October 2009 Archives

05:46 PM
tattoo jews.jpgBy Craig Dershowitz

Today, CNN Living's "New Jews" feature describes the complex and unorthodox brand of self-identification practiced by an ever-growing segment of Jewish youth. While it is a fun story, it is a red herring that overextends its point.

While theirs is a post-Holocaust, post-Israel, post-religious segmentation community unique to Jews of this time, it is not unique to the youth of this time. Jews, more greatly assimilated then ever before, are finding themselves wrestling with a macro environment that is also brand new. That it affects their micro community is no surprise. They are being asked to find a way to marry religious, cultural, spiritual and political beliefs within a rapidly fluctuating social dynamic.

Just as youth activists, street artists and non-traditional political action committees were influential in the selection of America's latest president, why wouldn't socially active Jews be influential in the selection of their new G-d, be it secular or religious. Just as radical thinkers and new ideas are replacing tired old men and redundant programming across the literary and artistic spectrum, so too is this happening within the Jewish community.

Graffiti is now in advertisements. Cursing is on the radio. Near nudity is on TV. Newspapers are being ruined as evidenced by this article appearing on a blog. New sources for news, entertainment and comprehensive lifestyles are being accepted globally so, of course, it is happening within the Jewish community as well.

If there is anything to discuss, it is how quickly Jews develop within these new communities. Jews are early adapters. Whether the traditional groups will accept these new ideas and
leaders is the same question that appears in all communities as the former bosses must either stifle or make way for the new upstarts.

A prime example of one of these upstarts is ARTISTS 4 ISRAEL, a non-profit organization that allows the many talents of their members to advocate for Israel in various mediums including
graffiti, life drawing classes featuring nude models, hip-hop, street theater and, of course, tattooing.

As all news outlets tend to do, they focus on tattooing and Judaism. Although the truth behind Jewish observance and tattooing has been revealed time and again (most comprehensively HERE), it continues to remain the hook of any story where both a Semite and a needle appear simultaneously. As a proud and tattooed Jew, an advocate for inking your beliefs directly onto your body, I am shocked that we continue to be such a circus attraction. A majority of the Jews I know have tattoos and that is not, as the CNN article would have you believe, because there is some groundswell change in the Jewish community but, rather, because more youth have tattoos today. The level of artistry has risen in the tattoo community and has attracted more people than ever before.

Stop searching for boogeymen, people. Halloween will be over soon.

For more on tattooed Jews on Needles and Sins, hit these links:

01:00 PM
Last month, Karen Day of Cool Hunting generously reviewed my Black Tattoo Art book and in doing so, also held a contest for US readers to win a free copy if they submit the name of their favorite tattoo artist and studio. Cool Hunting picked the winner at random, and that winner turned out to be someone who's adorning billboards, taxis and bus stop shelters around NYC.

Meet Ginger Sierra
: paralegal, long-time Red Cross volunteer and tattoo collector. This Sunday, you'll find Ginger at one of the Red Cross Stations in Central Park for the NYC Marathon.

Oh, and for the record, her fave tattooist pick is Craig Rodriguez of Hand of Glory Tattoo who is doing beautiful work on Ginger. She also credits Steve Boltz for restoring a lot of older work and bringing it back to life.

As Ginger is also a Brooklyn girl, I decided to meet her in person to deliver her book. She's not one to flaunt her tattoos in public easily despite the billboards, but when she does, it's a treat, with her array of butterflies and flora that adorn her back and upper arms (she's gotten more work since that Red Cross photo above was taken).

I'm writing this post for two reasons:

First, to encourage all to follow Ginger's volunteerism and donate your time to organizations like the Red Cross. A lot of us complain that tattoo stereotypes still exist. Just look at this article on whether "tattoos make you trashy," especially the comments, and see that they indeed do. But these attitudes are best fought with action, not whining. And that's exactly what people like Ginger do when they use their free time to help others.

Second, Ginger told me a cool story that showed these negative attitudes towards tattoos are changing in the workplace. When the Red Cross campaign first launched, she told her Human Resources Director at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, noting the visible tattoos. And the response? The Chief of HR sent around a proud email to all employees of the DA's office to have them look out for the Ginger's ad. She says, "I'm a city employee. It is what it
is...truth, justice, and tattoos!"

Look out for Ginger at the marathon Sunday and look into volunteering yourself or supporting the Red Cross in many other ways. I'm considering buying their three-day emergency Go Bag, ya know, for the imminent zombie apocalypse.

The photos for the ad campaign were taken by the talented Jake Chessum.
11:33 AM
N Faith Hope Love.jpg
It's been a while since I did a shopping post. I guess in these recessionary times, I'm less about the flash and more about the rent. But the news today on economic growth inspired me to get back to the bling.

Check the latest from Femme Metale, rock and roll jewelry in sterling silver, with a custom fine jewelry line as well.

Leslie Homan is the tattooed designer and head diva at Femme Metale, a company she started in 2000 to bring the rock star look to all beyond the A-list hands of Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera, and Kate Moss, among many others.

A large part of the collection is tattoo inspired like this pendant shown right: an old school Sacred Heart with the themes of Faith, Hope & Love.

