03:57 PM
tattoo inks.jpgPhoto by Edgar Hoill.

Washington D.C.'s Health Department is at it again with ludicrous proposals to regulate tattooing.

As we wrote about last September, the DC Health Department first proposed a 24-Hour waiting period to get tattooed. Thankfully, that proposal was abandoned for common sense. However, their second proposed rule making -- which can be downloaded here -- is also littered
inconsistencies and even issues that aren't even based in reality.

For example, Section
301.2 of the proposal states, "All body artists shall use hollow needles, and equipment that is specifically manufactured for performing body art procedures in accordance with manufacturer's instructions."

Hollow tattoo needles? 

Matt Jessup, aka Fatty of Fatty's Tattoos & Piercings, pointed out the ridiculousness of the proposed regs to The Washington Post:

They're requiring us to do things that don't exist," said Fatty, nee Matt Jessup, who pointed to a requirement that "[a]ll body artists shall use hollow needles." Hollow needles are used for piercings, he said, but there is no such thing in the tattoo world.

The new rules also require businesses to use city-licensed equipment suppliers when there are, in fact, no such suppliers in the city. Another touchy proposal involves requiring the posting of three signs publicizing various health risks purportedly associated with body art, including potential allergic reactions, skin infections and the transmission of blood-borne diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Some of the particular risks listed, Fatty said, are not supported by research.

A petition has been posted to in which Tim Corun of Jinx Proof Tattoos offers the following sample language to send in support of abandoning the second proposal:

To: The DC Department of health and the Mayor of Washington DC, Vincent Gray

Demand that Mayor Gray and DC Department of Health abandon the 2nd draft of proposed body art regulations and seek further education on body art practices before proposing further regulations.

[Your name]

You can also share the petition on Facebook.

It seems like the DC Health Department is not going to give up its fight to put tight restraints on tattooing, which are not only detrimental to the industry but to tattoo collectors. Especially in a town like DC, it could be wise for the DC Coalition of Professional Body Artists to bring in a lobbyist or some outside help in this battle. 
03:34 PM
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Tattoo above by Darren White on Mike Skiver.

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Pin-up contestants above.
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Folk City Tattoo booth.

There were about one billion tattoo conventions that took place this past weekend, so I snuck out of NYC to check out one I'd never been to before for some fun and sun:  the Virginia Beach Tattoo Fest organized by Folk City Tattoo and Twisted Ink.

While located in the modern cruise ship-looking Virginia Beach Convention Center, the show had a downhome community feel, which I loved. Organizers skateboarded around the booths making sure artists and vendors were taken care of. The convention goers, many of whom were military, had a diverse range of artists to choose from, working in all styles. And there were, of course, the pin-ups, sideshow performers, and bands to entertain the crowd. After the show, the party continued on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. Definitely more of a vacation than work for me.

I posted my usual bad camera phone pics to Flickr, including some here. You can also find more photos on the VB Fest Facebook page, and check #vbtattoofest on Instagram.

Mick Metal tattoo.jpgMick Metal's Game of Chance Tattoos -- a few quarters in the machine will yield the pre-drawn tattoo for you.

tom tapit tattoo.jpgTom Tapit tattoo above.

Shawn Patton Tattoo.jpgShawn Patton tattoo above.

Joel Brewer tattoo.jpgJoel Brewer tattoo above.
07:18 PM
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I'll admit, as a Star Trek fan, it was the Spock tattoo (with the Live Long & Prosper palm ink!) that prompted me to grab Sadee Johnston for an interview, but I've always been a fan of her charming tattooed characters. Sadee, who works at Great Western Tattoo Club, Swindon, UK, took time to talk about her portfolio and approach to tattooing, as well as share what she's reading, watching, listening and other fun stuff.

The tattooed characters in your portfolio really embody a strong personality; they have a life to them, rather than being a flat image, which is really engaging. How do you approach your work to give it that kind of personal spark?

I think my style of work  has a lot to to with my background in illustration. I was always very interested in children's book illustration and I'm generally influenced by a lot of illustration artists as well as tattooers -- artists like Alex Gross, Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup are all people I have admired for a long time, and despite their work having a strong surreal vibe to it, it's still very character driven, which is probably where the element of personality within my animals especially comes through within my own work.

You also take unique approaches to common themes. When a client comes to you with an idea, what's the process like to create a tattoo design that has a different perspective than the norm?

I think I just try to do work that still has sense of character or life. I think sometimes I tend to over think things and some of my best work has been 2 minutes sketches on the day.

What do you love about tattooing?

