Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Bourbon presents Community Ink

Celebrating the art of tattoo by uniting five artists from across Europe to create the continent’s first tattooed leather billboard.

This autumn, Bulleit Bourbon the Frontier Whiskey is celebrating the creative art of tattooing from across Europe with the Community Ink Project. It was unveiled at London Tattoo Convention and is now touring different venues across Europe, including Copenhagen, and Amsterdam.

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Bourbon presents Community Ink
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Bourbon presents Community Ink

The Community Ink Project unites five of the continent’s most exciting artists to create Europe’s first tattooed leather billboard. Bulleit commissioned Dominique Holmes in London, Ross Nagle from Ireland, Chris Henriksen from Denmark, Valentin Hirsch from Berlin and Amsterdam based artist Sara Koning to design and create a leather tattoo mural that has been inspired by their local city and community. Each unique design, which tells an individual story, it is combined to create a 3mx2m leather tattoo billboard to create one large collaborative piece of artwork.

Tattoo as an art form transcends borders and cultures, and as a brand, that’s exactly where we want to be” said Ziad Chami, Head of Reserve Marketing for Europe. “Bulleit’s Community Ink project is all about heroing truly creative people and those who live on the cultural frontier. The artists have been a real joy to work with and the artwork we’ve seen has blown us away. We’re looking forward to doing more projects like this with our Frontier Works program in the future.”

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Bourbon presents Community Ink
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Bourbon presents Community Ink

The artists spent over 220 hours, in total, creating the billboard and used over 120 needles. To see how they got on, and to find out a little bit more about the project, keep an eye on the @BulleitWhiskey social channels.

To coincide with the launch of the Community Ink project Bulleit has released a special Tattoo Edition bottle, which features a design from New York based tattoo artist Jess Mascetti, printed directly on to the bottle.

Dominique Holmes is a London based tattoo artist and has created one of the designs to reflect the diverse culture across London. After working for a renowned and respected London Tattoo parlour, in her own independent spirit, Dominique decided to pursue her passion and set up her own company. This confidence reflects that of Tom Bulleit’s entrepreneurial spirit, the founder of Bulleit Whiskey, who left his law practice to risk everything and live life on the frontier following his dream.

Her design encompasses references to London’s past, present and future, with nods to the Victorian era to today’s cultural trends. The city’s creative and musical heritage is depicted within the Bowie-inspired lightening bolts in the butterflies and the Pink Floyd-inspired triangles, which also pay homage to the Shoreditch Design Triangle, celebrating the creative community in East London. Dom comments; “It’s been great to represent London for Bulleit Frontier Whiskey and their Community Ink project, amongst a hugely talented creative community of tattoo artists from across Europe. I’ve loved being able to illustrate what London means to me through my artwork and hopefully shine a positive light on a truly global cultural movement.”

Do you want to tell us more about the COMMUNITY INK Project?
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey approached me to be part of the community Ink project, explaining that they wanted me to create a design that represented London and its community. I love London and it inspires much of my work and has been a big influence in my life. The project is a collaborative piece of work between a community of tattoo artists: Ross Nagle from Ireland, Chris Henriksen from Denmark, Valentin Hirsch from Berlin, Amsterdam-based artist Sara Koning and myself from London. Each artist created their own unique design that represented their city, which came together to create Europe’s first leather tattoo billboard commissioned by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey.

How do you think tattoo culture has the power to transcend borders, cultures and trends?
Tattooing has a unique ability to transcend cultures around the world. We have seen over the years how styles that were native to one particular region or culture have crossed geographical and social borders. From that we’ve seen people gain a greater understanding and interest in these other cultures in terms of their art and history, which has almost certainly added to the appeal.

The Community Ink project was a great example that brought a variety of culture together through tattoo artwork.

Do you think the art of tattooing now can be recognised as a true art form in itself?
The answer to this depends on your definition of what makes art. I’ve long felt like tattooing as an art from is running a path similar to that of graffiti art. There will always be a debate over whether or not it can be considered art while there are people producing sub-standard tattooing. Yes, there are true artists in tattooing creating new, ground-breaking pieces, and people collecting these living pieces of art, but there’s also the other side of tattooing – which is just as valid, but less about pushing boundaries of creativity. In terms of art being something aesthetic, which we create and own to embellish our lives, then of course, tattooing can be seen as part of that.

When did Tattoo has become a part of mainstream culture and how is it evolving?
Tattooing became part of mainstream culture as soon as it gained mainstream visibility. Between the sharp increase in people in the public eye getting tattooed, and the influx of tattoo-centred television shows, tattoos became accessible and acceptable. As soon as this happened, tattoos were no longer a mark of rebellion or nonconformity and people could see and utilise them purely based on their artistry, rather than the negative connotations. This in turn spurred on the use of tattoo art in other mediums, as the public could appreciate the aesthetic even if they didn’t want to go through the process of having one permanently inked on their skin. In terms of how it’s evolving, the mainstream side of tattooing will only continue to grow. But alongside the mainstream side to it, we are seeing a more extreme side evolving. Tattooing will always resonate with the underground subcultures, who will continue to push the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in society; extreme black work, facial tattoos, ‘prison’ style and brutalist tattoos which are shocking today in the way that a sleeve or a neck tattoo was before the shift in the public perception of tattooing. Personally, I feel it’s this push, which will always keep tattooing alternative, and still on the edge of society.

What do you think we can expect from tattoo over the next year?
I think it’s an interesting time in tattooing. The community has been becoming more and more saturated; it’s one of the fastest growing industries at the moment. I think we’re likely to see the evolution of a new style; trends within tattooing tend to shift fairly frequently, it’ll be interesting to see what the next popular aesthetic is. I would hope that more interesting projects such as Bulleit’s Community Ink billboard continue to push tattooing and tattoo art in new directions and the industry continues to grow as artists find new ways to express their ideas.