Personally, I got major love for the Sugar Skull ring on this store page ($130). Of course, I wouldn't say no to the diamond encrusted crossbones ring should someone be inspired to drop the $6,000 pour moi.

If either is outta your price range, check Leslie's Kitsch 'n' Kouture line, where jewelry like the Mitch O'Connell designs retail between $20 to $26.

And for your badass bitches, Underground Hound, another Femme Metale brand, offers tattoo design doggie tees and charms.

Now go forth and stimulate the economy.
03:00 PM

Yesterday, I mentioned Michelle Myles and how she has posted clips of the Tattoo Wars Old School episode on her Daredevil Tattoo site. I just saw the video she took and edited (shown above) on the London Tattoo Convention (which I blogged about here and here). The female tattooed Fellini did a great job capturing the show, and I'm diggin the tune by Mike Mok and the Em Tones.

Contraband Candy, who specialize in metal and alt culture videos, has this fantastic video below from last year's show, which includes interviews and the best part -- the tattoos shown in the video have the artist credits!! A rarity, and an appreciated one. The video is accompanied with a sweet Rockabilly sound as well.

06:11 PM
ciferri coffe.jpg
My buddy Badur of Punk Medics -- a design and java connoisseur -- sent me this link to tattooer Seth Ciferri's latest promo for one of his tattoo machines, the Light Roast Liner.

The For Print Only blog looks at how Seth worked on designing, with Keegan Wenkman, the Courier Coffee Roasters packages that hold the pound of coffee you get when you purchase the liner machine. The design has that old school feel that Seth is known for although the idea that my tattooist is hopped up on a pound of caffeine before a session kinda frightens me.

FUN FACT: Seth was also on one of the Tattoo Wars series, the most "real" of the tattoo reality shows, where he went up against Michelle Myles. [See clips of the show here.]

Since July 2008, Seth has been building his sought-after machines in Portland, Oregon full time.
11:25 AM
heroes tattoo.jpg
I keep meaning to check out the show Heroes, which airs Monday nights, because this season they have a new character whose power comes from her tattoos: Lydia, a name likely derived from the Marx song, revamped by our own B. Grosz.

[Indeed, my own tattoos have super-powers -- the power to illicit the dumbest questions from people ever.]

Lydia's power works like this: she gets needled and the ink morphs into a tattoo of a person,whom she can then learn of there thoughts, feelings, whereabouts...She's an empath. Essentially, a tattooed Counselor Troi. [Shout out to my Trekkies.]

Wait. Is this too much geekin out for ya?

Well, watch this YouTube video of Dawn Olivieri talk about her Lydia character and how she's naked for most of the show, and maybe you'll forgive me.

Also check this video clip of Lydia's tattoos in action. The next episode is tonight at 8/7c.

Thanks, Chris, for the links!
05:07 PM
Brent McCown tattooing.jpgMy Brooklyn homies, Chris Budd and Gene Coffey of Tattoo Culture just got back from last weekend's Evian Tattoo Expo in France and had a blast. Today, Gene takes over Needles & Sins to offer his review of the show.

Also check Gene's pix of the convention on Flickr.

By Gene Coffey

After a short train ride from Geneva, Switzerland to Evian, France, Chris Budd and I began our Evian Tattoo Convention adventure. A quaint little town on the lake that borders Switzerland and France, Evian seemed an odd place to put on a tattoo convention. We arrived Thursday, a day before the show began, and the town felt sleepy and unaware of the potential madness that was about to descend on it. Old french couples, poodles in tow, strolled the cobblestone streets peering at the obvious outsiders dragging our luggage noisily towards our hotel. Check-in. Drop bags in rooms. Let's see what Evian has to offer. We headed to a little pub at the end of the block and grabbed a bite. Cheese crapes and coffee presented by an angry old french man in a restaurant that stunk of the old mangy dog pacing the floor and leering at the customers. It was going to be a loooooong weekend.

horitada horimono.jpgThe sun rose behind a backdrop of mountains, marking the entrance of the weekend and the beginning of the convention. We headed over to the Palais des Congres for Friday morning set-up. The space is awesome: three floors with a fountain outside, a beautiful facade, a stage and skylights. We were greeted by Dats, the organizer of the show, who was warm and welcoming even under the obvious pressures of putting on such a shin dig. We headed upstairs to our booth. It was huge and directly under the skylights. Our booth-mates hadn't arrived yet, we I began to set up.

Destiny and fate had prompted me to shave my beard just days before leaving New York, but I opted to leave the mustache intact. Then as our friends Noon and Xoil from Needle's Side arrived I was overjoyed to behold that both of them were also sporting the most dapper of manly mustaches too. Instantly we became the Mustache Men. Patrons began to file in and the air filled with the buzzing of machines and murmurs of french. Cheek kissing abounded.

stachetastic.jpgWithin an hour of the convention starting, I already had a customer and the tattooing began. I felt a bit like the odd man out in our booth. I didn't know anyone there and didn't speak any french, so it was a great escape to go right to work. A couple hours later I had finished the piece and was pumped to walk around and see what everyone was up to. Chris had already made the rounds so he stayed in the booth and I wandered the isles. The caliber of artists in attendance was superb. Kevin LeBlanc, Adrian Dominic, Horitada, Tommy Lee, Olivier, Brent McCown and many more made for a well rounded selection of styles from around the world.  The day marched on at the usual pace of every convention until...

