Life & 6 Months

The late 19th century was an exciting time to be a tattooist in Europe and America. Foreign influences such as the beautiful and accomplished Japanese irezumi, combined with technological invention in the form of Samuel O’Reilly’s 1891 electric tattoo machine, and the patronage of royalty – traditionally the preserve of the fine arts – all coincided to inspire a generation of tattooists, who took advantage of a surge in the popularity of tattooing. Keen to elevate the status of the profession, Sutherland MacDonald, who had trained as an artist before coming to tattooing in 1890, coined the term ‘tattooist’, which he preferred over the more commonly used ‘tattooer’. According to Macdonald, ‘tattooist’ carried with it all the connotations of the title ‘artist’ that he wished to emulate, rather than the simple suggestion of a manual trade evoked by ‘tattooer’. The term stuck, and Macdonald is now considered to be one…

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