Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tattoos and the Otherworld: Reviewing “Many Stories” by Sebastian Orth

Today on Flights of Fancy, I’m excited to share a bit about tattooist Sebastian Orth’s recent release, Many Stories: The Point of the Needle (Escargot Books, 2012).

My initial interest in the book stemmed from the fact that Sebastian Orth did my first tattoo—a peacock feather quill with the phrase “Words have been all my life,” as pictured below.

We discussed a wide range of topics during the four hours that I was under the needle, everything from his upbringing on California’s Central Coast, the history of tattooing, the history of art itself. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and thrilled to find that so many of these topics are covered in his book.

Sebastian Orth of Otherworld Tattoo, author of Many Stories.

Orth is a natural storyteller, and effortlessly weaves the autobiographical and the philosophical. His voice is engaging, and his descriptions are vivid, visceral, and compelling. The result is a beautifully written account of enlightenment, the discovery of self that is forged through pain, challenge, and discipline.

Like the book’s title suggests, Many Stories is a tapestry of tales: the first moment Orth discovers how to use ink and needle to create an indelible mark, his evolution as an artist, his struggles with epilepsy, and the development of his personal philosophy, among others. There are also an eclectic array of characters, the people who have come in and out of his life and shaped it in countless ways.

At the heart of all these stories lie the symbolism and deep meaning of tattoos. As he observes in the introduction,

Tattoos are not simply pictures in the flesh, fixed and static. They live with us; breathe with us and die with us. Each tells a story and each of those stories is personal and unique.

In the same way, tattooing itself is more than mechanical skill. Rather, it “can also be a form of magic, a timeless art and a door to the otherworld.” This link between body modification and the otherworldly is an ancient one, a tradition found in indigenous cultures around the world. Even today, both the act of tattooing and being tattooed can become a transformative experience, one in which past, present, and future meet and coalesce.

My tattoo, done by Sebastian Orth, May 2012

Many Stories is a unique book, one that touches on a range of genres. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys reading memoirs and autobiography, as well as philosophical discussions of life and art.

To hear Orth in his own words, check out this short interview with him below:

For more about Sebastian Orth, visit Otherworld Tattoo, his shop in Santa Barbara, CA. Many Stories is available as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble; the paperback edition is forthcoming.

10 Comments

  1. I’m much too afraid of needles and pain to get a tattoo, but my husband has two. As you and Orth so aptly pointed out, both tell a story. Both commemorate turning points in his life.
    Marcy Kennedy recently posted..Elemental Magic and Underwater PanthersMy Profile

  2. Wow,that’s so cool you read a book by your actual tattooist!

  3. Wow, thanks for the review and links. I really enjoyed doing your tattoo, I remember it. I am glad you enjoyed the book!

  4. Beautiful tattoo,Lena! And the book is pretty incredible too. I loved it.
    Alicia Street recently posted..Dancers Among UsMy Profile

  5. Great post. Love the pictures. My husband gave me a tattoo for a Christmas present three years ago. He doesn’t approve but he knew it would give me great joy. So I got his name done in Chinese characters. I love it.
    Karla Darcy recently posted..Karla Darcy Loves Swashbuckling Historical Romance, Don’t You?My Profile

    • Karla, that is so wonderful that your husband would do that for you even though tattoos aren’t necessarily his thing. I’d say that’s the mark of a good partner! 😛

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

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