The most horrible, soul crushing, embarrassing, pathetic display of unashamed human behavior ensued as the GodGirls took to the stage for the "Sexy Show". I can honestly say that it was the first time in my life where I have seen a hot, naked girl and been so entirely turned off that my penis almost inverted itself and tried to turtle head its way back into my abdomen. The first girl to come on stage to dance and strip in what I suppose was some mutated French version of burlesque was best described by Chris when he turned to me and said "She looks like a deaf person trying to dance to music she can't hear." And it went downhill from there. I'm all for public nudity, but MY GOD!!! If your going to do a "Sexy Show" perhaps a little rehearsal in front of a mirror might do a bit of good before you go on stage and make an "ass" of yourself.

Friday ended. Saturday began at 10a.m. The convention was packed with people by 11. It was really great working with Noon and Xoil. Their work it so happy and carefree that everyone who came up to our booth instantly broke into a smile. They taught me a few key phrases in french which helped me to spread my American sense of humor to the unsuspecting french people. "Bonjour. Voulez-vous sentir ma mustache?" was my favorite.

Evian Tattoo Expo.jpgThe weekend was one of the most positive tattoo convention experiences I have had. The attendees were all friendly people. Very few d-bags. No biker brawls. And lots of amazing tattoos! It was sad when it ended Sunday night. Gear was packed. People faded away. Quiet returned to this little french town. But not before 25 of us went to have one last bash at a local restaurant. Good food and great new friends was the perfect way to end the convention.

One of the great things about Evian is that it is a 40 minute ferry ride away from Lausanne, Switzerland. Home to Filip Leu. Monday morning Chris and I headed there to visit him. He was super welcoming. Gave us some coffee and we hung out for about an hour. It was awesome to see his shop and his artwork. It felt like a tattoo mecca. As people (about 30 of them) arrived we took it as our cue to break out. We said our goodbyes and it was all over.

Au revoir, Evian. Voulez-vous sentir ma mustache?
See more of Gene's Tattoo Work on his Flickr Portfolio.
03:44 PM
paulboothking.jpgAn appointment with horror maestro Paul Booth without an eternal waiting list?  Yes, it's true. Not April Fools but for Creep-In Day!

Celebrate this first time event at Last Rites Tattoo Theatre, on Halloween, that's next Saturday, October 31st, from 12pm-12am at 511 W. 33rd Street, between 10th & 11th Aves, 3rd floor.

On that day, you may have the rare opportunity to be tattooed spontaneously without an appointment by Paul Booth himself and his cadre of top artists at Last Rites. It's all on a first come, first serve basis and follows standard convention protocol: a one-sitting freehand style work with an approx. 3 hour time limit on a piece. It's recommended that you give the artists your theme and trust them to run with it.  It's also suggested that you get there earlier than noon if you are really serious about getting work. [Even if you're there early, if you're "overly aggressive, intoxicated or under the influence of drugs," you won't get tattooed.

There'll be enough artistic stimuli to get ya high anyway, with live painting sessions featuring Esao Andrews, Vincent Castiglia, Fred Harper, Dan Quintana, David Stoupakis, and Genevive Zacconi as well as ArtFusion Experiment collaborative painting performances by tattooists such as Paul Acker, Goethe, Juan Selgado, Jesse Smith, and more. In a new twist, an extra ArtFusion canvas will be open for the public to paint as well.

The Film Chapel will be rolling Paul's personal horror movie picks continuously, and of course, costumes are encouraged -- the event will be filmed for an upcoming Last Rites DVD, so look your evil best (although costumes are not mandatory).

Free food, drink, performances, art, and a Last Rites tattoo = a perfect Halloween.
paul booth .jpg

04:18 PM
Joe Capobianco, one of the world's top female fantasy tattooists, as well as illustrator, painter and all around good guy, has a new sketch book out that will inspire tattooers and collectors looking to get sexy.

Knock Yerself Out is a 120-page hardcover filled with all new sketches, drawings, and color studies by an artist who has spent his career mastering the art of pin-up. The book is designed to be used as flash or to spark your own recipe for cookin up some cheesecake. And it retails for the low price of $25 via Pulse Tattoo Supply (the same peeps behind Presto Art, which published the book).

You can get a video preview of Knock Yerself Out on Joe's homepage and check sample pages (not all work safe) on the Pulse Tattoo blog.
04:18 PM
wild things are tattoo.jpg
Where The Wild Things Are tattoo by Shaun Topper of Da Vinci Tattoo

Last night, Brian and I went to see Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are -- both of us being childhood fans of Maurice Sendak's book -- and it definitely did not disappoint.

The picture book and film tug at all emotion: anger, joy, fear, love, trust ... so it's not surprising that those wanting to wear their hearts on their sleeves choose WTWTA tattoos. And there are many.

Here are some picks of my faves in addition to the above by Shaun Topper:

In fact, tons of WTWTA tattoos flood Flickr, and more are being added to the movie's blog.

