Shell Inlays
mother-of-pearl (left leg) - 6.22.94
abalone (right leg) - 7.4.94

The outline for these came from a book of Japanese optical designs. I kept it around for a few months before 'seeing' the shape on the backs of my calves. It was a few more months before I had settled on enough of a rough concept for the coloring to get the pieces. The left leg is based on the colors of mother of pearl and the right leg is based on abalone shell. I brought in examples of each and we looked at them in the sunlight and talked about what we saw until we reached agreement. Then Mandy did colored pencil sketches so we could be specific. Each leg took about 2 and 1/2 hours. People frequently ask me what they are, and I always make them guess something before I tell them my story.

A few of the more interesting guesses have included UFO landing sites, bicycle tire treads, and psychedelic vents. Surely the most mermorable interpretation to date was given by a local resident in the San Francisco Civic Center MUNI station. I was with my friend Jen, who was visiting from Chicago. The slightly inebriated gentleman approached and asked what the tattoos on my legs said. I asked him to tell me what he thought they said. His reply was "I thought they said FIRE!"

    You can see most of the equipment required for tattooing in this photo. For ease of identification, I have numbered the major items:

    1. Disposable ink cups - these are tiny plastic cups or larger paper cups that hold the ink that the artist is using for your tattoo. Sometimes the tattooist has a neat little figurine that is the ink cup holder. I have seen several skull holders over the years.
    2. Vaseline, once again in a disposable cup. The tattooist will smear this over the working area. This slows the blood flow over the freshly tattooed surface, causing the blood to weep out in perfect little dots that slowly grow to obscure the work area. So they wipe off the blood, smear on more Vaseline and keep working....(repeat as needed)
    3. Ink stock bottles. A tattooist who is maintaining a sterile work environment will squirt out drops of ink from these into some sort of disposable container that becomes the actual working ink supply.
    4. The tattoo machine. Throughout tattoo lore it has a variety of nicknames: an iron, a rig, a tool, and a gun are among the slang for the instrument first patented in 1891.
    Check out this body art!

    Content © 1998-2009 ReLâCHE/Rachel Schwarz
    Neither images nor written content may be reproduced elsewhere without express written permission.