found dolls, embroidery; a collaboration with female tattoo artists
The inspiration for The Tattoo Baby Doll Project came from reading The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine by Rozika Parker and wondering what kind of imagery women were embroidering at the turn of the end of the 20th Century, while attending an artist residency in 1998 at the Headlands Center for the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area and noticing that there were a lot of women with tattoos that reminded me of some of the historical embroidery images in Parker's book. On top of these two influences I had been collecting cloth bodied baby dolls during my cross country trip from NC to CA without any particular project in mind but just because I liked them.
Eventually the three influences converged and the idea formed. I researched female tattoo artists and at the time found only one source book on the topic, Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo, by Margo Mifflin, which profiled many of the prominent women tattoo artists at that time. I began to contact some of the artists featured in Mifflin's book. Some agreed to participate in the project and they also led me to other female tattoo artists eventually included in this project.
The tattoo artists were each sent a couple of dolls to choose from. They then inked the dolls, named them, and wrote a statement or a narrative about their tattoos, and sent them back to me.
I embroidered the inked dolls to make it permanent, doing my best to emulate the style of each tattoo artist in thread. It takes about the same amount of time to embroider a back-piece of similar intricacy as it does to tattoo it. Many of these dolls took over a hundred hours to stitch by hand.