On the non-tattoo tip, psych and philosophy buffs will love this NY Times Op-Ed on the film, where David Brooks offers gems like this:
"People have only vague intuitions about the instincts and impulses that have been implanted in them by evolution, culture and upbringing. There is no easy way to command all the wild things jostling inside."

Go see the film. You'll love it so.
Forever Yours Tattoo Gallery in Douglasville, GA will have Where The Wild Things Are tribute days this Thursday and Friday. Dave Kruseman will be tattooing designs of characters from the book with prices ranging from $50 to $150 these two days only. It's a first come first serve deal with food and drinks while you wait. See sample flash sheets here. Sweeeet!
Thanks, David G, for the heads up.
02:03 PM
tattoo lego .jpg
The only thing I love more than bible stories created in Legos, is tattooed Legos sinning. [Someone's been reading Bobby Fisher's last post.]

Then, of course, there are the Lego tattoo tributes and this grainy video of a working tattoo machine made of Legos. A feast for all with arrested development! Share and enjoy.

Thanks, Tim, for the link!

11:37 AM
As Frank Zappa said many moons ago, "You can't be a Real Country unless you have a beer  and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a BEER."  Of course, the standard that I've always used for real fame and notoriety is: do you have a sandwich named after you?


But, I have to admit, I was quite surprised to look up from my hummus and veggie pita-wrap, to see Anil Gupta's name on the table tent. 

Yup, that's right!  The man who tattooed Jenna Jameson, Christian Slater, Rosie O'Donnell and our very own Righteous Redhead has an eponymous Tandoori Chicken Wrap at all the Pita Grill locations.

I think my allocated day-dreaming time today will be spent constructing my own gastronomical namesake...
08:16 PM

Before the bedazzled tees (courtesy of Christian Audigier), Don Ed Hardy was best known for being one of the first American tattooists to raise the craft to a fine art. It's amazing to me how many people pay for pricey goods with the man's name across their chests and yet have no idea who he is.

Exactly who is Ed Hardy -- the artist, not the brand -- is the focus of a film by Emiko Omori entitled Ed Hardy: Tattoo The World, a preview of which is shown above. [Omori is also co-director of the 2003 documentary Skin Stories on Polynesian tattooing.]

Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World will be screened this
Saturday, October 24th at 10:30 PM at the Hawaii International Film Fest.
12:45 PM
art of rebellion.jpgTomorrow, October 17th -- for one night only -- at La.Venue, in Chelsea NYC, Harley-Davidson presents 10 of the most exciting poster artists and their takes on the spirit of rebellion.

The Art of Rebellion features original, one-of-a-kind pieces created on Iron 883 tanks, as well as signature posters from their collection. They're all available for purchase and a chunk of the proceeds go to the CUE Art Foundation.

Poster artists and painters include: The Pizz,Tara McPherson, Art Chantry, Brian Ewing, Dirty Donny, Frank Kozik, Lindsey Kuhn, John Van Hamersveld, Harpoon, Derek Hess. There will also be photography by Adam Wright and Steven Stone.

It's a free event with free booze and free music by DJ Ody Roc. A rebellious free-for-all from 8 til midnight.  La.Venue is at 608 West 28th Street (Between 11th & 12th Ave).

Gonna try and make it if I'm not passed out from this crazy week. Hope to see ya there.
01:05 AM

zulu tattoo.jpg

Professional photography in this post by Lee Corkett of Weathervane Images.

I am grateful to have talked with Roni Zulu, the prolific Los Angeles tattoo artist and owner of Zulu Tattoo. Zulu is a master of symbols and the meanings behind them. He started as a graphic designer and session musician until a yearning for more led him to the world of tattooing.

Zulu has tattooed many noteworthy people including Janet Jackson, Deborah Wilson, Mariah Carey, Queen Latifah, Bruce Willis, Montel Williams, Christina Aguilera, Alanis Morissette, Ben Vereen, Rosie O'Donnell, David Duchovny and Lisa Bonet to name a few.

We talked about how he got his start in tattoo, racism, spirituality, and how the art can evolve.

How did you transition from being a graphic designer and musician to tattoo artist?

Well, the transition from being a graphic designer to a tattooist wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I didn't know I would be venturing into a field that was primarily dominated by a prejudiced group of people: the underworld of tattooing was dominated and controlled by biker factions, skinheads and a lot of white supremacists groups. Upon entering into this world and seeking an apprenticeship, I couldn't get one. I was turned away, at times, laughed at as I walked out the door with racial slurs escorting me out.

So I realized that the only way I was going to learn was to teach myself. What I would do is go to conventions with a video camera and stand across the room and film people tattooing and in essence create my own instructional videos. Then I would go to the butcher market and buy pigs ears, a big flat piece of meat you can practice on, similar to human flesh. That was the only way I could break in because I could not get an apprenticeship.

When did you start tattooing?

I would say approximately 17 years ago.

Tell me about opening your own tattoo shop.

I assumed, well if I can't get an apprenticeship, I'm sure that I'm not going to be able to get a station in one of these shops. I went into many of them and saw that they were not the kind of places that I would want to be associated with. The one's that would have me weren't very reputable, and I decided I'm going to have to create my own world.

I opened my own shop after tattooing in my home. I started out tattooing friends and they would tell friends and it got to a point where I had to open a shop because I couldn't run that many people through my house.

