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Wearing your art on your sleeve


Bruce Sterling just noted Shelley Jackson’s “Skin Project,” the 2,095-word short story being published in an “edition of one” by being tattooed, one word at a time, on the bodies of 2,095 different people. Although I’ve never met Shelley Jackson, I’ve participated indirectly in this project: in November 2006, I provided typographic assistance to editor Ellen Datlow and writer/editor Kelly Link, who were in Austin, Texas, for the World Fantasy Convention and who were both about to get tattoos as part of this project. Each of them had a single word to be turned into a tattoo: for Kelly, “skin”; for Ellen, “device.” (including the final period).

I gave them several choices of typeface, based on what they told me they’d like and on what I thought would work in a tattoo. (Admittedly, this was a brand new production consideration for me.) The four typefaces I tried out were Monotype Baskerville, Requiem, Monotype Bell, and Adobe Garamond. Ellen picked Monotype Bell; I don’t recall which typeface Kelly chose.

Early stages of this project were shown in Ina Saltz’s book Body type, a collection of photographs of tattoos that involve words, but the “Skin Project” was far from done when Ina’s book went to press. (In fact, it was on the shelf in Austin’s excellent bookstore Book People when Kelly went there to do a reading during the convention.)

Which typefaces got used, ultimately? Ellen picked Monotype Bell (third one down in the image at left). I don’t recall which one Kelly ended up choosing.

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