26th May 2000 at 01:00
Amber has two tattoo necklaces. She also has a rose on one shoulder and a bee on the other. She is seven years old and none of her tattoos are engraved on her flesh - the necklaces are collapsible wire and the tattoos are transfers.

Amber's school bans jewellery and would probably ban tattoos, if anyone had thought of them when they were writing the uniform regulations. But Amber and her mum can't see what's wrong with body art. After all, Amber's mum, Denise, has a butterfly on her back. It cost a lot and hurt a lot more, but Carl - Amber's dad - thinks it's great.

Karen Roberts is Amber's teacher and she is in a quandary. Somehow, she doesn't quite like tattoos. Don't they hurt? And what happens if you decide you don't like them anymore? Obviously, however, it's up to Denise to decide what she does with her body, and it's up to Amber if she likes playing with body transfers, which are quite the craze among the infant schoolgirls.

As a result, Karen has thought of a project, inspired by a fashion article she read in a magazie and based on the latest craze of body jewellery. It has the same kind of motifs favoured by tattooists - dragons, insects, hearts and flowers - all the icons of power. Unlike real tattoos, however, the designs and objects can be stuck on a sticky strip which can be peeled off.

Year 2 have been working on their designs, choosing an image from art books, then carefully tracing it on the fabric. They have brought in all kinds of unwanted odds and ends of decoration (broken bits of Christmas tree decoration are quite good) and are about to build a glittering creation out of sequins, beads, glitter and the odd feather plucked from an old feather duster, on the non-sticky side of the sticky-backed fabric.

Karen casually suggests that this is probably more fun than having a real tattoo, because it can be moved and restuck over and over again, and even used on clothes. The result is also a lot more dramatic, so much so that Denise, picking up her daughter, comes in specially to say, "Do you think I could make one like that?"

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