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Sacred Skin: Thailand's Spirit Tattoos Flexibound – July 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Flexibound: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Visionary World (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9628563793
  • ISBN-13: 978-9628563791
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

TIME Magazine Review (Asia Edition)

Luck of the Draw

By Andrew Marshall Monday, May 23

Read more: time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2071020,00.html#ixzz1MpMZ1QpH

The introduction to Sacred Skin, Tom Vater and Aroon Thaewchatturat's new tribute to Thailand's sak yant, or sacred tattoos, begins with an agonized exclamation: "Uaaahh!" So it should. While modern tattoos are efficiently (though not exactly painlessly) applied with an electric machine, sak yant are hand-hammered into your wincing body with a long needle.

But no pain, no gain - and, if you believe the enthusiasts, the rewards are out of this world. Devotees credit sak yant with warding off sickness, attracting lovers and helping them emerge unscathed from car crashes. A housewife caught in last year's crackdown on antigovernment protesters in Bangkok tells the authors, "People around me got shot but my tattoo protected me."

Sak yant are etched onto both soul and skin, as Thai photographer Aroon's portraits record in hypnotic detail. The mostly monochromatic designs borrow from Buddhist and Hindu mythologies, and the space between them is often overlaid with an ancient Khmer script that German writer Vater likens to "mysterious instructions." Designs are executed by priestlike figures who have their own secret ink recipes and recite prayers while they work. Their customers see themselves as disciples, bound for life to their master and feeling a kinship with all those bearing his designs. Some disciples are also in thrall to the tattoo's spirit. That introductory "Uaaahh!" emanated from a man who believed he was possessed by the spirit of the tiger tattooed on his torso. Vater describes him careering around a Buddhist temple near Bangkok in a trance so violent that it took five soldiers to subdue him.

Prominent among sak yant enthusiasts are police, soldiers and gangsters, who claim bullets bounce off their magical second skin. Many Thais still associate tattoos -- even sacred ones -- with lowly or violent professions, but there are two things wrong with this view. First, explains Vater, many devotees give up lives of crime after getting sak yant, believing the tattoos' potency depends upon their living decent lives. Second, the appeal of sak yant is broadening, not just among trendy young Thais but also foreigners, partly thanks to Angelina Jolie, who has a tiger sak yant on her back.

With its stunning photos and exuberant writing, Sacred Skin will further popularize a centuries-old tradition. In Thailand, sak yant have survived decades of economic development and Western influence. After warding off these modern forces, bad luck and bullets should be easy. --Andrew Marshall, TIME Magazine (Asia Edition), May 2011

New Book Spotlights Magical Sak Yant Thai Tattoos.

Sacred Skin Thailand's Spirit Tattoos, the new two-hundred page, eight-by-ten-inch guide to sak yant protection tattoos by Tom Vater, with colour photography by Aroon Thaewchatturat, is a beautifully organized, visual treat for both tattoo artists and collectors.

Divided into easily navigable sections (Sak Yant, Master and Devotees, Sacred Images, Wai Khru the annual day of respect held in central Thailand and a helpful Glossary), this clearly-written, entertaining treatise is packed with fascinating facts and descriptions of every aspect of this time-honoured art form. But it's the photos that steal the show. Page after page of both full-body and detailed images showcase the work of leading traditional sak yant masters. This is the perfect handbook, for those of us who have long been intrigued by the magical hand-poked designs that protect the wearer from the dangers of an ever-encroaching world. --Bob Baxter. Editor in chief, tattooroadtrip.com - Baxters Blog

Aroon Thaewchatturat's extraordinary pictures do more than capture the tattoos, they capture their wearers' personalities, and perhaps even the energy invested in them by the designs. --Bangkok Post, Sunday July 31. Brunch Magazine, bangkokpost.com/arts-and-culture/book/249574/skin-deep

About the Author

Tom Vater is a writer working in southern and Southeast Asia. He writes both in English and German. His articles have appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Asia Wall Street Journal, the South China Morning Post, Marie Claire, Penthouse, and many others. His books on South Asian themes include a novel, several nonfiction titles, travel guides, and photo books. His travels have led him (on foot) across the Himalayas, and given him the opportunity to dive with hundreds of sharks in the Philippines. On his journeys, he has joined sea gypsies and nomads, pilgrims and soldiers, secret agents, pirates, hippies, policemen, and prophets. Aroon Thaewchatturat has been shooting assignment and stock photography since 2004. Her features have appeared in magazines such as GEO and The Far Eastern Economic Review, while her stock imagery has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, The Financial Times, Lonely Planet, MERIAN, Spiegel-Online and many other publications.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Beautifully written, incredible photography, great book!
Diane Mantzaris
We started to skim through the book, look at the photos, read some of the introduction....and decided this was a book we needed to own for our collection.
Bruce Bart
You see this book - Sacred Skin - is an extraordinary exploration of Thailand's spiritual tattoo's called Sak Yant.
Danny Keens

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Danny Keens on February 19, 2013
Format: Flexibound
SACRED SKIN Thailand's Spirit Tattoos

When I stumbled upon this print collaboration between author Tom Vater and photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat I was taken completely by surprised and totally mesmerized. You see, I'm not the sort of person who would have considered a tattoo and actually the thought of getting one is far removed from my bucket list... until now.

