March 2009 Archives

12:26 PM
david sena tattoo.jpg
Today marks the one year anniversary of one of my favorite NYC tattoo studios, North Star Tattoo, home to artists Rodrigo Melo and David Sena (whose latest seven deadly sins tattoo is highlighted above).  Both Rodrigo and David swept the tops awards for Japanese and Black Work at the NYC Tattoo Convention and I expect no less this upcoming May as well.

Brian and I will be heading to their anniversary party tonight, which starts at 6pm, and David said that the invite is extended to all Needles and Sins readers. With Jose Cuervo and Ketel One vodka sponsoring the bash, it'll be a great time, and hopefully one I'll remember. Should have pix up on Flickr if we get ambitious.

North Star is located at 74 East 7th street in the East Village.
08:45 AM
I was recently sent on assignment for another magazine that I have the good fortune to wield a pen (um, keyboard) for in defense of the written word. As I was new to this online publication, they sent me an a fool's errand to Williamsburg to cover some hipster love-ins the editors most likely thought below them. It was their loss and my great pleasure as I was blessed to hear the incredible talent of Frank Gratkowski who is, without hyperbole, one of the greatest experimental jazz musicians of this time.

But, not even the mind-opening power of his play could answer the following question for me: What has become of the hipster tattoo? There was a time when walking the streets of Williamsburg was a virtual portfolio viewing of the major tattoo shops, or at least those customizing in Americana work. Each gender-less, unwashed hair, trust fundian was covered in Sailor Jerry style ink, an ironic, albeit quality, nod to a time lost. Cowboys, pirate ships and naval insignia's graced their arms as if some young child's imagination when asked to consider what he wanted to be when he grew up.

pirate.jpgAnd, then, as if in the stroke of a "delete" button, the ink was gone. Perhaps hidden under flannel? Or, tucked into untied work boots? No. Just gone. After attending two PBR-heavy events this Sunday, I saw but one other tattoo besides my own. The Hipster to Ironic Ink ratio was ruined.

What special alchemy do these magicians have? Not only can they turn economically deprived neighborhoods to modern-day Shangrilas but, now, apparently, they can remove ink without surgery? Have I gone completely insane or has anyone else noticed this un-trend?
02:19 PM
rihanna tattoo.jpg
The tattoo news this week has no love for the hippies. Guns, gangstas, ghouls topped the headlines with some juicy body art bits so let's get right to it:

The biggest headline: Rihanna get's a new tattoo -- guns on each side of her rib cage by East Side Ink's Bang Bang. And it turns out it was the tattooist's idea:

"I'm a big advocate of guns. So I said, 'How about a gun?' I printed out a picture of a gun that I thought would look good, and she loved it. We were thinking of putting it on her finger next to her wrist, or on her shoulders. She loved that, but it took away from her face, and you know, she's a CoverGirl, so we couldn't do that! So we put it under her ribs and she loved it. It took about 15 minutes. She didn't complain while I did the tattoo."

C'mon, this has nothing to do with wanting to bust a cap in Chris Brown's ass? Bang Bang says the singer stayed quiet:

"We didn't talk about why she specifically got it. She's a rock. She's just thinking about having a great time now." [Thanks to Jenni for the links!]

In the best tattoo story written by a business mag: 
  Forbes profiles Paul Booth. And it's not bad. I'm not a fan of "The King of Creepy" headline but the article itself was fairly devoid of the usual cliches, and discussed Booth's other projects including plans for a "dark arts" bed and breakfast, preferably at an old Victorian in the woods. Another cool aspect to the article -- albeit very Forbes-ish -- is the photo gallery of Paul's work, which lists the occupation of the wearer and how much he or she paid for the tattoo.

Ed Hardy is also featured in a article and podcast centering around his solo exhibition of his original paintings, prints and drawings at the Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura, CA. Hardy's famed "Dragon Scroll" is the show's centerpiece:  a 500-foot-long scroll painting of 2000 dragons in honor of the millennium and Chinese Year of the Dragon. Interestingly, the article says Hardy "distanced himself" from the clothing brand that bears his name [good thing to stay quiet in light of the law suit] but did say "For me not to have to tattoo and to focus the majority of my time on my personal art -- that to me is like my golden retirement." And well deserved.

Going from the masters to the messes ...

The biggest tattoo "FAILS": The six pack fail and the spelling fail. [Thanks, Brayden.]

In fact, there were a number of spelling fails in the news this week, some with nasty consequences like this one: a Connecticut man pulled a gun on his tattoo artist who misspelled a tattoo then refused to fix it.

Meanwhile, another tattooist who misspelled the name of a couple's son is refusing to fix the mistake, claiming they signed a release. While the release may protect the studio legally, maybe it should take head of the previous story.

[I just wanna know why the tattooers aren't willing to fix their mistakes, guns and law suit threats aside. What happened to responsibility and just not being an asshole?]

