08:53 AM
newyorker tattoo.jpg
Yesterday, I posted on Instagram and Facebook, the image above of the recent cover of The New Yorker magazine illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. It was a "Like" parade, but also inspired some serious critique, particularly the context of the illustration, rather than the artwork itself. Gawker Media's Lux Alptraum noted on her Facebook page that she found it a fetishization of tattooed women by a publication trying to be edgy. It's a good point, although I noted that more objectification and exploitation of tattooed women comes from our own industry media.

In the back story of the cover, Mattotti himself says: "Doing fashion illustrations is part of my work, but for me it's all about women [...] It's all about women--very pictorial women putting on dresses, putting on a show."

This wasn't the first time The New Yorker made tattoos a central theme of its cover. In the October 29, 2012 issue, the "Skin Deep" cover below by Barry Blitt offered an homage to the Norman Rockwell painting "The Tattoo Artist." In that New Yorker back story, Blitt says of his cover illustration:  "'The Tattoo Artist' features a sailor with a long list of girlfriends' inked names crossed out on his arm," he said. "This seemed like a nice tableau for highlighting Mitt the politician's shifting positions and convictions."

So, is this an out-of-fashion publication trying to bank on tattoo cool, or just another example of mainstream media embracing the art form?

Share your thoughts on the Needles & Sins Facebook group page or hit me up on Twitter.

08:40 AM
slave to the needle.jpg
Seattle's Slave to the Needle Starbucks parody tee above.

It's fairly known that the Starbucks coffee chain has a strict dress code policy of no visible tattoos at any of its one trillion cafes worldwide. In fact, this past July, it was reported that Starbucks threatened to fire a Detroit-based barista for a tiny heart tattoo on her hand, allegedly telling her that she had 30 days to begin a removal process for the tattoo or she had to resign from her job. However, according the SF Gate, "in an internal e-mail this month, Chief Operating Officer Troy Alstead said the company is revisiting its 'dress code, including the tattoo policy.'" Here's more from the article:

Last month the tattoo policy was challenged when Kristie Williams, a Starbucks employee from Atlanta, created a petition to change the rule. Williams said the long sleeves needed to cover her tattoos get in the way, especially in the summer. More than 21,652 people have signed the online petition.

Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said the company's review of its tattoo prohibition began before the petition. "We are always actively engaged in discussion with our partners to determine how to make their Starbucks experience better and more valuable to them," he said. "We know the dress code and tattoo policy is important to them so we are taking a fresh look at it."

Keep in mind that private employers may have a general right to institute dress code policies and make appearance-based hiring decisions, as long as the discrimination is not based on a protected class. The question is whether it's good business.

02:32 PM
total tattoo issue.jpg

In the latest edition of the UK's Total Tattoo Magazine -- its 10-year anniversary issue -- you'll find what the magazine graciously calls my "words of wisdom," although a truer description would be, "Here's a page of Marisa blathering on about something she doesn't like." 

For this column, editor James Sandercock asked me to write further on the Daily Mail's crush on me, as I noted in my World's Worst Tattoo Reporting post. In that post, I talked about "The Fail" using my photo in a ridiculous article about how "middle class" people have tattoos. But it wasn't the first time a pic of me was featured. In my piece for Total Tattoo, I talk about how the tabloid has banked off my bod before.

Here's a taste:

If Andy Warhol was correct that everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes, then I'm pretty pissed off that The Daily Mail is eating up all my allotted time. Over the past year, the tabloid has featured a picture of me in all my heavily tattooed glory, not just once, but twice-and both times they were not kind. I could liken the The Fail to a jilted ex-boyfriend, obsessed and angry that I've dared to do anything to my appearance without permission. But it's really more insidious. What the tabloid does (and they are not alone) is lure people in with tattoo images--many of which are used without permission--then slap a catchy headline over some cheap and easy content, all the while, having McDonald's ads flash in the background. Breaking it down: my bod is being used to sell burgers. Not the acclaim I was hoping for.

