July 2009 Archives

11:31 AM
seoul tattoo.jpg
Will have a double tattoo news review for you Monday as I've been working through the proofs  (all 500 pages) of my book on blackwork this week, but I wanted to highlight two news stories that I particularly enjoyed:

The GlobalPost's look at tattoo culture in South Korea today and a look back on the forefathers of American tattoo culture on The Selvedge Yard.

Jiyeon Lee's photos and story of underground tattooing in Seoul reminded me a lot of my own first tattoos when the art was still illegal in NYC (it was legalized in 1997). Lee paints a picture of studios with "dark tunnel-like entrance with graffiti covered walls" that are found only after the "proper" steps are taken, which are set out: "first you run a search on the web, then you hook up with a tattooist who will guide you to a nondescript space, and finally you sit down for the illegal procedure."

[No Internet searches and hook-ups back in my day. I also walked miles without shoes in the snow to get tattooed.]

In South Korea today, only those with a medical license, like Kwon Yong-hyun pictured above, can legally tattoo, but with the increasing popularity of tattooing -- in part thanks to tattooed soccer stars that played at Seoul's 2002 World Cup -- tattooists believe that regulation of the art is in the near future.

paul rodgers tattoo.jpgWith tattoo culture budding in South Korea, I enjoyed the juxtaposition of The Selvedge Yard's
look back on the evolution of American tattooing with a tribute to "Cap" Coleman and Paul Rodgers in their "forefathers of tattooing" post. Thanks to Jake for that link.

The post is a fantastic collection of stories and archival photos of the tattoo parlors and the sailors and sideshow stars that frequented them. My favorite image is of a service woman getting tattooed in the 50s, surrounded by other female soldiers.

Many of the photos and other tattoo memorabilia were amassed by Paul Rodgers over the 60 years he tattooed; he had a stroke on that 60th tattoo anniversary and died two years later. In 1993, Chuck Eldridge, Ed Hardy, Alan Govenar and Henk Schiffmacher (Hanky Panky), created the Paul Rogers Tattoo Research Center to house the collection. That collection moved from Chuck's original Tattoo Archive home in San Francisco to where it is now in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Chuck said:

"If we can't find a building here,we'll take the collection back to North Carolina. It's where Paul came from and would be the right thing to do. It would be like taking Paul home."

They did just that. Learn more about the research center here.

The rest of the news will be up Monday. Have a great weekend!
02:00 PM

I had a chance to talk to Miya Bailey at the Tattoos For a Cure Convention in Los Angeles back in April. Miya, with Tuki Carter, have built Atlanta's City of Ink Tattoo into a household name in the city, and garnered a well deserved rep beyond. Here's how the conversation went...

miya bailey tattoo2.jpg
How long have you been tattooing?

I've been tattooing since '93.

How did you start out, was it an organic process?

It started out, first, because of poverty. I was living in the projects. I had a baby. I was a father. I was really trying to make a way for my children.

So what I did, like anybody from the hood, I started to do it the home way, but I knew I couldn't get past hood money doing it that way. I knew I was a businessman by nature so I decided to follow the right path and get an apprenticeship, which was hard in the early '90's -- it was '93 so trying to find an apprenticeship took a long time. I researched a couple of shops and ended up West End Tattoo.

How did you choose that shop?

I wasn't choosing it. I went down the phone book in alphabetical order and was denied down to the W's.

How long was your apprenticeship?

Almost 3 years. From Julia [Alponsio, formerly of West End], I learned the aspects of sterilization, professional tattooing and also the business aspect. I believe that you can be a talented artist, but if you have no business sense, you're not really going to make it.

How did your experiences as an apprentice affect how you choose your apprentices now?

My apprenticeship was hard. For my shop, I like competition; everyone wants to feel that they are the best artist. The way to prove that you're the best artist is to outdo the next person. That's what I try to instill in my apprentices.

Tuki and I learned tattoo from bikers, old school bikers, so we had to learn the traditional way and learn the aspect of old school biker culture. The shop was run by the Outcasts Biker gang.

The owner of the shop was female property of the Outcasts Biker club; therefore, everyone in the club was our boss, her husband was our boss also. So we learned and worked a lot.

I assume these were white boys?

When I lived in Asheville, NC, I tattooed mostly white clientele. When I moved to Atlanta, which is a mostly black city, I tattooed all blacks. The actual truth is the Outcasts Biker Gang is a black biker gang. Atlanta is a chocolate city.

I didn't have much experience tattooing white skin until I started to develop my own style in the early 90s. A lot of people don't know this but I was into the Gothic style, you know, zombies and dark imagery.

This was the era of Paul Booth, and anything that Paul Booth was doing at the time, everyone followed.

Let's talk about your inspiration for painting as well. What came first: the tattooing or the painting?

I've been drawing all my life. I'm an illustrator first; I've been doing illustrations since I was a kid. The earliest drawing I have is from '79 -- it's recognizable, you can tell what it was even though I was young. I started painting in '97, and professionally tattooing in '94.

miya bailey art.jpg

Is there any connection between your painting and your tattooing?

No, with tattooing I have to listen to someone else's ideas and be inspired by them. I have a lot of clients who say, "I just want you to do anything," but you can't really just do anything. I might be in the mood to do a bunny rabbit on somebody, you know, then they are like "I didn't have that in mind." So you have to see the personality -- it has to spark something in me; I have to be inspired by the client. They have to move me some way.

In painting, I'm not thinking about business. In tattooing, I'm thinking about mass appeal -- how other tattooists are going to react to the tattoo. I'm thinking of everyone else except myself. In painting, I'm only thinking about myself, not about sales, the message. I'm not worried about anything; it's just a free flowing of my life and my culture. The life I live, that's my paintings. I see painting as my vacation from tattooing.

I look at tattooing as more as more of a 50/50 of business and art. In painting, I take the business aspect out of it: it's raw pure art.

In Atlanta do you have a lot of contact with other artists? Is there a lot of collaboration.

The tattoo shops really don't collab because of the business aspects to it, but the artists know each other. The tattoo community in Atlanta is pretty close knit. We're cool with the shop that me and Tuki started in. We're cool with all of our apprentices. We paid our dues, we didn't burn any bridges, and we didn't step on anybody's toes. We created our own lane, so everybody gotta have to respect that, unless you're just a real hater. We are cool with all the artists that come to our art shows.

So you have art shows at the City of Ink?

It's an art gallery first and foremost. We do a new show every month. The next is the Corey Davis solo show.

We open up to anybody; we're the only art gallery in Atlanta that doesn't ask for a percentage of the sales. Our goal is to really start a movement where the artists can make money and stop undercutting other artists. My number one goal is to show that artists can be millionaires.

The more freedom you have, the better artwork you have. A lot of times, when an artist is not worried about paying that phone bill, that power bill, you can create what's real and what's raw. In Europe, they respond to artists; they pay artists to be artists. In America, the lack of art is really bad.

Quincy Jones said we don't have an ambassador of arts and music. I think we need one.


In Atlanta is there a black tattoo scene?

We are the black tattoo scene, period. We got another couple of artists, but they all started from one shop. The Atlanta tattoo culture started in West End [...] It's changing now, but in the early 90's, there were no other black shops in Atlanta.

What are the specific considerations when your tattooing black people?

Personally, I think it's totally opposite than tattooing white skin -- it's a completely opposite thing. It's like going to any beauty salon: a white woman would get a perm one way, a black woman will get a perm a different way. You can't use the same methods you would when your tattooing white skin.

If you're a tattoo artist and you master black skin, you can easily move over to white skin. But just because you're good on white skin, doesn't mean you can do just anything on black skin. It's surgery and art, 50/50.

Are there any colors you stay away from?

No, I don't believe in that color thing. You know how they say black skin is limited in colors, but no, it's all about how you slow down -- and who's training you. You know we learned through trial and error at City of Ink. Every artist, we master each color one at a time. The same way you apply yellow, you wouldn't apply purple; the way you apply greens, you won't apply reds. We learn each color in.

On white skin, you can work a lot of colors the same way. On black skin, if you're using yellow, you have to ease up a little bit. A lot of people think you have to drill it in, but if you soften up a little bit, you might have a better result.

So it's about tuning your machine as well?

Fine tune your machine and you're good to go. That's what it's about. Your tattoo machine and working the inks that you got. It's not all about the name brand of the ink and all this stuff. It's all about who's training you and how you take your time doing it.

Then it's a longer time to put the tattoo in, you can't rush through it?

You can't rush through it because it will show. It will show.

miya bailey tattoo.jpg

We talked about the art, now let's talk about the business of tattooing. Many tattoo artists aren't as organized as you are or have your managerial skills. Do you put a lot of thought into this?

