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getting inked as an ambassador for an endangered species

E"Ext-Inked –

2009, the year in which the world celebrates Charles Darwin's bicentennial birthday, Ultimate Holding Company ( a Manchester based arts collective www.uhc.org.uk ) embarks on a once in a lifetime social experiment.

With the expert assistance of several prominent conservation charities and the artistry of tattooists from Ink Vs Steel, Ultimate Holding Company have created ExtInked.

An exhibition of drawings, individually illustrating one hundred of the most endangered species in the British Isles with the live tattooing of the drawings on one hundred willing volunteers"

I read the flyer and thought. Yes. This is perfect. Right up my alley.

I went along to the opening night of the exhibition and looked at 100 beautiful 1 colour drawings of a hundred of the most endangered species on the British Isles. From Fungi and plants to mammals, reptiles and fish. Who would have figured that the Golden Eagle, Wildcat or Otter were in danger of just simply not existing anymore.

One drawing caught my eye the simple Camomile plant. Daisy like in appearance with medicinal uses aging thousands of years – including skin conditions, sleep deprivation and common colds.

Willing volunteers simply filled in an application form citing why they wanted to become a life-long ambassador – an advocate for a species that was under threat of not being enjoyed by generations to come.

Out of hundreds of applicants I did I little yey when I was told I had been selected as one of the first 25 ambassadors.

UHC selected the great team from Ink Vs. Steel in Leeds to tattoo a hundred people over 3 days in late November.

Armed with my chewy sweets ( a must to gnaw down on to forget about the tingly pain) I walked over to the exhibition site and on impulse decided to have my Camomile on the side of my belly, with the tip touching my bottom rib.

I didn't even think about my booking, I felt no apprehension, until I walked into the makeshift studio and smelt the clinical odour. But rather than scary I had that lovely feeling of fear excitement. I'm a big weirdo!

With my friend watching over, trying her best to talk to me I laid down on the table, to be photographing wincing my way through one of the best moments of 2009.

As part of the exhibition the team had photographers on board to capture all the moments. My contorted face of pain winged it's way onto the front page of the organisers website within days.

It hurt – just when it touched my rib, I thought I could feel my lungs vibrate. But the pain was worth what I walked away with. It's all true what they say about being inked near to the bone hurting more than on fleshy flesh. WOWSERS it was intense. But as those of you who've been inked before will know – it's one of those gorgeous tingly, burning, itchy 'really want this feeling again' pain. And it's no wonder I walked away happily with my 6th tattoo.

The guys from Ink smeared me in Bepanthen nappy rash cream and cling film. Ordering me to wear the cling film, nappy rash combo for three days. Going to work was fun wrapped in cling film. I felt like the fat dude from the Full Monty – minus Mars Bar!

After 3 days, they advised to use cocoa butter to bring out the ink – and to use this daily on all of my tattoos to bring out the blackness of the ink.

This was a totally different after care regime to any other I'd heard of before – but my tat's looking gorgeous – no problems at all.

After all this I was photographed using a 200 year old camera – the photos will be used in a future exhibition.

Me and the other 99 ambassadors are staying in touch – it's like being part of a special little club – united by ink and endangered creatures.

People keep saying "what happens when your old and wrinkly and you have a flower on your belly" and I'll probably be sat with my grandchildren telling them of the story of how 100 brave individuals stood up to recognise and remember those that can not speak up for themselves – clinging on to survival through reasons beyond their control – I'll be damm proud to show off my belly – even if I cant remember my name.

Belly tattoos aren't for the faint hearted. But neither is saying goodbye to all these beautiful creatures.

<i>"As children, small creatures endlessly fascinate us; as adults, we can protect them so as to inspire future children."</i>

  • Les E. Watling, Marine Ecologist, Professor of Biological Oceanography and former director, Darling Marine Center, University of Maine;


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 29 Dec. 2009
in Tattoos

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Artist: Scott++from+Ink+Vs+Steel%2C+Leeds%2C+UK
Studio: %27Extinked%27+exhibition%2C+Salford
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