The first time I became a Daily Mail darling (to my knowledge) was in September 2013, in which a photo of one of my tattoos was posted under the blaring headline "World's Worst Head Tattoos." "World's Worst" anything is common "clickbait," designed to drag us in, make us angry with asinine writing, and provoke us to comment on the article, defending something that is personal and important to us. It brings more clicks, more time on the site, and more interactivity. Editors and advertisers just love how much we hate it.

This tattoo of mine that has The Daily Mail readers clutching their collective pearls in horror is indeed on the back of my head; however, it's deserving of praise rather than any pejorative. As the kids say, my head tattoo is "pretty fucking rad." Sometime around 2005, I wanted a fun, illustrative, semi-secret tattoo that was quite different from the blackwork ornamental bodysuit that I've been working on. So, I made an appointment with renowned tattooer Tim Kern, who is pretty fucking rad himself, and we came up with the idea to do a devilish looking little girl with red pigtails popping out of the back of my skull with a chain in her hand; essentially, a portrait of my childhood with added weaponry. I had taken some time off from the law firm I was working for at that time, so it was a perfect moment to shave off some ginger curls and get a badass tattoo that would eventually be covered when my hair grew out and I had to be proper lawyer again.

I was so happy with my new tattoo that I posted it to my photo album on (this was pre-Instagram days). I wanted to share the artwork. I did not want it used by others for their ridiculous "listicles," which lure people with short attention spans and a propensity to make comments that they would never dare to say to someone's face.[...]

It's also important to note here that Flickr has a better photo-sharing policy that other sites like Facebook, Twitter/Twitpic and Instagram. When you upload an image to Flickr, the default setting is "All rights reserved," putting others on notice that you're holding on to the rights granted to you in copyright law and not giving them up for sites like to use. Flickr's policy specifies that they may use, distribute, display, reproduce, modify, and adapt your content on the Yahoo! Services but "solely for the purpose for which such content was submitted or made available." For Facebook and Instagram, when you post your photos and videos, you are granting these sites "a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license..." That means that they can use your content and offer it to others without your approval, and even make some money off of it without anything paid to you.

Read the full article in the 10th Anniversary issue of Total Tattoo, which can be purchased at booksellers throughout the UK, US, and around the world. You can also download the digital version.

There are also great reads in the issue, such as the artist interviews with legend Horiyoshi III as well as Marco Galdo and Max Pniewski.  And giveaways, including my Black & Grey Tattoo box set!!  Grab the mag for more info.

marisa head tattoo480.jpgFreshly inked head tattoo by Tim Kern.

06:42 PM
 tattoo condom.pngArt. Sex. Safety. Cash....

Naturally, Graphic Armor's Tattoo Condom Design Contest caught my attention. But what really made me post the contest on this blog is Graphic Armor's tagline, "We are changing the way the world looks at condoms by changing the way condoms look!"  I think that's important, especially after reading recent stats from the US Department of Health, stating that "over one in eight high school students did not use any contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy during their last sexual intercourse."

Make condoms fun. Keep people safe. Considering that the professional tattoo industry holds health and hygiene at utmost importance, this way of engaging the community is a good fit.

The contest was recently launched and is open to all, not just tattooers and designers. Voting is also open to all. As Graphic Armor notes, "The top three designs, as determined by the voting public, will be printed directly on our approved premium latex condoms for sales and distribution around the planet." Yup, the planet. Here's what else they say on their site:

The winning designers' names will appear on all packaging, including the condom itself!  In addition, the top three winners will get:

1st Place - $1000 plus 200 Tattoo Condoms

2nd Place - $500 plus 100 Tattoo Condoms

3rd place - $250 plus 50 Tattoo Condoms

Voting is open to until 10/6 at 8:00pm (EST) and the winners will be announced on 10/7 at 8:00pm (EST).

