06:03 PM
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Dominating dotwork tattooing, Chaim Machlev's work, from mandalas to modern geometry, is ubiquitous on "Best Tattoos" lists and is one of the most reblogged/regrammed/"liked" artists of the blackwork genre in my social media feeds. And for good reason. His expert technique, combined with fresh perspective and interpretations of ancient art, results in incredibly beautiful work that commands a long look, rather than a quick glance at an image flashed on our phones.

For a more in-depth look into the artist himself, filmmakers Nikita Luennemann & Lukas Muganga created the documentary "Dots To Lines" (embedded below), which follows Chiam over the course of a year, filming various tattoo projects and telling his personal story. The filmmakers also note: "Carried by the narration of his unusual path that led him from a 'conventional' lifestyle in Tel-Aviv, Israel to a very distinct mind set and a cosmopolitan way of life, it underlines his unique style of tattooing, which puts the art in the focus, feeds of emotions and the shared experience."

The trailer is just a quick tease, and I look forward to seeing the whole film. Will follow-up when I have more info on it.

See more of Chiam's work on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.

Dots To Lines (Official Trailer) from Nikita Lunnemann on Vimeo.

12:20 AM
maika abstract tattoo.jpgsnowflake tattoo maika.jpgPlaying with geometry, mandalas, industrial forms and organic shapes, Montreal-based tattoo artist and painter Maika Zayagata goes beyond traditional tattoo vocabulary to create unique and engaging tattoos. A few months ago, I got to meet Maika in person, and she has a truly unique and engaging personality as well!

I shot her our Proust Questionnaire, and she shared her thoughts on earthly happiness, good reads and being eaten by sharks, among other secrets.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  
To be alive in a body where the eyeballs are the only moving part...but ultimately, human beings killing human beings is a great misery of this world that affects me deeply.

What is your idea of earthly happiness? 
Peace of the heart and mind...but...on some days, it is simply chocolate...ahaha!

Your most marked characteristic? 
Organized...almost too much sometimes.

What is your principle defect?  

Your favorite painters?  
I do get impressed by paintings...but I don't have ONE favorite painter...when I look at a painting, it has to captivate me somehow, or disturb me...or something in me needs to happen... I did find myself quite impressed with some of the paintings in (17th century) Frederiksborg Castle, when I was in Denmark. I also like dark creepy horror, surrealist art...the collective beinart.org is a site that I (almost) always love what they post...whether it's paintings, sculptures or else.

Your favorite musicians?
That's hard... so much good music out there... so I'll talk about what I last remember...I had a craving for listening to Jimi Hendrix lately and when I did, I remembered how good it is....damn!!!
And on a (very) different note I really like my electronic music, psy-trance and good old D&B... ...And, again...on another much different note.... some Milanku (post-hardcore music band from Montreal) is ALWAYS welcome.

Who are your favorite writers?  
I like to read Osho...though he is not technically a writer...but he makes me laugh and smile.
I'm also reading right now:

     * The Tibetan book of the living and the dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
     * World War Z, an oral history of the Zombie war by Max Brooks
     * Intermediate German for Dummies by Wendy Foster...ahaha!!

Your favorite virtue?
Integrity.... to have the ability to be whole and undivided.

Who would you have liked to be?
Someone born where I could have been at the beach surfing everyday of my life.

How would you like to die?  
While surfing -- more drowned than eaten by a shark...though they can eat my body all they want after I'm gone...I won't care...hehehe!

What is your present state of mind?

What is your motto?
One day at a time!  and : Breath.

See more of Maika's work on her site, Facebook, and Instagram.