01:12 PM

I wanted to share this fabulous video to the fabulous song, San Francisco by Jill Sobule,
which includes footage at Everlasting Tattoo.  Tattooists Mike Davis and Henry Lewis give good face in this video directed by our personal goddess and savior, Margaret Cho.

The record comes out on April 14th. Pre-order it here.

06:45 PM
What follows after this introduction is an interview I conducted with Henry Harris, an Orthodox Rabbi who is the Educational Director of the Aish Center in Manhattan. His credentials in the Jewish world are quite remarkable and it is important to note that he comes from an observant and traditional community.

However, do not allow the term "traditional" (or the beard) to be limiting here. In the midst of this interview process as well as in preceding and follow-up conversations, Rabbi Harris or, as he prefers to be called, Henry proved himself a worldly and thoughtful individual, open to learning just as much as he is to teaching.

Since I first approached him, Rabbi Harris has been respectful of my personal tattoo choices and eager to share his thoughts with a community of curious individuals. There is a lot of misinformation about the Jewish beliefs regarding tattoos. Some of what follows was news to me and I was, personally, corrected of mistakes in my understanding.

Learning is a proud, Jewish tradition and I am happy to be a conduit between the Rabbi and the readers.

Greetings, Rabbi Harris. Let's begin at the ending. If you are tattooed, can you be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

Absolutely. Getting a tattoo in Jewish wisdom is viewed as a no-no, a lack of awe of the masterpiece called our body. It's not grounds for divorce [from Judaism]-- especially not from the Jewish people.

07:10 PM
groucho.jpgMy father always made sure that I had a steady intake of Marx Brothers films when I was a wee lad.  Perhaps he realized that I a "wuss-bag sensitive-artist-in-training" and there was no point in trying to teach me how to throw a football, asthma notwithstanding.  Perhaps he realized that I would wind up angry at everything after puberty and my only saving graces would be punchlines, an arched eyebrow and an audiographic recall of every Bill Hicks recording known to man.  Or maybe he simply understood that life is one giant, fucking joke and if you don't teach your children how to laugh, sing and honk a horn to express their emotions, they'll wind up an emotionally crippled skidmark on the boxer-briefs of higher consciousness. 

Regardless, those Marx boys understood satori... well, maybe not Zeppo, but I can't afford to digress just yet.

Younger readers might anchor this song with The Fisher King, but I first heard Lydia The Tattooed Lady when I saw "Day At The Races" (original song here) back in the era of black and white radio, at my father's urging.  The song had always stuck with me and, as I begin the work on my next two albums, it stood out as a tune worth a session of proper fuckery in my ghetto-fabulous home studio. 

It also didn't help when I discovered that Kermit covered the tune on the 2nd episode of the Muppet Show back in '76, singing to a redheaded circus freak, not unlike our dear hostess.

When you have a bootlegged copy of ProTools, buddies that work in the Food and Beverage industry who keep your bar stocked with 12 year-old scotch and your apartment looks like Guitar Center purged its bowels in an opium den, you have free reign to record songs at 3am. And with that, I leave you with my own shanty-town, sailor-saloon, carny-barker version of Lydia...

Brian Grosz - Lydia the Tattooed Lady
02:09 AM

Visit Matt Hoyle's site to see his collection of portrait photography featuring active sideshow performers and other "circus freaks."

Writers are often told that editing is a far superior skill to actual writing. Most art can learn from this lesson. As these individuals are such unique and interesting characters in their own right, Matt does a terrific job in editing out any photographic editorializing and capturing the naked essence of his subjects. 

These performers are artists, entertainers and individuals who, like tattoo collectors, utilize their bodies in ways beyond the comprehension of normative society. I felt a spiritual and aesthetic kinship to Matt's subjects that I did not realize before being placed face to face with them.
12:00 AM
pig fucker tattoo.jpgWhat started out as a sweet home movie on Daredevil Tattoo's Friday the 13th special ended with co-owner Michelle 'Tarantino' Myles tattooing swine fornicating.

See the video here.

Michelle may appear like the sweet den mother type, but if you request a dumb-ass tattoo, she will not only oblige but will throw in the words "pig fucker" for free -- and even tattoo with her left hand (she's a rightie) for that extra Special Olympics look. And if he's in town, co-owner Brad Fink will cheer you on. Enablers!

The horny hogs were just one of the designs that the Daredevil crew had fun with this past Friday the 13th. See the '13' flash sheet here for other tattoos you should not get.

I loved the Daredevil flash sheet, offered as well, but as Michelle explained on her blog, the designs were too involved and detailed, slowing the artists; so towards the end of the night, they took that sheet down -- they told confused clients that they ran out (!) -- leaving the pigs, flying penises (or is it penii?), and a few safe "13"s to take home.

As always, it was a blast, but the crew is looking forward to some rest until the next 13th special (in November) after these past two months of back-to-back insanity.
03:04 PM
sean herman tattoo.jpg
It's hard to pigeonhole the work of tattooist Sean Herman. In one month he can rock a zombie Laura Palmer portrait to gentleman walrus, with equal adeptness and aplomb.

