(Botanical) Tattoos: Art or Craft?

Words by
Milena Dambelli
| June 11, 2015

Undoubtedly, there are vastly conflicting perspectives when it comes to tattoos, in particular, their worth as pieces of art or as a form of craftsmanship. Classically, when my older sister dated a tattoo artist for a few years my grandmother would gawk at his brightly patterned limbs and exclaim with sorrow, “Oh, they’re so lovely…if only they weren’t on your beautiful, young skin!” To her, the artistic merit was evident, the canvas, however, was a problem.

The popularity of tattoos and body art is ever increasing and becoming more socially acceptable, even to some grandmothers! Now commonly presented in art galleries and exhibitions, including those at Natural History museums worldwide, some would suggest this mainstreaming is exactly what’s responsible for the consideration of tattooing as an art form. In 2012, Craft Victoria even showcased live tattooing as an exhibition during its annual Craft Cubed festival.

But is it just an ironic fad? Fleeting in fashion but permanent in nature?

Does it have the high culture status of art, using the body as a canvas? And if not, does it become craft by default?

Or perhaps it’s the historical context that classifies it as a craft? After all, the tattoo (or the “tatau”) was an ancient Polynesian custom, practiced for over 2000 years. Likewise with the Japanese.

Craft or no craft, tattooing is no longer limited to any demographic, but all. And according to these pictures, plant enthusiasts too. So, there are a couple of questions, and here are a couple of images to contemplate them over…

Tattoo by Victor J Webster
Zia Flook - photographed by Hugh O'Brien
Tattoo by Stanislava Pinchuk
Tattoo by Amanda Wachob
Tattoo by Amanda Wachob
Tattoo by Elizabeth Marakov
Tattoo by Alice Carrier
Found on Tumblr
Tattoo by Alice Carrier
Tattoo by Olga Nekrasova
Tattoo by Olga Nekrasova
Tattoo by Alice Carrier

Feature Image is of Zia Flook – photographed by Hugh O’Brien