Details on how to enter are here.

Already there are some great designs to vote on -- all submitted so far by tattoo artist Pat Fish, known for her Celtic artwork, which she plays with in her condom design. Pat's work has been getting a bunch of votes, so if you're thinking of entering, best to do it sooner than later.

Having no drawing/design skills at all, I won't be entering BUT I did order some condoms with the Needles & Sins logo, which I'll be giving out soon to readers to share the love.
03:08 PM
body-electric-tattoo.jpg1-Alex-Binnie-hand-hate.jpgArt work above by Alex Binnie.

On September 18th, the highly anticipated "Body Electric" exhibit at the Ricco Maresca gallery in NYC will open, featuring the fine art work of a stellar roster of tattooists, who include Saira Hunjan, Jef Palumbo, Duke Riley, Noon, Nazareno Tubaro, Amanda Wachob, Jacqueline Spoerle, Colin Dale, Scott Campbell, Peter Aurisch, Chuey Quintanar, Horiren First, Alex Binnie, Minka Sicklinger, David Hale, Stephanie Tamez, Virginia Elwood, and Yann Black.

The show is guest curated by the wonderful Margot Mifflin, author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo (and my co-conspirator in recent lectures, including Women's Ink). In her essay, "Visionary Tattoo," Margot writes that "tattooing has sprung free in the new millennium, liberated by artists who combine fresh concepts, holistic design, and masterful technique in thrillingly original styles." It is this "new generation of conceptual trailblazers" whose work Margot and the Ricco Maresca gallery have chosen to display in "Body Electric." Margot further writes:

The visual art featured here reflects their tattoo sensibility--the next best thing to showcasing the living canvases that bear their designs. They hail from around the globe: In Lucerne, for example, Jacqueline Spoerle uses Swiss folk motifs in lyrical silhouettes perfectly suited to tattoo's inherently graphical nature. In Los Angeles, Chuey Quintanar takes fine line black and grey portraiture to a new level of grace and power. New Yorker Duke Riley's maritime narratives betray a blush of nostalgia through strong line work and meticulous cross-hatching. In Argentina, Nazareno Tubaro blends tribal, Op Art, and geometric patterns in flowing compositions that embrace and complement human musculature. And in Athens, Georgia, David Hale, a relative newcomer, folds the curvilinear lines of Haida art into his folk-inflected nature drawings.

The exhibition includes a selection of flash art spanning the late 19th to mid-20th century. These pieces, many by titans of the trade--George Burchett and Sailor Jerry Collins among them--represent the keystone style of Western tattoo tradition and the semiotic conventions that define it, from hearts and anchors to pinups and crucifixes. Conveying both the charms and limits of these pioneers, they offer a baseline for understanding the evolution of tattooing over the course of the past century.
I'm incredibly excited to attend on the 18th, not simply to view the works, but also to spend time with a number of the artists who will be arriving specifically for this exhibit. For one, Nazareno Tubaro of Argentina, one of my most favorite blackwork artists, will be at the show (and he'll also be a guest at Kings Avenue Tattoo NYC from 9-12 to 9-15). In addition to those artists whose work is on display, I hear many more will come to celebrate the opening. I hope you'll join us as well.

8-Horiren-First.jpgArt work above by Horiren First.

colin dale art.jpgArt work above by Colin Dale.

07:48 AM
montreal tattoo convention.jpgmikel_tattoo sangha.jpgPhotos above from the Montreal Tattoo Convention by David Wong.

Tattoo stories in the news this past week included a number of profiles on great artists as well as some interesting features on the intersection of tattoos and economics. Here's the run down:

So, all my social media feeds were blowing up with photos and dispatches from this weekend's Montreal Tattoo Convention. In fact, as I'm typing this, photos are still streaming from the after party. [These days, "after party" for me is a cheeseburger post Zumba class.] For a look into the success behind the show, the Montreal Gazette profiled power couple Pierre Chapelan and Valerie Emond, who fully took over the reigns this year in organizing the show on their own. [They had co-organized it with others for the past 11 years.] I particularly liked that they discussed Pierre's experience learning to tattoo from his father Michel, also a highly respected artist.      
For some great shots from the Montreal convention, check David Wong's Flickr photostream, which include the images above of Mikel Tattoo Sangha and Chester Bonnaventure tattooing.

