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Dissertation Reflection

While writing my dissertation as part of my constellation module I encountered many bumps and obstacles, when choosing my topic and starting my research I struggled, it made sense to me to choose something I was interested in so that research was something enjoyable and in the hope that writing it would become easier and content would flow rather than feel forced. After much consideration I chose tattoos as my key debate, and from this decided to look at tattoos in relation to women, for the simple reason that this was something I was interested in, but never looked at academically, or at all for that matter, I have never been one to take much thought in or debate the ongoing key issues between men and women so I thought that combining my interest in tattooing with something I haven’t studied before would make for stimulating work.

If given the chance to research for and write my dissertation again I would have definitely started reading earlier, this is one thing that although I was aware of, I didn’t do. I had a brief idea of what I wanted to include in my writing and the possible outcomes but didn’t spend the valuable time needed over summer to start my research and academic reading. The tendency to delay the start of something has been a recurring issue thorough all of my academic life, but it’s only for this module that I experienced and understood the importance of time management. I have carried this over to my subject module and am seeing instant results when starting my work at the correct time and managing my time appropriately. Throughout the year time management is not the only thing that has changed due to writing my dissertation, I have become for focused and passionate about my work, I attended all of the scheduled meetings to discuss the progress of my writing, which is something I have has issues with in the past, through my attendance I found the work easier, thus making the writing more enjoyable, hopefully with will show in my work.

At the start of my constellation module I continually found it hard to create links between my academic and creative subjects, which sometimes left me feeling this daunting piece of writing was almost useless, but as the above mentioned focus and passion developed so did the connections between my constellation module and subject module. During my research and writing I was trying to choose a suitable topic for my final major project, I never thought expected that me research and they key debated within my dissertation would inspire me so much. I read and used many interesting and relevant pieces of literature during the research and writing of my dissertation but the one that has inspired me most and ultimately became a key for inspiration when choosing my topic for my subject module was Margot Mifflin’s Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. This was one of the first pieces of writing I found when I initially started my research before summer, and although I was somewhat gripped by the book straight away I didn’t realise how important and influential Mifflin’s book would be to me and my studies, not only did this book help me narrow down my ideas for my topic and choose my final question, but it helped me find the other pieces of writing that would be relevant to my research and writing. All I had when I came across Bodies of Subversion were the idea that I wanted to write about tattoos (as I have always been fascinated by tattoos and have been getting them regularly for the past 7/8 years) and women. As a tattooed woman I am aware of some of the issues that come with tattooed females but it’s never really something that has particularly bothered me, I accepted they were there, turned a blind eye and continued to get tattoos, but Bodies of Subversion and the other articles and academic references I found such as ‘Tattoos and Piercings; issues of body modifications within the workplace’ by Brian Elzweig and Donna Peeples and Eleanor Mills article for the Sunday Times titled, ‘The girl with the dreadful tattoo’, helped me to highlight the main issues and key debates within my chosen topic, from this my question was decided, ‘What issues arise regarding female identity within tattoo culture?’. As I highlighted the key topics I wanted to discuss, and found more articles relating to my question my passion for the topic grew and began to inspire my creative work.

My chosen topic for my final major project in my subject module I feel has a subtle but direct link to my dissertation and constellation module. Although I am not basing my research and design work on tattoos or specifically women which is what I concentrate on within my dissertation, I got the inspiration for my topic directly from my research for constellation. Mifflin talks of women getting tattoos being a retaliation to the issues that we have always faced regarding female body empowerment and the link it has to men, highlighting that for a long time women sat in the back seats in a male controlled society, this is something Mills talk about in her article too, although she does this without taste or without any conscientiousness unlike Mifflin who is more delicate about her views and backs up herself with fact and research. I was instantly gripped by the thought of body empowerment and this led me to think more into sexual body empowerment and the views society has upon this, which lead me to my theme of Erotica. I have decided to steer away from specifically female identity within society as I studied before and put more focus into the naked body, both men and women, through my work I want to highlight the issues society has with the use of the naked body within art and media, looking at artist that use the body specifically in a sexual nature as inspiration for work.

Using my findings from constellation I have directed myself to a subject that I am becoming more and more passionate about every day and I believe that I will continue to design and create work of this nature after my studies have finished. I feel I have a greater understanding of a world that I am part of regarding being a tattooed female and the work I am creating that has bene inspired by my dissertation has resulted in me experimenting within different subject areas and with different medias.

Considering my dissertation started slow and I lacked the enthusiasm needed at an early stage, it was helped me develop and grow as a designer, and helped me to grow in many different aspects, not just within my academic and creative studies but also personally.

Review of my dissertation proposal and research so far

When considering the topic and title of my dissertation i went back and forth a few different ideas, as i wanted to research and write about something that flares my interest and also something that can be readily and thoroughly researched. my initial idea was to write about something related to the fashion world, maybe test a link between today’s latest trends/celebrities and young adults, research the positive and negative effects that celebrities and fashion have on today’s teenagers and young adults. after thinking about this more i decided that given my course, possibly a few of my peers would be covering a similar subject and i wanted to go for something a little different. I wrote a list of things that interested me enough to want to write about, including music, women’s retro fashion, movies, tattoos and Elvis Presley, i toyed with a few of these idea and decided to go with tattooed women. As a tattooed woman, i have experienced and questioned the reactions, comments and different views society have on us decorated ladies. I’ve had many flattering and kind remarks about my choice of tattoos, with people being very interested in every process, from the influences and stories behind my art to the pain and cost of them. Whilst i love and am comfortable in my own skin, i have often questioned whether the choices to have tattoos may hold be back or prevent me from things such as job opportunities, partners and other things that you can be discriminated in. Still to this day, this week to be exact, wonder in i should wear long sleeves and trousers at interviews to avoid my tattoos being seen. this leaves me asking why? how long has this been a problem for? will it continue to be a problem? will society ever fully accept the growing urge to be decorated and modified? This train of thought then led me to wonder whether these issues vary from man to woman. I had then found my topic, i’m not definite on the title yet but i’ve decided with something along the lines of ‘How are tattooed women perceived by society, what effects had it had and how has it changed over the last 50 years’

The next part of the dissertation writing process is something i’ve been a little apprehensive about the initial research to get the ball rolling. I made a not of what techniques i could use for gathering the most useful research, the first naturally being online and books, but i want to have a more varied approach so i have decided to conduct a number of questionnaires, surveys and interviews. I hope to get a range of views and answers from different types of people, my current ideas are to compile a survey on how tattooed women and ‘seen’ and ask the same number of both men and women, a questionnaire and ask both tattooed men and women of their experiences of discrimination and how they think being inked could have both negative and positive effects, and i’d like to interview some female tattoo artists using some carefully planned questions. My hope is that this method of primary research will provide the answers i need to discuss and argue some valid idea, as i am struggling to find many books that particularly highlight my topic.

If im honest i’m not too confident at being thorough in the library so started my research online, trying to find books related to my title assuming that there would be plenty, but i came to find that there aren’t as many as i thought, there are bundles on the art and history of tattooing, but not much that points particularly to women. The one title that i found that seems to cover all the things i’d like to talk about is Margot Mifflins Bodies of Subversion, its the fist of its kind, first published in the 1990s with 3 editions. I have ordered the book as it has an extensive history of tattooed women starting from the 1900s. I have found and bought other books and i am due a session in the library to help me find journals. With my primary research of interviews and surveys and found books i hope to have an extensive collection of evidence and facts that will help me write an interesting and unique dissertation.