I'm really big on leadership, and I'm really big on business. When me and Tuki were putting City of Ink together, my mind state was Barry Gordy, you know how Barry Gordy put Motown together. He groomed his artists, he showed them how to market, he showed them how to dress, he showed them everything.

Tuki is a fashion icon in Atlanta, and he started a whole culture of how people dress in Atlanta. So I thought that would be a good way to market our artists, with a little of Tuki's fashion sense to give an image to the shop. With that image, you can promote it.

With us its not just an [art] apprenticeship about tattoos, we teach all aspects of business. Number one: it's about business. Number 2: it's about appearances and how you carry yourself. A lot of people don't know that we all had dreadlocks, we were all wild. That image scared a lot of people off, so we decided to all cut our hair off. It was a business decision.

We changed the location. We changed the name of the shop [previously, Prophet Art]. People were scared of the word "prophet" so we changed it to City of Ink, based on the movie City of God.

You fine tuned your business model to the masses.

To promote it there is nothing wrong with that; to me, tattooing is commercial now anyway. I didn't want to make it so commercialized that other tattoo artists got mad at me but I wanted to do it before another shop did.

The number one thing is that you tattoo because you love it, but you still have to make money.

We are learning as we go; we haven't mastered everything yet, but we haven't reached a million dollars yet either. We want to inspire other people in other cities that you can be an artist and not be a "starving artist." We want to destroy that whole image of the starving artist. I think artists should make the same money as athletes. We use our minds and bodies. I just think we should make more money than football players and basketball players. That's just my opinion.

What is next for City of Ink?

Next is dropping this Hollyweerd album. It's Tuki and his group. It's a whole culture, it's a lifestyle, it's music, it's fashion, it's art, it's business -- it's all these aspects of being free, and freedom is our number one message.

Related Websites
Miya Bailey's Blog
City of Ink Myspace Page
City of Ink Website
Tuki Carter's Blog
Vimby Video of Hollyweerd

11:08 AM
I'm feeling the pressure of the recession, so to combat it, I'm immersing myself in art shows where my money troubs are pushed aside and I can dive into wild worlds of vastly different imaginations. And yes, it helps that the booze is free as well.

The wildest in NYC are often found at Last Rites Gallery, where this Saturday, August 1st, another sinister show opens entitled New Breed.

Working with the thread of mortality, dark sexuality, beauty and ugliness, the group exhibit features ten artists who have never shown before at the gallery: David R. Choquette, Shay Davis, Mickey M Edtinger, Paul Gerrard, Charlie Immer, Sara Antoinette Martin, Richard Meyer, Reuben Negron, Chris Peters, and Kurt Wiscombe.

In many, you'll also see the influence of tattoo imagery, for example, in the comic grotesque oil paintings of Richard Meyer, in the graphic acrylics of emerging artist Sara Antoinette Martin (see preview/in progress photos here), and in the lush, seductive drawings of renowned tattoo and fine artist Kurt Wiscombe of Winnepeg, Canada (whose tattoo work is a must view).

The opening begins at 7 and runs until 11. And again, the only price of admission -- considering the venue -- is your soul.
11:40 AM
A lot has been going on at DareDevil Tattoo in NYC's Lower East Side: an in-studio marriage proposal (read the fun story here), bosslady Michelle Myles tattooed the hotness of Dean Winters (who will always be my badboy crush, Ryan O'Reily, of OZ fame), and the amazing Terry Ribera is now a regular guest artist (read his Prick Q&A here).

One of the bigger deals in the studio is the addition of well respected piercing boutique Le Roi.
And to celebrate, this Friday at 7pm, they'll be having a gallery show featuring artwork inspired by, naturally, devils and lions.

Hope to see y'all there!
11:25 AM
In further proof that racist tattoos are an inevitably bad choice, Sean 'Crazy Cracker' Roberts has been apprehended after a home invasion. The self-admitted mental matzoh, the wacky wafer, had both the outline of Florida tattooed under his eye and the words "Crazy Cracker" tattooed on his head. 

It is these rare moments where I bow to the higher, spiritual forces and admit that I am not good enough to make more fun of this man than the fates have already conspired to do for me. 

Instead, I open it up to you, dear readers. Whoever comes up with funniest one-liner about this gentleman wins some Needles and Sins tzotchkes that I am currently e-mailing Marisa about and asking her to make available. 

Good Luck!

[It's a recession. I only have stickers. -- MK]
06:48 PM
While the exact month and year escapes me, I distinctly remember beginning work on my Bedlam Nights album at 51 Lions Studio in Quincy, MA.  The studio was run by a bunch of my old Boston pals (guys who had played in The Sharking, Kicked In The Head, The Street Dogs, Big D and The Kids Table and Random Acts of Violence) and I will jump at any chance to get out of my NYC element in order to buckle down and work - especially if it's a sweltering carriage house that nearly mandates nudity when tracking vocals.

Towards the end of my first day of tracking I met Hooker, the brilliant guitarist from Random Acts... who, at the time, looked like Zakk Wylde without a healthy diet of anabolic steroids.  He and another housemate had just arrived on their Harleys and a third housemate said, "Hey, My friend Gina wants to ride with you guys... you'd like her!  Real cool, killer body..."

"Nah," Hooker said, opening a beer.  "I only like fat chicks with sloppy tits."  And with that he walked out of the room without even acknowldeging my presence, leaving me to giggle about that exchange for the next few months.  Hooker was A-fucking-OK in my book.

So thanks to the miracle that is FaceSpace, I realized that Hooker had moved down to North Carolina and had basically traded in shredding Gibsons for dabbling with oil painting.  And while I was initially drawn in by a blog post about his Rising Sun shoulder-cap tattoo, what really caught my eye was his plan to turn the garage's beer fridge into an homage to Eddie Van Halen's 5150 Strat.

(So if that kind of DIY, psuedo-white-trash reportage photography doesn't inspire you to click through to a blog post, let me just inform you that it also contains the sentence  "I went over to Food Lion to buy beer to eat for dinner."  Eat your heart out, Bukowski.)

hooker2.jpg Yes, Virginia, this is what happens when people with an unhealthy obsession with 80s metal do in their spare time.  And while I have no love whatsoever for the ouvre of Van Halen, I would be proud to walk to my garage to remove a beer from this piece of folk-art (or even just to have a separate fridge dedicated for beer in the first place).

Seriously, Hooker is one of those cats that I hate.  He bucks the "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" title by, well, mastering nearly everything he lays his hands on (excluding sobriety and good manners, of course). 

Definitely check out his blog and his oil paintings for sale, including a great series of "meat paintings" and, my favorite piece, the Tom Waits portrait pictured to the right. 

Buy it quick before I do.

PS - for $50, he'll do this to your fridge in Randy Rhodes polka dots, a Zakk Wylde bulls-eye or the Stryper-style bee stripes.

08:56 AM
In early May, I wrote about Geoff Ostling, a 65-year-old retired teacher from Australia who pledged to donate his full bodysuit -- which he calls "All the Flowers of a Sydney Garden" -- to the National Gallery in Canberra.

Click here for an extensive slideshow of that beautiful suit.

While the press was focused on logistics like taxidermy, legal bequests and funeral arrangements, the artist who created the work was largely relegated to a short quote, despite the 20 years of work put into it.

That artist is eX de Medici.

Since the 1970s, eX de Medici has been painting, photographing, and performing; she began tattooing in the 90s. Her work has been exhibited in Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, among many others.

Indeed, it's her fine art that has garnered her the most press and accolades in her native Australia and abroad, despite the hype around her tattoos possibly hanging in a museum next to her watercolors.

In this video interview, which I highly recommend, she talks about her work, including a series where she studied moths and other insects to inform her paintings. She also discusses her ever-present gun and skull imagery.

ex demedici.jpgPerhaps, the most interesting is her take on tattooing and it's influence on her fine art. However, she makes it clear that she does not consider tattooing a fine art itself. She says it's "more naughty than art," explaining that the process of tattooing, the pain, blood, time constraints, etc. lends tattoos to more "emblematic" representation -- although she notes the difference between emblematic tattoos and those full bodysuits she's created.

She adds that tattooing is collaborative -- the artist works for somebody and a compromise is reached to create a design "in a compressed way."

Interesting arguments no matter where you are on the "tattoo as fine art" fence.