In addition to Pierre, another top artist making mainstream headlines is Pietro Sedda, featured in the Daily Star. Granted, his work is shown under the unfortunate headline, "Freaky faceless tattoos! Is this the world's weirdest ink?" but if that's what it takes to get people's attention to exciting and innovative work, well ... it could be worse. We posted on Pietro last October. You can find his latest work, including the tattoo below, on his site, Instagram, and Facebook.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find in The New Yorker a profile on Scott Campbell, tattooer/artist/designer and more recently wine maker. It's a quick read, but an interesting one. Here's a taste:

At sixteen, he got his first real tattoo (after a small starter skull): a huge purple scarab on his left shoulder. His beloved mother had recently died of cancer, and he'd run away from home to Houston, and "the cultural value of anything was how much it irritated my father"--an oil-company executive. "He'd never get a tattoo, so if I got a tattoo it was a promise to myself to never become like him." Texas yawned at his feet. "Now that I'm about the age he was then--well, if I had to deal with my wife dying, and having two kids to raise, I don't know if I could do it without crawling into the bottom of a bottle, either." (Charlie Campbell says that he quit drinking before his wife died.)

The scarab has become a faded time capsule, but, Campbell said, "I don't regret it, just like I don't regret this guy"--he showed off a primitive chicken head on his shin. "A buddy and I used safety pins to drunkenly tattoo each other in Edward Albee's barn in Montauk, and it came out so bad he tattooed 'Sorry' underneath. It's my worst one, but I find myself looking at it a lot, so maybe it's my best one.

Beyond artist profiles, The Economist wrote about tattoos and
recidivism, that is, how visibly tattooed prisoners tend to find themselves back in jail.  Kaitlyn Harger, a PhD student at West Virginia University, states that employers are less likely to hire those with facial/neck/hand and other visible tattoos, which can lead to recidivism. According to Harger, it can cost $30,000 a year to house one prisoner, and so she argues, "free removal for every prisoner would be sensible economics."  

Finally, in our Needles & Sins Facebook group,
Anna Felicity Friedman pointed to the SF Gate article on the safety risks of tattoo kits, particularly the "Stick & Poke kits," which I wrote about in January. The article also reminds readers that the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks (or these kits). It's my hope that, with all the great features on top tattooers in the news, people will skip the stick & pokes, and go for something safer and artful. 

pietro sedda tattoo .jpg
02:34 PM
stephen james glamour.pngstephen james elle.jpgStephen-James-Tattoos-disrobed.jpgThese days, anyone who is young and has a neck tattoo deems oneself a "tattoo model," often striving to reach the pinnacle of that career choice: being unpaid and naked in a tattoo magazine. There are, however, professional models, who have tattoos, who represent our community wonderfully in high fashion.

One such model is Stephen James, London-born heavily tattooed hotness, who has graced the international covers and pages of Elle, Glamour, Adon, Hedonist ... and countless ad campaigns, including Diesel. [Stephen is repped by Elite Models Barcelona, Supa Models London, I Love Models Milan, and Wilhelmina Models New York.]

One of my most favorite shoots of Stephen is his "Disrobed" feature in Hedonist magazine, shot by acclaimed photographer Darren Black. [I've included images from that shoot immediately above and below.] Darren beautifully captured the model's stunning tattoo work, which is largely created by Ottorino D'Ambra of Milan, who is now based in London. Stephen's tattoos include blackwork Mandalas, and portraits of punk Ian Dury and Salvador Dali.