What is constant is his activism, as evidenced on his blog, so it comes as no surprise that he has volunteered his time to my favorite cause: working to free the West Memphis 3.

On April 3rd, 2009, the auction for tattoo work by Sean will begin. The highest bidder will receive five hours of tattooing valued at $800. The starting bid is $500.

While Sean works at Royal Street Tattoo in Mobile, Alabama, he travels frequently to conventions and guest spots, so it is an amazing opportunity to get top tattoo art and help a most important cause.

I posted a great deal about the WM3 on, but for those new to the cause, here's some background:

"Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin -- all teenagers at the time -- were convicted in 1994 for the brutal murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark. Despite flimsy circumstantial evidence -- the bulk of which centered on the trio's alleged involvement in a Satanic cult -- and a questionable and factually-inaccurate confession extracted from mentally-challenged Misskelley -- the three have been serving stiff prison sentences for over a decade. Misskelley was sentenced to life plus 40 years, Baldwin is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, and Echols -- who was deemed the ringleader of the attacks thanks to his love of black clothing and Metallica -- is currently on death row as he waits for the outcome of his appeals."
You can donate to their defense via or through their online store.

Like on Needled, you'll be reading more updates on WM3 here. As people often judged simply by our tattooed appearances, it's a case that hits close to home for all of us.
10:32 AM
tattoo law.jpgI woke up this morning ready to tackle a monster To Do list and instead have to add another task:  Kick Bobby Fisher's ass.

In his drug-fueled post to criminalize tattoos, Bobby is essentially saying that the greater accessibility of tattooing has led to the loss of magic the art once possessed when it was underground, and also more bad decision-making as they are now so easy to to obtain. [Bad decision-making like giving Bobby a password to blog here?]

To this I say to Bobby and all those bemoaning the lost badassness of tattoo's history: Get the fuck over it.

My first tattoos were "illegal" in NYC. The tattoo ban was not overturned until 1997.  Yes, there were basement apartments to venture to, secret buttons to push and some cloak and daggerness involved  all of which you instantly find less cool when the needle starts buzzing and you're wondering whether the autoclave is working or just used for storage.

You can keep your Hep C, Bobby Fisher.  Give me Barbie dolls in the seat next to me over staph infections.

Legal tattooing also means that artists get to focus on something more important that outrunning (or paying off) cops: the art.

Talk to the old timers of tattooing and they all agree that the level of artistry in the tattoo community has grown exponentially in recent years because of its accessibility. Artists new to tattooing don't have to reinvent the wheel, so they can learn those basics faster and more on to refining and experimenting. The "earning it" may be lost but, in the end, I'll take it if it means I'm walking around as a beautiful work of art.

And speaking of, Bobby ain't running around with scratcher ink. He pays the big bucks for work from one of NY's top studios, NY Adorned, so either he's slingin crack to afford it or is really Bemie Madoff.

And like Bernie, if Bobby wants to go back to the good old days of criminal life, I'll send him the Astroglide to make the transition smoother.   

01:19 PM
Photo of Rockin Rollers Derby by Natalie Ujuk via Londonist.

I know you've been starved of your tattoo news updates from the old times, but please, no Top Model mob behavior please. I appreciate your patience, the way you smile with your eyes, and how you let me talk incessantly about myself ala Tyra, and for this you will be rewarded with an extra-yummy news update. But first, go eat a cookie.

I, for one, prefer beautiful women brawling on skates, like The Broads of London's Rockin Rollers. Check out the fabulous photos of them by Natalie Ujuk on Londonist.

Ok, onto the headlines ...

The biggest news: TATTOO KILLS MAN! Sadly, a UK man died 10 days after his calf tattoo, which had gotten infected, but the cause was actually deep vein thrombosis, when a blood clot traveled to his lung. Granted thrombosis could have arisen from his inactivity in healing the tattoo but that is one of many potential causes. Still, the story will motivate me to get off the couch after my next session.

[Death may be an extreme fear but infections are not uncommon. Read about it here.]

Even the mere fear of infection has sparked a $20-million class action lawsuit in Canada. Lesson here:  no matter how clean your studio, make sure that all your inspections, autoclave spore tests, and associated hygiene practices are in order, not just to protect clients but your studio from suits.

The biggest non-news:  Suicide Girls get bacon bro tattoos at SXSW! My girls at SG are trendsetters as the bacon tattoo is lookin like the new tribal armband.

The biggest dirtbag news:  Roxbury tattooist Jeffrey Dekmar is charged -- for the second time -- with sexually assaulting clients. Read the disgusting details from the arrest report:

"The patron wanting the prayer inked on her skin has alleged that she refused Dekmar's request that she remove her underpants, but that he yanked them down, digitally penetrated her, and then said, 'My bad,' according to an arrest affidavit."

02:38 PM
dallas_136x200.jpgThere has been speculation, promotion, advertisement, rumors and innuendo about a film called Tattoo Jew for quite some time. I assume it to be a documentary describing the lifestyles lived and choices made by the small sub-set of the tattoo community that is Jewish. Awesome! It would be nice to have a frame of reference each time someone asked the "but I thought you couldn't be buried in a Jewish cemetery" question. Further, it would give me the opportunity to voyeuristically gawk at my competition (we all know that tattooing is a full-on, contact, sport).

