Meeting Hanky Panky
A few days ago I received an email from the lovely people over at Hotel Street (the Sailor Jerry pop-up bar I blogged about recently) to see if I might be interested in meeting Henk Schiffmacher on Wednesday 13th June for a bloggers lunch. Urm, silly question really, of course I bloody would.
Henk has curated the gallery at Hotel Street with all the Sailor Jerry artwork, and is the founder of the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum. Henk has tattooed a host of celebrities including the likes of Kurt Cobain, Limp Bizkit and Robbie Williams. In other words, Henk is a bit of a legend in the tattoo industry.
So on 13 June, I, along with other excited bloggers and journalists, went to The Diner to have a lunch date with Henk and his lovely wife Louise van Teylingenm, who used to be his apprentice.
Henk talked to us about the changing image of tattoos, “it used to be more about you pick ‘em and I’ll stick ‘em”. In other words, the tattoo world used to be more about going into a shop and just picking something there and then and from a piece of flash. Nowadays there is lots more custom tattooing, where you work with an artist to create a unique tattoo. And people are becoming much more considered tattoo collectors. We also chatted about whether or not tattooing is losing its spontaneity because of this, spur-of-the-moment tattoos can be lots of fun and also a memory of a point in time.
But I think that is the beauty of tattooing, some tattooing is about creating a unique piece of art for your body, but a huge part of it is also about fun and memories – something that you choose to do just because you fancy it on the day.
And of course, we all showed off our ink, too.
I love the story behind this one. Below is a little tattoo on Louise’s neck that a Japanese friend of hers did for her. The monkey is reaching up, because it is based on a story or myth that a monkey is always trying to grab for the moon.
The conversation also got round to how we feel about having names tattooed on us – something which always divides opinion. Names can be tattooed when you’re drunk, mistakingly or not, when you’re in love with someone or as a tribute. But I loved Henk’s opinion that people who have names tattooed on them are the most loyal people and that it is a huge compliment for someone to get your name tattooed on them.
Henk also told us how he would like the romantic part of tattooing to be kept alive. He doesn’t like the white, minimalist shops that exist now. Tattoo shops should have history, they should be places you feel comfortable, the walls should be covered in flash that the artists in the shop have created themselves. And I guess it’s a sign of the times, that there has even been a pop-up tattoo shop in Selfridges…
We chatted about so much more than that too. From tattooing being a kind of passport and how we can be drawn to fellow tattoo enthusiasts, to tattooing being a form of non-verbal communication – the mirror of one’s mind – and Russian prison tattoos – stars on the knees means that being in the hole did not break you. We even talked about April Flores’ Cyberskin pussy. And on that note I think I shall end this blog post…
Henk is an extremely interesting man and I hope to go over to the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum in July to see him and Louise. And in the meantime, I would highly recommend you pop over to Hotel Street to take a look at the Sailor Jerry flash…