11 Hours of Hand-Poked Scalp

Ferank Manseed, who has now been doing hand-poked tattoos for a decade (“I don’t play with that modern machine nonsense!”) just finished the second session on this amazing swastika/asanoha scalp piece, which now has eleven hours of hand poking in it. I like the 3D effect that makes it look like the design is cut right into the head, kind of a dotwork trompe l’oeil. As you may have guessed Ferank is pure hand-poked all the way, only having used a machine a few times (and that was a long time ago). He says, “the freedom of working by hand has allowed me to tattoo and travel and connect with other handwork tattooists, who are still rare — I like this…”

Like most hand tattooists, Ferank is largely self-taught, doing much of his learning by tattooing his own skin. I asked him what he uses for tools and while he points out that he “can make a tattoo with anything sharp” he usually uses pre-made needles (the same sort that would be put in a machine) strapped to a chopstick. When the tattoo is completed, he removes the needles from the bamboo chopstick, marks the date on it, blesses it with a swastika and an aum and gives it to the client as a souvenir of the experience.

Ferank is based at Northside Private Rooms (one of the rare studios that contains a dedicated hand area) in Newcastle Upone Tyne in England, and you can email him at [email protected] or visit him on Facebook.

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scalp-tattoo-3t scalp-tattoo-4t

Hand-Poked Backpieces

Long ago I posted an interview with machine-free (hand-poked) tattoo artist and pioneer Boff Konkerz (read it here), but at that point he was better known for smaller pieces. Boff told me back then that he figured hand-poked tattoos took about three times as long as “normal” tattoos in general, so as you can imagine doing a full backpiece is quite a commitment. Boff is based at King of Hearts in London, but travels extensively across the UK and Europe — follow his plans or get in touch via fb/RoadmapsForTheSoul.

Upcoming tour dates include:

  • Shining Tattoo, Nenzing, Austria… March 21st-26th
  • Íslenzka Húðflúrstofan, Reykjavik, Iceland… April 18th-23rd
  • Funhouse Tattoo, Metz, France… 2nd-7th May
  • Fo Tat Fest, Torshavn, Faroe Islands… 17th-19th May
  • Lucky 7, Oslo, Norway… 27th June-2nd July

Here are a few backpieces, epics of machine-free tattooing, that Boff has done. The first one by the way you may recognize elements of — it is based on Last Embrace by Laurie Lipton (although the motif of embracing skeletons is not an unusual one).


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boff-backpiece-4t boff-backpiece-5t

Dotwork Hand Outline

Hand tattoos more than almost any other body part allow the artist to create a tattoo that has movement and life that a static piece could never have. For me, this means that simple yet fluid designs can easily beat out photo realistic mastery dumped flat on the back of a hand, and this tattoo of dots tracing the “mold line” of the hand by Christian Bedics (of Germany’s Time Travelling Tattoo) is a great example. Like all of his tattoos, this dotwork piece is hand poked. I should also mention that Christian is probably better for his scarification work — he’s one of the scarmasters appearing at the First International ScarCon, taking place May 4th and 5th in London.


Speaking of movement in hand tattoos, here’s another, much more whimsical tattoo also by Christian Bedics. Sure beats a finger mustache!


Hand on the Cross

If this looks familiar to you, it’s because Shannon first posted about this hand poked circle of life tattoo a few weeks back.  Back then it was just the outline, but since then handpoked master (that sounds dirty) Ferank has finished up the sacred geometry, and the result is breathtaking.  Oh, it should be noted that the cross was tattooed by someone else.

Hand Poking by Ferank

As I promised, a few more pictures from the work of hand tattooist (ie. hand poked, not machine) Ferank Manseed. That first photo also gives me the opportunity to mention another blog you may want to read, palmproject.tumblr.com (in addition of course to BME’s own massive hand tattoo galleries). As I said earlier, you can reach Ferank most easily at [email protected] to set up an appointment with this UK-based artist.




That last piece makes me think a lot of the Dali painting with a similar 3D cross. I should mention that the cross wasn’t done by Ferank — he just pushed it up a level into something much more special by adding the circle of sacred geometry.

To be or not to be..

That is the question.  The human question.  Much like this human question hand-poked piece by Max Harris.  Given Hamlet’s famous soliloquy is about him questioning his own life, and contemplating what happens after death, it really works well with this design.  Taking a look at these lines, you can see how the figure not only appears as a question mark, but also as a man ascending in a resurrection pose, an image linked to both death and rebirth.

To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause – there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

A poke in the right direction

When it comes to hand poked tattoos, the experience of getting them is often just as significant to a person as the tattoo itself.  With no machine, each and every prick of the needle is guided by the artist’s hand, creating a more intimate tie between the artist and the client.  This effect is magnified when one decides to hand poke themselves.  Below is Max Harris’ hand, and the butterfly/script hand poked tattoo that he gave himself.  While Max travels a lot, he is currently based out of Boston, MA.

I’ve got one more of Max’s self-done tattoos for later today, so keep an eye on ModBlog to check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.


DIY tattoos have been around, well forever.  Granted today they have a negative stigma attached to them simply due to lack of knowledge both by some of the people doing the tattoos as well as outside observers.  Yet what about tattoo artists who tattoo themselves.  Are they still considered DIY?  Here we have Palua Simbora Siagian, one of the artists from Paranormal Tattoo in Philadelphia giving himself a half hand-poked, half hand-tapped thigh piece.