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Connected by Sea: Boston’s 1000-ft Tattoo! Staining tattoo designs @HarborArts pier showing the cultures we've been connected to by sea
Connected by Sea: Boston’s 1000-ft Tattoo! 19 large tattoo designs stained into the @HarborArts pier, honoring the cultures we've been connected to by sea; an inclusive story of Boston's history, now part of the HarborWalk.
Connected by Sea: Boston’s 1000-ft Tattoo! 19 large tattoo designs stained into the @HarborArts pier, honoring the cultures we've been connected to by sea; an inclusive story of Boston's history, now part of the HarborWalk.
142 backers pledged $6,576 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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The Dock Tattoo Project

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This project is creating a public art installation to lead visitors on a walk down the main pier at HarborArts in East Boston, with large tattoo-themed designs stained into the cement, honoring the different cultures we've been connected to by sea.

OCT 5: 1 hour to go and we've handily made the Stretch Goal of finishing adding seal coat to all the designs, to protect them from salt and ice and traffic, and give them their best chance of lasting! No-one knows how long exactly they will last, but I'm using pro-quality pool and patio sealer and I'm betting at least several years. Plus we'll finish the educational website at docktattoo.com:

Sept.22: ALL 19 DESIGNS COMPLETE! I will post more photos soon. HarborArts Fest was a great success, and we got to enjoy sharing the newly finished work with the community. (Globe Article!) ...I am still working, applying seal coat to protect the remainder of the artwork for winter, and I'll be completing the companion website at Docktattoo.com which will stay up in perpetuity as an educational tool. Your support is very much appreciated!! Together we are making Boston a better place for public art.

Brazil design
Brazil design
India, detail, (c)Tanya Rose @ShadowandSoul Photography
India, detail, (c)Tanya Rose @ShadowandSoul Photography

It's a response to the place itself, where people are drawn to leave the land and walk out onto the pier — where they can experience the water all around them and view the Boston skyline in a unique and complete panorama.

Our usual tourist-eye-view of Boston history seems to have a canon of white, Puritan & Revolutionary stories. But we also grew as a city by being connected to the rest of the world, by traveling and having commerce around the globe, and by the efforts, input, ingenuity, prosperity and suffering of many other nations and peoples. This is a way to honor some of that connection.

This giant pier surface at HarborArts is a blank slate... The surface is actually weathered cement. I’d originally thought to paint, but reconsidered. Part of the mission of the HarborArts space, through its founder Steve Israel, is to promote awareness of marine ecology. The whole site is a study in the weathering of manmade items in harsh and changeable weather. I thought paint would eventually flake off and become pollution in the water... So I turned to dyes and stains: something that would sink into the pier surface and color it, and then gradually become weathered and faded.

This concept worked well with the idea of tattooing as a sailor’s art form. Sailors would get tattoos to commemorate important events in their lives or important ideas. That was how the art form started in this country and in England: Sailors learned it from the Pacific Islanders, and from there it spread to the upper classes (quicker than you would think), and throughout our society.

Native American (Mohegan) tattoo image at the start of the pier
Native American (Mohegan) tattoo image at the start of the pier

So the idea of the project became: Creating tattoo designs for the pier, that point out the different places and peoples we have been connected to by sea.

These various cultures will be represented by their art motifs from the period of the last 400 years, the time of our connection. Tattoo motifs from some of the peoples who lived, sailed, or landed here, ceramic and fabric motifs from the cultures who sent us wares and ideas over the sea as part of our trade history… with some words of description and compass arrows to show the general direction of their land.

The walk should take visitors on a perceptual journey, orienting us in the world and in history, making viewers aware of our great interconnectedness in the world.

West Africa (Kongo) design with consulting expertise from Boston artist and educator Stephen Hamilton
West Africa (Kongo) design with consulting expertise from Boston artist and educator Stephen Hamilton

I'm aiming to tell a more inclusive story of Boston history. To do this responsibly, I’m happy to be gaining input and collaboration from other artists and advisors connected to the cultures we’re referencing.

French design, le Coq Gauloise
French design, le Coq Gauloise

According to our hosts at the Shipyard and the HarborArts nonprofit organization, the tattoo designs on the pier have been very popular with both workers at the shipyard and with local residents-- from around East Boston and those who live at the marina. Permission has been given by the shipyard to decorate the whole pier surface. We’re installing now, painting most Sunday-Monday-Weds-Friday afternoons, and aim to complete the project by HarborArts Festival on Sept. 20th, 2014.

