The Young Tattooer by Emerald

Tanizaki Jun’ichirô’s 1910 short story “The Young Tattooer” (also known in English as “The Tattooer”) tells the story of an artist obsessed with beauty. One day he catches a glimpse of the snow white ankles that belong to a certain apprentice dancer (in some translations she is a geisha, in others a prostitute). Instantly he knows that her skin will be the finest canvas that he has ever inked his designs into. The artist kidnaps and drugs the girl before engraving a giant spider across her back. When the girl wakes up she is a changed woman.

Throughout the story we are never told what the girl is thinking, nor what happens to her after she is attacked and violated by the artist’s many needles. Since re-reading the story for my PhD research I have wondered how you would create the young girl: would you cast her pokkuri platform clogs in metal and then enamel them with red? How would you design the spider tattoo? Would you carve her hair in wax and then cast it or style it into place with combs? Which aspect of her story would you tell in porcelain?

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Copyright © 2011 Marina Bychkova.