The video and link to eX de Medici's site was sent to me by my friend Zhan, a fan of her work upon first meeting in her tattoo studio Deus ex Machina in Canberra. He says:

"I met her in '96 when my old friend Megan was apprenticing with her and was struck by her deep intelligence, quirkiness, her love of tattooing bikers and her ability to discuss anything with anyone. I think we spent all my sessions talking about antique Persian rugs!
What's incredible is how a tattooist now produces formal art which is being collected by all the major art museums in the country."

See more of eX de Medici's fine art works here. And for more on Geoff Ostling, check the documentary on his quest to hang post-mortem in a museum, entitled Anatomy.

[Thanks again, Zhan!]
12:26 PM
andy lin.jpg
Photo of Andy Lin by Sean Toussaint

At last Friday's party, a lot, and I mean A LOT, of women (and a couple of guys) came up to me to say they loved our new "Objectified Tattooed Men" series where we, yeah, objectify tattooed men. As the last three men featured are "taken,"  a request for an unattached hottie was made. At least to help the fantasy along. And I shall not disappoint.

Behold the awesome Andy Lin.

* City:  New York City / Rochester, NY (born)

* Age: 31

* Relationship status: Single (yes, ladies!)

* Work: Photographer / Bartender/ Artistic Coordinator for Other Worlds Are Possible

* Fun: Dodgeball, big buck hunter, cooking, yoga, and lounging around with my cat.

* Music:  right now, listening to the Animals, Bob Dylan, Citizen Cope, Arcade Fire, Souls of Mischief, Van Morrison, The Secret Machines, Wu-Tang, Jeff Buckley, and Johnny Cash.
I used to play in this band: Nozomi Phoenix.

* Tattoo:  Blackwork Lotus by Shinji Horizakura.

"Shinji Horizakura, who is now at Brooklyn Adorned, did it back when he was at New York Adorned on 2nd Ave. My first tattoo.  It's a lotus flower.  With an edge.  But really it's an artistic distillation of who I am, and I feel an accurate one at that: it was created by my ex-girlfriend, someone who knows me better than most.  Save for the outline, which was done by machine, the entire piece was done by the Tebori traditional Japanese hand poke technique.  Getting this tattoo was incredibly meditative and fulfilling.  I got it back in 2006 and it still hasn't settled into my skin.  When I wear a wifebeater, the tattoo peeks out from either side and makes it look like I've got wings." 

See a video of Shinji working by hand (at Miami Ink).

If you wanna be objectified, or are being forced to by your friends, send me a pic and your stats to marisa at needlesandsins.com.

10:48 PM
If I could have shot more footage, I would have - but I was living within a personal combination of medical triage, the Tet Offensive, Nuclear Holocaust and metaphysically being mistaken (once again) for Chris Daughtry. 

But for those of you who were unable to attend, either due to geography, gravity or genetic obligation, I offer this little sampling of the Needles and Sins launch party, featuring the outstanding photography of Sean Toussaint...

Needles and Sins - Tattoo Orgy from Brian Grosz on Vimeo.

03:03 PM

The devlish Richard Metzger of Disinfo.com has a new site that I'm loving: Dangerous Minds, described as a "compendium of the new and strange--new ideas, new art forms, new approaches to social issues and new finds from the outer reaches of pop culture."

One of my favorite posts is this video of 88 Lines about 44 Women, which contributor Tara McGinley found on Marc Campbell's Facebook page, where The Nails singer wrote:

"In the 30 years since 88 LINES ABOUT 44 WOMEN was first recorded there has never been a video version authorized by THE NAILS. Of the dozens of videos on Youtube that pay homage to the song, this is the only version created by a member of the band, me. So, here's the world premier of 88 LINES the video. Hope you enjoy it. I had fun making it."

Naturally I love the opening with the traditional Malaysian tattoo sequence (and dancing that follows). Keep in mind, as BoingBoing best put it, "the video is NSFW in a 1950s National Geographic sort of way."

Thanks to Sara for turning me on to the video (check out Sara's sister's site: Where's Lulu, a hip guide to places and services that are accessible to people with disabilities in Portland.)
10:19 AM
l_243c6d5e3c1546f29e116b194cf64c3e.jpg Say what you will about New York, but one thing's for sure: this city is like a magnet for great artists. That means, at any given shop, you'll find talented tattooists from just about anywhere you could land a dart on a map. Recently, I sat down with Bailey Hunter Robinson.

I first met Bailey back when he was working with Chops at the now-defunct Hold Fast studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Bailey headed down south a few months ago but has recently returned and now tattoos out of Saved. We sat down over pancakes and talked about tattoos, Native Americans, and his (enigmatic?) personality.

P: So you grew up down south, right?
B: Yes, I grew up in Bay Minette, Alabama.

How'd you get into tattooing?
A series of bad choices I guess (laughs). I was always in the hardcore scene and around a bunch a kids who were heavily tattooed, they were all older than me, they were all tattooed. I had an apprenticeship at this shop called Hula Moon in Pensacola, FL, which turned out to really just be me working for a year. I wasn't able to do anything, I couldn't touch their machines, I had to break everything down, I made needles for all seven guys, took care of all seven of their stations. It was a really busy, military-style shop. And to make money I washed dishes at a Japanese restaurant.

When was this?
That was when I was eighteen. And then I decided I was gonna go to college to be a printmaker (because I'd never tattooed at that point). So I went to college for a little while, quit that and then I started tattooing when I was twenty-one. I did my first tattoo in Birmingham, AL. This guy Chad Soner helped me out a lot when I was first starting. I have a lot of old tattoos from him. He kinda showed me the basics: sharp end goes in to the skin, this is what a power supply looks like, have at it!

So that's what I did. I did my first tattoos there, I did like three or four and then moved back to Pensacola and got a job at the worst shop in the city. Because that was the suggestion pretty much, you know, 'Get a job at the worst shop!' So I tattooed for about six weeks. I took a bunch of pictures of these terrible tattoos I'd done and sent 'em to this guy in Tallahassee. He hired me so I went and started working for him. I told him I'd been tattooing for like a year and a half and he bought it.

Why the move up to New York?
I knew a bunch of people up here. At the time I'd quit tattooing. I quit for about six months and didn't want to tattoo anymore. I was living in Tallahassee, living in this dirty old punk house and just being scummy and gross and was like 'Ah, I gotta get my shit together,' you know. So I moved up here. I just wanted to be here because it's the birthplace of the tattoos that I like. This is where it all started and I wanted to be a part of it.

Funny, I wrote in my notes "connection to past" and that's something that seems to come through in your tattoos and paintings, too. It seems connected, especially the idea of a trade that involves working with your hands, moving to New York to become part of that history. Is there some part of doing a trade with your hands that appeals to you, too?


Honestly, I think tattooing's not a really tough trade. It's not a trade where you can say, 'I work with my hands.' I think someone that digs ditches, or someone that farms or rides tractors, literally works with their hands. That's tough work.

You know all tattooers are the same, you get fat and slouchy (laughs), it can't be that strenuous, you know? But I guess it's a feeling of 'I'm creating this thing' and maybe it looks like it's old...like I'm building furniture that's made to look antique; sometimes I feel weird about it.

Well, you've also referred to tattooing 'as just a job.'
It's nothing more to me than a job. It used to be so much more. When I was younger it was like, 'Tattooing is my life!' and I was so consumed with it and I was so into it. I wanted to be so good and I wanted to do this and do that. And I'd go get tattooed by this guy, by that guy, and then the older I got I realized it doesn't fucking matter. It's a job.

If someone comes in with a tattoo and I don't wanna do it, I'm not gonna do it. I don't take it like, 'Oh I have to do everything' because I don't have to do everything. I just do what I want and that's kinda how I live my life I guess. I used to be really wrapped up in the 'This guy is a really cool tattooer, and that guy is good, and I wanna be big like that guy' and maybe it's just part of getting older. Because who gives a shit? There's so much other shit to do. I'm really involved with antiques. I love that. I like doing things that aren't tattoo related. I like painting a lot of really Dutch-style art, that's another thing I'm really into, kinda Shaker-style stuff.

I was looking at some of the paintings up on your website. One reminded me of a George Catlin painting. It was a Native American chief.
I'll go through phases where I'll be obsessed with Native American stuff and I'll paint like twenty native American things and then I'll be like, 'Ugh, I don't want anything to do with it.' It kinda goes in cycles. For a while I did nothing but Native American tattoos basically. Every single tattoo would be that, not necessarily because I wanted to, it just kind of evolved into this phase and then it just stopped and as soon as it started it was done. I could've had a portfolio of just Native American stuff. And then it was gypsy girl heads. And then that was done and now it's just, unfortunately like nothing (laughs), a big portfolio of nothing.

