Lessons in drag

Anyone who thought that drag wasn’t worthy of being called ‘art’ have been proved very wrong… The UK has become the first country ever to offer a module in the art of drag queens and kings as part of the performing arts, dance and drama degree at Edge Hill University in Lancashire.  The module will include how to perfect a lip sync, the use of makeup and costume, comedy and general stage performance.  Theories surrounding gay, lesbian and transgender activism will also be included.

American drag queen superstar, Ru Paul

The senior lecturer of the course, Mark Edwards was in charge of pushing the module forward.

“This module not only explores drag as a highly camp performance art, it also engages with complex gender, feminist and queer theory to explore the social and political implication of ‘doing gender’ in performance. Drag as a performance art form has seen a relative decline in the past decade, yet there are new and exciting emerging forms coming through which makes this module all the more relevant to performance contexts. There’s a lot more to drag studies than wigs, make-up and high heels!”

 Trixie Mattel with British drag queen, Meth who also runs the London drag night, The Meth Lab

This groundbreaking step forward for the LGBT community comes in the same month as the closure of infamous pub, The Black Cap which used to host The Meth Lab – one of the most popular drag nights in London.  Last week saw a large protest outside the venue with many famous faces of the drag community rallying together to prove their undying love for this iconic venue. Paul McGill, owner of Camden securities which agreed terms on the pub in December stated, “It’s a site of historical value, we understant that. We feel we are saving it as a venue, not destroying it.” Only time will tell if McGill holds any truth in what he says!

 Female drag star, Tete Bang who was a long running performer at The Black Cap.


Dark Star Film Review & Giger Film Festival Info

Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World
a film by Belinda Salin
Icarus Films and KimStim Release, 2015
Web: Dark Star Movie
Review by Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray

Dark Star is a film that gives the viewer a highly personal, very raw and honest glimpse into the life of Hans Ruedi Giger near the end of his life. It celebrates his life as much as brings fans to term with an aging beloved artist. In many scenes we see a man who is evidently trapped in a dying, damaged body, there are certain moments you can see it in his eyes how much he struggles with this as his mind is still very sharp, his wit is intact and his artistic brilliance still very present. He shuffles around slowly, his speech a bit muffled from the strokes he has suffered, and sometimes he even looks lost or confused when out of the house. It’s a glance at an artist we so rarely get to see in our ageist society that typically only loves and wishes to see the young and beautiful. Giger, with his slow pace and slightly disheveled hair, has transitioned from being the guy who scared the crap out people with his art and monsters to the eccentric, lovable, sweet old man who you’d love to sit down with and have coffee and cake. It also feels as much a celebration of his life as it is a farewell. With so much footage of older Giger, and given his death shortly after the filming was done, the film provides a sense of closure for fans. By the end, when he talks about how happy he is with his life and what he’s done (and how he never wants to be reincarnated), you are ready to let him go and feel at peace for him and with his passing.

This film is bittersweet and this feeling arises largely because of the juxtaposition of footage of older Giger with plenty of footage of him from the 70’s and 80’s. Surprisingly there is little footage of his midlife, and a better balance might have been struck if the filmmakers had used more. It is in this juxtaposition that you see how much Giger is losing his battle with time; his sun is setting. While you feel sad for Giger that the end of his life is torturous, his brilliant mind trapped in a failing body, you also cannot help but feel a deep sense of gratitude and adoration for what he’s accomplished and the immense influence he has had on contemporary culture and art.

