When Iban Fadlan first met the Rus Vikings he described them as being marked (Tattooed) from Neck to Nail Roots. There is now some discussion amongst scholars as to the term Nail Roots... while it is most probable this refered to the arm, which was exposed, there are some who argue that the term actually meant Top to Toe
Yes... all the overs and unders work
This is probably the most painstaking part of the process. While the Polynesians can jump from one muscule to the other with the placement of negative space and the Japanese can do it with windbars and clouds... my designs have to be connected and flow continuously down the entire length of the body. Three dragons and two serpents all freehand and intertwined with every over having a corresponding under
When Fie first contacted me about getting such a large piece as her first tattoo I tried not to get too excited as often the realities outweigh the dreams. So from the first talks there went almost a year before we could start. Several sessions drawing on the body to get ideas, getting the economics in order and discussing whether she would be open to the time and commitment of doing it by hand rather than machine. Luckily she lives right around the corner, so anytime I had a cancellation on short notice I could just contact her and she would drop by. So once we started it actually went quite quickly... taking almost one year to the day
However I have to give credit to Fie's stamina as well, as I usually work 8-10 hour days
Over the years I've had the opportunity to tattoo some incredible women by hand and machine and partially due to this work Fie was able to lay her trust in me
In the original design I was planning to have the large central dragon slide across the hip around the thigh and back up onto her back. However when we got down to the hip I reconsidered and made the dragon do a loop on the hip and butt cheek to give it a more round form before continuing down the leg
The head and back remained the same though
A cold day at the København Middelalder Market 2016. Luckily we had a lot of blankets and lambskins to keep her warm.
Finished the head of the Mother Dragon and started filling the Herringbone scales by this point. To keep her from being too exposed we concentraited outlining the new form for the hip and cheek.
Unfortunately by this point the "Mother Dragon" had already began inspiring copies.
The price of fame I guess... just irritating when the copies are completed before the original.
But hand tattooing isn't about speed as much as the tradition and process... and "freehand" drawing of another's work doesn't make it original
Outlining the second head of the Rune Dragon with Rope twists which comes over the hip to rest on the belly
After the Back and Hip portions were outlined, step three was to draw from Hip to Toes. As the outline takes so long to complete it has to be dotted first to mark the lines
Then it is just a matter of connecting the dots
The third Dragon head is outlined at Lejre and Koi scales will be added at a later point
A few close up photos of the late night session at Lejre
Just because it is done by hand doesn't mean it has to be rough... the Vikings were excellent craftsmen and to suggest otherwise is just making excuses for bad work
and an extreme close up of the process
My introduction to hand tattooing was through the tribal arts, so my needles resemble more Tatau and Tebori tools in form and produce a sharper line than with dotwork tools
Another session outlining at the studio
Adding Koi scales to the outlined portion
Finally reaching the toes
All the Dragons bend without breaking
From "Neck to Nails" as Iban Fadlan wrote
Still have to get some good photos of this with a better flash
Thanks to Fie for the trust with her first and only tattoo
In part due to Fie's example I've now been entrusted to do some more large pieces by hand which I hope to be finishing in the near future... of course it takes the time it takes