Sherri Wood embroiders tattoos on fabric dolls drawn by female tattoo artists from around the USA. She writes:

I find cloth bodied baby dolls at thrift shops and send them to tattoo artists who then draw original tattoos directly on the dolls. They send the dolls back to me and I hand embroider the images on the cloth bodies. Twelve of sixteen dolls have been completed to date. The dolls, like their artists, are of different races, religious and sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds. Each collaborating artist is asked to consider her response to tattooing the doll along with my feedback and response to embroidering the doll. From there she is encouraged to name and then write a short statement or story about her doll.

I have been working on the project since 1998. The idea originated while I was in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. While studying the history of embroidery, I was simultaneously fascinated by all of the incredible tattoos I was seeing in San Francisco. Like embroidery, tattoo seemed to carry on a similar tradition of deeply symbolic images that worked to form community and served to define and empower those within the community in various ways. I chose to recycle and transform used and discarded dolls as a direct vehicle for merging the two art forms.

The Tattoo Baby Doll Project serves to break down barriers and prejudices about women’s work and roles, tattoo subculture, craft and art. The project strikes a subtle balance between these varied traditions and the communities they represent, thus questioning the lines that define, separate and empower each tradition. It draws together two distinct and distant marginal groups. Yet the unusual juxtaposition between embroidery and tattoo makes sense because it exposes an underlying metaphor intrinsic to both marginal groups. It is through the recognition of shared metaphors that cultural hierarchies and personal prejudices begin to break down.


Becky Stern

Becky Stern

Becky Stern ( is a DIY guru and director of wearable electronics at Adafruit. She publishes a new project video every week and hosts a live show on YouTube. Formerly Becky was Senior Video Producer for MAKE. Becky lives in Brooklyn, NY and belongs to art groups Free Art & Technology (“release early, often, and with rap music”) and Madagascar Institute (“fear is never boring”).