From beginning to end, the film is filled with glimpses of almost every decade of Giger’s art, and every medium he used, both popular pieces and works that are little known. There’s also footage of him airbrushing, drawing and sculpting, always wonderful to watch an artist in his element. About a half hour into the film there are several of Giger’s artworks quickly flashed onto the screen alongside archival photos from wars and bomb explosions with ominous sound effects in the background, which comes across as rather shallow, impersonal and poorly thought out. The order of the pieces is more about the content of image itself and less about the meaning, such as with Giger’s Birth Machine the image prior to it is one of child soldiers from the Vietnam War and the one that follows it is of a soldier in a gasmask. While Birth Machine is an artwork containing a giant gun and loaded bullet babies wearing goggles, the meaning of the piece has to do with overpopulation – a war carried out via the pregnant uterus and not with actual guns, soldiers and slaughter. Giger spoke often about the meaning of Birth Machine and this information is well known by fans of the piece, and is readily available on the internet and in books about his art. So, lurid and erroneous mistakes like this are annoying and leave one wondering if the filmmakers truly understand his art and they disrupt the authenticity and sense of honesty of the film itself. It’s so much more aesthetically pleasing and fulfilling to see Giger create art or to walk through his art with him than to see one of his most well known images misused for anti-war posturing.

Any fan will no doubt enjoy walking with the camera as it tours his wonderful garden, complete with sculptures and a train, an art exhibit of his work, and even a visit to the HR Giger Museum in Gruyeres. It’s absolute bliss to feel as if you are standing in the “Spell Room” with the man who created it (it’s also wonderful to see Giger’s face fill with pleasure when he looks around the room). This intimate perspective the film has is the one of its most enjoyable features because it makes the art a lived experience shared with its creator. When faced with Giger’s ‘life in art’ one feels not only the intensity and breadth of his artistic genius, but that his dark spirit will never die. Giger the man is mortal, but Giger the artist is timeless and will forever haunt us all.

My only other criticisms, the white subtitles often get lost when placed over light colours, and the captions identifying people interviewed are sometimes in German and sometimes in English. Offering both would have been better.

It is immense fun to wander around his house is a wonderful labyrinth-like place filled to the brim with artworks, books and curiosities, as if you’re visiting there in person. The documentary is filmed in a highly intimate style, communicating a very strong feeling of inclusion. It is a warm and inviting look at Giger and the group of wonderful people in his life who watch over him and his legacy. There’s a lot of love and support in that house, and he was so lucky for that.

In fact, love is a feeling that pervades this film. Giger’s wife and the directress of the HR Giger Museum, Carmen, is a constant loving presence. She’s a beautiful, warm and intelligent woman who possesses a deep understanding of and admiration for his works and genius. In the one-on-one interviews with Carmen, Giger’s past partners, friends and colleagues, you see that he is surrounded by a wonderful supportive network of people who love him dearly. There is also Müggi III, the Siamese cat, who follows him about like a loyal, loving minion. At a book signing you see how much his fans adore him in their words of thanks, their fantastic tattoos, and one fellow even moved to tears when meeting Giger. At one point, Giger speaks of the 1975 suicide of Li Tobler, his early muse and famous love of his life. Watching him talk about this time in his life, how much he loved her and how painful it was to lose her, it is quite evident that her death still haunted him. In his struggle to tell this story you clearly see the feelings of guilt and helplessness he still holds, but his perseverance in sharing it shows a wish to exorcise this old demon from his heart. It’s both touching and heartbreaking to watch the profound emotions Giger displays here.

Dark Star is a must watch for any fan of Giger’s art and film work. When watched with other documentaries and short films featuring Giger, it completes the portrait of his life by revealing the story of his final years and his personal thoughts on the life he’s lived and created.

See the trailer for Dark Star on Vimeo.

North American theatrical release dates are available here. This list is constantly updated and will include June shortly.

European theatrical release dates can be found here.

Keep up with all the latest news and release dates on the Dark Star FB page.

HR Giger Documentary Film Festival, Museum of Arts and Design in NYC
May 22nd & 23rd, 2015

The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger
Rare Documentaries & Short Films
Five Hours, Three Separate Rooms, Thirteen Films

“Marking the one-year anniversary of his passing, the Museum of Arts and Design presents The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger. Partnering with the HR Giger estate and the HR Giger Documentary Film Festival, this weekend-long event presents rare and never before seen films made by and about HR Giger.”

Watch the trailer for the film festival on Vimeo here.

