Friday, November 5, 2010

Warrior Women

 The Witchblade

Way back in the summer of 2001, there was a short-lived series on television called “Witchblade.”  It was part crime drama, part science fiction, part literary fantasy, and somehow had a feminist message while providing a good amount of cheesecake! Wikipedia reminds me it was based on a comic book series and has since resurfaced in various incarnations from anime to manga to a proposed but delayed feature film, but my experience was primarily with the tv show, which I loved enough to wait 8 years for the full DVD set, which, once purchased, I have yet to find time to watch! 

 How I look to myself in my head

Anyway, the weapon of the title was an ancient bejeweled metal glove that transformed into a formidable weapon, but only in – or on – the hand of the person chosen to wield it against the forces of evil.  As you might expect, the Witchblade was desired by those very same forces of evil, who found ways to use it for some pretty bad evil on a few occasions throughout history to the present. But mostly it was used by the forces of good, a series of strong women chosen across cultures and centuries, including Joan of Arc, and the latest of which, and star of the show, was a smart-talking, tough-edged followed-by-bad-luck, yet somehow always looking-absolutely-marvelous NYPD cop named Sara, see clad in leather above.  This series was canceled after only a year and I still can't figure out why.

                              source material for scabbard tattoo, 2002

It was with this oh-so-cool symbol of female power in mind that I designed one of my first large tattoos, the one that took me over the edge of just having a few nice pieces located around my body like well-placed accents or accessories to thinking in terms of my whole body as a canvas. I wanted something with a tribal motif, all black, with a bold timeless look, but nothing like anyone else had, and found exactly what I needed in the form of an ancient Celtic scabbard discovered in an art book in the dusty stacks of the library in which I used to work. I photocopied the book, traced and cut out the design, even took a photo of myself in the mirror with the paper cutout taped to my skin, and brought it all to my tattoo artist in New York on a visit home.

   my uninked arm,  spring 2002

The idea was to have it look real, not like a picture of something painted on me, but an actual piece of open ironwork wrapped around my whole arm. I have to say, after one of the strangest and longest tattoo appointments I ever had or will ever have again, the guy did a brilliant job. This was not the usual rotuine of making a drawing to scale on tracing paper, stenciling it onto the skin and then just tattooing the imprinted design line by line. Because of all the weird curves, angles and sight-lines of such a large body surface, Dave had to draw the whole tattoo right on me. I became his sketchbook. It took three hours just to get the design plotted out with three different Sharpies, another 5 to tattoo the entire outline from wrist to elbow, then another three to make a start on the filling in of all the black shading, which would take another three hour session months later to complete. 

 my inked arm today

Through the whole experience we talked and laughed as other customers came and went, and I learned exactly how much pain a body can endure if the mind is trained to accept and override it. Finally at 1am, we closed the shop in New Jersey and he drove me back to Manhattan, because the trains and buses had all stopped running. He met some friends for a late night movie in the Village; I lay in bed popping ibuprofen and watching my arm double in size. If this was my eternal symbol of the fighting spirit, I had earned it, literally by bloodshed and an inner strength I didn’t know I had until I needed to call on it and it answered. In every ordeal of body or spirit that has faced me since, recalling that day has helped to put into perspective what is within my power to endure, survive, and master, if I just put my mind to it. 

Witchblade was canceled in the summer of 2002.

A few years later I had the last bit on my hand added by another artist – it always felt like the necessary finishing touch, but back in 2002, Dave kept asking “are you sure? This is gonna change everything.” Full sleeves are bad enough, but hand ink, second only to face ink, is REALLY crossing the line from a discrete tattoo or two to being an official “tattooed lady” unable to conceal as much from the public.  It says a lot about my interest in being discrete that a year later I was working on a full sleeve for the left arm, which eventually had a hand component added.  The left arm features a grape cluster-and-leaf design inspired by a bit of Italian lace, and represents the creative side of my personality, if the right side is the fighter. In all the artwork I carry on my skin, I try to represent many cultures and styles, with a lot of deep symbolism. I have a very traditional view of body art, that it is not merely adornment, but a rite of passage in which you take on the spirit of certain qualities you want to bring with you on your life’s journey – the ferocity and grace of the tiger, the transformative power of the butterfly and phoenix, the patient beauty of the vine and rose, the always ready but sheathed sword of the spiritual warrior, elements opposite in nature, but brought into symmetry and balance for a harmonious whole.