So, where is this holy grail? What has become of this mecca (is that the wrong choice of words?) of kosher body modification? Has a cabal of rabbis shut it down, fearful it might inspire a larger movement? Has it been hushed by the Hollywood elite fearful of seeing the naked, pricked flesh of the Hebrew Few with Tattoos? I bet the Illuminati is behind it.

Whatever the cause of its delay, I certainly hope it is resolved post haste. In the meantime, enjoy these pictures from their not very recently updated site.

Hey Marisa - Needles and Sins should fund them. I'll ask for a business plan!



02:36 PM

I am going to avoid levying the obvious insults. There really is no need to throw darts and arrows at a pig that is already stuck and bleeding, is there? 

Instead, I'd like to take this opportunity to practice a simplistic form of psychiatry and intellectual, sociological debate. If one goes so far as to consider themselves "superior" to all others, wouldn't one take better care of his appearance? Unless, one is so convinced of their superiority that they can then begin a process of personal degradation confident that they will never reach the "inferior" level of those they compare themselves against. But, if this were the case, then why announce your at all. Wouldn't it be obvious? And, wouldn't our inferior intellect be unable to grasp the ironic diversion and self-mutilation that is your bad tattoos?

Oh, are a dichotomy, wrapped in a contradiction, smothered over with a bloody, pussy ooze of stupidity. Please keep on tattooing yourself, us Jews that do get ink enjoy a chuckle and you provide us with a constant source of amusement.


05:25 PM
please_stand_by.jpgIn case things start to go a little awry this evening at Needles & Sins, please be patient; these are your tax dollars at work (actually, scratch that - apparently our tax dollars are only there to bail out people who were supposed to be managing money in the first place).

So while Marisa is off enjoying the sweet stylings of Stevie Nicks & Co., most of my evening will be spent tinkering with code on the couch alongside my beer-throwing fridge as the Haitian Sensation retouches photos of naked boys and Nina The Cat decides to sharpen her teeth on any exposed and/or tattooed inch of skin in the apartment.  Oddly enough, I see this as a far better forecast than having to hear "Go Your Own Way" at the Garden.

More authors, new design elements and more functionality is on the way.  Bait your breath and wait, my little love-onions...
05:10 PM
hellenic tattoo.jpg
This Saturday, March 21st, in Astoria, NYC, I'll be at Metal Mayhem hard rock and tattoo show at the Stathakion Center -- a place normally reserved for clergy visits, dinner dances and any type of event designed to matchmake nice Greek girls with nice Greek boys. Which is what makes this event so freakin fantastic as there will many in attendance and none of us would ever be considered "nice" by the community standard.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Despite the great tattoo work coming out of Greece -- like this piece by Greek Tattoo Hellenic Stixis who specializes in Hellenic motifs -- acceptance of any type of body art remains largely taboo, especially outside the big cities like Athens or Thessaloniki. So much so, that when I visit my family every summer, I wear long sleeved tees to the beach covering up my arms, back and torso work.

I do this outta respect for my family, but also because those stares are heavy, and often not pleasant. [In any case, covering my tattoos in the sun has kept them looking fresh.]

There is an unbearable heaviness of being Greek and tattooed for reasons that echo back to ancient times when tattooing was used to mark slaves and criminals, considered barbaric and against the perfect body and mind ideal.

But times are changing and tattoo studios there are popping up exponentially.  It's also anticipated that the Third Annual Athens Tattoo Convention will attract even more people this May.

Back in the US, though, the anti-tattoo mentality remains strong among the Greek diaspora, many of whom retain their values and beliefs from the year they immigrated here, which is why this event is pretty bold and pretty awesome:  Greeks and Greek Americans coming outta the closet together undressed and showing off tattooed skin. Can I get an Opa?!

02:14 PM

scottcampbell tattoo.jpgScott Campbell can make a mean tattoo, as shown above, and now he'll be doing it amongst designer cheeses and fancy footwear in the latest Bond Street storefront called The Smile.

Yesterday, Urban Daddy profiled the new cafe/general store/tattoo shop, and by this morning, my Inbox was flooded with forwards of it with a range of critiques, from the positive (tattooing getting couture cred) to the bleak (another nail in the tattoo cool coffin).

What I found most interesting is this Observer article where Scott notes that tattooing at The Smile accommodates his high-end Manhattan clients who don't want to venture to his Williasmburg shop, Saved Tattoo: "Them walking into a tattoo shop is them leaving their turf, their comfort zone, so there's a little bit of hesitancy." [Yeah, I know. The skinny jeans wearing hipsters of BK pose a menacing threat to East Side socilaites.]