When you opened a shop, did you get any resistance from other tattoo shops?

I got a great deal of resistance. It would be common to get to work check the messages and have messages such as "Nigger, close down your shop or were going to bomb it," or "Close down your shop or were going to break your legs." I got these kind of threats daily. At one point a lot of bikers came by with baseball bats and told me I had 24 hours to shut down the shop.

I'm not an advocate of violence but also I'm not going to run, so from that point on, for the next year I went to work with a 357 magnum strapped to my chest, where everyone could see it. I would be sitting there tattooing with a gun strapped so they would know. Like most bullies, they were cowards when they find you're not going to run. At that point, it was like by any means necessarily.

zulu tattooing.jpg

07:01 PM

"Free cover-ups when you turn 21."  XgiggleX
Side note: Instead of the Straight Edge Xs, Nikole Lowe (of London Ink fame, now owner of Good Times Tattoo) has check marks to denote, well, the opposite.

Found this Toothpaste for Dinner comic via super-tattooer Orrin Hurley.
03:44 PM
lips.jpgDear Frisky readers,

Welcome to sin. You are loved.


PS: Susanah Breslin rocks.

12:47 PM
tatstheexperience.jpgPhoto by Rachel Bodenstein

While the word "Tats" normally tempts my gag reflex, it is easily allayed with tattooed eye candy like those above. They're cast members in a new theater production about tattoos entitled Tats: The Experience.

Writers Kat Reynolds and Colleen Hammond Whitmore have created a play, which includes music, dance, and puppetry, where the main characters are tattoos.

Daniel Guyton in Access Atlanta previews tomorrow's opening at the Woodruff Arts Center:

"The play (though, truthfully, it is much more of an event than a play) primarily follows Mattie, along with Len, Dinah, Nash, Ansley, Sue and more, as they explore the motivations, causes, feelings, and reactions to the body art which they, or their friends have obtained. While the individual tattoos and body art are the primary characters here (make no mistake, this is NOT Death of a Salesman), the script still manages to follow (believably, heartwarmingly, and hilariously at times), the stories of 16 characters (all played by 7 actors), who have (or have witnessed) said tattoos. [...] As I read through the script, I laughed, I grew thoughtful, I felt genuine sympathy, and I found myself understanding and accepting tattoos in a way I had never thought before."

I know, it sounds corny, but I'm reserving judgment until I see the play myself; hopefully; it will come to NYC.

The real problem for people who truly love tattoos and are heavily tattooed is that not every tattoo has to be an epic tale. You can simply want a tattoo for beauty, just because you like it. Art for art's sake.

Yet, those who only know tattoos from TV have quite a different picture. In every reality tattoo show, there must be drama and ethos behind a tattoo. I understand you need this for TV, but it doesn't make it "reality." The biggest complaint I hear from tattooists today is this:

"Why do I need to hear clients talk about their dead dogs or why daddy didn't love them? You should come to a tattoo studio for art, not therapy."

In fact, "tats" don't need a story. But maybe it will still make a good show. At least there are pretty actors to ogle. 

The first performance is tomorrow at 7:30 PM and tickets are only $15 each. For my Atlanta friends reading: if you go, hit me up and let me know what you thought.     
12:38 PM
Underway.jpgLet's just all assume that Marisa's new Black Tattoo Art book is already on everybody's list -- and it should be, since it's the kind of book that I imagine will be one of those much sought after publications fifty years from now. Anyway, history is important, books are good, here's three you can still get and should be reading or purchasing immediately. We'll go reverse chronologically.

Underway is the Only Way
This is the one that prompted me to make this little list, and while you can still snag a copy on Book Mistress, it's not currently in print. So go get a copy now and read the rest of this later. A joint effort between Grime and Horitaka, Underway is all interviews with current tattooers, both old vets and younger guys, and they run the gamut: Jack Rudy, Marcus Pacheco, Filip Leu, Corey Miller and a Chris O'Donnell/Mike Rubendall conversation where beer is spilled at least four times. It's a really fantastic look at how a lot of tattooers came up, but what's even better is that the conversations are long; which means they get in to some great topics, instead of just bitching about TV shows. There's also Guy Aitchison, Aaron Cain, Troy Denning...

New York City Tattoo
I got this book a few years ago and it's always a fun one to come back to. Sam O'Reilly got the ball rolling in Chinatown in 1875 and New York City Tattoo picks up with tattooers like Brooklyn Blackie, Huck Spaulding and the Moskowitz brothers. It's all oral interviews and full of stories about grungy, closet-sized spaces and serious bare-knuckle brawls before the ban in 1964. This was real deal tattooing and if it doesn't make you respect the trade and its rough-and-tumble western roots, then I'm sending a certain fiery redhead your way that I'm sure can sort you out. There's also some amazing old photos and some great old flash.

Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art
Originally published by Simon and Schuster in 1933, Dover re-printed Albert Parry's work in 2006. Pretty sure someone mentioned this on N+S, or maybe it was the old Needled, but it's definitely worth a look -- they've got Charlie Wagner in here! It gives you the 1930s perspective, which can be pretty hilarious but also surprisingly similar to the current state of affairs here in 2009. Take, for example, tattooers throwing a fit when they started making ladies pajamas with tattoo designs on them. Parry does a good job of talking to folks and trying to get to the bottom of why so many different types of people seem to love tattoos: ladies, kids, criminals, hookers, circus folks. Also has some photos and flash designs, but they aren't the focus.

