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24 Aug

Blast-overs: the tattoo trend that embraces your body art

A growing trend within the tattoo industry, blast-overs are cover-ups that intentionally leave the old work visible beneath the brand new, allowing your tattoos to grow and evolve with you

Last 12 months, Hackney-based tattoo artist Suki Lune asked a resident artist at her studio to inscribe an abstract star shape excessive of the Kangayam cow she’d had inked onto her arm five years previously. The thick lines of Riccardo Raffin’s design plowed over the cow motif, striking across its head and body with little regard for the unique tattoo. By itself, Riccardo Raffin’s design is daring and visually striking. When stamped so unapologetically on top of one other tattoo, it becomes defiant, almost aggressively so.

Latest tattoos inked on top of old tattoos are often called blast-overs, and so they’re a growing trend throughout the tattoo community. Whereas cover-ups seek to cover an old piece completely, blast-overs intentionally leave the old work visible beneath the brand new. “It’s a type of dialogue with existent designs,” Raffin says. “A symbolic act that underscores the intention to maneuver beyond the past and embrace change.”

Over in Latest York, Caleb Blansett is something of a maverick within the industry, due to his large-scale, body-spanning pieces – and his embrace of the blast-over technique. When planning his mammoth projects, he allows the geography of his clients’ bodies to paved the way completely – even when because of this the brand new work goes over a tattoo they have already got. “If someone asks me not to the touch a tattoo, I’ll factor that into my design,” he says. “But otherwise I draw the design the body, not a lot the tattoos which might be already there.”

While this approach is more organic, often blast-overs are a deliberate alternative made by people like Lune when their existing tattoos have gone out of fashion or just don’t reflect the aesthetic vision they’ve for themselves anymore. “I’d seen Riccardo do blast-over work before and felt really inspired by it,” she says. “Loads of the tattoos I actually have on my arm are stylistically quite different to the stuff I might get now if I were to start out from scratch, so it felt like a option to make all of it feel a bit more aligned with the stuff that appeals to me now.”

Blansett agrees that many purchasers have this mindset. “Perhaps they got a tattoo after they were 18,” he suggests, “and so they still prefer it, but tattooing has modified lots since then. So that they do a blast-over. They still have the reminder of it, but they’ve integrated it into something greater and more cohesive.”

In terms of the blast-overs themselves, there’s a giant diversity in range. “It will probably vary from just the ends of designs kissing one another to full-on cacophonies of ink intertwining,” says Latest York-based artist Sammy Ray. They’ve done tattoos that stretch the definition of blast-over to its limit by covering just about all of an existing piece but leaving barely enough peeking out to function a memory.

“Sometimes, people don’t like a tattoo due to its association with their past, but they still see that past as being essential and relevant, due to how they’ve grown from it,” explains Blansett. “So as an alternative of eliminating the tattoo entirely, they add one other layer to it – and provides a nod to the shitty thing that happened”. 

“Our memories aren’t really that good” agrees Ray, “so getting blast-overs is a way of harbouring our memories and past selves on our own terms and accepting all and sundry we’ve got been within the one vessel we’ve got. 

Chinese-American artist Pang operates out of the San Francisco Bay Area. In keeping with them, blast-overs represent an “explicit, intentional rebirth” and challenge the very idea of permanence inside tattooing by “changing something that was allegedly going to remain the identical perpetually”. 

There’s little doubt that tattooing has turn into more individualistic lately – with Instagram causing a shift in focus from tattoo collectors to the non-public sorts of each artist. In light of this, Ray feels that blast-overs are an excellent way of re-introducing cohesion at a time when people’s tattoo collections have gotten more aesthetically diverse.

“For individuals who wish to collect pieces while also curating or collaging those works into something larger and special for his or her body, blast-overs are an amazing option to work towards something wonderful and cohesive without committing to an aesthetic or one artist’s vision,” they are saying. Blansett feels this fashion in regards to the work on his own body, insisting that he “has one tattoo”. “I don’t wish to have all of those borders between my pieces. I need every little thing to flow and feel a bit muddy,” he explains.

But what of the artists whose work is being blasted over, lots of whom never agreed to their work being recontextualised in such a confrontational way? Have they got the best to exercise ownership over the art they’ve made? So far as Blansett is anxious, “No – once the tattoo is in your skin, it’s your tattoo and you’ll be able to do regardless of the fuck you would like with it”.

Nevertheless true this will be, it doesn’t stop the old guard feeling affronted. Traditional artists are liable to pondering rigidly about tattoo styles and placements at the most effective of times, let alone when work they’ve made risks being scribbled over. Pang has little patience for this line of thought: “Whether you prefer it or not, you’re tattooing an individual, who’s going to age, and going to get other tattoos around, or – heaven forbid – over your work. It’s an uphill battle to start out taking offense to that.”

The query of ownership is a prescient one for Pang, who sees blast-over work as a way of fighting back against an increasingly capitalist and individualistic tattoo culture. “Now there’s more emphasis on the non-public sorts of every given artist that a collector is tattooed by, artists are more sensitive to being copied, which problematises the flow of ideas,” they are saying. “But blast-overs are a maximalist option to visually bring together the disparate tattoos in a group, taking the aesthetic attention and putting it back onto the collector.”

All tattoos necessarily change the bodies on which they’re made, but with a blast-over, change itself is the subject material. And where cover-ups seek to disguise that change, blast-overs make it a spectacle. They put the free will of the tattooed person front and centre, and offer them an area where their bodily autonomy is paramount. Or as Caleb puts it, blast-overs are a way of telling the world that “That is my tattoo space. I’m the captain now. I’m doing something different, and I’m doing something latest, and I need you to hate it.”

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