 right ankle, completed 2004 

At any rate, before this digression on the background of my many tattoos, which could fill a whole book, it recently occurred to me that all these wrist warmers I’ve been making and posting about, and the reason I love them so much, might just hearken back to the Witchblade, and the idea of a gauntlet as a cool accessory for a modern warrior woman!  So when I found myself stalled last week making the scarf inspired by the Mystery Artist -- remember that? -- I had a rethink, and decided to turn it into wrist warmers instead. Much to my delight, folding over the diamond/squares I had intended to link point to point for the length of the scarf, I ended up not with a mere wrist warmer, but a long strangely ancient-looking and warlike gauntlet!  There is still much more work to be done, but here is the latest view:

...and now

 The Woolblade

So, in a roundabout way and way overdue, this post is your latest clue for the Mystery Artist contest! We already know that the artist is contemporary, non-American, female and deals with the world of inner feelings and visions. She is also no stranger to the concept of the historical and mythical power of the feminine, as warrior, witch, and goddess. She would make a fine wielder of the Witchblade, if she isn’t already! Because I think this last image and clue will prompt more than one good guess, I am happy to give something of mine to the first three who get it right! Because I have been shown such generosity lately, and we are entering the giving season, I've decided the winners will get free run of my etsy shop and can choose any one item as their prize. Items to choose from include my chapbook of poems, mounted photos available in large and small formats, and of course, if something fashionable yet functional is your preference, one of the alpaca fiber scarves and wrist warmers currently listed! 

see my shop here or simply follow the links at right

This week a special welcome to my new followers and to my good blogfriends who not only visit me here but have been kind enough to mention me on their blogs! Happy weekend to all.


  1. ohhh my "no-clue' inner universe pumping now . So this is about your tatoo ... not branches with red fruits as i thought. hahah!1 i think i was a bit far fron the true .
    talking about no clue . i still don't know who this artist is .
    I rember of this series .
    wow!! what a story for a tatoo.
    but while people gets concerned about the pain , and how much work it was to get finished , my stingy mind only gets concerned about the price . if was too expensive . hahah!! soryy... too many years starving made me always think about money first.
    i still think the wrist warmers a great idea and your work is wonderful ( i am not even concerned about the price when i look at this ;)
    welll... your tatoos are great . really .
    Gabriella , all the best, have a fantastic weekend .
    hug .

  2. Hello Gabriella,
    How is everything?

    I´m glad to know a little about the meaning of your tattoos. It is a literally painful art, but I like it.

    I had visited your store other times, and I think you´re doing an excellent work. Also I have seen your book, i have much curiosity about it, and I hope soon see it in my hands, as well as others of your articles too.
    I will comment about your work and store to my nearest and dearest friends. Surely they will like them.

    The contest ...It´s a shame for me, sorry about that, but as you can see my english is limited… so I will let answer others blog friends that understand it better than I. : (

    Have a great weekend.

  3. CAIO! This time you are first! I think the pain of the money spent is way harder than the physical pain of getting a tattoo! I go through periods of having a steady income and then periods of poverty and back again, and all the ink you see was received during a time of gainful employment! Now that I am unemployed and counting pennies again, there will be no new additions to my body art for a long time! And - come on! - I thought for sure you would guess the mystery artist! I guess I will have to make one more big clue...

    Have a great weekend!

    CRISSANT - greetings, dear one! It makes me very happy to know that you have visited my shop and like what you see! I have not made many sales yet, but it has only been up for three months, and I think things will pick up soon. You are too kind, telling your friends! Kisses to you and have a great weekend!

  4. Gabriella, once again a great post. Love your tattoos and why and how they came about. They are and look great!

  5. Gabriella,
    such a post and we could learn a lot about
    tattooing.. I can imagine the pain.
    I like the idea of a tattoo in a certain place
    but from the other hand, how I got bored and
    won't to get rid of it?
    The only experience I have is making a permanent
    eyebrow.. You know: blond hair, black eyebrows.

    I embrace you from a very sunny Athens,

  6. Luis - many thanks for your comment - I hope you are enjoying the weekend.

    Monika! I am glad you enjoyed this one. After thinking about all the designs and symbols I wanted, I waited until my late 30s to start getting tattoos, precisely because I was worried that I might make a stupid "youthful" decision and then get bored with or outgrow the tattoo, and then what? It is just as painful and costly to have them lasered off, I hear. So I am always very careful with what I choose, that it is timeless and universal, and not "I love Bob" or something like that!