Now, there are a few books I failed to mention. Here's another quick list of books we've covered on here (in varying depth) that you should also check out, and, of course, the Shige book has already become one of those much sought after publications...so we assume it's assumed. But:

* The Art of Shige

* Tattoo Machines: Tall Tales, True Stories & My Life in Ink

* John Reardon's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting a Tattoo

* The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olivia Oatman

* Tattoo in Japan

Also, Lal Hardy's Mammoth Book of Tattoos is worth a look, too, for some great current work and Vintage Tattoos is fun for some classic designs. Ok, so this was what, three lists? Two and a half? Feel free to add!

03:43 PM
beneaththefold.jpgIt's no secret: I love playing cover songs.  I take great pleasure in arranging (and re-arranging) a composition to give it a Pretty-Woman/Eliza-Doolittle makeover to turn the whore into a saint, or vicea versa.  It's an extra treat when the song I'm "covering" is one of my own.

Today marks the release of "Beneath The Fold" from my stoner-metal band, Dogs of Winter.  We stripped down the psychedelic maelstrom (as it appears on From Soil To Shale) to a few acoustic guitars and a string section and I have to admit, I can't decide which version I like better.

You can download the MP3 in two high-quality bitrates at lapdanceacademy.com/fold - bundled with a PDF digibooklet featuring artwork from Boston-based illustrator, Joe Boyle (the design process for which, he blogs about here).

I also got to lose my mind for a few days, scouring the Prelinger collection of royalty-free movies at archive.org and cobbled together a companion video for the track.  Any filmmakers/video-artists out there really need to take advantage of this amazing collection.

Let us know what you think of the track and the video in the comments, would ya?

[UPDATE: my previous link to Joe's illustration process was based on the old cover, here's his process-piece on "Beneath The Fold" for all of you art-nerds]
01:46 PM
lydia costume.jpg
It's that time of year, my friends. A time when the tacky take over, when once demure women play dress up in slutty outfits of our fave fairy tales, and grown men think it's ok to wear a penis hat on their heads. Yes, Halloween costume planning is upon us.

And along with 2009's top trends like the Octomom or racy Devil Grrl get-up for your 8-year-old, this year's top costumes are all about ... us.

While I should be thankful that I don't need to fork over a fifty for dirty cop duds, there's something that really scares me about Halloween ensembles like these:

* The Tattoo Freak -- for your kid too!
* Miami Ink Hell Raiser & Low Rider horrors
* The Tattoo Biker
* Creepy Tattoo Man mask
* Prison Play Tattoo Convict
* And Lydia the Tattooed Lady (right)
 [Inspired by Brian Grosz's Marx remake?]
* Hell, you can even dress your doggie up.

But I figured out what's really bugging me here, and it's not that companies are making a buck mocking our art. What it comes down to is this: the tattoos in these costumes suck.

Now, I'm all for stickin some faux tattoo sleeves on my unadorned sis to freak out my father, but they gotta have decent designs.

Here are alternatives if you decide to go as me for Halloween:

* Hire a tattooist or art school student to marker up non-permanent body art.
* Rock some henna paste (the reddish brown not toxic black).
* Slap on Temptu Pro tattoo transfers.
* Or custom make your own temps.

And don't forget to complete the costume with a loud maniacal laugh & nerd banter.
10:58 AM
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Tattoo Culture in Williamburg, Brooklyn has always been a second home for me. Owner Chris Budd has given his big, beautiful studio over as our Needles & Sins party and gallery space, an office for me to blog when I wanna break outta my apartment, and just a hangout of good friends and artists from all over the world.

Now, Tattoo Culture has found a home here on this site in their advertising support, as you'll find their distinct logo to the left.

Resident artist Gene Coffey is skilled at all styles, from abstract to Japanese to lettering and, most important, his clients love him because he doesn't bring attitude to the studio but a great sense of humor. His work is featured in this post.

gene coffey 1.jpgWhat also makes Tattoo Culture special is that it acts as a concierge studio to international tattooists, artists who bring tattoo styles that are rare to find even in the NY metropolis, like the Art Brut style of Noon or the blackwork of Daniel DiMattia. Other artists have included Max.Schmal of Austria, Jake Abandonment and Adam of Darklite from Australia, Sento of Spain, among may others.

The current guest artist is my homegirl Emilie aka Klak of Belgium who is an old school tattoo diva but can rock a black & grey piece like she came from LA. Emilie will be tattooing at the studio until mid-November.

In fact, she's taking over for the week as Gene and Chris head to this weekend's Evian Tattoo Show in France. Chris will be taking photos and bringing back a report for Needles & Sins, so look out for that in the coming weeks.

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If you're interested in advertising on N+S, hit me up through the contact link. 
09:18 PM
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Photo of Rory Keating Tattoo on Lady Miss Nataka in Black Tattoo Art

It's been a month since I blogged about my Black Tattoo Art book, so I figured I could get away with a quick, shameless update.