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07:41 AM
tattoo me.jpgThere's been some controversy in the media surrounding the latest project by artist Ilma Gore, in which she will be tattooed with names, words and even small pictures submitted by those who support her "Tattoo Me" crowdfunding campaign ($10 for 1-2 words, up to $100 for a small pic and words). She's willing to get anything tattooed on her -- even "Penis Butt" -- as long as it doesn't express hate or discrimination. Here's more from her campaign page

I want to be a singular tattoo for my latest art exhibition, and I want it to be your names. This is going to be an art exhibition in LA featuring my body and your names. I think the tattoo on my forehead says it best 'Life is art'. There is something absurd & beautiful about having an accumulation of absolute strangers names draped over my pale goth skin, even if half of them are 'Penis Butt'. Why? you might ask, simply because I can, I know what I'm about son, and I am my own ultimate canvas. Like my art exhibitions and murals this is a social and artistic experiment! Each persons name to me represents YOU the main protagonist in your own story. I will be covered in a hundred tiny stories and an exhibition will be held featuring you and my body as the canvas.

During the process it will be filmed... as a short, and regular updates about the exhibition that will be held somewhere in Los Angeles and  the conclusion of each tattoo will be added to my Facebook page www.facebook.com/tomfoolery.art, each person who designs a tattoo will be tagged with their piece on my hot bod. I chose 6K because talking to the shop I go to regularly, we estimate about 60 hours of work, plus gallery exhibition costs, As soon as this campaign is over we will begin!

***this projected will be presented in the form of an exhibition***
At present, she has raised over $10,300 -- way over her 6K goal -- but states that she still has room for about 1,500 more names.

A lot of the press centers on that question we all often hear: "Won't you regret it when you're older?"

In this Australian Yahoo TV interview,  when asked the regret question, Ilma explains that because society puts so much emphasis on our bodies, her project is an expression of freedom and breaking away from that, adding that she hopes that one's body no longer represents that person.

My question is whether tattooing strangers' names and random words is the best expression of that freedom and whether there really is a compelling story behind it all. We've seen countless examples over the years of people getting paid for displaying tattoos -- from the mom who auctioned off her forehead on eBay to the guy who got paid to put Mitt Romey's campaign logo on his face, which he now regrets.

I'm just not seeing how this is new, thought provoking, or even artful. But considering the mass media attention -- and cash being raised -- maybe Ilma is accomplishing just what she set out to do.

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07:05 AM
DC Tattoo Expo.jpgThe recent tattoo headlines had some interesting coverage, from conventions to tattoo cultures in South Korea, Turkey & Iraq, and much more. Here's the rundown:

I admit, I was pretty jealous when my friends' social media feeds were filled with fun pics from the DC Tattoo Expo, and even more so when photos also came up in my tattoo news alerts from the press. DCist.com had the most extensive slideshow from the event, capturing the scene from the floor as well as the tattoo and pin-up contests. The Washington Post particularly focused its coverage on the "My Tattoo F'n Sucks Award" portion of the contests, and although only one regrettable tattoo competed for the award, it was enough to pass along the lesson that you get what you pay for, especially with tattoos. Then there was ABC News, which skipped hiring a photographer and just swiped Instagram photos tagged #DCtattooexpo for their article. But their "social gallery" did offer some unique perspectives from the show, so that's worth a look. 

Surprisingly, there wasn't too much photographed or written about of the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival show this past weekend, but The Statesman has a few good shots and there's some short video footage from Keye TV, which is meh. Better to check the #txrevival hashtag on Instagram for more.      

And Rio's Tattoo Week was repped with a few pics in the Sacramento Bee. It's interesting to see just how much tattoo conventions have in common all over the world.

Beyond conventions, there were headlines that explored tattoo culture in countries with still many obstacles to the art form. For one, the AFP's piece entitled "South Korea's outlaw tattoo artists starting to find a mainstream niche," found its way in a lot of publications with its interesting look at how the laws of South Korea are not keeping up the greater acceptance of tattoos in the country. Here's a bit from that:

Tattooing itself is not illegal in South Korea, but the law states that it can only be carried out by a licensed medical doctor.

"So if you want to get a tattoo, you're supposed to go to a hospital? It's just absurd," said Jang Jun-hyuk, the owner of Tattooism, a tattoo parlor in central Seoul.

Nevertheless, the government does appear to be considering change and commissioned a study in October on the possibility of permitting legal tattoo parlors.

In the meantime, tattoo artists continue to inhabit a professional world not dissimilar to sex workers; technically illegal but largely ignored by the authorities as long as they stay under the radar.

