Skin & Bone is a combination gallery and tattoo studio. The gallery will exhibit art and ethnographic handicrafts related to tattooing, while the studio will have Colin Dale tattooing alongside various guest artists throughout the year. Through his years of travelling and tattooing around the world Colin has had the pleasure to meet and work alongside a wide range of tattoo artists and experts working in ethnographic and other specialized styles. Amongst these friends, we have hand-tattooists from Borneo, Polynesia and Japan as well as some of the world's leading artists in Blackwork and Dotwork coming to visit. Check the homepage to see some of the work

Monday, 16 July 2012

Lejre Archaological Research Centre

Lejre has always been high point of my tattooing and personal life. When I first was invited there it was through the help of my friend Mark Salter whom I was tattooing and worked at the centre at the time. We proposed to do research and demonstrations of prehistoric tattooing techniques, tools and rituals. Mark's knowledge from living amongst Native American Indians was very important the first few years as we experimented with tribal and shamanistic rituals surrounding tattooing.
Since that time I've experimented with tools made from thorns, bone and flint stone... techniques such as Inuit sewing, hand poking, cutting and rubbing... pigments made from soot, coal and red ochre... and finally rituals such as shamanism, accupuncture and medicine tattoos
Lejre has changed over the years... and in order to survive has evolving from a volunteer research centre to the Sagnland theme park it is today. This is not necessarally a bad thing as the centre now has more money and better facilities in which we can still continue our work in a surrounding that has become family.

This years research concerned Life, Death and Cultural Re-birth 


Ulv/Wolf (aka Jørgen) is the village blacksmith and leader of the Viking community at Ravnhøj for the last 15 years. I tattooed him about 10 years or so ago and since that time have also tattooed his 2 sons out at Lejre as well. Ulv is retiring after this season so his sons Mads and Mikkæl arranged a family tattoo session. Unfortunately due to failing daylight we only got two completed... but Mads lives in Copenhagen and we'll complete his soon :-)

Ulv and Mikkæl with completed tattoos... Bronze age and Viking age trinity symbols knotted together. Mikkæl opted for for more graphic black to match his earlier tattoos, while Ulv continued with dotwork as in his dragon armband


Eric Frederikson is a client and friend of many years whose father passed away last January. Erik wanted to cormemorate this with a memorial tattoo and after much thought decided to use his fathers ash as pigment. The Polynesians (specifically Hawaií) were also known for cutting their bodies and scalps in mourning for the dead as well as rubbing the ashes on themselves. The book of Levidacus from the Old Testiment warns against this practice as being heathen and ungodly.

Human ash, soot and alcohol mixed in equal parts to create the tattoo pigment 

It was raining sporatically all day so we tattooed Eric in the tent and then went down to the sacrificial bog afterwards to give an offering 

Tattooing in process... you can see the ash and ink separating in some places. Very slow and gentle process... the ash is very grainy while the soot is very oily and requires a bit of experience to get it mixed and into the skin

Erik at the Sacrificial bog afterwards where we offered the remaining ink, a snickers bar, some mjød and a prayer. As Erik rose from his knees afterwards we noticed a deer standing on the other side of the bog watching us... it slowly turned and then bound away :-)

Cultural Re-birth:

I've been working with pigments made from soot, ash and ochre for many years and have tattooed them on myself as well as smaller designs on friends, however I've always wanted the chance to do a Haida piece using all natural pigments
The Haida Indians of Canada's North West Coast are one of the only tribes to have reportedly tattooed in colour (specifically red) However as these reports are post contact it is hard to determine is if the colour was a tradition or merely a result of them having access to Chinese vermilion brought by sailors.
Despite this I had to do it as I think it could have been done... the ochre I've always enjoyed working with as it goes into the skin quickly and is much easier to wipe off and keep the area clean than with the soot which is much more oily.
The Haida tools are very similar to my own... a short stick with a flat grouping of needles at the end. However over the past several years I've been moving away from the flat graphics of the Haida designs and workig specifically with only lines and open forms (which are not outlined) 

Haida devilfish (Octopus) in progress
Looking forward to finishing this piece :-)

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