Now, if you order the book from LastGasp.com, and put in the promo code "Needles" at checkout online, then you get free shipping -- and considering the book weighs about nine pounds, that's a big savings.

In the 536-page hardcover, you find 35 of the very best blackwork artists paying homage to the ancient roots of tattooing in their contemporary interpretations. No other publication has curated the work of so many esteemed international tattooists working in black ink and gathered them into one MASSIVE comprehensive volume. Check sample pages on Flickr.

A full page review of the book is in this month's Total Tattoo magazine and it got 5 out of 5 stars, saying "If we had a six star rating, Black Tattoo Art would certainly merit it." Woohoo!
03:20 PM

I wasn't planning on an extra post today, but when Jenni sent this vid to me -- via Bust blog -- I couldn't resist to give ya one more piece of tattoo goodness before the weekend.  Kiss.
12:44 PM
Because I didn't want to leave you with the taste of that Diana image for the weekend, here are some events to check out in NYC, LA and Portland.

In LA tomorrow, from 8pm until Midnight, Canvas LA will present a solo show of new works by NORM AWR MSK, tattoo, graff and fine artist. Since October 1st, NORM has been doing an installation piece on the front of Canvas Los Angeles, and everyday, they've been posting the progress of the installation. The show should be full of eye candy in various mediums like his work above.

In NYC, LES fixture and tattoo culture veteran, Clayton Patterson, will be signing his book  Captured this Sunday at the A Life Gallery from 3 to 5 PM in conjunction with his photo exhibit LES Captured -- which Bobby Fisher wrote about last week. You can also read more about Clayton & his art on the latest NY Times article profiling him.

And in Oregon, the Portland Tattoo Expo kicks off today and runs through the weekend with your standard fare of contests, pin-ups, burlesque shows, vendors, and about 300 tattoo machines buzzing. If you go, send me the gossip and any pics.

Ok, I'm out. Have a fabulous weekend!
12:08 PM
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Photo by Kate Bellm

Evan at CoolHunting just forwarded Platform Mag's newsletter of yesterday where the very top image was a tattoo portrait on someone's buttocks depicting Princess Diana felating a large and oddly shaped penis.

The braintrust here at Needles and Sin HQ couldn't wrap our minds around why Platform chose to usher in the Fall with such an image, especially as it's from a photoset by Kate Bellm of the Berlin Tattoo Convention posted last February (the Berlin convention takes place the first weekend in December). Slow news week?

We decided to give ya the link to the images because they are good tattoo photos and simply warn you that the Diana tattoo is on page two -- not work safe at all but it just may make you feel superior about your own tattoo choices.
06:54 PM
Photo by Ariel Jankelowitz for The Forward

In further proof that the revolution will be shaded, come two events, back-to-back, which prove the Jewish mainstream is quickly catching up with Craig Dershowitz and the illustrated masses.

First, myself & my haphazardly-shaved chest are featured on the front page of The Forward (traditional Judaism's version of the Wall Street Journal, with more Wall, less Street) along with some fine art photography featuring the Rebbetzin herself, Marisa Kakoulas on an article describing tattooed Jews and our ever-growing influence on the unmarked.

Second, Sixth & I, a historic temple in Washington D.C., has tapped Ami James, the Israeli
tattoo artist made famous on Miami Ink, to speak with Todd Weinberger from Inked magazine regarding all that is Tattoo & Taboo about Jewish body art on Sunday, October 25th at 7pm
Unfortunately for all of us, that event promises to be sans Marisa's glamor shots.

Tattooed Jews, this is the moment. The house of cards is creaky, the Jenga tiles poorly structured. Let your ink speak out now and let us push Judaism into a culture of artistic acceptance and freedom of expression.
12:37 PM
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Japanese tattoo master Horiyoshi III is legendary for his exquisite full body suits, inspiring legions of tattooists worldwide. Naturally, getting an appointment with him is no easy feat, but now you can wear the artwork of Horiyoshi III without the trip to Yokohama.

His new clothing line, Horiyoshi the Third, has released their Men's Fall/Winter 2009 Collection and it's a sexy set of tigers, demons, and other traditional wood block print imagery -- without the bedazzlement of, say, an Audigier monstrosity. The line is produced in Japan on a limited run basis -- a lesson learned perhaps, after seeing how Ed Hardy's licensed designs were bastardized.

I particularly love the subtle extras like the Hanya pendants on the zipper pulls or the fine sleeve detailing. The accessories are also beautifully designed, but with the catalog link broken, I can't tell ya how much they'll hurt your wallet.

Read more about the collection on The Freshness Mag online.

You can purchase the clothing at Alan Bilzerian in Massachusetts and Brown's in London but I also found a number available on Amazon.com like the Dragon Head hoodie, the "Wall Street Ogre" hoodie and the White Snake tee.

Will have more on the Horiyoshi the Third brand, especially when the women's line comes out.
10:45 AM
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Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage

This past weekend, the "Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth" in Vegas' Mandalay Bay Convention Center housed some the world's best tattoo artists -- from Samoan master Sulu Ape Pili Mo'o to Japan's Horitoshi to today's tattoo prodigies like Mike Devries.