Abracadhybrid – an exhibition by Amanda Toy

We sent one of our lovely readers, Ilaria, to the opening of Amanda Toy’s exhibition ’Abracadhybrid’ at Parione9 to review the event for us…

“Last week I was at gallery Parione9, in Rome, near Piazza Navona. As soon as I walked in, my eyes were welcomed by a feast of balloons, colourful walls… and so many people! Here I had the pleasure to meet two lovely ladies, Marta Bandini and Elettra Bottazzi, who curated ‘Abracadhybrid’, the first solo show by Amanda Toy. Amanda Toy, as you may already know, is a tattoo artist from Italy. For over 18 years,  she has reinterpreted old school with a really personal touch that is now very recognisable.

“On 10th April, she was in Rome to celebrate the opening of her chimerical art exhibition. Among nature, childhood and bright colours, you immediately get caught up by and feel involved with the artworks on the wall. It’s like falling into a dreamy yet very realistic world. It’s magic but also reality…  Abracad(abra)… hybrid!

“It was one of those rare moments in which you could feel the power of art and the passion all around, because Amanda truly painted her deep emotions and feelings onto canvas. She found a way to bring together happiness and sadness. That’s what she always says: no rain, no rainbow! Seven canvases on which hybrid creatures live to make you think and wonder. Seven characters in which are hidden different themes, from love to fear, from strength to fantasy.

From left to right: Marta Bandini, Amanda Toy, Ilaria, and Elettra Bottazzi


“As Amanda Toy explained, her paintings are her own vision, a transformation aimed at personal growth. Canvases play with the observer, and those big eyes are a key to self-exploration. The lady faces on the walls, at first glance, seem funny and cheerful, but… if you take a closer look, they will reveal the stratagem of life: not everything is what it seems. Here, as in our lives, there is space for happiness and joy, as much as for sadness and nostalgia.

“By this artistic mean, Amanda lets you get a closer look to yourself and be aware of this equilibrium. Abracadhybrid is her spell for a magical life!

You can see Abracadhybrid exhibition until 10th June 2015, at Gallery Parione9. You will also find Things&Ink mags, as the gallery has just become the first official stockist in Italy!

Photos by Diana Bandini and Matteo Rasero


On Instagram, we recently posted an amazing tattoo of an ultra realistic nipple, which covered a mastectomy scar. It’s by tattoo artist Kerry Irvine.  After posting this image I suddenly thought, “is this breaching Instagrams rules on no visible female nipples?”

How ridiculous is that! Being worried that your page may get shut down due to a tattoo of what 50% of the human population own! Luckily our page is still alive and kicking, but in some small way I wanted Instagram to react to this and give us a warning but luckily they didn’t stoop quite that low.

Instagram have recently updated their community guidelines stating: “We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”
So we are allowed to keep the Kerry Irvine nipple tattoo… whoop!  But what does “some photos of female nipples” actually mean? Are some nipples more visually acceptable than others? Maybe nipples of the small, pert, “normal” variety? Cara Delevingne has responded to the #freethenipple campaign by posting the below photo on her Instagram with other celebrities jumping on the feminist bandwagon.

But when searching #freethenipple on Instagram the main bulk of images using this hashtag were pages with names like ‘tits and ass’ ‘hotties land’ and ‘bikini shoutouts’ so maybe the feminist message has got slightly lost amongst the smut and “male admin” pages? (One page I found actually states it has a male admin just in case anyone mistook it for anything to do with feminism.) Can anyone tell me why the female nipple is not allowed but crotch shots with a pink thong covering a vagina are ?  Yeah… I’m not sure either!

The latest Instagram backlash came when they removed an image of a woman asleep but showing where her period had leaked through her trousers onto the mattress.  The photo was part of a project by the Canadian artist, Rupi Kaur and actually since then, Instagram have allowed her to re-post this image.

She responded by saying: “Thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. You deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. The girl is fully clothed. The photo is mine. It is not attacking a certain group. Nor is it spam. And because it does not break those guidelines I will re-post it again. I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. When your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. Pornified. And treated less than human. Thank you.”  Well said!