I love the social side of tattooing, I have met some great and inspiring artists, who I am lucky enough to call my friends. I also think the freedom to travel and work in other peoples studios is definitely a great perk.

What projects/travels are coming up for you?

I will be guesting in Canada in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal in October. Hopefully I will in the America for some guest spots later next year. 

Sounds great. Happy to hear that you're interested in guesting abroad.

What are you currently ...

Reading?   SJ Watson "Before I go to sleep'"
Listening?  I was listening to old man gloom this morning -- pretty aggressive way to start the day. Haha.
Watching?   The Killing, it's so good!
Following (online)?  Everything
Finding?   Cat hair everywhere

Find more of Sadee's work on Instagram.

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07:23 AM
Karrie Arthurs tattoo 3.jpgKarrie Arthurs tattoo.jpgUsing the stippling technique to beautiful effect, Karrie Arthurs of Blackbird Electric Tattoo in Alberta, Canada, creates detailed and refined blackwork tattoos, which could catch your eye from across the room. While she utilized her fine arts degree to build an extensive tattoo portfolio in different genres when she first began tattooing in 2000, in the past three to four years, dotwork has dominated her work. In 2007, Karrie opened Blackbird Electric Tattoo, which is not limited to custom tattooing, but also accommodates walk-ins.

I shot Karrie a few questions about her work and also some personal tidbits, and she graciously took the time to share her thoughts:

I'm partial to dotwork, being covered in it myself. When did you start working with the technique?

I started heavily experimenting with textures in my tattoo work, such as dotwork, between 3 and 4 years ago. Being inspired by tattooers who use it, and also making the transition to have my tattoo work mirror my art work, which was already a play on textures.
What are some of the challenges and also the highlights of working primarily in black using stippling?

The challenges for me are trying to achieve levels of contrast and dimension with textures. Its also easy to get pigeonholed into repeating a certain thing, but luckily I have I'm happy working in this medium now, and I am blessed with great clients. The great things about blackwork are it is timeless and dynamic, and ages so well on all skin. And I save money on ink. Haha!

Where do you look to for reference?

Reference is found in my daily life, music, a passage of words, approaches me from anywhere; you just have to look.

What do you love to tattoo and what do you shy away from?

I love to tattoo work that inspires me, challenges me and that I wholeheartedly love to do. I typically stay away from anything that doesn't, or something that someone is better at. I work with great tattooers who I refer readily.

Any upcoming guest spots, conventions, and/or art shows?

I'll be tattooing at Three Kings Tattoo [in Brooklyn, NY], October 22 through 24. I travel in Canada and the US and work...please keep posted on my Instagram. For shows, please visit

I'll be opening a show at The Raven Tooth Gallery in Queens, NY. The show opens Oct 25 and runs till Nov 30th.

What are you currently ...

Reading?  Eckhart Tolle
Listening?   Black Angels
Watching?  The Leftovers
Following?  Too many cool artists to list. Literally following my kids.
Finding?  Crystals

Find more on Karrie's tattoo work on the Blackbird Custom Tattoo site, and Instagram. Also check her online store for some wonderful artwork, including an original drawing in ink on an 1895 US postmarked envelope -- 119 year old paper.  

Karrie Arthurs tattoo 2.jpg
03:43 PM

The Nothing Tattoo from Pear Films on Vimeo.

The experience of getting tattooed, rather that the end product of that experience -- the permanent mark -- is the focus of "The Nothing Tattoo" video by Pear Films.  In the video, tattooer Veronica Tricker of ON2U Tattoo in Saskatoon, SK, offers inkless tattoos of the word "nothing" (which another tattooer draws for her). She explains that people have come to her with questions on what getting a tattoo is like, but do not want to commit to any artwork. So, in the footage, she tattoos two clients with water rather than ink, using the same needle depth, materials, plastic wrap-up, etc. to answer such questions.

Two particular points of interest in this video for me:  First, Veronica is a tattooer who has no tattoos. This made me question what kind of real experience she could offer -- other than technically needling skin -- if she has never had the experience herself. She raises the issue of her tattoo-free skin and offers sort of a defense of her choices. I happen to be in the camp that believes tattooers should be tattooed, and I'm not really swayed by her arguments; however, she articulates her position well.

Also, it got me thinking about what is the tattoo experience about:  Is it just the opening of skin? Is it that "Oh shit" moment when you realize you are changing your body permanently and the trust you must have in the person doing that to you? Is it the story behind getting tattoo? ....

