Thrash’s Tattoo Medallic art by Matt Thrash 63mm
Thrash’s Tattoo shop is one of my most beloved, enriching and fascinating places on earth, it is a cornerstone of my life. Of coarse it was the obvious subject of my first cast medallion. I wanted to commemorate the shop forever in a cast sculpture. As a youth, my original notion was to simply get involved and become a serious professional tattooist. In the late 90’s a stable place to work was hard to come by and hardly dared dream of building up a studio of my own. Little did I know Thrash’s would not only be a stable work place for me, but dozens of other artists over the years and the benchmark destination for quality tattoo in the Black Hills.
I’ve ways been a coin collector and attracted to the circular miniature sculptures and their fascinating culture and history as well as the artisans who crafted them. Seriously interested in classic US Federal coinage in all metals, eventually focusing exclusively in copper issues, eventually broadening my focus to foreign issues and their connection to world historical events. I inevitably stumbled across cast medallions from different periods and was awestruck at the depth and scope of the material that has been crafted over the ages. I have grown to prefer cast material over die struck mint made artifacts, because although we know who the designers of government minted coins are, we don’t really know individual mint workers who mass produced them. With a cast medal, we not only know the artist, but they often cast the medallion themselves and to me that offers a closer connection to the art. Art you can touch and handle and feel the weight as well as viewing pleasure and to me it’s like shaking the artists hand through time.
In my studies, I realized some of the old masters where crafting and casting their medals in primitive foundries, sometimes at home. I quickly thought I could be a medalist myself and started walking in the forgotten footsteps of my medallic idols. I felt I had the ideas and designs bubbling within but needed practical experience to realize an actual cast medal. I enlisted the help of a master jeweler Doug Napier for private classes in model creation and casting techniques. Those sessions took years off my learning curve and propelled me to where I wanted to be in the craft. As another creative outlet, I like having a private little model project in my backpack to work on time to time. After considerable casting failures, practicing the techniques and subsequent final finishing of a piece, I’m finally to a repeatable and predictable result.
This medals obverse showcases the “Thrash’s Skull”, which is basically a skull with one cross bone. It’s a remnant of an early t shirt design that stuck and became our shops emblem. Never drawn two ways and only tattooed on colleagues and clients who obviously deserve one, a trophy of sorts. Ringed by the shops name and the location as well as my two initials. The Reverse showcases a tattoo machine as I have yet to find a classic coin with a tattoo machine depicted, so I had to make one myself for my collection! Three words that distill down what tattoo means to me the most. MASTERY as we are always pushing to be solid craftsmen and addicted to clean lines, solid color and smooth shading. HERITAGE is a big one for me, the traditions of tattoo handed down across the ages person to person. EXCELLENCE, in not only craft but in quality interaction with clients, shop logistics and business practices. Notice there is a tiny 13 point bolt in the machine grip, a nod to the Grateful Dead culture where as a young man, was one of the few places I went that didn’t say my dream of being a successful graphic artist was laughable, in fact actually encouraging and emboldening me to push forward with the artwork projects in my life. The medal comes in a pouch I sewed from old privacy curtains that hung in the shop for years. Seems an appropriate way to repurpose them. Today we are living incredible happy and stable lives all through the blessing tattoo has made possible. I’m forever grateful and indebted to tattoo and the people that have invested in my personal development. Thanks to the people I have known through tattooing, both clients a colleagues.
I don’t know how to price such a thing or if anyone would really want to own one. I imagine some of my client may, I will soon find out! To me they are my babies and want to keep them all, but can part with a few and will keep making more as time permits. They each cast a little different and take different finishes, so each one is unique. The one picture is the exact piece purchased, Thanks for looking, Matt Thrash