One week to go… London Marathon 2015

Things&Ink editor Alice Snape is currently in training for the London Marathon 2015, she’s running for Sarcoma UK. Read more in her first Marathon diary entry. Here’s part six of her marathon diary…



ONLY ONE WEEK TO GO! Only one week to go until I run the London Marathon. And if I could imagine doing anything on the weekend before this momentous occasion, it was definitely not being bridesmaid at one of my best friend’s weddings. Going to one of your friends’ wedding means drunkenness, right? And if I have to run a marathon in exactly one week’s time that means I can’t get drunk! How can a wedding be fun if it does not involve champers, and lots of it?

Well actually, I realised you can have lots of fun… having a good time and dancing all evening does not have to be fuelled by alcohol. And if there is enough tipsy people around, you kinda feel a little drunk too. Even if you’re only sipping on a sparkling water and elderflower cordial (it’s a delish alternative to a cocktail). Plus I feel fresh as a daisy (or a runner) today…


You will know from previous diary entries, and updates on my personal Instagram account @morewhitequeen, that I have been building up mileage and have done one long run every week since December last year. This long run has gradually increased over my training plan from one hour to just over 21 miles! The first milestone in the plan was 8 miles, and I remember finding this distance particularly difficult in December last year. Running for over an hour was really daunting at that time. It’s weird to me that this distance now feels fairly short, as I managed to run 21.09 miles is 3 hours 40 minutes just over two weeks ago.

It has taken a lot of dedication, sacrifice (I mean I haven’t even been able to get tattooed!) and determination to get to this point and now I am feeling extremely proud of what I have already achieved. Especially as I did my last “long run” on Friday, before wedding madness kicked off, and really loved it…I ran 9 miles in the beautiful countryside and enjoyed every mile of it, I felt fit and healthy and I felt like I could run all day – a feeling I have never really had before. Normally I am counting the seconds until I can stop.

So let’s hope this commitment and all the non-drinking will be worth it! Bring on the London Marathon next week… and let’s hope the last week of tapering means my legs will feel strong for my longest run ever next Sunday. Now someone pass me a massive plate of carbs!


Race ready, here’s me in my race vest with my name on it… all ready for next week. I am running the marathon for Sarcoma UK, you can read more and donate on my justgiving justgiving.com/AliceSnapeMarathon

Should Chola style really be that fashionable?

Growing up in the 90s in the UK, we all remember the girls at school who would spend hours gluing  their kiss curls and baby hair down to their foreheads, after rounding them into a precise spiral formation with the use of a pencil… but why we used to ask ourselves?

Lana Del Rey in her music video/short film, Tropico

The Chola style originates from a Mexican American subculture, often associated with gangs and hip hop. The look consisted of a crop bra top, baggy trousers, which were usually Dickies, jeans and,  to top the look off, a plaid shirt with only the top button done up exposing the midriff. Gold bamboo earrings were an absolute must, along with the black winged eyeliner and a nude lip, lined in a dark brown.  There is something about this look that is appealing to so many… maybe down to the nonchalant “I don’t give a shit” attitude that has been played out in movies and music videos over the last few decades. The truth of the matter is that we all love a bad girl and this look personifies that raw edge while still looking ‘sexy’ and ‘glam.’

Nicki Minaj in her music video, Senile with tattoo artist Mr Trigz to her right who was sadly shot dead after the making of this video.

Gwen Stefani in her music video, Luxurious

Rihanna dressed as a Chola for Halloween

But Chola is more than a look and it actually relates to many people’s historical and geographical backgrounds.  The journalist, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd describes Chola in terms of her ancestry: “it was part of our inherited and ancestral culture. Historically, the term was used by European colonisers to refer to full or mixed indigenous populations in South and Central America. But in the 1960s was reclaimed in the US by working-class Mexican Americans and the Chicano Power movement as a way to flip and empower a term that had historically been used to denigrate us.” Shepherd then goes onto discuss the trend in terms of those who can afford to buy into the look that the fashion industry is selling, “privileged people want to borrow the ‘cool’ of disenfranchised people of colour, but don’t have to face any of the discrimination or marginalisation that accompanies it.”