Scott is known for being the NY tattooist to celebs but it's his work on us regular schlubs where his A-list work is best demonstrated. Check his portfolio here.
12:47 PM
dow_family.jpgIn all of her time blogging, I have never seen Marisa balk when it comes to shamelessly promoting someone's art, events or merchandise.  However, when she opened this blog to a group-authored format, I'm sure she had no idea the amount of Shameless Self-Promotion of which I'm capable (and I promise to keep my self-aggrandizing personality on frequent Time-Outs in the corner of the other room).

Some of us are old enough to remember when the corner of Rivington and Essex was a decent place to cop black-tar and Latin transvestite prostitutes - rather than the glass-and-steel luxury hotels and condominiums that keep popping up like pimples on high school Picture Day.  But that doesn't mean that you still can't find some blisteringly loud rock and roll in an questionably aromatic basement club in the LES.

So in an effort to gear up for the release of our upcoming album, "From Soil to Shale," my stoner-metal trio, Dogs of Winter, will be taking the Fat Baby stage at 8pm tonight, followed by my old friends in Lucky Ghost

Your attendence is requested and earplugs are suggested.

TONIGHT - MAR 18th - 8pm
Dogs of Winter at Fat Baby
112 Rivington St (at Essex) - NYC
w/Lucky Ghost at 9pm
cover charge: $7

[photo by: Sean Toussaint]

Also, please note that we've added a link in the right column for the Needles and Sins Syndicate on Facebook - so if you're already a member of that glorious, time-sucking social-network, join the Syndicate!
12:04 PM

This Friday, tattoo studio/art gallery hybrid and my second home, Tattoo Culture, is hosting the opening reception for an exciting show featuring photographer -mar-, and street and fine artist Dan Witz (profiled in the above video).

-mar- will present works described in art speak that's best quoted rather than me attempting it:

As a result of her unique vision, her photographs- which juxtapose the human form with bold color, stark contrast and intriguing texture- defy simple definition. Interpreted literally, as a record of an external reality, her images often evoke strong, visceral reactions in the viewer. Upon further reflection, her work is an achingly beautiful, emotional expression of an inner reality.
I love that sexy talk!

For art speak on Dan Witz, check out his feature in the March issue of Juxtapoz magazine. In this show, his fine art work will be on view -- oils and mixed media on canvas. If you can't make it to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, see his gallery work online here. May faves include MoshPit 2001 and Sapphire Lounge II 2008 (a perfect view of my old stompin ground).

The opening reception, March 20th, begins at 7PM until 10PM and is sponsored by Coney Island Lager (whose awesome logo is designed by TC resident artist Dave Wallin).

Hope to see ya there!
12:20 AM
[Editor's Note: Thrilled to have Pat Sullivan blogging here, especially today!]

celtic tattoo.jpgPhoto taken from Pat Fish's Tattoo Portfolio Video.

St. Patrick's Day is here and though it's possible that by the time you read this it may have kicked your ass in a drunken Irish twister of green beer, Clancy Brothers sing-a-long, and maybe a brawl or two, I thought a quick and semi-scattered minute on Ireland and tattoos might be fitting.

Let's start with the inventive Irishman Samuel O'Reilly, who opened up shop on the Bowery in NYC's Chinatown in 1875. O'Reilly modified Thomas Edison's "autographic printer," essentially creating the modern electric tattoo machine that would revolutionize tattooing overnight. O'Reilly later apprenticed Charlie Wagner, one of the most well known (and well documented) tattooists in the good ol' USA who was ingrained in the tattoo-freak-show-New-York of the 1930s and 40s.

Next up is Norman Keith Collins, Sailor Jerry, Old Ironsides himself. Though trying to tie his Collins bloodline to west Cork and Ireland's own Michael Collins is probably impossible, his ancestry is undeniable. Equally undeniable is, of course, Sailor Jerry's influence on the world of tattoo -- now made even more so by the Sailor Jerry brand -- for what he brought to the craft, the artwork and, lets be honest, the 'tude.

Dedicated to keeping the Celtic and Pictish tattoo traditions alive today is tattoo artist Pat Fish aka the Queen of Celt. Working out of Tattoo Santa Barbara in California, Pat Fish has amassed a dense library of designs on what has to be thousands of clients. Her work is amazing and if I happened to live on the other coast, I'd be over there in no time.

Most likely belting out a rebel songs about this time is the crew at Classic Ink Tattoo in Dublin. Though they work with other styles, their traditional ink punches up that old fighting spirit, whether it's a harp, a memorial or just a classy naked lass. I've never met the artists there, but let's just say it's one more reason to get back to Dublin.

So when you raise your glass this St. Paddy's, give a small cheers for those tattooed Irish and Irish Americans who have been part of the story and those who keep the needles buzzing.

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

02:34 PM
I'd like to take the opportunity to apologize to everybody at Dr Sketchy's In Die, Yuppie Scum live drawing event at the Slipper Room Saturday afternoon.

See photos here (not all that work safe).

Yes, I was the one in the back hootin and hollerin at the various sexy poses of the always hot but rarely work safe BellaVendetta and the lovely and agile Syd Bernstein. I get just a tad overzealous when I see the punk porn princess and perhaps took the Fourth Rule of Dr. Sketchy -- "Cheer. Loudly." -- a bit too seriously.