How would you describe your style?
I definitely try to be diligent about it, with the colors I choose, the line weights and stuff. But I don't know, I can't think of how to describe it. I just want it to look like my opinion of Americana. Sometimes I want it to look really old and gnarly, like it coulda been done on the Bowery and sometimes I want it to look really fine and crisp like an old cigar box label or bicycle ad from the turn of the century or something. Those two things really influence me. But as far as what I'd describe it as, I'd just say Americana.

bhr tattoo.jpg
What do you think makes a 'good' tattoo?

Something that's got a decent amount of black. I like a lot of black. I like to be able to tell what it is from far away. Anything that's not a new idea pretty much makes a good tattoo (laughs). Anytime someone comes up with a new idea, it's probably a bad idea (laughs).

Are there subjects you always want to tattoo? Horses, Native Americans?
I'm always up for that stuff. If I could have it my way, I would literally tattoo nothing but horses, Native American stuff, birds... that might be it. Ooh, and snakes.

How about other tattooers you're into?
I love Theo Mindell's stuff. He's like he perfect mix, he's one of my favorites. And there's this guy Chris Queen, I like his stuff a lot. It's very different and honest. It's very vignette-looking and he pulls it off perfectly. He does the tattoos that I have tried to do and I just can't do 'em. But those guys, I get really excited when I see their stuff. And then you have the obvious Bert Grimm.

Anything coming up on the horizon?
I'm trying to have a show in the fall, a solo show, but no tattoo stuff. The folk art and stuff... I would like to do it elsewhere but it'll probably be at Saved, late October. I was actually thinking of maybe doing it at the other Saved location in the city, just get a different crowd in there.

How is that place?
It's nice. It's still under construction right now, but it's surprising. It's kind of a weird marriage of two bizarre businesses. It's underneath a cafe with a little store that sells 'items.' They sell things like old filament lights, all kinds of stuff.

Before we finish, I got one more thing I have to bring up. You've got a bit of a reputation of being kind of surly... some might even use the word 'asshole.'
Yes, apparently that's a very big issue (laughs)! Well, I guess it's all perception. I feel like I'm kind of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of a person and I was raised by a take-it-or-leave-it kind of person and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

If you don't like it, you don't have to fucking get it, but don't expect me to bend over backwards. I'm no one special by any means, but neither are you. So if we're not gonna come to an agreement, there's no point in wasting my time or yours. And sometimes I feel like I get kind of a bad rap about it. There are a lot of people that are bigger jerks than me. But maybe 'cause I'm not as outgoing as other people, I don't smile while I'm being mean or something it just comes out wrong.

I don't know. I've always gotten that my whole life. It's weird because, for the number of people who think I'm a jerk, there's also a number of people that think I'm really nice...well, I don't know if I'd say a lot of people (laughs). They're my friends, how 'bout that. I think it's really weird. But apparently it's a big deal and a lot of people talk about it, other tattooers. If people think I have a really bad look on my face or whatever, hey, I'm just ugly (laughs). This was my favorite question so far, by the way.

03:40 PM
amanda wachob tattoo.jpgAbstract Tattoo by Amanda Wachob of DareDevil Tattoo.

I got some private messages last week admitting a forbidden love for the truly WTF tattoo galleries linked to in the news review, so before I get to the real newsworthy items, I'll satisfy more guilty pleasures with this first one:

It's a fun photo essay that includes Joe Letz's flying penis tattoo on his leg, the Hawaiian shark teeth on Brent Hind's face, and Jeffree Star's JonBenet Ramsey & Sharon Tate portraits.

To cleanse that frightening bunch outta ya mind, check out the exciting tattoo artistry of Amanda Wachob of DareDevil Tattoo, who experiments with abstract forms and conceptual design but can also do a solid, clean traditional tattoo. I met Amanda at our launch party Friday and she told me about an abstract tattoo project she's working on -- also mentioned on DevilCity Press -- where 8-10 people will be chosen to get a large tattoo, free. More details on that coming up later this week.  

Amanda's conceptual art got me thinking of the lines and dots found on the oldest recorded tattooed person: Otzi the Iceman; however, a recent news item discusses how his tattoos have proved to be medicinal, not aesthetic. The article explains:

"There are groups of one, two, three, four and seven tattoo lines parallel to the longitudinal axis of the body, and so they're parallel to Chinese acupuncture meridians." The cross-shaped tattoo on his knee, and another one on his left ankle, also lay over Chinese acupuncture "trigger points," the researchers believe. Strengthening their argument is the fact that the soot-made markings are located on parts of the iceman's body not typical for tattoo displays, diminishing the notion that they served a more ornamental, aesthetic function.

See a video on how the first tattoos were created.

Despite the millennia of tattoo history, many still think it's an unsavory fad. Here's yet another weekly news item on tattoo discrimination -- this time, an Ohio town does not think tattoos are a "fit."

But this prejudice is not so surprising after also reading weekly stories of idiots who use the art as a gimmick like this guy who got a tattoo to win a PalmPre phone. Of course, with the cost of the tattoo (and subsequent lasering I'm sure), he coulda just bought the PalmPre and been spared our mockery. Mock, mock, mock.

tattoo proposal.jpgSome may also mock this dude above who proposed marriage -- permanently -- but today I'm feelin the love and just grateful that Caroline said "Yes." Now, let's hope the marriage lasts.

Cleveland.com has a new feature called Tat Chat where they "celebrate body art" and "find folks with interesting tattoos and the often even more interesting stories behind them."

My favorite blog find this past week, however, was Coolhunting.com post on Carlos Alvarez Montero, and his photographs of the counterculure in NYC and Mexico City -- particularly the heavily tattooed.

Quick & Dirty Link time...

01:23 PM
tatto machine.jpgAs I'm going through the tattoo news, I found this article in The Oregonian, which looks at Jeff Johnson, co-owner of The Sea Tramp Tattoo Co.-- the oldest tattoo studio in Portland.

But the article is less about the shop and more about Jeff's recently published book, Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink

I'm seriously looking forward to curling up to Jeff's memoir of his tattoo life because, word is, the artist knows how to tell a story, from shop pranks to tattooing a suspected serial killer.

The Oregonian says:  "There's talk that Tattoo Machine could do for tattooing what Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential did for the restaurant business -- take a snappy, irreverent look at something people are curious about but don't really understand."

You can order the book on Amazon.com for $16.50.

Or even better, if you're in Portland, pick it up at one of Jeff's readings:

Hopefully, I'll get to a proper review of my copy very soon.  Ok, the news is up next.
01:39 PM
Sean, Jaz & crew2.jpg
Photo by Efrain John Gonzalez of Sean Toussaint, Jaz of Black Lotus & his beautiful clients.

Still recovering from Friday's Needles & Sins launch party, which is a massive blur of beautiful tattooed people and tequila (thanks to our Hornitos Sauza sponsor).

See the photos here.

Included in the Flickr set are photos from Efrain John Gonzales, Pat Sullivan and my own few bad pics including setting up with photographer Sean Toussaint, whose Tattoo Orgy exhibit got people sweaty -- or was it the Brooklyn Ink Spot models showing up in the gorgeous tattooed flesh?

Lapdance Academy rocked acoustic and experimental guitar while Kimanthi Care rubbed people's stress away.

Very special thanks to Chris Budd owner of Tattoo Culture for hosting the party and feeding everyone so the no one stumbled into the hipster wilds of Williamsburg too drunk. I saw resident artist Gene Coffey book a bunch of appointments after party-goers had a chance to peruse his portfolio. Also check out the work of guest artists Martin of Austria and Jake of Australia. [Tattoo Culture is the concierge of international artists, which also include Noon of France and Dan DiMattia of Belgium, bringing diverse artistic tattoo styles to Brooklyn.]

Of course, a big kiss to the many of you who came from all over to celebrate with us. So great meeting new people and hanging out with long-time faves.

Ok, I still need an extra day to rest. Will have the tattoo news up for ya later tomorrow. xoxxo
12:17 PM
shige tattoo.jpg
When I returned from Greece two weeks ago, I was greeted with a stunning coffee table book in the mail that instantly took me on another trip: SHIGE, the 328-page full color hardcover that is at once a personal journal and breathtaking exhibition of one of today's great Japanese tattoo artists.

Take a look at Shige's online portfolio and now imagine that properly showcased in 10x13" along with his stencils, paintings, photos from conventions and guest spots, and personal family photos.

Indeed, Shige's devotion to his wife and partner Chisato and baby girl Ayaka, is not only ever present in the book but in person at tattoo events; it's important to note because it offers a glimpse into the man behind the art -- art so masterful, it can be intimidating. But his warm smile and watching him play with Ayaka, whom I've watched go from stroller to toddling around conventions, puts clients at ease, allowing them to enjoy the full tattoo experience.