Obviously, the answers are all personal and individual, but thinking on them has led to some fun mental gymnastics for me this afternoon.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in our Needles & Sins Facebook group or hit me up on Twitter.
05:29 PM
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cedric arnold yantra3.jpgSince the inception of this blog, I have shared posts on Sak Yant or Yantra tattoos -- sacred marks performed by monks in Thailand in which the wearers believe that the tattoos are imbued with magic, offering protection and even bestowing certain powers. Yantra tattoos hold a special fascination for me, not just for the beautiful iconography, but the ceremony, culture and beliefs that surround them.

Every year,
at the Buddhist temple in Wat Bang Phra, about 30 miles west of Bangkok, Thailand, devotees gather to receive these magic tattoos at the Wai Khru ceremony. Also present are journalists and photographers seeking to document it all.

One such photographer who has truly captured the power of Yantra and the Wai Khru is French/British photographer Cedric Arnold, who is based in Bangkok. Arnold's "Yantra: The Sacred Ink"  is an exceptionally beautiful series of portraits and documentary photography -- a product of four and a half years of travel throughout Thailand to fully explore Yantra, from the festivals to rare tattoos only found in certain regions. Arnold shared with Slate magazine some of what he learned in this journey:

"The ink is traditional Chinese ink but there's ash, snake venom, all sorts of things," Arnold said. "It's very much a voodoo mix, sort of a witches' brew in a way. There are some really wild rumors about certain tattoo masters who have all sorts of crazy things in there. One liquid people describe as corps oil, harvested from dead bodies."

Getting access to this world involved overcoming one special hurdle.

"If you're not tattooed yourself in certain tattoo worlds, people will be very suspicious and not let you in. I explained this was a personal project, and I wanted to understand things. When they asked me why I didn't have tattoos, I said, 'I don't belong to this belief system, so I think it would be disrespectful for me to get one.' "

You can also read more about "Yantra: The Sacred Ink" in this Boat Mag Q&A.

Arnold further captured the tattoos and ceremonies on video: his film, also entitled "Yantra: The Sacred Ink," is currently being screened at the "Tatoueurs, tatoues" exhibit at the Museum du quai Branly in Paris. [For a great review of the exhibit, read Serinde's post here.] Here's the teaser below.

See more of Arnold's work on his site and on Facebook.

'Yantra: The Sacred Ink' Teaser from Cedric Arnold on Vimeo.

02:52 PM
 Eleanor Hardning bad reporting.pngThis morning, I awoke to learn that the photo of me above was featured in the UK's less-than-esteemed tabloid the Daily Mail, or rather, the Daily Fail, as it is often referred to. The photo appeared in yet another ridiculous article that seemed to be culled together from social media snippets rather than any insightful research and reporting. But again, it's the Daily Fail, and not much is to be expected. Under my photo, which was taken by a Reuters reporter at the London convention about 8 years ago, is the caption:  "Fortunately most women don't go as far as having a tattoo 'sleeve' covering their whole arm." Thank heavens!

I laughed it off and wasn't even going to give it a second thought (or link) until I learned that our friend Dr. Gemma Angel of the wonderful Life&6months blog was quoted for the article without even being contacted by the reporter. Angry at the way the media frames the art form, I'm now inspired to start a reporter list of shame. As most of these articles are written under headlines like "World's Worst Tattoos," here's the "World's Worst...Tattoo Reporting."

So, congratulations, Eleanor Hardning! You're our first inductee to the list. [Of course, "Eleanor Harding" can be a pseudonym as pointed out by Dr. Matt Lodder on Twitter.]

Here is Eleanor's Daily Fail article linked through, so by clicking it, it won't improve the search engine position.

Eleanor starts off with the overused and tired cliche about tattoos "once confined to the burly arms of sailors and criminals..." a line that Dr. Matt Lodder has repeatedly pointed out has been used since the 1870s. In fact, for a great read, click "People always say the same thing about tattoos" in which Matt chats with the BBC about tattoo cliches.

The Daily Fail article then seems to cut and paste quotes from artists and experts like Gemma, and it is unclear what was, if any,  the original reporting for this piece. And of course, it cites the usual less-than-scientific stats in which some people are asked about their tattoos and that seems to represent the tattoo wearing population of the country.

Oh, and then there are the photos with the cheeky captions. Learn from my lesson and ensure that any photo releases you sign are narrowly tailored and do not allow to be banked upon in stock photography pools. [Although, I don't even recall signing any release for this photo.]

