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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Beyond the Epidermis: a practical investigation into contemporary western tattooing

McDade, Adam (2021) Beyond the Epidermis: a practical investigation into contemporary western tattooing. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


Academic focus on contemporary western tattooing is primarily from the disciplinary perspectives of the sciences, economics, history, and anthropology. With few exceptions, attention is placed on the modified body and the recipient of the tattoo rather than the tattoo producer or the processes of production. Though tattooing is an important creative industry, the occupational role of the tattooist and the processes and development of practice is yet to receive academic investigation from a practice-centred perspective. This has led to understanding of tattooing that is either absent entirely, partially informed, or flawed, from a range of perspectives. This AHRC/NPIF funded research is conducted in partnership with Sunderland (England) based tattoo studio Triplesix Studios, where the researcher has worked as a tattooist. A multi-method methodology was created with practice at its core combined with a contextual overview and autoethnography to contribute insight into tattoo production, the role of the producer and stylistic development that is largely absent in academia. It is suggested that the processes of tattoo production are inherently collaborative between tattooist and client. The tattooist’s role is proposed as both material (provision of medium) and non-material (provision of service). The material facet of the tattooist’s role in the provision of the medium is presented as contingent in accordance with the tattoo brief. Autoethnographic accounts of tattooing practice are utilised to generate insight into the non-material facet of the tattooist’s role in the provision of service. Stylistic development with tattooing as a medium through practical investigation that is informed by design training is then presented, illuminating factors that affect the approach of the tattooist. This is the first piece of research to be conducted using tattooing practice as a core methodological approach and demonstrates that understanding of contemporary western tattooing more broadly can be enriched as a result. Through the contribution of a novel methodology, frameworks and documentation offered by this research, it is proposed that tattooing may be better understood from the perspectives in which it has previously been studied and be introduced into broader arts and design scholarship.

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Depositing User: Leah Maughan


Item ID: 13599

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Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2021 13:36
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 11:00


Author: Adam McDade

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