Beyond his character, Shige is known for a particular style of Japanese tattooing that pays homage to traditional artistic elements of Horimono but not a strict interpretation, bringing to his work many other influences.

In his foreword to the book, Master Horiyoshi III best describes Shige's work:

"Around 1994 Shige's work clearly shows that he was strongly influenced by Filip Leu of Switzerland. However, he read art books and studied about aesthetics from various art worlds. As a result, nowadays, Shige has created his own original world that merges elements of Japanese tradition and Western art elements. His tattooing has begun surpassing not only traditional tattooing but also art."

Horiyoshi III's  mention of Filip Leu is significant because Shige himself says in the book that meeting the third-generation tattooist changed his life. Shige never had an apprentcehsip and is a self-taught tattooer, but by getting tattooed by Filip and developing a friendship, he saw Japanese tattoo art in a different way -- that one "didn't have to conform to any particular style but could create freely and with his own imagination."

Many personal photos of Shige, Chisato and the Leu family illustrate the book -- my favorites are watching the process of Shige's own body suit by Filip.

yoko.jpgThese snapshots bring the reader in at the beginning of the book, engaging -- and endearing us -- to Shige but also prepares us for the stunning body suits and the personal stories of their wearers, like that of Yoko Uki, shown here (see more here).

A must read is Yoko's account of how she came to Shige for her full body suit, the difficult reactions she received in her native Japan, and how she found acceptance at international tattoo conventions, like the first one she went to in London in 2005. I remember running up to Yoko in the bathroom at that convention and completely devouring her artwork; she was so gracious turning around, lifting her arms, posing for pics, both of us giggling. Meeting her was the highlight of that show for me and she talks about how our appreciative response to her changed the way she lives with her Horimono.

That sense of community and belonging that, yes, still remains with us, is a thread that binds the Shige book, presented through the personal journey of one artist.

It was my own vacation, however, that led to this later posting on the book and so the hardcover is now sold out (and it sold out fast) BUT the paperback will be released in the Fall and I promise to give you heads up as soon as I get word from Horitaka of State of Grace who puts out the best books on tattoo.

Meanwhile, enjoy Shige's portfolio online or take a trip yourself to his Yellowblaze studio in Yokohama.
12:17 PM
tattoo orgy.jpg
Last week, I gave you the deets on our party and exhibit entitled Tattoo Orgy, featuring the portrait photography of Sean Toussaint and music by Lapdance Academy artists Alex Walker and Brian Grosz.

The party starts at Tattoo Culture at 7PM and goes until 10. After-party TBA. But I got more goodness for party goers ...

Because we want this to be an affair of the senses, we're adding to the visual and musical feast two more elements:

Taste:  Tattoo Culture owner, Chris Budd, will be offering sandwiches and easy eats, particularly because Hornitos Sauza Tequila will be a sponsor of the event, and with two cases of premium tequila on hand, we need to feed liquor filled bellies so we don't find resident artist Gene Coffey being used as a skinny tattooed pinata. (Wine and beer will also be served.)

Touch:  Considering the name of the event, and the tattooed models and guests in attendance, we understand that some will want to explore their sense of sexy touch, but this ain't that kinda party. Still, we got your back -- and your shoulders and hands -- with the invitation of Kimanthi Care, Qigong Master and licensed massage therapist, who will be offering acupressure and massage during the party (for reasonable fees).

[Kimanthi takes care of Bri and I regularly; when people ask how we handle our insane schedules, we say, Go to our man Kimanthi, who not only helps us relax but also gets the positive energy flowing via Qigong.]

The only sense missing is smell, and we hope to keep it that way.

Can't wait to see you there tomorrow!
08:24 PM
Last night, Brian and I went to the opening of Friday Jones Fifth Avenue, a salon and spa where Friday will be offering custom tattooing or "tattoo couture." [Yeah, I know I coined that term for Needled.com back in 2005 but I sold the rights to Rivr Media, so if they didn't bother to trademark it, more power to Friday's lawyers in taking it.]

Anyway, it was a scene. See my bad photos here.

Fashionistas and Chelsea Boys preened for the cameras, of which there were many. Hotties in various states of undress vamped across the salon to show off Friday's work in a "tattoo fashion show" and Aubrey O'Day (yeah, I didn't know who she was either) got her finger tattooed with the words "Je ne sais quoi," which is French for Dannity Kane can suck it.

Some tattoorati were in attendance like longtime NYC artist Darren Rosa of Rising Dragon, Bill DeMichele of Tattoos.com, tattooist and documentarian Clayton Patterson, and special guest, the legendary Lyle Tuttle.

In fact, I thought the appearance of Lyle was perfectingly fitting. Back in the 70s, some criticized Lyle for courting the media, like appearing on Johnny Carson or the cover of Rolling Stone, as well as celebs like Janis Joplin, Cher and Peter Fonda. The same criticism has been thrown at Friday and both seemed to throw it all right back last night as all toasted (with Hpnotiq!) to their successes.

The tattoo spa concept that Friday is working opens up tattooing to a broader spectrum of collectors, people who like their couture in many forms, pop music on the stereo, and a mani-pedi to add to their Je ne sais quoi. And that's cool. While I prefer my studios to be metal blaring, green soap smellin dens of iniquity, I acknowledge that many can be intimidating and not comfortable especially for nervous first timers. Friday is indeed charming and puts people at ease.

BUT -- and it's a big ole but -- I do disagree with the "pain-free" tattooing she offers, as she tells W Magazine:

You can get a massage beforehand. Also, I've partnered with a doctor so we can get you anesthesia or even a Vicodin.
 Me, I think tattoos should stay painful. There, I said it.

Many of my good friends disagree, saying that if I believe tattooing is all about the art, who cares if someone numbs the skin beforehand.

But tattoo is more than just the art, it's the experience. They are today's rites of passage for many, and part of that is because it's painful and not easy.

On the subway home from the party, Brian said " I miss when tattoos were a cool kids club." And I agree. It wasn't a club of the beautiful or rich, but one of the badass. The more you have the more respect because, well, it freakin hurts.

The pain is what binds us because we have literally suffered for our art. And when you finish a session, you feel stronger for it.

We can still have tattoo spas with rose petal pedis, but let's keep the thorns as well.
05:05 PM

I am going to ask that everyone please put their sarcasm hats on for this one. Tie the chin-strap tight. Now, lets begin.

As you can tell by the Tattoo Design Shop's authentic images of only the most talented and creative tattoo work (the model sporting the double heart with arrow surely looks like a tattoo aficionado), they're the premiere site for tattoo information and news. This is why I am overjoyed to read the press release announcing their ever important page on the significance of star tattoos.

Been stalking that cute girl with blooming star pattern across her face?

Well, now, you have reason to strike up that happy conversation since you are fully briefed in the meaning of her personal, artistic choice! The only problem is that this site might (and I say this with utmost shock), just might, not be one hundred percent accurate.

According to them, "The Star of David is a symbol garnered from the Israeli flag that helps define this religion." Beyond being a sentence with very little grammatical direction, it is also incredibly wrong. As if the state of Israel chose the star as its symbol out of a mix of wing-ding fonts. The Star of David can be traced all the way back to....get this now...David. Thus, the name. And, it was representative of the Jewish people as far back as ... at least before the internet was invented. I guess I am going to have to go back to personal agency, free will and my own creative impulses when it comes to choosing the symbolism -- if any -- of my next tattoo.
12:51 PM
john reardon tattoo2.jpg On Friday, Marisa posted a bit of an introduction on tattooer John Reardon, which let's us skip the foreplay and get straight to the Q&A.

I met up with John at Brooklyn's venerable Saved Tattoo in Williamsburg and headed around the corner to Roebling Tea Room to talk about tattoos, his book (the Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting a Tattoo) and cheeseburgers. Here's how it went.

PS: I think I'm just gonna get the oatmeal. I actually ate before I came over here...
JR: I'm doin' the pork roll. I was actually here for breakfast, this morning. I had the granola then... Ah, fuck it, I'm getting a cheeseburger. I kind of eat like an asshole.

(Laughs) All right. Wanna start?

Where're you from originally?
Massachusetts. Hanover.

And how'd you get into tattooing?
My dad had tattoos. I don't know, we were kinda white trash.

How long you been tattooing?
It's thirteen years this summer. 

And how'd you learn?
Just started hacking away at my friends. A guy up in New Hampshire helped me out, showed me what to do, but if I ever had any questions, I could usually call him up and he'd help me out over the phone. 

