Tattoos inspire new innovations in design

By: Kristin Helf, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Sculpture artist and MFA candidate JAT has been a student at Towson for ten years now. Six of those years were spent as an undergrad, and for the last four years, he’s been a part-time MFA student refining his craft in sculpture.

JAT studied geology and graphic design before finally deciding on sculpture for his bachelor’s degree.

“I went with sculpture, where creativity was more valued,” he said. “And there was more of a family-like atmosphere.”

His undergraduate thesis involved furniture-like steampunk-inspired objects of the neo-Victorian era. Now, as an MFA candidate, he’s exhibiting his tribal tattoo-inspired furniture and accessories in the Center for the Arts’ Holtzman MFA Gallery.

The exhibit, “Tatture: Tattoo Inspired Furnishings,” will be open from Oct. 23 to Dec. 10 and will display JAT’s hand-crafted or 3D-printed chairs, dining tables, end tables, vases, working lamps and digitally made wall art, among other objects.

Some of his pieces will be for sale, although in the past he hasn’t much luck selling the refurbished furniture.

“Unfortunately, while I’m good at making the stuff, I’m a terrible salesman,” he said. “I’ve wound up giving a lot of furniture away, though, things to Habitat for Humanity, because I feel like if I’m not able to sell it, I’d like to at least give it to an organization which will build homes for people.”

The inspiration for the aesthetic of JAT’s exhibit comes primarily from biomechanical tattoo artist Guy Aitchison and H.R. Giger, the artist behind the visuals for the movie “Alien.”

“I find my inspiration mainly from the biomechanical tattoos because it’s combining sort of a very three-dimensional sort of style with a more two-dimensional jagged feature,” JAT said. “I’m interested in the curves and the jagged nature of it.”

Through “Tatture,” JAT hopes to innovate a new style in furniture design and interior design in general.

“We’ve got the Rococo. We’ve got art nouveau. We’ve got mid-century modern. We have all these different movements and I felt like the most recent stuff I’ve been seeing, all that’s being made nowadays, is just stuff that is rehashed over and over again,” he said. “I feel like we’ve lost an appreciation for ornament. And so this is my attempt to try to bring back that appreciation, but to give a new spin on ornamentation.”

While the aesthetic is of primary importance, JAT also wants his art to be functional and to serve a purpose. After he created the pieces for his undergraduate thesis, he realized that his art should do something in addition to being displayed.

“I had a realization that I had all this stuff sitting in boxes in my basement and it was just taking up space, and I couldn’t get rid of it. I thought, this is ridiculous. If I’m going to have sculptural stuff, beautiful things that I make, instead of just keeping them boxed up I’d rather them be functional, so I have a reason to keep them around me.”

It’s taken JAT four years and countless hours of work to create all of the pieces on display in “Tatture.” Creating furniture is his way of using sculpture practically, and he hopes the innovation spreads.

“I just want [people] to see the connection within all the work,” he said. “To consider maybe trying to decorate their own homes with this sort of stylistic tendency in mind.”

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