Portrait of the Artist as a Man
July 13, 2014




The first three bands of my wampum sleeve are completed (except for a little touch up as some of the colors are uneven). I am really pleased with it over all.

Begin Background info I’ve posted before about what each of these bands mean to me so I’ll not rehash that. Links below.

  • A wolf by any other name: http://abmann.net/post/77454485627/a-wolf-by-any-other-name-on-flickr-via-flickr-a

  • Two bears. http://abmann.net/post/73373271455/two-bears-a-name-given-to-me-during-a-journey

  • Dark year. http://abmann.net/post/73743783799/the-dark-year-somewhere-in-my-sophomore-year-in

    The concept for the tattoo comes from the Native American tribe usage of Wampum. English colonialists though wampum was currency in that tribes seemed to exchange them tribes had some sort of exchange of goods or services - horses, war pacts, marriages. That is sort of true though. Tribes used them as historic markers of events or of contracts between tribes. The former produced a codified history with a story recited at special events while the bands or belts were passed around. The latter served as reminders if obligations with other tribes, war pacts, trade alliances, and similar similarly retold at events so all would know these commitments.

    I was raised in a semi-native spiritual tradition and greatly identify with this idea. I have been wearing a wampum bead around my neck for 20 years (straight). And, as an avid journal and writer, love the idea of a permanent chronicling on my life.

    Thus: wampum inspired tattoos.
    End Background

    It’s been an interesting project since it’s inception. My first tattoo, something I thought about on and off for a decade went from Idea to Tattoo in about a month. These three bands went from Idea to Tattoo in 7 months. It was more like Idea, Outline, Design, What The Crap Is That, Redesign, What Am I Thinking, Redesign, etc.

    The hardest part has been identifying events that I both care about in my life and can translate into interesting tattoos. I think I have most of them identified, things like, getting screwed by Beloit chemistry professors, starting my job, buying a house, meeting @Lady_Fox, and the like. I don’t have any but that first one designed, and am unsure about most if the rest.

    I do know I’m not going to limit myself to colors wampum beads had, especially white. We did the white parts as us colored except for the window on the third bands, I’m kind of meh about that. I think I’m going two unfilled parts on the second band, too, with blue because it looks unfinished. I was trying to be too literal with the implementation of the band/bracelet idea and should treat the tattoo like it is: a tattoo.

    Over all, I’m pleased with it. So pleased with it.

    I think my favorite part of this is the redesign that my tattoo artist did - Marc Nelson (http://www.marcnelsontattoos.com) at Colt’s Timeless Tattoos - for the two bears band. I had used the traditional Zuni bear images, the one with the lightning symbol you see above, but was dissatisfied with it for reasons I couldn’t identify. I asked him to try something and his change to a realistic bear image without the lightning makes so much sense. It is simpler and more recognizable.

    Simplicity in design is so important to me, a certain level of recognizability in the images to outside viewers is nice - it becomes a more relatable piece of art. Figuring out a way to make each band cohere better will be an interesting challenge and I’m vaguely considering designing larger images or motifs into the bands such that they make a larger whole beyond the individual bands. I’m not sure that is practical and, as I write that, it seems like that contradicts my desire for simpler concepts and design.

    Suffice that I’ve only started this journey. I see it now and though I know it to incomplete, I know where I’m going. I’ll take it slow, one band at a time, and build something beautiful.


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