Did he give you a machine?
Ah... I ordered some shitty machine from the back of a magazine. I was 18, just graduated high school, my friends chipped in. It was illegal in Massachusetts and we were tired of going to Rhode Island or New Hampshire to get tattooed. I was going to art school and they were like, 'You're gonna learn how to tattoo.'

And you went to Pratt, right?

I heard something about you teaching Eli Quinters how to tattoo?
Um, no, not really. I mean we just kind of hung out. We were like the only Straight Edge kids on campus for the most part. The first time we hung out was at a Hatebreed/Bloodlet show. And he's like, 'Hey, uh, you do tattoos, right?' and I said yeah and he had this big fucked up tattoo on his back and he asked me to fix it so I said all right. We just ended up hanging out after that. And he asked me to teach him how to tattoo. I was like, 'I can show you all the shit that I know,' but I didn't really know shit at the time. And then he ended up getting an apprenticeship at the shop I worked at.

Where was that?
Medusa on St. Marks. It's not there anymore. I started there in '98 and he started there in '99, I think. 

So how'd you end up at Saved?
I knew Scott Campbell for a while and we always used to drink together...

This was after the straight edge phase.
Oh yeah, yeah (laughs) that kinda fell off around 2000. But Eric Jones was quitting so I filled in for him.

11:31 PM
jondix tattoo.jpgTons of tattoo stories topped the headlines, and I've trolled through them all to bring ya the good, bad and the whatthefuck.

N+S keeps our focus on stellar tattoo art, like this fresh work from Jondix in Spain (who's part of my upcoming Black Tattoo Art book); however, we will on occasion link to examples of the WTF if only to feel a sense of unbridled tattoo superiority. And so, behold COED Mag's What Were They Thinking gallery.

Many of the tattoos shown are featured the book No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever but there are some new gems like the Hasselhoff Ode and Chris Farley memorial tattoo. Looking at them, I feel better about myself already. And that is the power of tattoo. [Thanks, Father Panik, for the boobies COED tattoo link.]

UFC's Alan Belcher did not make the WTF list with his deformed Johnny Cash portrait tattoo.

As for the bad ...

I really don't know what's worse: Canada's CTA excessive use of  "tramp stamp" in a removal story (and quoting a doc who says women can't get epidurals because of them -- not true) or starting off the article with reference to some shmuck who wanted a corkscrew tattoo removed from his penis. CTA did get the title right though -- Laser treatment is not quick fix. For stupid.

Then there's this going-to hell-bad: Texas Man Sought for Unpaid Bill for God Tattoo.

And the badass...

yakuza tattoo.jpgBurn Magazine's Eye of the Beholder story/photo by Anton Kusters who is documenting a Yakuza family in Kabukicho, Japan. One of our faves, Susanah Breslin, has been guest blogging for Boing Boing and included this powerful image in her collection of wondrous things.

This one is pretty wondrous to me ... "Man resurrects friend's ashes into tattoo." Granted, this isn't the first time I've heard stories like this but I always get goosebumps at the thought of actually wearing a loved one in my skin. I think it's a beautiful tribute but I wonder if anything else gets carried over in the ash. Just sayin.

In good news ...

Reuters reports that there are less Iraqis getting tattoos used to ID their bodies, and instead are opting for artful ink. In 2005 and 2006, I blogged, on Needled.com, stories of how many caught in the mission-accomplished zone were getting identifying information tattooed on various limbs in case they were mutilated. One Bagdad tattoo artist said that, while many young men today are coming in for motifs like dragons and tigers instead of their names and addresses, he still keeps a low profile "for fear of being attacked by extremists who see his work as being prohibited by Islam or too Westernized."

A couple seeking to open a tattoo studio in Tempe, Arizona who had their business permit revoked won the right to open up shop, again. The city had appealed a court ruling in favor of the couple but to no avail. When will cities learn to stop wasting money on these suits and allow studios to open, thereby bringing more money into city tax coffers?

In celeb tattoo news ... 

The LA Times reports that High Voltage tattoo, featured on the reality show LA Ink, is now a top tourist destination along with Kim Kardashian's clothing stores and The Hill's hot spots. The article says, "The manager of High Voltage Tattoo estimates that 90% of its customers are fans of the TV show." So I guess that makes only 10% serious tattoo collectors?

I'm no hater, but I'm not lovin the show either, especially after reading in Inked Mag that top tattooists Hannah Aitchison and Kim Saigh won't be returning to the show because of their lack of drama. I prefer my artists drama-free, thanks, and if they have more time for yoga practice before opening up my skin, well, the better. [Although a faux Aitchison/Saigh lesbian relationship would've been a hot episode.]

The new season will get plenty of drama with the addition of Rock of Love hot mess Aubry Fisher.
margaret cho unzipped.jpgBy the way Kim's new Vans are out. Nice.

Also check Margaret Cho's tattoolicious cover for Unzipped [a gay adult industry mag is obvs NSFW]. Her new show Drop Dead Diva premiered this week and is a comedy with body image as its central theme, one not uncommon to heavily tattooed peeps. I loved it.  

Ashley Tisdale got a tattoo. Yeah, I don't care either.

Another autograph tattoo, this time, Paul McCartney. Let it Be Bleed.

Cameron Diaz sports a faux tattoo on V Mag in her tribute cover to Madonna.

And of course ...

More Michael Jackson tribute tattoos.

12:19 PM
heart tattoo.jpg
On Friday, we decided it was time to tell the world about Needles and Sins after amassing content for months, and in response to our mass mail, we're already feelin the love.

Maybe not to the extent as this couple -- tattooed by Noon of France -- but enough to inspire a redux of the 10 most popular posts, based on clicks and comments, for those new to the site.

If you want to slack off at work or enjoy your severance package with some tattoo goodness, the best way to navigate all posts is to either click the Category of your choice or hit up our Monthly Archives (both right).

To get you goin, here are the faves for each N+S blogger, starting with a post inspired by this heart tattoo:

Pat Sullivan hung out at Brooklyn's Tattoo Culture for weeks watching Noon work his "Art Brut" tattoo style before profiling him here. [We also call this style French Avant Garde of tattoo because the fresh, experimental work has been developed and refined in France and Francophone Belgium.]

Pat most recently had fun with tattoos in pop culture, deciding if Conan O'Brien did indeed get tattooed on air. Watch the video here.

Craig Dershowitz, our tattoo Jew, had one of the most linked posts on N+S ever: his provocative Q&A with Orthodox Rabbi Henry Harris. Craig not only put to rest the fallacy that you cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery with a tattoo but also challenges the Rabbi to find the roots of tattoo prejudice in the community. It's a brilliant read worth further link love.

He also pokes fun at common motifs with his Top 5 Worst Jewish Tattoos including the Chai, The Hebrew letter representing long life. "Usually tattooed on the most unhealthy individuals."

Brian Grosz, N+S resident rockstar and founder of indie record label Lapdance Academy, took inspiration from Groucho Marx and Kermit the Frog in creating his own carny rendition of Lydia, The Tattoo Lady, a tune I guarantee you will not be able to get outta ya head for the rest of the day if you stream it here or download it for free here. His most brilliant find was digging up Lydia, The Tattooed Muppet video, one of the most beloved Kermie solos ever. Check it:

The other video Brian found that made us giggle is the Jon Stewart clip on Long Island seceding from New York, complete with tattoo "gun show."

Miguel Collins, long time tattoo blogger who is creating a documentary on tattoos in the Black community, not only offers up his perspective on tattoos and race -- for example in discussing the first magazine ever geared towards people of color, but also blogs on West Coast happenings from his Cali outpost, like an Evening with Horiyoshi III at Canvas LA.

My personal faves of Miguel's are his review of Margo DeMello's Bodies of Inscription,
one of the more recent publications to talk about race, class and "cultural appropriation" in tattooing. Also click on his Tattoo Statistics post for the most recent data on tattooed and pierced people in America.

Bobby Fisher. Ah, Bobby. The graff mag magistrate of Bombin just simply causes trouble and so we've locked him up in a Williamsburg hipster bowling alley and play Clap Your Hands & Say Yeah for hours on end, that is, until he learns to be a (dodge ball) team player.

As for me, the weekly news reviews remain a popular staple from my old Needled.com days, but my personal favorites are all about tattoo-related toys and gadgets, ala Totally Stylin Tattoos Barbie and the Tattoo Shop iPhone app -- both of which I own and play with regularly because, yes, I am a proud tattooed nerd.

If you've got a personal favorite or have ideas for posts you want to read in the future, let us know in the comments.

Ok, I'm off to work on the news.

