Kewpie Tattoos:

Kewpie dolls have been seen on old school flash sheets since the early 1900’s, and have gone through fazes of popularity. The original creator of these cuties was Rose O’Neill, an American poet and artist who was famous for being the best-known and highest paid female commercial illustrator in the US at the time. The original designs were made for Ladies Home Journal in 1909 as cupid dolls, with “Kewpie” being a fun variation of the word “Cupid.” They were then put into comic strips also written and Illustrated by Rose O’Neill, and were also used in multiple advertisements such as Jell-O and Kellogg’s corn flakes, among others.

Huck Finn Kewpie by Adri O at Tatouage Chatte Noire
Hobo Kewpie done by Paul Dobleman at Black Heart Tattoo in SF,CA

Some notable tattoo artists that first started putting Kewpies in tattoo flash were Percy Waters, Milton Zeis, and Bill Moore. They were very popular designs in the early 1900’s, but faded in popularity in the 1950’s.

Armed and dangerous Kewpie by Gianni Orlandini
Three Kewpies by Jarret Crosson in Austin Texas

It was tattooer Mike “Rollo” Malone that brought Kewpie tattoos back into popularity, drawing many variations of the Kewpie to suit all sorts of tattoo collectors.

Grim Reaper Kewpie by Sylvain Proulx
Happy and Sad Kewpie heads by Jon Harper at Black Friars Tattoo

Kewpies were also made into the famous dolls we know now, also originally designed by Rose O’Neill. Some notable features of Kewpies as dolls, drawings, and tattoos include a (usually) nude Cupid-like child with a chubby belly, a kind of topknot hairdo, and originally, a red heart and blue wings painted on the chest and back. Rosie cheeks and a mischievous smile were/are also key elements. These dolls were made of many materials including hard plastic, vinyl, cloth, and more. The original dolls are still recognizable with Rose O’Neills name on the bottom of their feet, and are often worth quite a lot.

Punk Kewpie by Miss Marla at The Office Tattoo
Kewpie in a rose by Sara Bi at La Cantina Dell’Inchiostro

While most Kewpies were nude, in the 1920’s they started being made with clothing and uniforms such as firemen, cowboys, soldiers, musicians, and more. Today, as tattoos these impish characters are usually still done in an old school American traditional style, and feature most of the same original features previously listed. Many artists get creative and turn famous celebrities or characters into Kewpies, or make them a bit darker by giving them weapons or even making them into horror icons.

Ramen loving Kewpie by Gabe Goyner at Wayward Tattoo
Ghost Face Kewpie by Alex Bach in Colchester, Essex

Do you have a Kewpie tattoo?

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Hand of Glory Tattoos:

The Hand of Glory was a particularly grotesque tool used by criminals, particularly thieves, to aid in robberies. The legend dates back to the 15th century, and there are numerous accounts of people using them throughout history.

American traditional Hand of Glory done by Cassie Lynn O’Neal at Floating World Tattoos.
A lit Hand of Glory with an eye and a snake done by Oskar Gurbada.

The name reportedly comes from the French, “main de glorie”, which in turn got its name from the magical mandrake root.

A more realistic and black and grey Hand of Glory done by Alex Pea at Drop of Ink in Pennsylvania.
A very magical Hand of Glory done by Pa Dundon, done at Sands of Time Tattoo in Ireland.

According to legend, mandrakes grow under gallows from the seed of a hanged man, and they were believed to shine like lamps at night, also in roughly the shape of a hand.

Another American traditional Hand of Glory with wings done by Emil Dz at Philadelphia Eddies Tattoo.
Hand of Glory radiating light for this wearer, done by Sam at Westside Tattoo in Brisbane.

The process of making a hand of glory is quite particular, and adds to the macabre nature of the thing. Sabine Baring-Gould wrote in his book, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages: “The Hand of Glory .. is the hand of a man who has been hung, and it is prepared in the following manner: Wrap the hand in a piece of winding-sheet, drawing it tight, so as to squeeze out the little blood which may remain; then place it in an earthenware vessel with saltpeter, salt, and long pepper, all carefully and thoroughly powdered. Let it remain a fortnight in this pickle till it is well dried, then expose it to the sun in the dog-days, till it is completely parched, or, if the sun be not powerful enough, dry it in an oven heated with vervain and fern. Next make a candle with the fat of a hung man, virgin-wax, and Lapland sesame.” (1873)

A more colourful and stylized American traditional Hand of Glory done by Jon Harper at Black Friars Tattoo.

The people who used hands of glory had different beliefs. Some believed it could give light only to them, leaving others in darkness, some believed it could make them invisible, many thought it could burn forever and could only be put out if the user so desired, others believed and hoped it could render any nearby person motionless or put occupants of a residence to sleep. All tales of the hand of glory seem to show the belief that the hand could open any nearby lock, making it an even more useful tool for those wishing to take something that does not belong to them.

A bleeding American traditional Hand of Glory done by JP Farias at Atlantico Tattoo.

Open, lock, 
To the Dead Man’s knock! 
Fly, bolt, and bar, and band! 
Nor move, nor swerve, 
Joint, muscle, or nerve,  
At the spell of the Dead Man’s hand!  
Sleep, all who sleep! — Wake, all who wake!  
But be as the dead for the Dead Man’s sake! 

Now lock, nor bolt, nor bar avails, 
Nor stout oak panel thick-studded with nails. 
Heavy and harsh the hinges creak,  
Though they had been oil’d in the course of the week.  
The door opens wide as wide may be,  
And there they stand,  
That murderous band,  
Lit by the light of the Glorious Hand,  
By one! — by two! — by three! By Thomas Ingoldsby

Black and grey Hand of Glory with an eye done by Lindsay K at Urge Studios in Victoria, Canada.

And of course fans of Harry Potter will be familiar with the Hand of Glory from Mr. Borgin and Burkes’ store when young Mr. Malfoy takes a fancy to it. “Ah, the Hand of Glory!” said Mr. Borgin, abandoning Mr. Malfoy’s list and scurrying over to Draco. “Insert a candle and it gives light only to the holder! Best friend of thieves and plunderers! Your son has fine taste, sir.” 

A solid linework Hand of Glory with burned out candles and an eye done by Nevada Buckley at Firefly Tattoo Collective.

Which gruesome hand is your favourite and why? Let me know in the comments and remember to check out any of the artists if you liked their work.