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:
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.