NPR had a similar story about changing attitudes in Cuba and the law concerning tattoos, with the following:

Tattoos have long been taboo in Cuba, but the recent emergence of a large-scale distinctly Cuban tattoo culture is a vivid example of cultural change . As recently as a few years ago, tattooed Cubans were not permitted on beaches and there are unofficial rules against employing tattooed people. Tattooed Cubans reportedly can't work in the airport.

But as tattoos proliferate, the stigma fades. And along the sun-soaked streets of Havana, I found it hard to walk a single block without spotting tattoos on every type of body and in all sizes and styles.

"Now I give tattoos to all kinds of people," said Sosa Santana, another artist I interviewed in his dingy Old Havana apartment. "I give tattoos to cops."

Some older articles from the previous week are also worth checking for a glimpse into tattoo culture around the world, such as:  "Turkey issues fatwa against tattoos: Remove or repent"  and "In Iraq, ex-interpreter makes his mark as tattoo artist."

And my personal favorite tattoo story of the past week is that of the kickass tattoo of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Nikki Lugo, shown below. I only wish I had gotten it first!

Feel free to share your thoughts on the news in our Facebook group or Tweet at me

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01:51 PM
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For a fantastic American tattoo history lesson, culled from dusty archives and numerous libraries, enjoy this guest post by Daredevil Tattoo co-owner Michelle Myles who laboriously researched the life of Martin Hildebrandt, renowned for establishing  what is likely the first permanent place of business for tattooing in the United States -- steps away from Daredevil's NYC location. While tattooing has long been running since the new Daredevil studio opened, Michelle and her partner Brad Fink are still working on Daredevil's tattoo museum, housing Brad's collection of antique tattoo memorabilia. About half of the collection is on display, with more display cases to be built and further cosmetic construction, but it looks like the official launch of the museum will be in May.

In her writing below, Michelle chronicles the life of this tattoo legend and also shares how she went about discovering more on Hildebrandt's life.

By Michelle Myles, Daredevil Tattoo

One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, on January 16th, 1890, tattooer Martin Hildebrandt passed away in the New York City Asylum for the Insane on Wards Island. He was 65 years old. Hildebrandt started tattooing in 1846 as a sailor aboard the frigate United States. Through extensive archival research, I found records listing Hildebrandt as tattooing in New York City from as far back as 1859. During the Civil War, Hildebrandt served with the Army of the Potomac, and is quoted as saying of his time in the service:

During war times I never had a moment's idle time. I must have marked thousands of sailors and soldiers [...] I put the names of hundreds of soldiers on their arms or breasts, and many were recognized by these marks after being killed or wounded. (The New York Times: January 16, 1876).
After the war, in 1875, Hildebrandt tattooed at 77 James Street at the corner of Oak, in Lower Manhattan. The New York Times describes it as "a tavern, with a well sanded floor, and on the walls hung pictures..."  Beginning in 1880, Hildebrandt tattooed at 36 1/2 Oak Street, described this way in the Times: "Alongside the door of a house in Oak Street is a framed sign bearing an elaborately-executed and vividly-colored Goddess of Liberty, with the equally glaringly-tinted words underneath, 'Tattooing done here by Martin Hildebrandt.'"

Hildebrandt was married to Mary Hildebrandt, the union producing one son named Frank. In 1882, a woman tattooed by Hildebrandt exhibited in Bunnell's dime museum on the Bowery as the first "tattooed lady," and identified by the name Nora Hildebrandt. [Nora took his surname and was assumed to be Hildebrandt's daughter or wife, but was in fact born in England and was neither married nor related to Martin.] Martin is known to have tattooed a handful of other tattooed ladies who worked as attractions in dime museums in New York and worked in shows that traveled the world.

The last mention of Hildebrandt is on June 20th, 1885 in The New York Clipper, under "Circus and Sideshow News":  "Martin Hildebrand (sic) the tattooer of this city, whose wife is with a circus, was on June 10 sent to jail for disorderly conduct. His son charges that he is insane and he is to be transferred to an asylum."