Compare the serious looks of the colored pencil pushers to me and the prize I won: A bright pink Etch-a-Sketch! Weee! Granted, it was awarded for yelling, not drawing, but I came to win, bitches, and as I don't have any artistic talent, I used the audience quiz break to bring home the booty!

3360653382_f815dc387d.jpgThere was, however, a lot of drawing talent in the audience. Even Brian got in on the action although still does not understand why he had to add a "happy carrot" to pose 5. [Bri also did the drawing above.] Evidently, he's yet to learn the mystery of Dr. Sketchy. But he will soon as we plan to attend the next NYC event on March 28th featuring Raquel Reed, and not just for the free cupcakes!

Speaking of delish cupcakes, Sketchy's Don Diva Molly Crabapple was not in attendance because she was educating the masses at SXSW. You'll be reading more about Molly here when Scarlett Takes Manhattan, her first graphic novel, drops soon.

Meanwhile, buy the book that had me fall in love with her in the first place: Dr. Sketchy's Official Rainy Day Colouring Book.
01:57 PM
pierced hearts and true love"The tattooist is almost a fairy-tale figure, hovering in his gloomy, weirdly decorated and mysterious little shop like some grotesque but bewitching hermit ..."

Such a description -- one befitting many of my tattooer friends today -- was written in 1953 by Hans Ebenstenin in what Time magazine called "a short, bright book":  Pierced Hearts and True Love. That old review started out with this rhyme:

By electrical means, without pain
Your pure epidermis may gain
From head unto heels -- the idea appeals
Decorations of which you will be vain

I came across Pierced Hearts and True Love via SOI 13 Books based out of Thailand. SOI 13 is a project by C. Wirzman, who tracks down "rare and unusual" books on tattooing and offers them at reasonable rates for resale on his site. I did a price comparison of Pierced Hearts and True Love for example, and SOI 13 did have the lower rate, prompting me to share this online shop with y'all even though the book titles are limited and you'll probably buy up all the ones I want before I get to them.

Other books include Irezumi, The Pattern of Dermatology Dermatography written by W.R. van Gulik, the son of a Netherlands ambassador; Tattoo World, written in Hebrew by Sailor Mosko; and a number of titles on traditional Thai tattooing.

Also on the SOI 13 site, Wirzman excerpts fiction and non-fiction writing on tattooing in his Content section. Here's a taste from The Tattooer, which is the featured text online now:

Visitors to the pleasure quarters of Edo preferred to hire palanquin bearers who were splendidly tattooed; courtesans of the Yoshiwara and the Tatsumi quarter fell in love with tattooed men. Among those so adorned were not only gamblers, fireman, and the like, but members of the merchant class and even samurai. Exhibitions were held from time to time; and the participants, stripped to show off their filigreed bodies, would pat themselves proudly, boast of their own novel designs, and criticize each other's merits.

Bookmark SOI 13 for an update on their book sales and clips of tattoo texts.

09:50 AM
tattooedportraits.jpg Painting from Shawn Barber's Tattooed Portraits Series

Today I took a vow of poverty for the next few months to finish my two tattoo-related books and get this site running on an even buzz, but that doesn't mean I plan on sitting home with my ramen and tippin the box wine every night.

Plenty of events going on around the world and I got my faves for the month right here:

First up, in LA next Tuesday, March 17th, the infamous Mark Mahoney of the Shamrock Social Club presents his annual St. Patty's Bash at the Roxy Theater featuring The Pricks and tattooed man-whore Mickey Avalon ["For twenty you get Chachi but fourty gets you Fonzie..."]. You can buy your tickets online for $21.50 at Ticketmaster. Doors open at 8pm. Shamrock Tattoo is also doing $25 shamrock tattoos all day and night Tuesday.

Next up, in Tampa, Florida, March 21st, our beloved Shawn Barber will be showing his Tattooed Portraits series at the RedLetter1 tattoo studio and art gallery (home to mega-talented Phil Holt). The show includes recent works and selected pieces from the past three years. The opening is from 7-11PM and is free to all. Then the next day, Sunday, March 22nd, Shawn will be doing a demo in the gallery where seasoned painters, aspiring artists, and art groupies can witness and learn Shawn's creative process. Admission to the demo is $100. [For a great interview with the artist, check his Fecal Face Q&A.]

While you're in Tampa, head to the 10th Annual Tampa Bay Tattoo Fest the following weekend, March 26-29. What's particularly interesting about the show is their $5 Thursday event. From 6-11PM, you can check out artists' portfolios, talk with them about work you'd like, and hopefully make an appointment -- leaving plenty of time for actual tattooing Friday through Sunday. I think it's a great idea but keep in mind that top artists usually book their shows in advance, so it's often better to plan further ahead. Check the artist list here.