We have 19 tattoo designs planned, and so far 13 of these have been created or at least sketched out onsite! We need to finish them and create connecting motifs to complete the path. If we also decorate out into the parking lot, we believe we’ll qualify as the World’s Largest Tattoo!

Irish design
Irish design

Motivations:

  • Responding to and capitalizing on the powerful sense of place one feels when there overlooking the harbor and city
  • Taking that great blank canvas and using it to create a more inclusive story for Boston
  • Making Boston a great city for public art
  • Creating a message of peace and goodwill that everyone can relate to
  • Acknowledging that we’re all in this together, and always have been. 

I think the celebration of that is what Boston needs now and what we need as a species.  

Haiti (Afro-Caribbean) design by Boston artist Fritz Ducheine
Haiti (Afro-Caribbean) design by Boston artist Fritz Ducheine

Budget:

  • Sundry Materials $350.00
  • Gas & Tolls $950.00
  • Feed volunteers $1,250.00
  • Honoraria for artists & advisors  $850.00
    (Subtotal  $3,400.00)
  • Kickstarter percentage   $170.00
  • Credit Card percentage  $178.00
  • Rewards:  $835
  • Shipping: $300

Total needed:  $4,373.00

T-shirt design! Now being produced by a local small business.
T-shirt design! Now being produced by a local small business.

 NEW KONGO design shirts:
Because I love bold graphics and want to be able to wear the statement that we are all in this together: the Africa design showing the Kongo Cosmogram of Birth-Life-Death-Rebirth.

Risks and challenges

This is a huge project undertaken by one artist working full time for the spring and summer, with a small team of collaborators and volunteers. Already we've had delays based on access to the pier in the springtime, and started later than expected. Finishing all the planned pieces during the warm weather will be a challenge, with a self-imposed goal of completing it by Sept. 20 for the HarborArts Festival.

But we've already got 13 of a planned 19 done or partly done, and a lot of positive response from local residents and visitors, and a lot more offers of help from collaborators and volunteers.

Assistance for tools, transportation and sundries, beer to keep the volunteers coming back, and support to allow Liz to devote the critical time needed in this home stretch, while keeping the car running and paying off the money already fronted for research and materials, will be key.

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    Join the crew: Liz’s sincere thanks beamed directly to you through the vaporous aether, and join the mailing list for updates and announcements

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    Quality vinyl 3x3” sticker and your name proudly inscribed on the project website!

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    Packet of Stuff: 5x7” Art postcard with a personal thank you note, Quality vinyl 3"x3" sticker, & decorate your body with several fun custom-made temporary tattoos with designs from this project!

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    Project Shot Glass: Hoist your dram of rum in this shot glass proudly wearing a black tattoo design from the pier!

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    Dock Tattoo Project ink-on-concrete T-shirt: 2-color (black and indigo) design on cement-grey high-quality T.

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    Graphic white-on-black Kongo design T-shirt! Limited run, Individually home-screen-printed by the artist.

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    Premium graphic white-on-black Kongo design Men's long-sleeve black cotton T-shirt! Limited run, Individually home-screen-printed by the artist.

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    Premium graphic white-on-black Kongo design women's tank shirt (the kind I wear All The Time), (do you believe these cost extra to source)! Screen printed by hand by the artist for you!

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    Friend of the Project Combo: Dock Tattoo Project ink-on-concrete T-shirt, Your name inked on our website as a supporter with your message and/or photo, 5x7" art card with a personal message from the artist, sticker & temporary tattoos

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    Limited edition HANDMADE by the artist, scrimshaw pendant with etched and inked nautical anchor design. On vegan fair trade Tagua Nut from Ecuador, colored with black tea and the actual stain we used for the pier, to look like antique whale tooth scrimshaw.

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    Corporate Supporter: Your 260x300px ad, (or your company logo and brief message) prominently on the website content pages as a supporter. Includes inscribed art card from us with thank you message, sticker, and project shot glass.

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    VIP package: T-shirt, inscribed thank-you card with stickers, your company logo or image and brief message on the website homepage as a supporter, private tour of the shipyard for you and a guest with the artist, including dinner at KO Pies.

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Funding period

- (31 days)