Celtic tattoo by Sean parry of sacred knot

Matt France

Matt is another regular visitor to Sacred Knot and this project has certainly been well travelled… I tattooed his first beast head in Manchester and his back in California before the most recent work in Iceland. It was a nice change to tattoo Celtic patterns in a Nordic country after so many Nordic tattoos in Wales. Even though Iceland is more known for its Nordic history, there would have been monks familiar with artistic style of art travelling to this windswept isle before the Viking age to prey and contemplate existence. They would have travelled back and forth in small leather skin boats across the North Sea… that’s pretty amazing really.. and the on Matt’s sleeve in Iceland. 


First Session

This first picture was taken after around 14 hours work on Matt’s arm over a couple of days. It’s a bit swollen and there’s still a lot of sharpie around, but I’m really happy with it to say the least 🙂

The piece is heavily inspired by post-Roman Pictish and Irish metalworkings. The key patterns and swirls combined with the knotwork will never cease to fascinate me. I am blessed that customers like Matt feel the same as me about ancient patterns like this. I purposefully simplify patterns in my work compared with the originals so they will hold up better over time in this form. Hopefully they will still reflect the works of the ancient masters.


Celtic Beasts

Matt’s sleeve of hunting dogs (second picture) is inspired by the the Celtic and Nordic art crossover that occurred mostly in Scotland and Ireland in the viking age.

One of the strongest elements that make the dog Celtic is the way the upper jaw rounds and connects to its lower jaw, creating that C shape. Also the direction of the tear drop shaped eye. This is seen in Celtic art from way before the viking period, and may also influence later viking Christian art. The layout of the dogs head on Matt’s chest is inspired by the mummified remains of Scythian warriors. This design is extremely free flow in comparison not to mention a completely different style and few 1000 years between them. 🙂

It is less common for a creatures tongue to morph into another creatures head in the Hiberno Norse style. However, examples in Nordic art such as the Tullstorp stone do show similar characteristics. In this tattoo, the jaw of one beast becomes the nose of another and the remaining line work shows examples of this. My point is, historical artefacts inspire a lot of my ideas. I don’t just pull them out of nowhere even if they can be extremely experimental… 🙂


Matt’s Back

The third picture is showing work on Matt’s back which is based around his family motto. Translated from Latin it reads something close to: “Courage grows strong from a wound”. This can be said for the tattoo process itself! As I am Welsh myself, Celtic art and symbolism runs deep in my veins. It is an absolute pleasure for me to create art like this. Most of the ideas behind this style are heavily influenced by The Book Of Kells, The Lindisfarne Gospel and Rhigyfarch’s Psalter… I’m starting to worry that in a past life I was a celtic monk, and not a heroic warrior of any kind… :/


Most Recent Visit

We ended the most recent session doing a piece on his chest, inspired by British Celtic La Tène. The early Celtic arts were not knot work based as that came much later. Neither did they depict humans in their early forms. Their art flowed with a grace and beauty that forces you to think for what it depicts and why, but will never give up all its secrets.

A long time ago I was told that when a group of Celts first met the Greeks, they thought it was wrong to see that they had depicted the human form in their sculptures and art. This reflected a deep insight into their psyche and world view. Eventually celts in Europe started depicting humans and more literal imagery, but the celts in Britain (pre Roman invasion) receded back to this artistic tradition.

One aspect in the meaning of this piece I will share with you is its connection to Cernunnos. The animals that frame the pattern reflect those that surround the character on the Gundestrup Cauldron. Again, the idea I mentioned of not depicting humans is used in my piece.

Celtic art of this time has many aspects to its geometry and form. However, one thing you will subtly notice its its dedication to depicting triskels in abstract ways. The play on threes is never far away in this art. I love it!

Thank you for trusting me with this project Matt, I can’t wait to get more done on it! 🙂