Overall, it appears that the point of the article was to show that more "middle class" people have tattoos. ["
The unimpeachable middle-classes!" as Stephen M. joked on Facebook.]  We know, however, that the actual point of publishing such articles is to use tattooing to grab more attention to the tabloid (and thereby, more ad dollars). Now, I'll give them the attention they want -- via Donotlink -- and call out the cliches and cheap reporting that mar the discussion of the art we love.
07:23 AM
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Tattoo above by Betty Rose.
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Tattoo above by Gin Hicks.

Yesterday, a fantastic new blog and online community launched that I'm incredibly excited about: Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Betty Rose and her husband Matty, have created a space to promote women tattoo artists, curated with an eye towards the very best in the tattoo community.

Betty Rose explains more:

Lady Tattooers began a few years ago, after my husband (Matty) made clear how little he knew about female tattoo artists. I've always wanted to help spread the passion that started my career in tattooing, so Matty's bewilderment opened my eyes to a unique opportunity to both do something I loved and give back to the community of female artists that helped pave the way for me. Continuing the spirit of that first goal has allowed the humble Lady Tattooers instagram account to flourish into being the popular hashtag and website it is today.
What I particularly like about the site are the Q & As, offering a greater look into what drives the artist and her background, and also, it's beautifully designed to navigate more of the artist's work online, with easy links to the artist's website and social media.

Through LadyTattooers, I've already discovered new artists -- including Gin Hicks and Missy Rhysing, whose work is shown here -- so Betty & Matty are clearly on the way towards their goal of becoming the online resource for female tattoo art. Check it.

Missy Rhysing tattoo.pngTattoo by Missy Rhysing.
01:45 PM
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You get the tattoo you deserve.

From VICE:

No Class is a DIY tattoo parlor run by skater Jesse Brocato from his living room in Fairplay, Colorado. Every tattoo from No Class is free, provided you're at least halfway tanked when you start laying the ink on yourself. Which I think explains why the place is starting to pick up some steam among the skating community.
Comment on the post in N+S Facebook group or Tweet at me: @needlesandsins.
10:44 AM
chaim tattoo 2.jpg
Some interesting tattoo news hit the headlines over the past few days, so I picked my favorites here:

First up, I was happy to see Metro (UK) feature the fantastic tattoo work of Chaim Machlev, Dots to Lines, based in Berlin. What I love about Chaim's work in particular (shown above), in addition to his unique compositions, is how he manages to take strong geometric forms and balance them to the body, really enhancing it. And I'm glad the mainstream media was able to pick up on that as well. See more of Dots to Lines on Chaim's site, Facebook and Instagram.

Also looking at the artistry of tattoos, but with a bent on tributes to pop culture icons, is Kelli Marshall's piece for The Week: "What tattoos can teach us about modern fandom."  Kelli writes that, in the course of studying Hollywood legend Gene Kelley -- and the fandom associated with him -- she's found numerous people who have made their devotion to him permanent and public in the form of tattoos. She speaks with some of the fans, who explain why they got tattoos inspired by Gene Kelley, and also presents some tattoo images, thankfully crediting the artists, which is rare.  I liked this article because it offered some insight into the motivations behind tattoos that many may question because pop culture, and not high art, is the basis for the work. I myself have lay awake at nights wondering why there are numerous people with Gwen Stefani portraits. This article was a check not to judge, and here's a round-up from Kelli why:
As diverse as these tattoos are, they're all rooted in the same thing: the powerful, deeply personal impact that mass culture can have on our private lives. Tattoos based on fandoms are rarely a simple tribute to the movies or TV shows we love; they're muses, reminders of a friend, acts of rebellion, testaments to survival. Tattoos may begin with a fandom -- but they end with the self.
But ... if we're going to judge, there's this: "Tattooed muscians: the good, the bad and the very ugly."

On the more serious news tip, there's a discussion on medic alert tattoos and how the medical community responds to them. As noted in the article, there's debate over whether first responders will consider tattoos that note medical conditions, say "Diabetic, Type 1," instead of the standard bracelets that convey that information. One argument is the following:
"We're not going to stop to read a tattoo in an emergency situation," said Don Lundy, president of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. "They can be complicated and hard to read. Medical bracelets and necklaces are what stand out."
On the flip side, tattoos are being taken more seriously to alert certain conditions, and the article notes that it could be useful for organizations, like the American Diabetes Association, to offer guidelines on the placement and general shape for tattoos.

Finally, the Washington Post reports on Baghdad tattoo parlors. There have actually been a number of articles written on the underground tattoo scene in Iraq, but this one is worth a read for the reporting on the surrounding culture that has led to shops opening up despite the danger in doing so.
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