While I'm excited to see more tattoos in popular fashion magazines, I wish the tattoo artists would be included in the credits, along with the make-up artists, stylists and others involved in the shoot. I had to reach out to Stephen myself on Facebook to find out about his work by Otto. 

See more on Stephen's Instagram and Otto's Instagram.

09:28 AM
savage tattoo.pngHere's some fun mental gymnastics: "Tattoos for Time Travellers," an event at the British Science Festival in Birmingham, England, this weekend will be chatting/debating on the following scenario:

Imagine that we're about to send you back in time. You can't take anything with you (not even your clothes!), but we do have an amazing tattooist, and she'll write or draw anything you want on your body before you go. What information do you need to survive, to thrive, to change the future? Will you be hailed as a genius or burnt as a witch? Use your ink wisely!

, who will be hosting the event, has already gotten some interesting responses via Twitter, which she posted to her Guardian article. When I read about the scenario, the first tattoo that came to mind is "Everyone is equal," a reminder not to fall victim to oppression during humanity's darkest times. [Of course, we still have so much work to do on equal rights today.]  You can tweet your own ideas to @HPS_Vanessa, or just use the hashtag #BSFtattoos.

Beyond "Tattoos for Time Travellers," Vanessa's Guardian article offers some "Tattoos in history" info, and one text she discusses is "The Savage Origins of Tattooing," published in Popular Science Magazine in 1898 by Cesare Lombroso, deemed one of the first criminologists. She writes of his work (with her links included in this excerpt below):

Lombroso became most famous for his theory that criminality is inherent, that it is fixed biologically (we would say inherited, or genetic) and not a consequence of psychological or social factors. Because it was inherited he believed it was possible to judge someone's personality based on their physical appearance - in other words that you could literally see that someone was (or would grow up to be) criminal, or violent, or lustful. Lombroso's theories formed part of a racist eugenics movement which argued that non-white races were inferior to white races - and that you could tell which were more inferior by the slant of their foreheads or the size of their noses. So getting a tattoo was a "savage" act - and when a white European chose to get one this indicated something doubtful in their character, especially if it was a woman. Of course, there were exceptions - both King Edward VII and his son George V had at least one tattoo.

Unfamiliar with "The Savage Origins of Tattooing," I read the article and found it interesting how various forms of tattooing were processed by Lombroso, and how so many of the prejudices conveyed in that 1898 article are still around today. I recommend reading it for that reason, and also the discussion of specific tattoos of those he studied, including illustrations like the one above. You can also read the article on Wikisource.

Oh, and if you do Tweet your ideas for a time traveling tattoo, I'd love for you to cc me on your replies @needlesandsins.
07:10 PM

I came across this wonderful "Tattoo Soldiers" video, via Lal Hardy, in which three heavily tattooed Australian soldiers discuss some of the stories behind their tattoos ... or as the voiceover says, it's a "talk on titivating the torso."  The video title reflects that the film was taken in 1942, and it's interesting how the discussions of one's tattoos -- and the excitement so often behind such talks -- hasn't really changed much.  
09:15 AM
sin in linen henna.jpg
Last week, we began our contest, courtesy of Sin in Linen, in which one lucky reader wins a suite of 100% cotton kitchen linens (apron, oven mitt/pot holder set, dish towel) -- shown above -- and also a set of Valances from their Henna Tattoo product line.

The contest winner was chosen, via, from those who commented on the post in the Needles & Sins Syndicate FB Group, in my Instagram or hit me up @NeedlesandSins on Twitter.

And the winner is ... Nicole Stewart!  Congrats!

For those still hot for those oven mitts and all,
Sin in Linen offers the Henna Tattoo Kitchen Linen Set for just $37 (US).  Also check their variety of patterns -- including other tattoo-inspired decor -- for cool home products.

In addition to
Sin in Linen's online store, you can find them on Facebook & Instagram.

Thanks to all for playing along. More contests to come!

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