Last year our shop Daredevil moved to a larger space a few blocks from the Bowery and Chatham Square, the birthplace of modern tattooing. The new Daredevil includes a museum displaying Brad Fink's collection of antique tattoo memorabilia that he has collected over the last 20 years.  Being surrounded by so much tattoo history and working so close to where it all started, I wanted to know more about who was working where, and when. "Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art" by Albert Parry (1933), was a useful historical resource for beginning my research. It was Parry who mentioned Hildebrandt as the first to open a permanent place of business for tattooing in the United States.

Beyond that, there was very little information about Hildebrandt to be found online, and much of what does appear is contradictory or flat-out inaccurate. Eventually I found articles dating as far back as 1876 in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe and other publications, but I couldn't immediately discern when he was born, or when he died. I couldn't even determine where Oak Street was, because there is no Oak Street in present-day lower Manhattan. Eventually though, after combing through historic city records, newspaper archives and out-dated maps, I discovered that Oak Street was in the Fourth Ward, a few blocks from the south side of Chatham Square. [Oak, James and other streets were razed in 1947 in order to make way for the construction of public housing.] It was at this point that I finally located Martin's death certificate in the Municipal Archives, which showed that he died in that Wards Island asylum five years after his arrest.

I hate to think of what life was like in New York's Asylum For the Insane back then. Martin might have ended up alone in a very bad place, but I'm honored to remember him now and bring his story back to life so that he can be commemorated as a pioneering figure in our tattoo history.
02:08 PM

Just when you thought the mass commercialization of tattooing couldn't get any worse, there's this special report Baby Tattoos.

While I know a few guys who remind me of "Ryan Quinn," the tattooer in the video -- ya know, artists just looking for a new canvas -- thankfully the report is a fun parody by Center City Comedy, written by Kevin Ryan and directed/edited by Conor Kelley. The way some shops market themselves these days, though, the jokes aren't too far off from the truth. And you can't deny that "a sick tribal chestpiece on an infant .. just pops."

Enjoy the giggle!
02:16 PM
ChickenNugget_tattoo.jpgIn the history of my Instagram account, I have never posted a joke tattoo -- except for one, one of a chicken nugget and sauce. I found the tattoo on the humor account of @fuckjerry, and it turns out that the tattoo was done by the fabulous Magie Serpica of Milk and Honey Tattoo (whose portfolio is filled with serious work). I had to find out more, and Magie graciously took the time to share the hilarious story behind the infamous tattoo.
It was just about ten years ago, while I was working at a shop in Staten Island, that I did the tattoo that would get tens of thousands of likes and just as many comments on the @fuckjerry Instagram page -- more likes than the total amount of likes I've ever received combined. As well as being mentioned on various "stupid tattoos" blogs, and hearing countless comments from spectators at conventions that hastily brush past the portrait that took eight hours, only to laugh and stare in awe at a chicken nugget and barbecue sauce tattoo that had been left in my portfolio pretty much as a joke.

I walked into work on that fateful day, only to be bombarded by a camera man and a producer, in a frenzy, frantically approaching me to sign a release paper. I had no idea what was happening, as it was after a long night of drinks and things that young twenty something year old tattooers (pre-motherhood days) do on a given night, and I certainly wasn't dressed for the occasion. I remember being told through a crowd of people by the manager that it was a production crew from the T.V. show "Deal or No Deal", and that they would be filming at the shop for the day, and some muffled mentions of how I had to tattoo someone for the show. Nope. Sorry. That was certainly not about to go down like that if I could help it. Not in these rags, messy hair bun, and minimal make-up and bags under my eyes. I immediately ran and hid in the bathroom hoping that it would be bumped to the next guy who was about to walk into work any minute. Several attempts at getting me to open the door were immediately shut down with: "I'm putting on my lipstick," for about forty-five minutes. I peeked out and saw that the next tattooer had in fact come to work right after me, and that he was in fact about to do a tattoo on a man from Staten Island who won money on "Deal or No Deal" a few months prior.

