We worked with 19 Crimes and renowned tattoo historian Matt Lodder to delve into the history of convict tattoos, looking at what, where and why prisoners were getting tattooed back in the 18th century. Despite misconception throughout history that tattoos were merely the ‘mark of a criminal’, Matt’s research has shown that prisoners’ tattoos often held genuine sentimental value, from referencing their profession to reminding them of a lover, with symbols such as anchors and hearts featuring in the top 10 most common designs. Tattooing at a basic level has hardly changed in several thousand years, and the so-called ‘convict-tattoos’ from the 18th century are really just symbols of human emotions which resonate with all of us.
We then had the popular designs reinterpreted for the present day by four Lawless Studio® artists … resulting in four tattoo flash sheets - each containing 18 designs (with a secret 19th tattoo waiting in the wings too)
Those flash sheets were tattooed for free to lucky punters who came and queued at our popup on Shoreditch High St for two days in September.