    I'm glad to know you are healing fast! All the best to you.

  7. Hi dear Gabriella,

    such a great post about your tattoo(s). I like to know where it all comes from. My skin is still a blank canvas ( avirgin as tatooists say) Years ago, in my twenties i wanted to have a tattoo, but suddenly everybody around me was getting tattoos, so that was a turn off for me. Also because most of the work i saw i didn't like. And i like it deep black and tatoos fade a bit.
    Your tattoos are well done, they look beautiful. I still am thinking of a tattoo, of one of my drawings. But i've decided that i only want 1 tattoo done by Chris Garver (from Miami ink) I'm a big fan of him. He's a great artist and i love all of his work. Not one is bad! So maybe one day, when he's visiting Holland. Who knows....
    The photo with the cut out taped on your arm is also very nice. I like it.

    The series you write about > Witchblade, never made it to Holland. I never had seen it on television. But it sounds great and like fun.

    I'll send you a mail about the mystery artist. I'm pretty sure i know her. :-D

    Hugs and xoxo

  8. Woolblade! Love it.

    I know what my next tatt will be, some representation of our local Puma concolor, and where it will go, and money's not the issue but time, of all things. If not time, then perhaps just going through that door. I don't have an artist, and the last one did a poor job.

    it is not merely adornment, but a rite of passage in which you take on the spirit of certain qualities you want to bring with you on your life’s journey

    Just so.

  9. so nice to know more about you, I'm really glad to have meet you here...

  10. Luna - Chris Garver is an amazing artist! That would be great if you could arrange to have work done by him! As for the mystery artist, I think you know her too!

    Don - that would be awesome, having a cougar tattoo! Of course it has very different connotations if a lady of my age were to show off such a symbol! Have a great week...

    Laura, dear - I'm glad to know you too! It always makes me smile to see you here.

  11. Hey, Gabriella!
    First of all.... you were right about Caio's

    I love your tattoos. Great to know that story. I love tribal tattoos and Celtic ones also. I have a rosary on my ankle and foot and would like the cross filled in with a Celtic design but to be honest with you.... none of the tattoo hurt except for the cross and the thought of filling it in makes me cringe.

    So.... I'm going to do something else. Something to honor my North American Indian roots but not on top of my Btw... I can relate to some of the pain you endured.

    Do you sell those wrist warmers anywhere? They are very cool!!!

  12. Hi Wong! Good to see you here and glad you enjoy my confessions! - have a great week!

  13. Manon - first of all, thanks for having the moxie to ask what we were all wondering about Caio's name! Also, you have my respect for getting a foot tattoo. Feet and hands, and anywhere close to the bone with not much "meat" to absorb the shock are the hardest places to get inked! I haven't gotten anything with a Native American motif just yet, but it is on my list of styles/cultures to represent and honor. I was thinking a road runner. I have a small stone with that motif that I got at a Nat Am museum in Bar Harbor the day before my first marathon, so it seems a fitting symbol to carry with me permanently!

    I sell the wrist warmers on my etsy shop. Not the Woolblade, just the regular ones, and since I keep selling them, the colors that are available keep changing. I'll do custom orders though, just say the word! I can even bring them up north in person in January!

  14. Gabriella,I enjoyed reading the story behind your tattoos and I love the 2002 photo. This tattoo,your blog title, there is a lot of female power in you, I'm sure, I can feel it in every post you write and I like it. x Renilde

  15. Hi Renilde - yes, there is a lot of the warrior in me, out of necessity, but I am really a big softie underneath the armor! Like the cat, I'd rather keep my claws pulled in and offer the velvet paw, but if you mess with me, look out! Thanks for stopping by. Be well.

  16. Hi Gabriella nice tattoos.

    It's funny to think of now but when I got my first Tattoos as a teen back in 1984 my mother was sure that I'd just threw my life down the drain. :)

  17. James! Good to see you here, better late than never. Revisiting this post reminds me I have to finish up the Woolblade before the end of the year and reveal the mystery of its inspiration! Where does the time go? And another thing about time, it changes - a few (or many) tattoos doesn't forever limit you to the company of bikers and carnies or the life of a sailor or criminal anymore! It's almost - brrrr - respectable! Thanks for stopping by.