With the Body as a Living Canvas

Foreword by Norwegian Crafts

Scarification and photo by Marita Wikstrøm Svěrák.

It was with great excitement and curiosity that The Vessel launched tattoos as a theme for the spring issue of 2024, and we are now proud to present The Vessel 7: Transforming Bodies, edited by Oslo-based artist, printmaker, and tattooer Maria Viirros.

Tattooing is a craft. Even though it has been kept separate through Western history, there are obvious links and common denominators between the field of craft and that of tattoos and permanent body adornment. Tattooing, along with other permanent body modification practices, like scarifications, piercings, and performative suspension practices, has been — and still is — mainly kept outside of art education and major art institutions. This is both due to the tattooers themselves finding their community and their freedom of artistic expression outside of these institutions, and also because the mainstream Western society still mainly considers tattooing and permanent body adornments as part of an ‘underground’ or ‘outsider’ culture.

This issue argues that these practices are inherently craft-based expressions that work between the fluid categories of art, craft, design, and fashion. By extension, they are deeply intertwined with questions about identity and the basic human right to make decisions over one’s own body, a question that is still fundamentally political and culturally conditioned. An example we would like to highlight, and that you can read more about in this issue, is how tattoos play an important role in relation to decolonisation and taking back indigenous cultures, as seen in Inuit practices.

In Transforming Bodies, we would like to invite the reader to dive into the texts, photos, and videos, to experience these wonderful, technical, visceral, distorted, vulnerable, and free artforms of tattoos and permanent body adornments.

Thank you to our wonderful editor Maria Viirros, and to the graphic designers and programmers at Bielke & Yang. We would also like to thank and express our gratitude to all the tattooers, artists, writers, photographers, and our filmmaker who have brought this issue to life. The Vessel is published by Norwegian Crafts, and would not have been possible without the support of our backers: the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Stephanie Serrano Sundby
Project Manager for The Vessel, on behalf of the Norwegian Crafts team