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Tattoo Ideas: Words & Shelley Jackson's SKIN Project

I have 13 tattoos as well as several piercings, and I think they're all pretty cool.


Shelley Jackson's SKIN Project, Ineradicable Stain

Shelley Jackson's "Skin" Project, Ineradicable Stain, has been in progress since 2003. Jackson, a published author, put out a call for volunteers who would tattoo the manuscript on their skin, one word per participant.

The novel will not be published anywhere in book form and will be known only to the volunteers, who will each receive a copy upon completion. The term "completion," however, is up for interpretation. When Jackson first launched her website and proposed the idea, she stated that if not enough volunteers came forward to complete the first (and only) edition, then the incomplete version would be considered definitive.

The words are assigned to volunteers in the order in which they sign a release form. The assigned word may be any size (the volunteer decides) but must be tattooed in black ink in a classic book font. The word may be placed anywhere on the body, as long as the volunteer did not receive a word that names a body part. In this case, he or she can tattoo the word anywhere EXCEPT on that body part. (For example, the word "hand" can not be tattooed directly on someone's hand.)

She also explains on her website that the participants are not carriers of the text, but are the words themselves, the embodiment of a concept. If any volunteer wanted to cover up or remove the word on their body, it would alter the larger work and change its meaning, but only the actual death of participants would remove their words from the text. Jackson went so far as to say she would make an attempt to attend the funerals of her words.

Sounds self-righteous? Perhaps it is, and maybe it seems as though Jackson is removing the autocracy and agency from her participants, but that hasn't stopped 2,095 volunteers from coming forward.

SKIN Project

Here are some examples from Shelley Jackson's SKIN project, along with a few others who are using the art of writing to convey a message best expressed in words rather than images.

Below, you'll find some other examples that use the art of tattoo to convey a message via words, quotes, and phrases rather than images.

© 2007 Jaclyn Popola


iiiliivvv on December 23, 2012:

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i wrote in latin words in my left arm- we have limits cuz we are afraid...

Katia on October 18, 2010:

These tattoos are pretty amazing except for the one by the armpit

michelle on March 09, 2010:

I love the lettering in da tatt

(And in Time this too shall pass) :]

Shannon on September 07, 2009:

Shannon on September 07, 2009:

I got this tattoo a few weeks ago. It means "love is everywhere," or more literally, "there is no place where love does not exist." My friend whose first language is Chinese wrote it for me... ignore the comment that it's grammatically incorrect.

sammy on August 04, 2009:

I really like 'silence is a dangerous sound' I'm considering it now for my next tattoo but, my first tattoo will always be my favorite, it says 'hold onto your dreams'

Skin care on July 17, 2009:

cool tatos.

Savy on April 07, 2009:


but i agree.

Anon on December 21, 2008:

Where did these photo's come from.... one of these is a good friend of mine ("Dark will turn to light, in time I'll be alright")

starrkissed from Arizona on July 27, 2008:

love these!

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