Book Announcement - Needle Work: A History of Commercial Tattooing in Canada

May 21, 2024 by Department of Art History

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new book by SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow Jamie Jelinski:

Needle Work: A History of Commercial Tattooing in Canada
An original history of those who made tattooing their livelihood.

In 1891 J. Murakami travelled from Japan, via San Francisco, to Vancouver Island and began working in and around Victoria. His occupation: creating permanent images on the skin of paying clients.

From this early example of tattooing as work, Jamie Jelinski takes us from coast to coast with detours to the United States, England, and Japan as he traces the evolution of commercial tattooing in Canada over more than one hundred years. Needle Work offers insight into how tattoo artists navigated regulation, the types of spaces they worked in, and the dynamic relationship between the images they tattooed on customers and other forms of visual culture and artistic enterprise. Merging biographical narratives with an examination of tattooing’s place within wider society, Jelinski reveals how these commercial image makers bridged conventional gaps between cultural production and practical, for-profit work, thereby establishing tattooing as a legitimate career.

Richly illustrated and drawing on archives, print media, and objects held in institutions and private collections across Canada and beyond, Needle Work provides a timely understanding of a vocation that is now familiar but whose intricate history has rarely been considered.

Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Published: June 2024
ISBN: 9780228021988
Available at McGill-Queen's University Press (Use code “MQSP” for 30% off at checkout), and other retailers.

needlework book cover