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Friday, June 1 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
44. (Book and Paper) Bold Will Hold: Investigating Artist Materials of Classic American Tattoo Flash

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This research will explore the materials and methods behind the creation of North American paper-based tattoo artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries. As the folk art canon arguably includes tattoo ephemera, the conservation of these works on paper deserve attention for best practice based on materials, techniques and historical use. These objects include flash (the drawn and printed designs for tattoos), stencils and sketchbooks which intersect as industrial art during the time of their creation, to highly collectible artworks in and outside the tattoo community at present. Vintage flash sheet designs range from rudimentary to ornate in their execution. Although similar images depict ageless themes of love, life and loss, one flash sheet showcasing representations of heartbreak is not the same as another sheet of broken hearts. Artist materials used to create these objects vary widely and invite exploration. The paper objects surrounding the tattoo industry of the past, such as hand-painted business advertisements and flash sheets, were created using an assortment of materials that encompass different substrates, surface coatings, adhesives, pigments and dyes. Most frequently these objects were heavily handled, tacked directly to walls and pork-chopped, the process by which specific designs were cut to be collaged with others on a single sheet. Due to their environment of constant use by artists in stationary shops or more itinerant set-ups, physical damage is common. Signs of structural and cosmetic degradation include water damage, nicotine stains, aged varnishes, paper loss and media disturbances. As a conservator who treats these objects, I have observed that tattoo historians and tattoo history collectors can have different conservation goals. To inform a treatment course for these artworks, if any, it is necessary to compile more studied information regarding the materials and their original context. This project aims to gather and organize findings to build case studies by working directly with original materials. Non-destructive analysis using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) will be exercised. Sourcing archival materials in addition to interviewing current practitioners of this art form will help support a continued dialogue that can help acquaint other conservation professionals to preserving these historical artworks.

avatar for Laura Moeller

Laura Moeller

Conservator, Strange Stock Art Conservation
For the past decade, Laura has been treating paper and photographic materials for some of the largest museum and private conservation labs in the country. Laura is an alumna of the Museum Studies Graduate School at George Washington University and holds additional degrees in photography... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:30pm - 4:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom (Foyer outside Ballrooms - Poster Session) Marriott Marquis Houston