04:08 PM
idiots guide to tattoo.jpg
Considering Pat Sullivan, our resident "I-Swear-I'm-Not-A-Hipster" blogger, will soon be interviewing John Reardon, I felt it fitting to revisit the tattooist's book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting a Tattoo.

Released last year, John walks readers through every step of the process, from deciding on the art and artist, to physically prepping for the event, to aftercare. It's a comprehensive guide for first-timers, which also features his own tattoo art and designs.

For those looking to get tattooed by John, he now divides his time between Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn and Bright Side Tattoo in Copenhagen, Denmark (ya know, just the next exit on the Brookly-Queens Expressway). Pat will have more on the artist coming soon.

While John does a great job with the book, I did want to add five tips, rather warning signs, on when walk away from the needles:

1. If the studio slogan is this:  "If You Can't Run With The Big Dogz, Go Piss With The Puppies," walkz away.

2. If the design has you feeling less like Megan Fox and more like Meghan McCain, walk away.

3. If your tattoo artist has a "degree" from the Las Vegas Ink School, walk away. In fact, if you are prone to seizures, don't even click the animated Giff-laden site for the school.
[Thanks, Chris, for the link and headache.]

4. If the artist's portfolio is consistently featured on the Fail blog, walk away.

5. Finally, if your tattoo artist looks like this and is willing to tattoo a full constellation on your young face, walk away. Or at least walk away from the media blitz.
01:35 PM
tattooed men.jpg
Today, we continue our beautiful, budding tradition of objectifying tattooed men with the addition of Kevin Wilson, manager of NYC's Sacred Tattoo.

And yes, that is a Toucan Sam chestpiece, tattooed by Nate Hough of House of Poncho's in Edgewood, Maryland. [See a close-up of it here.]

Here are Kevin's vitals:
* City: New York City

* Age: 28 going on 45

* Work: Studio manager for NYC's Sacred Tattoo.

* Relationship status: So very taken.

* Fun: I tend to be a workaholic. My downtime is usually spent at home, relaxing, watching movies with the lady. If there is any free time in my schedule, I try to hit the gym even though I'm far from a "gym rat", and maybe go out to see some live music.

* Music: I tend to like anything that can make my little butt wiggle.

* Website: http://www.facebook.com/KevinRCWilson

* The Tattoos:
I'd like to say that most of my tattoos are on the "10 year plan." Since my schedule is always so hectic, it's hard for me to find time getting finished. I've always been into bio organic imagery so my sleeves and back consist mainly of this style. My whole life I've been a class clown so I've tried to incorporate some comical styling into the work I wear. I'm also into horror and gore so you'll hints of that on my body too.

I know what y'all are gonna say, Why are all the hot ones with Fruit Loop tattoos taken? Alas, we are in need of some single tattooed men to ogle. Email me your pic and stats at marisa at needlesandsins.com.
01:23 PM
n+s party and art show july 17th
Party Time! Join us for stellar tattoo portrait photography by uber-talented Sean Toussaint, music by Lapdance Academy rockers Alex Walker and our beloved Brian Grosz; plus booze, beauties & badassness. Not enough hyperbole can express how much fun we're gonna have.

The exhibit and party is being hosted by Tattoo Culture in Williasmburg, Brooklyn: home to the one of my faves, Gene Coffey, and top international artists including Noon, Daniel DiMattia, Aussie Jake, and many more. Tattoo Culture is in easy walking distance from the L train's Bedford Ave stop, and there's plenty of parking around (just bring your designated driver).

The opening starts at 7 and goes until 10pm, followed by an after-party nearby TBA.

Can't wait to see y'all!
12:03 PM
tattoo museum.jpg
A new museum is opening in North Chicago featuring art and memorabilia of Americana tattoo culture -- dating as far back as 1838 -- from the personal collection of retired tattooist John "Pops" Henderson, owner of Modern Tattoo.

To promote tattooing as a fine art with a long rich history, Pops hired art historian Christine Galvez as the museum curator and is working with Chuck Eldridge of the Tattoo Archive in North Carolina to further his collection, which includes some of the earliest tattoo machines, flash and stencils from the early part of the century.

The museum opens at 11am, Sunday, July 12th but Pops says he'll also offer private, after-hours tours to school groups.

Here are some already established tattoo museums and collections across the US:

* As mentioned, the Tattoo Archive is one of the richest collections, online and off, with Chuck being its greatest resource.

Triangle Tattoo & Museum, housed in an classic Victorian storefront in downtown Ft. Bragg, CA, has been presenting tattoo artifacts to the public since 1986, and like Chuck, owners/tattooists Mr.G. and Madame Chinchilla remain the best attraction with decades of tattoo tales to share.

* The Baltimore Tattoo Museum, not only houses top tattooists, but also an extensive collection of old school flash, photos and machines and tattoo tools, beautifully presented. See photos of their collection here.

* The Vanishing Tattoo's Virtual Tattoo Museum allows you to learn about tattoo, from the ancient to the modern, without even leaving your laptop.
11:42 AM
The sun is finally shining, Times Square is no longer an MJ memorial, and Scarlett Takes Manhattan has just dropped. It's a beautiful day to be a New Yorker.

The saucy graphic novel by our beloved Molly Crabapple -- of Dr. Sketchy's infamy -- is described as "en erotic romp through Gilded Age New York."

I wanna pick up a copy at the launch party tonight, but alas, I forgot to RSVP and fear it's a full house. Maybe if I pile my red curls up and wiggle into a corset I can pass as the Vaudeville vixen.

For a tease, check Coilhouse's review (complete with [NSFW] illustrations):

"Molly's florid style blends with John Leavitt's writing to reveal 1880s New York's fleshy underbelly. We peek behind closed doors, over corrupt politician's shoulders and under ruffled skirts as Leavitt and Crabapple show an uninhibited girl of humble beginnings traipse through manual labor and sex work to become queen of Vaudeville."

You can pick up a copy of Scarlett Takes Manhattan at Amazon or these book launch events:

09:54 AM

Last night I Tweeted the rockin ruckus of Alex Walker & our own Brian Grosz at Corio, particularly the carny rendition of B's Lydia The Tattooed Lady -- which can be streamed here or downloaded for free on LapdanceAcademy.com.

In response, my buddy Steve in Athens, reminded me of another great ode to needled divas: Rory Gallagher's Tattoo'd Lady. Love it!

For more tattoo tunes, check Rae Schwarz "Under My Skin iMix".
10:34 AM

old-school-bride-tattoo-l.jpgTattoo by Todd Noble.

SoCal has more than its fair share of tattoo gatherings and yet there hasn't been a show right in the heart of LA since Inkslingers. Understanding the need for Hollywood to have a proper freakshow (outside the Jackson furor), BMEzine's bosslady Rachel is putting together a red carpet convention August 21-23 with A-list tattooists working the Grand Ballroom at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, aptly called ... Tattoo Hollywood.

Working with the legendary Bob Roberts' Spotlight Tattoo, Rachel's goal is not only central locale but to bring back tattoo shows to their essence: more great tattoo art, less distraction. So no BMX demos, no car shows, no 500 band extravaganzas -- and surprisingly for BME -- no flesh hooks. Rachel explained on Modblog that because of restrictions under California law, the only body modification will be tattoos and piercings.

With the focus on making this a top tattoo vacation for artists and collectors, the invitation-only line-up includes long time faves and new stars like Bob's Spotlight artists, Freddy Corbin, Aaron Bell, Kim Saigh, Tim Hendricks, The True Tattoo crew, Brooklyn's Smith Street, Marcus Pacheco, Todd Noble (whose work is shown above), and many, many others.

Another highlight: The fabulous Lizardman will be MCing the event.

I'll working with Rachel to include the very best tattooists outside of the US, to showcase the new artwork that hasn't yet reached US borders as well as bring it home with some traditional hand tattooing. So expect to hear much more about this show here.

Discount room rates at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa are available at $159/night if booked before August 13th. The discount code is "Tattoo Hollywood." Hope to see you there!
05:13 PM
rihanna tattoo.jpgPhoto: INFDaily.com.

The Michael Jackson tribute tattoos dominated the headlines while Rihanna created some buzz of her own by tattooing three people at East Side Ink in Manhattan, home to her favorite artist Bang Bang. Tattooists at the shop got Ri's signature umbrella with the letter 'R' underneath it. But the biggest treat was for the paparazzi: see more photos on INFDaily.

Alas, the sweet press for the studio has backfired because now the NYPD and the NYC Health Department are looking into Rihanna tattooing without a license -- a misdemeanor offense that could mean fines and loss of license for East Side's owner. It's not confirmed, however, whether the city has opened an investigation into the unlicensed tattooing.