You see this book - Sacred Skin - is an extraordinary exploration of Thailand's spiritual tattoo's called Sak Yant. It's a tattoo culture that I quickly discover is totally removed from my own beliefs about the role the tattoo plays in popular culture.

The book explores an incredible world in which the concept of spiritualism and tattoo are completely entwined and you soon realize the idea of referencing one, without the other, is practically impossible whilst exploring Sak Yant.

It's the first book of its kind that looks comprehensively at this really important aspect of Thai culture, revealing incredible insight into a world layered with depth and meaning well beyond what one might expect.

The book, full of text, colour and photographs, showcases stories about sacred, spiritual tattoos said to bestow protection from accidents, misfortunes and crime. Author Tom Vater explains that `Sak Yant' is simply woven into the fabric of Thai society more so then anywhere else, and for the initiated, there is no separation of the body from the soul. He also goes on to explain there is also a strong connection between animals, mythology and religion;

"The Sak Yant devotees come in reverence and the monks and tattoo masters etch images of archaic sacred pillars and fearsome animals onto their skins.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sandeman on January 22, 2012
Format: Flexibound
Sacred Skin: Thailand's Spirit Tattoos Mr. Vater and Miss Thaewchatturat, the writer and photographer respectively of Sacred Skin, have created the perfect primer for the novice of Sak Yant. Without dissuading continued reading with thick jargon, the lyrical introduction grabs the reader's attention in the opening paragraphs with the intoxicating wonderment of a first kiss. From here, the book segues smoothly into its first chapter with a concisely comprehensive overview of the centuries-old tradition of the sacred tattoo: its practitioners, recipients, and surrounding mystery. In the second chapter, the reader is presented with an assemblage of masters and devotees, superbly photographed by Miss Thaewchatturat. The portraits are back-lit, lending an ethereal quality to their skin-tone. An evident rapport between photographer and subject shines through the photos and they exude a personable effect and stroke of personality. The book concludes with a close-up collection of various Sak Yant symbols, with brief descriptions of what each is meant to imbue the recipient with. Through on-location photos, the final pages of the book give a glimpse of an annual festival where masters and devotees coalesce for a day of manic revelry. Sacred Skin is an excellent book, breaking categorization with its many-faceted appeal. This book can pique the interest of the tattoo aficionado, the sub-culture vulture, or anyone with a penchant for studio portraiture. Sacred Skin is sure to be a conversation starter, and would best be served on a favorite table in the parlor, where it can be perused by guests like any fine object of curiosity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 8, 2012
Format: Flexibound Verified Purchase
Not alot of information on Sak yant just pictures and background story of people who got a Sak Yant. If your looking for detailed information this is not the book for you. If you are in to photography for tattoos its perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Bart on March 21, 2013
Format: Flexibound
As a tattoo artist myself, I found this book very interesting, through both the photo's taken by photographer, Aroon Thaewchatturat; and also the text and descriptions by Tom Vater. I'd like to share the stork about how we came upon this book......

We, my wife and I, were being tattooed by Achan Neng, (pg. 39 in "Sacred Skin"), who I immediately felt a connection to; artist to artist. He proudly handed us the book to show us, the page of Achan Neng. We started to skim through the book, look at the photos, read some of the introduction....and decided this was a book we needed to own for our collection. Luckily Achan Neng had one book left for us able to purchase.

Suddenly the wife of Achan Neng handed the phone to me and let me know that Aroon, (the photographer) was on the line and wanted to speak with me. She invited us over for dinner, after she came to watch us get our sak yant.

We were in such a space from our tattoos when we met Aroons' husband, Tom (the writer), and their friend Hans Kemp, (who published "Sacred Skin", but were invited into their home with open arms. We were able to sit and discuss tattooing, our shop (Bruce Bart Tattooing), Achan Neng and his style, and most interestingly....how the book was born.

From these three creative individuals a culture was brought to light and a deeper meaning to the tattoo I we had just received. We brought it back to our shop and all of our artists have given this book two thumbs up, for sure. Interesting read for anyone.....but if Tattoo culture is a passion of yours, Sacred Skin is a must own.
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