Skin Digging

An exhibition drawing on the research interests of art historian Matt Lodder, Skin Digging focuses on female tattoo artists working in a male dominated industry.

Jessie Knight (1904 – 1992) was the first prominent female tattoo artist working in Britain. Part of an eccentric family including knife throwers, a cowboy act and a poet, she took over her father’s tattoo shop aged 18 and held her own with a mix of humour, poetry, ferocity and love.

This exhibition presents Jessie Knight as an artist not just on skin but also on paper, where both her quick preparatory sketches and finished flash – the designs for tattoos – speak of the energy, skill and excitement of the little understood folk art of tattooing.

Currently working in London, Claudia de Sabe attended her first tattoo convention when she was 14 years old. After studying Fine Art at university, she accepted a placement at Frith Street Tattoo studio in London and eventually relocated from Italy.

She is inspired by Japanese design and Victorian iconography, and is one of a new generation of artists developing tattooing as an art form that continues to gain mainstream visibility. Claudia works at Seven Doors Tattoo, and travels to guest at studios across the world.

Curated by Dr Matt Lodder from the School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex, with the support of PhD student Ingrid Marvin. This exhibition was made possible through the kind collaboration of Neil Hopkin-Thomas and the National Maritime Museum, Cornwall.