The show thought it would be a good idea to do a road trip across America and spend "a day in the life" with past winners, seeing what good fortune and new lifestyle their winnings had brought them, and doing whatever the winner wanted to do for the day. The winner, Matty, had been a long time customer at this particular shop, and he decided that his "day in the life" would be spent getting tattooed. And not just any tattoo, a "Deal or No Deal" themed tattoo. Across his back, from shoulder to shoulder, Matty got, a tattoo of his winning equation: "DEAL + (an image with a briefcase with his lucky number) = $675K."

Yes, he won $675,000.00 on the show, and in addition to the Corvette that I noticed in the parking lot, this was how he would commemorate his prize. I crept over to the tattooer whose fate was set with doing the equation across Matty's back, and taunted him over how I escaped this nonsense and was in the clear. We spat swear words every three seconds, making a hardcore future editing process very necessary, and even discussed Howie Mandel and any funny thing we could think to say about him. It was all in good fun. However, fate had other plans for me that day.

About ten minutes into the tattoo, the producer, who had been chatting with Matty on camera about his game show experience, shifted the conversation to the tattoo that he was getting in that moment. As this happened, there was a brief pause, almost as if a cartoon lightbulb lit up above the head of this producer - a blonde haired, reddish tanned skin, California thirty-something-year old wearing a short sleeve button down shirt and flip flops, who looked like he could still be in the fraternity about which he began to talk.

"You know, when I was in college I had this great idea for a tattoo: a chicken nugget below my inner elbow, and a cup of barbecue sauce on my bicep, so when I bend my arm, I can 'dip it'."

"DIP IT" still haunts me to this day.

Those words echo in my head every time someone comments on the photo in my book, or whenever I see it posted somewhere online. But I digress.

It just so happened that, at this particular time in my life, I was a full-fledged vegan (and I'm sure by now you can see the irony and where this is leading). Alas, I was approached by this producer amidst a sentence full of laughter as he expressed this idea and nodded with the expectation that I would be on board to do it. A similar nod was given from across the counter by the manager, who also strongly suggested I be a good sport about this.

"Okay fine," was what I uttered as I began to pick up a pencil in front of my sketch pad, only to be interrupted by the crew who insisted that they should go get actual chicken nuggets and barbecue sauce from a fast food joint to have me draw it from life. As I protested and argued that I could draw this from my head equally as good, I was being set up with a mic, and an assistant was already en route to a McDonald's down the block. Just as the assistant returned with a six piece, I was being asked a bunch of questions, mostly about my tattoo experience, as well as how I felt about the chicken nugget tattoo idea. I was very honest, telling him that, while I did think it was extremely funny and that I was actually thrilled to do it, it was very much a spontaneous decision and that he should be aware that he may not find it very funny several years down the road. They began propping up chicken nuggets inches in front of me and opened containers of barbecue sauce, and all I can remember saying was. "I'm highly offended by the smell of McDonald's." They thought this was hysterical, but if you've never met a die-hard vegan like I was at the time, you would know my inner Ingrid Newkirk truly was offended and didn't see the humor. [Side note: while I am no longer vegan, and haven't been in several years, I still can't stand the smell of fast food near me.]

The rest is pretty much history. The tattoo was completed, I snapped a few photos, shook the producer's hand, gave him some aftercare instructions (this was his very first tattoo!), and within a few hours of me stepping foot into the chaos of reality television, they were gone just as quickly.

Fast forward to last February. I was at my booth at the Philly convention sketching out something for a client, when I overheard two girls getting overly excited about an image in my portfolio, and all I could think was 'Dip It.' I looked up and one girl asked if I was actually the artist who did that tattoo. She then, in an excited fluster, showed me several sites, along with some Facebook and Instagram pages, where this nugget made an appearance. I was totally shocked! The most shocking moment came nine weeks ago when it appeared on the @fuckjerry Instagram page, which has 2.3 million followers. As I write this, the image has received 76,103 likes, and as of 2 minutes ago, 34,485 comments. Unfortunately (or maybe not!) there was never any credit given to me, as I never watermarked my name on the photo (though over twenty people "@" me in the comments to bring it to my attention, along with countless reposts).

