even a Marie Antoinette lookalike!”  Keely

Big Sleeps, LA @bigsleeps  
“The godfather of lettering all the way from Los Angeles… Big Sleeps is your go-to man if you want some bold yet beautifully crafted words!” Keely

Matthew Gordon, Berlin, Germany, @Matthew_Gordon
“Matt is currently working on my butterfly lady backpiece, I love how he creates huge pieces that really work on the body. I was first drawn to his work when I saw the front piece that he did on my friend Celine.” Alice

Miss Juliet, Don’t Tell Mama
“I love her ornate and beautiful style, her work is instantly recognisable and the way she creates shapes from hundreds of small lines is amazing.” Rosie

Araceli 4ever, London UK @araceli_4ever
“I have loved watching Araceli grow into her own style as a tattoo artist. I knew her before she started her apprenticeship and she has really come into her own, and created a style that is just hers. She is super-lovely and a beautiful person too.” Alice

Andrea Furci, Seven Doors, London, UK @andreafurci
“Andrea did one of my first ever tattoos (a cameo on my wrist), I love his bold traditional style.”

Bugs, USA
“I love Bug’s style, it is so artistic and unusual and looks like a fusion of cubism, art deco and classical art. A true artist” Alice

David Corden, Edinburgh, UK
“David Corden is an incredible portrait tattoo artist, the likeness he manages to create is just out of this world.” Alice

Also look out for Things&Ink cover stars – past and present: Brian Wilson, Delphine Noiztoy, (stripped back) Wendy Pham (The Identity Issue), Grace Neutral (The Modification Issue) and Tiny Miss Becca (The Celebration Issue)…

Things&Ink the celebration issue 5 Time to party with two of the tattoo world’s leading ladies, Amy Savage and Tiny Miss Becca
Space Elf Grace Neutral on the cover of issue 6 – which launched at last year’s Brighton Tattoo Convention


Come and see us at our stand at the convention! And find out if our anatomy issue cover star is also tattooing at The Brighton Tattoo Convention 2015… we cannot wait, see you there?

Sergei Polunin, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle

Today we’re loving… Sergei Polunin, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle.

The tattoos are also working for us – sexy, stunning, beautiful.

Sergei Polunin, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle from David LaChapelle Studio on Vimeo.

Valentine Tattoos – feeling the love

We’re really feeling the love, as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. And whether it’s shape, colour or subject matter, we all have a tattoo related to love in some way… Here’s our pick of love-inspired tattoos for Valentine’s Day… can we get an “Awwwww“?