FKA Twigs for ID magazine

Singer, Brooke Candy

Steven Meisel‘s photoshoot for Vogue Italia entitled, ‘Haute Mess’ which caused controversy down to its ‘racist ethnic stereotypes.’

So is it suitable for celebrities and fashion designers alike to be “ripping off” a look that actually holds great cultural significance for so many?  Recently a festival in Canada banned attendees from wearing Native American headdresses with one of the festival organisers stating on their Facebook page, “they have a magnificent aesthetic. But their spiritual, cultural and aesthetic significance cannot be separated. Bass Coast festival takes place on indigenous land and we respect the dignity of aboriginal people.” Pharrell Williams had to publicly apologise last year for wearing a headdress on the front cover of Elle magazine, so maybe times are changing with cultural appropriation becoming frowned upon. Can the same can be said for the Chola trend?

 Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy A/W 2015

Stylist, Anna Trevelyan wearing designer Nasir Mazhar

Suds and Smiles Samantha Fortenberry

Photographer Samantha Fortenberry has created a series of photographs titled Suds and Smiles to encapsulate the joy of bath time. The collection explores the relationship between people and objects with vibrant colours, kitsch accessories and humorous staging.

Samantha also introduces  ideas of body positivity and gender equality, as she shoots both male and female nudes, all exuding a beautiful confidence.


Eva Laflamme, editor of The Tattoo Tourist, asks what is the perfect age for ink?

Around the world, and especially in the West, tattooing continues to pick up steam on a near daily basis. The notion that having  tattoos makes you appear rebellious or edgy is rapidly disappearing as more individuals from all walks of life make the decision to permanently mark their bodies. Acceptance is a good thing although some feel a pang of regret at the loss of the insider status having tattoos once conferred on the wearer. If everyone is doing it then how is it unique?

Of course, tattoos are as varied as the people who choose to wear them, and high quality tattoos always stand out from the crowd for their quality, clarity and ability to age well. Speaking of aging, now that it appears everyone has a tattoo, certain demographics previously underrepresented are jumping into the fray. I am talking about the very young and the very old, and the prospect of getting inked at an age that raises eyebrows.

What IS the perfect age to get tattooed? That is about as easy to answer as “what is the perfect tattoo?’. Everyone is different and comes to this decision for their own reasons – good, bad or otherwise. Can you be too young or too old for a tattoo? Not likely but each end of the spectrum has its own special considerations.

What is too young for a tattoo? Of course the law in virtually every western nation prohibits the tattooing of a minor (minor being  below 15 -18yrs depending on your location).  The logic is a minor could not properly consent to a permanent and potentially life-changing decision due to a lack of maturity, so the law protects them from making a rash or foolish decision (sort of like marriage).

Does that mean you will magically make sound choices once you achieve 16 years? Hmmmm think back to when YOU were 16. Do you still like all the same things you did back then? Love all the same people? Have all the same interests? Young people going in for their first tattoos are understandably excited and proud but also risk a potential poor choice due to a lack of life experience and perspective. (Of course this is not exclusive to the very young as any number of “bad tattoo” internet sites will attest to).

This doesn’t apply to every teenager but as more and more celebrities –  who are also in their teens –  sport ever more ink, it does drive a trend among the vulnerable youth market to follow suit. Will Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber still love their tattoos 20 plus years down the road? Will the thousands of kids who copied their favourite celeb’s ink feel the same?

My final thought on inking up early and heavy – what if your tastes change? Maybe not subject matter. You might be into skulls and roses at 16 and also at 36 but if you use up all your prime real estate early in the game what is left? And what if you develop an appreciation not just for ink but for top-notch ink from well-respected artists? Will you have any skin left? For the young I would say start small, space them out and be thoughtful in your choices. You plan on being around for a while, right? Tattooing will still be there for you when you are in your 20s, 30s and beyond.