All in all, I find it pretty comical that, while I've spent years sweating and losing sleep over and countless hours of research over portrait tattoos and other particularly challenging designs, it's a tattoo of chicken nugget and barbecue sauce which serves as my legacy in tattooing.

Check more of Magie's work on her site as well as Instagram @Milkandhoneytattoo. Milk and Honey will also be featured in this month's Skin Art Magazine.
02:13 PM
Morten Transeth tattoo.pngTattoo above in progress.

tiger head tattoo.pngI love to get an insider's look into tattoo shops around the world, not just for their art, but also for the vibe of the studio and tattoo culture in their city. And so I really enjoyed this video documentary short (embedded below) by Ivar Myhrvold featuring Morten Transeth of Blue Arms Tattoo in Oslo, Norway. The video is in Norwegian, but captioned in English -- just turn captions (CC) on for subtitles.

What I find particularly interesting is how artists across the globe who are heavily influenced by traditional "old school" tattooing, such as Morten, offer their own spin and approach to iconic themes. Morten talks about that as well as the history of the shop, Oslo clientele, and other insights into Blue Arms Tattoo. Definitely worth a watch.

Find more of Morten's work on Instagram.

Kreativitet & Tradisjoner (Creativity & Traditions) from Ivar Myhrvold on Vimeo.

07:28 AM
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This week the SF Chronicle posted a mini-slideshow on tattoo icon Lyle Tuttle.  As Steve Cooney, who had been tattooed at Lyle's shop, writes, he "dug into the negatives [of the The Chronicle's photo archive] and found a few gems, including some from 1960 when Tuttle opened the first shop in San Francisco bearing his name, on Seventh Street next to the old Greyhound Bus Depot." The photos are accompanied by Steve's short personal story on the photos of Lyle. Worth a quick look.

The piece reminded me of the Q&A I did with Lyle for Inked mag three years ago, which I reposted this past October. One of my favorite parts of the Q&A was this:

In your 80 years on this earth, what personal doctrine or ideology have you developed?

"No sweat." Don't ever sweat over anything and don't let anyone make you sweat. I have it tattooed on the back of my leg in kanji, but they couldn't translate "No Sweat" exactly so it reads "Perspiration No." I've been at Chinese places and pulled my pant leg up and they stare at it, beyond their comprehension. I'm actually just seeking to find one truth. If I find one, then maybe I will find the second one. Man is always looking for the secret. I'd like to know one goddamned truth before I die.

07:01 AM
picasso tattoo_david allen.jpgPicasso's Girl before a Mirror above by David Allen.

cathy johnson tattoo.jpgRoy Lichtenstein's Drowning Girl above by Cathy Johnson.

Yesterday, I found Jerry Saltz's "The Best Art Tattoos of All Time" slideshow for NY Mag, via the wonderful Margot Mifflin's Facebook page. I appreciate Jerry's love for looking at tattoos and his note on how some people are so moved by art that they wish to place it on their bodies forever. However, rather than a slideshow of "fandom" tattoos, as he puts it, he could have curated custom tattoo art by tattooists that he finds to be worthy of the term "fine art." But that's a lot more work.

Margot summed up my biggest problem with the piece when she posted the following with the link:

Nice that Jerry Saltz rounded up this collection. Unfortunate that not one artist--tattoo artist--is identified in it. It crystallizes the art world's chronic inability to understand that the best tattooing is not about copying. Now for a slideshow of the best art tattoos of all time showing original work by tattooists.
It really is time that the art world takes a serious look at custom tattooing, or at the very least, the fine art of those who tattoo. Seems only Scott Campbell -- who is the only artist actually credited within the article -- is really getting that kind of media attention, with other few exceptions.

With Saltz's slideshow are tiny credits (in small grey font) with "Photo: Courtesy of ..." and some of those photos are provided by tattooers like David Allen, Cathy Johnson and Pete Zebley shown here, but other credits belong to photographers and collectors. Crediting the artists should not be seen as just a courtesy but a legal responsibility.

Don't worry, though. I won't even bring up the tattoo copyright issues here!

Giacometti_Pete_Zebley.jpgAlberto Giacometti drawing above by Pete Zebley.
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