Finally, in NYC, I'm gonna see if I can schedule a sexy Saturday afternoon to drool draw Bella Vendetta [not work safe] (yes, one of the Burning Angel porn goddesses), who is the featured model for Dr. Sketchy's Anarchism vs Capitalism event at The Slipper Room. The live drawing takes place from 4-7PM on the 14th, and admission is $12 at the door, $10 in advance. You must bring your own art supplies (and tissues).

PS: If you're in Bridgeport, CT tonight, check out Brian Grosz playing at Two Boots at 9PM.

02:43 PM
In case you missed my last Needled entry on tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak, I'm posting info on his new, wonderful show Tattoo Hunter, which airs on the Discovery Channel.

Check this week's episode, Saturday at 1PM, where Lars "treks deep into the jungles of Indonesia in search of the spirit tattoo of the Mentawai tribe."

Read about his fascinating experience online. Here's a taste:

[...] another way the Mentawaians keep their souls "close" is by beautifying the body. Individuals, be they male or female, who neglect their bodies by not keeping them beautiful with beads, flowers, sharpened teeth, and especially tattoos will cease to be attractive to their souls. In such cases, the soul may decide to leave its human host and roam about the body free. But if the soul does not return to its home, it may decide to withdraw to the ancestral world at which point that person must die.

The following episode airs March 21st at 1PM and finds Lars in the remote mountains of the Philippines in search of the tattoo of the Kalinga head hunters. A must see!

Tattoo Hunter is not the only tattoo travel show. Coming this Spring ... Tattoo Highway.

Ok, I know it's unfair to juxtapose a show that has a tattoo scholar offering culture, history and adventure against one where a "reality tv star" travels across America in his mobile tattoo parlor called "Ministry of Ink." But it has potential to be the fruity dessert to a meaty dish. Here's a taste of what you'll find there:

The tattoos viewers will see Pendelton create this season include a memorial portrait created from the ashes of a man's wife mixed with ink; a tattoo that can only be seen under a black light; a giant gorilla riding a scooter, and a pair of matching eggplants.

They had me at the memorial done with ashes but, yeah, lost me at the gorilla and eggplants. Really?

06:23 PM
Signore Alighieri somehow managed to forget a ring of hell - or perhaps it was simply a footnote in Purgatory - but there is a special place that prospective real estate buyers go to experience all kinds of torment by way of fire, fecal matter, litigation and improper chiropractic adjustments.  And that, as they say, is "The Good Part."

But personal issues and a horrifying economic recession aside, I'm glad to announce that we're still progressing with changes here at Needles and Sins.  You'll find that all authors are now linked to profile pages that will display their last five entries and a wealth of information and links that will keep you amused for approximately 20 seconds.  We've added Twitter feeds to the right-column.  We're still working on logo development and, as we continue get contributions from other writers, the navigation is bound to change.  I would also find it very hard to say that there won't be new T-Shirts and swag abound in the coming weeks.

I have to go meet my publicist at a burlesque club in Chinatown, but I would be remiss to not point you towards some video footage from Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes, you just get really mad at Will Shortz after a couple of bloody marys and need to destroy some home furnishings.

01:11 PM
I was looking to download new photo apps for my iPhone yesterday and there was this tattooed baby staring me down, taunting me like a tattooed Barbie doll. So, like I did with Babs, I bought it. I will fork over $1.99 for you, dear reader, so you don't have to should the app suck. The problem is that I'm totally on the fence as to the suckage of this app, so let me list the pros and cons and you can decide.

First, Sonic Boom created the Tattoo Shop app for all phones supported by AT&T, Alltel, Sprint, and Verizon. This is a plus in itself. My review, however, is based on how it worked on my iPhone. Here goes:


  • Not the biggest con but my biggest pet peeve is that ad language that sears my eyes as I read things like "show off your tats" or "legit ink." Seriously, I almost didn't download it for that outta principle. I liken the lingo to grey-haired CNN correspondents proclaiming "That's how we roll" when offering political analysis. None are cool.

  • Ok, now the biggest problem: the choice of artwork or lack thereof -- and I use "artwork" almost facetiously. SonicBoom partnered with flash peddlers but instead of loading up on, say, the cool Bob Tyrrell and Tim Creed commercial designs, the app finds itself heavy on the old Cherry Creek-styled jammies -- aka tribal armbands abound and pin-ups with big 80s hair.

  • But maybe that's a pro. I do silently long for that Pam Anderson in Barb Wire look. The prob: the cheez is limited. There's just not enough designs to have a lot of fun with. While there are a bunch of categories like "Girl Stuff" [gag!] and "Pride" [huh?], the same designs show up over and over again. And don't get me started on how they decided what constitutes stuff for girls anyway.

  • Finally, the leafy panties on the female belly skin is just disturbing. It looks like lettuce is growing from her vulva to her waist. It did make me hungry for a nice Greek salad though. [They offer sample skins if you don't want to use your own photos. Check the screenshots on their tattoo app page.]


