Day Two...Workshop Time!
Day One of the workshop- We were welcomed into David's stunning workspace with coffee, pastries and friendly faces. The day began with an insightful introduction by David, and each of the attendees introducing themselves and giving a background of themselves both personally and professionally. The group are really varied, and it's very exciting to work with people from a range of disciplines, all with a common interest. We had a ParaMedical practitioner from Chicago, an Anthropology student from New Hampshire, a scientist and tattoo artist from France, and an art teacher and post-mastectomy patient from Chicago. Getting straight in with candid introductions was a great way to set a precedent for the workshops of trust, honesty and openness. It was a challenge for me to open up to a group of strangers, but a great experience and it really set a positive tone for the dynamics of the emotional and mentally strenuous studies ahead. The studio is a large open space within a historic industrial building. It is sensitively and stylishly furnished and laid out, with select impeccably chosen works of art displayed. The space creates an interesting interaction between openness and intimacy. As an artist, I am inspired by and receptive to many design influences. Interiors definitely being one of them. And as someone who grew up in the home of 'antique' industrial, it was wonderful to see such a powerful open space designed and used in such a timeless, peaceful and yet luxurious way. We then watched a documentary film “Grace” made with David and his client Grace. Grace was present with us and was amazingly frank, insightful and articulate woman. She was the perfect person to discuss life post-cancer and the effect of having a post-mastectomy tattoo with. It is well worth a watch, a sensitive and absorbing short film that touches the mind and the heart. “Before we're close to our own mortality, we don't know how near it really is.” She inspired me greatly in saying that those of us that can face up to things like scarring and bodies being irregular and have the skills to adorn them with tattoos that reframe the wearer's experience I their body, then we should. Rise to the challenge and make something beautiful. I hear you Grace, and I have an even stronger conviction to pursue this avenue now. In my notebook I wrote - “Honesty is the word that springs to mind so far today. With family, with clients and with yourself.” The best thing I can say for this one is- watch it for yourself, share it with friends. Whether you're watching it from the perspective of creator, survivor, friend, family or just fellow human, you will each take away a unique favourite moment of insight from it.
Next up was Dr. John Kim MD. Dr. Kim is a professor of surgery specialising in breast reconstruction. We began with a statistical introduction about breast cancer; 1 in 8 women in the US are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Every incidence of breast cancer requires surgery, 60% lumpectomy, 40% mastectomy. We then covered a range of areas on the topic including treatment types and effects of these treatments. We discussed the impact or radiation therapy, and how the skin and tissues respond and heal after this type of treatment. Also covered was the history and evolution of mastectomy surgery, breast implants; types, techniques and implications of both reconstructive and aesthetic surgeries. We looked at the medical differences between these two types of surgeries, healing rates, long term implications and of course how they affect the tattooing process. We learned about autologous reconstruction (when the breast is reconstructed from the patient's own tissues) and prosthetic (synthetic implantation). Something I found particularly interesting was the differences between available implant types and surgeries in the US compared to Europe. I was aware that there would be some variations, but actually the scope of the differences is quite huge. As we have less regulation and litigation culture in Europe, there is a much wider range of implant types available and in common use. Dr. Kim gave a really comprehensive yet accessible lecture. An in-depth insight was given into how the procedures are approached by surgical professionals, and the technical and creative aspects of breast reconstruction and augmentation. He really contextualised the work that breast surgeons undertake. This helped, for me, to fit a few more pieces of the jigsaw together of what my clients have been through. Aesthetic implant patients : 1-2% rate of complications Mastectomy patients: 30% rate of complications I have many, many pages of personal notes on this lecture, covering surgical procedures, biology, aesthetic and practical ongoing healing, the lymphatic system.... but I will not share it all with you here. It is something for me to review in my own time, research further, and file into my mental 'toolkit' ready to access the knowledge as and when I need it to ensure I am doing the very best with my clients. It was a true joy listening to and talking with Dr.Kim, I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to absorb some of his vast knowledge and to pick his brains. Thank you so much to him for tailoring his answers to the world of tattooing, and to opening his heart and mind to us (mere mortals!). Empathy. The day closed with David speaking about empathy. We discussed psychological and physiological manifestations of empathy and shared experiences. The concept of mirrored neurons was a fascinating opener- that when we feel empathy with someone, the same neurons in both of your brains fire. So you are literally sharing the experience. We moved through considering the subtleties and related states to empathy- vicarious trauma, resonance, and connection. 'Empathy is not about merging, but about connecting, and then observing.' We talked about the importance of subtleties, and how it vital to give your clients space and time to feel safe with you so that you can work together and create a tattoo that truly matches and belongs to the wearer. 'An empathetic listener, by expressing their own curiosity can generate a healing curiosity in the other that can generate autonomy.' The talk was deep, as well as practical. Empathy is both an instinctive reaction, and a tool. If we are conscious of our own behaviours and thoughts as well as those of others, then we can use this as a tool both to ensure we give our clients the best experience and result possible, but to help generate momentum in the physical and mental healing process for them during and after the tattoo.