What about way beyond? Can you be too old for a tattoo? I think not. Of course as we age the texture of our skin changes and this is something a skilled tattoo artist understands and takes into account.  Good artists know that skin quality can have a big effect on tattoo quality.

If you are getting on in years and things are getting a bit…wobbly…should that stop you? Oh hell no. But seek out a truly skilled artist who is well versed in their craft  and can give you realistic expectations as well as excellent results. But what about the stigma? In days past the site of a heavily tattooed older person meant they had lived a roustabout lifestyle.


Sailors, bikers, carnival and circus folk – they wore their feathered and faded tattoos with pride – a personal map of their colorful lives and with good reason. The old saw about “hating how your tattoos look when you are old” is something people who don’t like tattoos say. Elizabeth Weirnzl - legendary tattoo collector (who passed in 1993) and Lyle Tuttle – legendary tattoo artist (still alive and kicking ass) look amazing in their later years with their beautiful and yes…weathered tattoos telling their individual stories so well.

But what if you never thought about getting tattooed until you were past middle age? I myself jumped into the fray after a double mastectomy and the tattoos that covered my scars. Prior to that I had one tiny tattoo hidden from view that I had done in my early 20s. Now in my mid 40s I have sleeves, one shoulder and a laundry list of artists I hope to work with and prime real estate I hope to cover. My only concern? Not getting all the ink I want before I’m dead. I’ll keep going indefinitely – age be damned. The only social stigma you should be concerned with is being seen as the type of person who cares too much about what other people think.

Eva Laflamme


So even if you are a tender teen or a wizened senior citizen you can still embellish your body  – just think before you ink and always seek out a professional and experienced artist for the best results.

Want more tattooed thoughts? Visit Eva’s website www.thetattootourist.com 

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at the Barbican

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at the Barbican presents the fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens.

The collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences and obsessions of artists, including tattoo artist Dr Lakra from Mexico – whose collection includes brightly coloured album covers from his record collection – and the renowned, and sometimes controversial, Damien Hirst – whose collection consists of human skulls and taxidermy.

Album covers from the collection of Dr Lakra. Photo by Dr Lakra Skulls on display in Damien Hirst’s house, Courtesy Murderme Collection



While some artists are connoisseurs, others accumulate hoards of objects, never letting anything go. Many make direct use of their collections and others keep them under wraps or in storage. Collecting objects for research and study is key to the practice of many artists in the exhibition. Presented alongside examples of their work, their collections help to elucidate their art.

A highlight for us is discovering that pop art king Andy Warhol is as big a fan of kitsch as we are…

Cookie jars formerly in the collection of Andy Warhol. Image courtesy the Movado Group




If you love quirky collections and finding out more about the artists’ creative process, this exhibition is for you. It runs at the Barbican in London from 12 February 2015 – 25 May 2015, more info at www.barbican.org.uk


Photos from Huffington Post

The battlle over tattoos in the U.S Army hits a new phase

A new policy has been introduced within the U.S Army that will no longer limit the size or amount of tattoos a soldier can have in a bid to encourage more recruitment and retain those already listed.  In a press conference last week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno stated: “as part of the regular process that we go through in reviewing regulations, covering the wear and appearance of the Army uniform, and the appearance of our Soldiers, we will be releasing in the coming weeks, an update to that policy, and the most notable change is going to be the change in the tattoo policy in the Army.”

Tattoos on the face, neck and hands are still forbidden, along with any tattoos referencing racism or hate, but the amount on a person’s torso, arms or legs are no longer restricted.  “We have listened to the Soldiers,” Gen. Odierno said. “I’ve talked to our sergeants major and our non-commissioned officers and some of our officers and frankly, society is changing its view of tattoos, and I think we need to change along with it.”

War Ink also coincides with this new law and is a series of short films showcasing veteran servicemen and servicewomen talking about the relationship they have with their tattoos in correlation to the duty they undertake for their country.  War Ink is a partnership between the Contra Costa County Library, a collective of California’s libraries, and Jason Deitch, a former Army medic and military sociologist.