In more illegal ink news, this dude was jailed for tattooing minors but it should've been for his "online tattooing school." Note to self: ask my next tattooist to see license and diploma from Bob's Tattoo School.

The problem with unlicensed tattooing is the risk of severe infection, never mind shitty umbrella art.

Perfect example: this tattoo gone wrong law suit [via NSFW Modblog] where three friends walked into a Morgan Hill, California shop and walked out with massive staph infections. One posted this puss-filled tattoo (below) on HelpMeSue.com, also noting they researched the studio and found it was not yet licensed by the health department. It would have been better, of course, if such research was done prior to dirty tattooing. The image is a reminder to do our homework on the artist and shop opening our skin.

infected tattoo.jpgInfection may be common at unlicensed shops but I wouldn't go as far as ex-MTV veejay Jancee Dunn's fear of "rampant hepatitis" -- the argument she gave her over-60 mom who decided to get tattooed. But the super cool mom ignored such drama and gave the best reason for wanting a tattoo -- simply because she liked it:

"I've passed midlife. Your generation thinks every action has to be fueled by some major psychological motive. You know what? I just want some art on my body. And I like ravens."

They went to Shotsie's Tattoo in Wayne, NJ, a long time tattoo staple in NJ (fully licensed of course), and the Ink Shrink worked a raven on her wrist, which she loved. The rockin grandma's next plan is to head to Burning Man, and while her daughter remains horrified, I'm inspired. Jancee's book Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask is now out.

Ok, now to cleanse that icky tattoo image from ya head, behold the Beckhams:

beckham tattoo.jpg
I just licked my screen. Their Armani ad is hot. Less so, The Beckhams: 10 years of tattoos, Tom Cruise and malnutrition.

Further celeb hotness, Mena Suvari shows off her '13' tattoo.

But I gotta ask, What would prompt someone to get a Lady Gaga tattoo?

In more important news ...

Quebec Superior Court judge has ruled that a dress code for day care workers forcing employees to cover-up tattoos was in violation of their rights.Supported by the daycare worker union in Quebec, Nadine Bélisle can now show off the snake tattoo on her shoulder blade. The union president said "We agree that if a tattoo is sexist, racist or violent it should be camouflaged. But I don't see how children are going to be traumatized by a flower on someone's ankle." The lawyer for the daycare argued the board put the general ban in place so they did not have to make the decision of what tattoos are deemed suitable. The judge didn't dig that argument and found that the ban "rests on prejudices." The Globe and Mail further quotes the Judge Jean Bouchard:

"Tattooing nowadays is a phenomenon that cuts across all levels of society," he wrote. "If it was once associated with delinquents, that's no longer the case."

The daycare's policy forced an employee with a tattoo of a butterfly or flower on her forearm or calf to wear pants or a long-sleeved shirt, even while working under a hot summertime sun, he wrote.

"This is, in the opinion of the court, ridiculous and outrageous."

Yeah, judgy!


Another reason to love Canada: 

Their hot tattooed dads, like Eric Vanderkooi  featured in Canadian Family's Big Hearted Dads with Badass Tattoos.

Eric has been getting tattooed for over 20 years but saved room on his upper arm to mark the birth of his beautiful daughter Hayden (both shown right). And as Hayden was born on a full moon, he added one behind her name and above it a rose with a pink diamond in it. Ok everyone, time for a group "aaawww."

Another note to self: add Eric to our growing N+S "objectified tattooed men." 

Not to be objectified: This dude with the Stooges backpiece and facial ink!

Perhaps he'll be inducted into Australia MSN's world's worst tattoos hall of shame.  A group rivalled by those featured in this blog: Most unfortunate tattoos for a mugshot.

Check Jenni Miller's Seven Terrible Movie Tattoos for big screen tattoo snafus.

And finally, the cherry on the unfortunate tattoo cake:  the art of inmate penis tattoo designs.

10:45 AM

While putting together a monster tattoo news review for y'all, I'm seeing tons of stories on Michael Jackson tribute tattoos, and so to ensure this ponderous event in tattoo history doesn't get lost in the fray, I'm making it a special post here.

The most hyped MJ tattoo tribute is on The Game, revealed in the music video above that he did with Chris Brown and Diddy. You can also see a close-up of the tattoo at the end of this video interview. [Turns out MJ called The Game to try and broker a peace deal between him and 50 Cent in 2005 -- a beef to rival that of the Mid East.]

Then there's this glove that claims to be the first post-death Michael Jackson memorial tattoo!

Equally competitive are the people of Tampa, Florida who are reporting the most Michael Jackson tribute tattoos per capita, like this one below dedicated to the Thriller video. [Photo by Kainaz Amaria for the St Petersburg Times].

michael jackson tribute tattoo
But it wasn't just Americans showing their MJ love. The Brits got in on the Jackson tattoos from London to Lincolnshire.

Like Jodie Marsh, the most widely spread of the MJ tattoos linked online is one inked before his death: This fine art rendering depicting his legal woes. Bad!

Unlike the mainstream media, however, I do acknowledge that other events are taking place beyond Neverland, so the tattoo news review is up next.

12:42 PM
I'm back from my 2-week big fat Greek wedding celebration of my best friend's nuptials (photos on my Facebook page) but it was more than just eating, drinking, dancing, eating, eating, eating ... it was also about Michael Jackson tattoos.

Specifically, I'm reporting back to y'all on some amazing work coming outta my motherland.

But before I give a list of my fave Greek tattooists, I should note that despite the Zorba-esque zestiness, jump-on-the-table-and-belly-dance desires of my peeps, it is NOT a country friendly to heavily tattooed people, especially women. In fact, it's pretty hostile, and I'm not just talking about the smaller villages but even in the big cities like Athens.

For example, in one day, I was stopped and cursed at by three different people for exercising my right to bare tattooed arms -- people who worked in tourist stores and could've taken my euros for things like erotic coasters depicting the ancients in various states of coitus.

One woman spit on the floor when she saw me, claiming I was a Satan worshipper. [Indeed, I would not deem Beyonce satan by any means!]

Of course, when I hung out with the satanists at the Rockwave Festival Tuesday, my tattoos were almost as big a hit as Mastodon, Kylesa and Lita Ford, so maybe there's something to it.

My point in writing all this is that -- while Greece remains one of the most beautiful places on earth to me, a place I go back to every year -- one must be prepared to suffer the evil eye of tattoo distaste despite the country's recent tattoo conventions and incredible local tattooists.

And speaking of, here's my pick of faves should you wish a souvenir from Greece other than the Athena is My Homegirl tee.

* Mike The AthensMike (whose work is shown here) is one of my favorite artists worldwide, even beyond Greece's borders, particularly for his Buddhist and East Asian iconography (in fact, you'll find his tattoo and fine art work in my upcoming book on blackwork). Mike takes a spiritual approach to tattooing and is part of MAHASHAKTI, a non-profit organization whose goal is to "preserve, promote and secure spiritual tattooing in our times."

* Sake Tattoo: 
For the less traditional, there's Sake, who is excellent for portraiture and new school stylings; work coming out of the shop also includes the Art Brut style popularized in France and Belgium (some work comes a bit close for comfort with artists like Yann and Jeff but I haven't seen any that warrant copyright suits).

* Greek Tattoo/Hellenic Stixis: Specializes in tattoos of Hellenic motifs -- akin to much of what I wear on my arms. Research in archaeology and ancient Greek arts inform the designs of the work done here, and so if you're looking to be adorned like a Greek vase, this is the place to go.

* Tattooligans: When traveling through northern Greece, in the great city of Thessaloniki (Salonika), head to Tattooligans for color realism, some of the best coming outta the country.

* Nico Tattoo CrewThe tattoo studios of Nico Tattoo -- found in Athens, Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli -- have a lot of artists working there, some excellent and some still learning, but when I passed by the Athens shop, I had the freedom to browse all the portfolios at leisure and everyone was super friendly. Nico himself has been around awhile and is known as a top Greek artist, but I was also really diggin the work of Kostas at the Athens shop for Japanese and Eastern iconography.

* Jimmy's: Jimmy's is the oldest tattoo shop in Greece and I remember there was a time over a decade ago that it was the only shop I'd ever hear of when I asked people in Athens about their tattoos. To learn more about Jimmy's, read this fabulous article by Lars Krutak for the Vanishing Tattoo.

This isn't an exhaustive list of course, and there are many great Greek tattoo artists creating beautiful works of art throughout the country.
connect with us

Marisa Kakoulas
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
Needles and Sins powered by Moveable Type.

Site designed and programmed by Striplab.

NS logo designed by Viktor Koen.