  • The coolest thing about the app: using your own photos or being able to take one on the spot. I shot my non-tattooed sis to let her see what she's look like with a Tyson tribal on her face.
tattoo shop app test
  • Also, the lettering tattoos available are pure fabulousness. That's what I end up playing with the whole time. Lots of tattoo-inspired fonts to chose from in different colors. [I just took this crappy self-portrait to show you one of my faves.]
  • The layers feature makes cleaning up mistakes (and fixing certain "tats" without affecting all) super easy.
  • Especially for the iPhone:  Being able to move and resize designs with just a few taps and pinches is sexy.
  • And speaking of, the six packs on the sample boys' bellies are a def pro! slurp.

For almost two bucks, it's not bad for tons of ironic fun. You decide.
12:47 PM
...from the desk of the Code Monkey in Residence.

After a solid few days of battling Movable Type modules and Stygian Snow-Elf templates on the icy cliffs of Hypetextian Mountain range, I have returned... battle-scarred and suffering from PTCS (Post-Traumatic Coding Syndrome), but triumphant in the quest for Promethean Flame a working blog. **

I welcome you all to the new and encourage you to report any bugs you find in the comment section of this post.  I still have more content/modules to add to what you see here, but suggestions for that kind of thing are also welcome.

** (Somebody please help me before I make another nerdy sub-reference worthy of a Gary Gygax publication.  Call Dr. Drew and have him meet me at the gentleman's club - I need a geek intervention of the highest magnitude)
02:06 PM


My tattooed brethren, we're fucked.

We've grown to accept the reality shows, trucker hats, and even tattooed blogging lawyers, but the final nail in the tattoo cool coffin is drillin down like a kitchen table scratcher in his meth trailer.

Behold: Totally Stylin' Tattoos Barbie. [They left off the 'g,' coppin' my "writin' voice."]

And yes, I really did purchase it from Amazon.

Maybe it was the "tattoo gun" that lets us pretty up our own bods as well as Barb's. Maybe it was the kicky outfits, perfect for the Mattel-sponsored tattoo convention. Maybe it was because it pisses off conservatives.

More likely, my motivation is to keep a bit of today's Americana to look back upon when the "trend" -- granted a trend for thousands of years -- passes.

Plus, I really don't find tattooed Barbie as offensive as other coffin nails.

Let's list them:

Ok, if you got ya own death knell for tattoo cool, throw it down in the comments section.

10:45 PM
Photos by Sean Toussaint taken at the Philly Con.

I was gonna wait till the fabulous Brian Grosz finished coding the new Needles and Sins site before I posted (he came outta web design retirement for this!), but I was so excited with the extensive and excellent photos of the Philadelphia Tattoo show by Sean Toussaint that I just couldn't wait!

See Sean's photos of the convention on Flickr.

Sean, Brian and I battled hangovers Sunday morning and made our way to Philly to catch the last day of the convention there, which boasted some great artists in attendance, informative seminars and a fine art component. Yes, we were feelin pretty fancy despite our recession-necessary bus ride over. Ok, maybe we did wanna see a little sexy hair pulling between Suicide Girls, God's Girls and Gypsy Queens but I assure you it was largely about the "highbrow" and "tattoo couture."

Upon arrival, impressed with the multi-level set-up at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center, we decided to make our way through the show, floor by floor, starting with Bloody Marys in the lobby bar. But -- as has been the case in the past -- some asshole pulled the fire alarm. The convention was evacuated and hoards of tattoorati crowded outside shivering. There, Sean began his photographic quest with so much charm and flare that people stripped down further in the cold for the Haitian Sensation.

[In the interest of full disclosure, Sean and I have lunch dates where we practice the choreography of Beyonce videos, so yeah, I have a fag hag crush on him.]

Moving on ...

philly-tattoo2When we were finally allowed back into the building, we were shortly treated to a biker brawl, which was almost immediately quashed by an army of cops.

And where did said army come from?

Well, they were already there to keep things safe as Vice President Joe Biden shmoozed around Philly and found himself at the Sheraton. The VP did not get tattooed; however, rumor has it that he was jumped into the Pagans.

The two-minute gang war took place outside the tattooing areas, so the buzzing went largely unbothered. When the cops finally cleared, I was able to watch someĀ  stellar tattoo work being done, like tattooist Dave Wallin taking a break to get traditional Japanese hand poke tattooing by Bunshin Horitoshi; or North Star's David Sena working non-stop on hisĀ  signature "angry black" tattooing; or even my Brooklyn buddy Jaz doing black and grey portraiture.

My favorite part of conventions is being introduced to great artists whose work I havent come across before like Christian Masot of Silk City Tattoo in New Jersey. What was most impressive about Christian was how his clients sang his praises repeatedly, not just for the artistry but for the man he is, and I think that's so important, especially when spending hours on end with someone poking ya. You should at least like the person right? Or are we all just snobby tattoo sluts?

In fact, there were A LOT of new artists doing amazing work with just a few years under their belts. Such is the state of fine art tattooing these days, and while many need to lose a bit of the immature rock star divaness, I'm not gonna complain after seeing many beautiful works of art walking around the show.

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