Derryth Ridge - Museum Curator & Tattoo Apprentice
Last year Salt-Water Europe collaborated with the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth; we ran a competition to win tickets to their hugely successful exhibition ‘TATTOO - British Tattoo Art Revealed’. And that’s how we met Derryth Ridge.
Derryth was born in Nottingham and studied sculpture at Falmouth Art College. She has worked at the National Maritime Museum for 11 years and co-curated the recent exhibition ‘TATTOO - British Tattoo Art Revealed’. She has always loved the art of tattooing and had her first (a tiny purple star on her right foot) aged 21. As part of the exhibition she had a large maritime style piece done on her right thigh, a beautiful ship with the words ‘Not just for Sailors.’ It was a life changing experience for her and she is now doing a part-time apprenticeship as a tattoo artist with Secret Ink.
She lives in Falmouth with her husband, two children and their dog, Loki.
TATTOOS ARE A VERY PERSONAL WAY OF EXPRESSING IDENTITIES AND FEELINGS AND WE ESPECIALLY LIKED THE THE SECTION OF THE EXHIBITION CALLED 'TATTOO TALES' WHERE PEOPLE EXPLAINED THE REASONS BEHIND THEIR OWN TATTOOS. HAVE YOU GOT A FAVOURITE TATTOO TALE?
All of my tattoos have a story of sorts, they all pinpoint a moment in time, but some are more sentimental than others. After the birth of my children I had a design with their names tattooed on my feet. My little purple star is now covered over with a wolfs head!
My Nana was a huge influence in my life and when she passed away I wanted a tattoo for her. Nana was very artistic, I would like to think I have inherited her artistic tendencies. She was from Stoke-on-Trent and like many people there she worked in the Potteries Industry. Nana worked her way up to be a journey woman, painting precious gold paint onto fine China. Even when she worked in the munitions factory during the Second World War, she would pack the bullets in patterns to still try and make something beautiful. Nana was very particular about her appearance too. She would always be made up and looking stylish, lipstick on.
The tattoo I have is of a gold tipped paintbrush crossed with a red lipstick with a banner and flowers. I don’t think she really liked me having tattoos, not that she said anything to me, but I think she would have been touched at this one.
TATTOOS HAVE ALWAYS HAD A SIGNIFICANT PLACE IN BRITISH HISTORY AND THE '100 HANDS' INSTALLATION WAS A FANTASTIC WAY OF SHOWCASING THE TATTOO ARTISTS OF TODAY. DO YOU THINK THE EXHIBITION HAS CHANGED PERCEPTIONS?
I absolutely think the exhibition has changed perceptions. We had quite a lot of resistance from the non-tattooed community. I think some people were a little scared of the subject. They saw it as being only for ‘certain people’. They had never considered it as an art form.
Likewise we also met with some resistance from within the industry too. Some of the artists and collectors were concerned that the exhibition would be tokenistic and sensationalist. That we would produce something akin with tattoo fixers and not take the history seriously.
But when both parties saw that it was a serious museum exhibition with real objects that really celebrated the artist quality of tattooing and its rich social history they were converted. The aim of the exhibition was not to make everyone want to get a tattoo but to appreciate it as an art form.
Since the exhibition opened one of our 100hands artists, Clare Deen aka Goldilox, was contacted by a gentleman who had seen her arm and loved it so much he travelled to Birmingham and sat for three days to be tattooed with a giant kraken from his shoulder to his wrist. It was his first tattoo and he was in his 50's. It’s been quite moving hearing stories like these.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY AT THE MUSEUM INVOLVE?
Tattoo has recently closed so I have spent the last few weeks overseeing the careful removal of objects and getting them packed ready to start the install at the next venue in February. I also run the family learning program so I will be creating sets of craft activities and arranging storytellers and living history performance for our family audiences.
CORNWALL IS A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD WITH SOME OF BRITAIN'S BEST BEACHES - WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE ONE TO WEAR YOUR SALT-WATERS TO AND WHY?
Castle Beach is about five minutes walk from the museum, so I can go there during my lunch break. There are loads of rock pools so the Salt-Waters are perfect for scrambling over the rocks if the tide is out for a quick lunchtime swim.
HOW DO YOU STYLE YOUR SALT-WATERS?
Apart from an unhealthy obsession with leopard print, I also like black - denim, leather, it doesn’t matter so long as it’s on the grey scale. Surprisingly my Salt-Waters are black too! I love my skinny jeans and leather leggings when it’s a bit fresh and A-line minis and high-wasted cut offs in the summer.
WHICH PERSON LIVING OR DEAD, DO YOU MOST ADMIRE AND WHY?
It too hard to choose so I’m going to cheat and have two! Jessie Knight and Frida Kahlo.
Jessie started tattooing in the 1920’s. Imagine how hard it would have been to be a woman then, let alone setting up a business in a profoundly male dominated profession. We were lucky enough to have access to Jessie’s whole collection which the museum has since catalogued. There was artwork by Jessie herself, artwork she had collected from other artists as well as photographs and poetry she had written, over 500 items in total. We even found the start of her autobiography. I really felt like I got to know her during the process. She lived such an interesting life. On the day we finished the archiving I had one of Jessie’s designs tattooed on me. It’s a little dagger with a scroll saying ‘Jessie’ in it.
Frida Kahlo, Artist and Mexican Revolutionary. I love strong women that don’t give up in the face of adversity, that want to change the world. Life is a struggle for everyone but you can’t let them grind you down!
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT SUNDAY.
Sundays are the only day of the week when I’m not working at the Museum or the Studio so they are very precious. We would have a bit of a lazy morning (if the kids will allow it) with some nice breakfast. It would be warm and sunny so we would eat out in the garden. Then we would take Loki (my beloved Lurcher) out for a walk. The Helford River is my favourite place; it’s so beautiful, so anywhere along the coast path there is great. After making our way down to the sea I’d have a swim, then we could go and have a pint at the Ferry boat.
ARE THERE ANY PLANS FOR THE EXHIBITION TO TOUR IN THE UK THIS YEAR?
The exhibition is starting a three year tour around the UK from March 2018. We are so pleased at the reaction we have received, this is the first time the museum has produced a National touring show. The exhibition opens at Torre Abby on March 3rd 2018 and it moves to Portsmouth in June. Check our website for more details and a complete list of tour dates.
You can follow Derryth's Instagram @Derryth13
You can watch Derryth talking about the exhibition HERE
And to find out more about the Tattoo studio where Derryth works check out the Secret Ink Facebook Page.