And while the list of those names make me tingle, the media didn't find it too sexy, so most of the coverage was on a shirtless Dave Navarro and other Hollywood homies in attendance.

Thankfully, I can get gossip from friends who attended. Here's what Chris Stauber said:

"I was really up in the air about what I expected from this convention. I think that was mainly due to how lame every other Vegas show has been. This one was OK. They tried and I think they get credit for pulling off the best convention we've locally attended. There was a little disorganization between the entry lines and the competition format and the whole space seemed a bit big for the show. Attendance seemed decent taking the crappy economy into account. I heard it was free to locals and I know there were all sorts of links for websites to sign up for free passes....I really enjoyed the international presence. Seeing the Horitoshi tattoo family and the booths of traditional tapping was amazing. The tattoo museum was fun and somewhat educational. Sylvester Stallone walked around with his body guards and was kind enough to take a picture with our good buddy Jared from Next Generation Machines. I smiled pretty for a lot of cameras."

Chris took photos, which you can find here. Also check Soo Serious' Flicker for great shots.
11:35 AM
Tattoo by the fabulous David Allen

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and tattoo studios across the country are working for the cause.

In Aurora, Colorado, 5280 Tattoo is tattooing free pink ribbons every Saturday this month on breast cancer survivors and the loved-ones of breast cancer victims. Reni Soto has already made her appointment, telling Fox 61 News "I'm getting 'faith' underneath it. I kept my faith through the process. Every time I look down I remember what I went through."

In Pomona, CA, this Saturday, October 10th, is the Second Annual Tattoos for a Cure where the artists of Ink'd Chronicles will be tattooing the pink ribbons and other designs at their Pomona Art Colony location (there's an $80 minimum). All the proceeds will go to the Breast Health program at the Robert & Beverly Lewis Cancer Care Center. There will also be an art show and live bands.

For years now, the Healing Art Foundation has been "Saving the Boobies" bringing awareness and raising money through tattoo and fine art. They also hook survivors up with tattooists for tattoos, permanent make-up, areola repigmentation, and cover ups.

Those interested in getting a pink ribbon tattoo with a Celtic twist, see Pat Fish's story of how she created her endless knot of remembrance tattoo design, which can be downloaded for purchase here.

One of my favorite tattoos is this F*uck Cancer rendering that I found on Punk Rock Mommy a couple of years ago, but be warned, it's a heartbreaking tale of one badass woman's fight against the disease.

On a personal note, my mom is a breast cancer survivor, and in her 70s, is still kickin major butt. She did tell me that if I wanted to honor her battle, "a nice Italian dinner" would suffice and not to get needled on her behalf. No worries, mom. Reservations -- no tattoo appointments -- have been made.
10:33 AM
Tonight, at Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the Fourth Annual Group Show featuring the fine art of tattooists. One of the artists is Amanda Wachob of Daredevil Tattoo. Her paintings have been shown across the US and in Canada to great acclaim, but I wanted to particularly talk to Amanda about her experimental tattoo work and how she's pushing the boundaries of what makes a tattoo fine art in itself. Here's how the conversation went...

I wanna get the dirt on the experimental tattoo projects you're working on now. Tell me about them.

I have so many ideas I can't sleep at night! 

Ten people in symbiosis with their own painting. The design starts on the participant's body and travels onto the canvas behind them. I am not charging for the tattoo work, I am asking that people make a donation to the Henry Street Settlement. Henry Street is a non-profit organization that has been active in providing healthcare, housing, senior services, etc. for the Lower East Side community in Manhattan for over 100 years. They also recognize the importance of art and have many wonderful art-based programs and workshops....this is area where I am hoping to direct the money. When the project is completed, I'd like to have an exhibition showcasing all of the work.

What inspired it?

I'm trying to push an abstract tattoo to the next level.  It's a big experiment and hopefully it will be visually successful!  If not, at least a really great organization has been given some funds to help the community.

You bring fine art concepts to your tattoos but do you consider tattooing as a fine art itself?

I see it as a tool. In the same way that a paintbrush can be used to paint the exterior of a house, it can also be used to apply paint to a canvas. It depends on how you are using it, and who is doing the tattooing.

Let's talk about your conceptual art tattoos. Describe your bloodline tattoos, the process, the designs, the type of people who get them and why. Is there something symbolic or magic to them?

I am fascinated by symbols and ideograms, simple graphic images that contain multifarious meaning. The bloodlines are only magic in the sense that the idea is based on that of a sigil.  A "seal," or sigil, is a visual thought form charged with a particular magical intent and magicians often employed these abstract glyphs in spells. Austin Osman Spare has been a big inspiration. He was an artist and a visionary who created the magical technique of sigilization, focusing your will on an symbol to manifest a change in the material world. Most of the people that have gotten the bloodlines are people close to me, people who fit with the symbol. 

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When is a tattoo not just a tattoo, that is, when is it more than art for art's sake?

Hahaha, sometimes I wonder why a tattoo can't just be a tattoo for Pete's sake! I don't think people have a problem explaining why they are getting tattooed and what their design means to them. If anything, people over-explain almost as if they have to justify the reason why they are altering their appearance. Why not get something just because you think it's beautiful, why not get tattooed just because you like the commitment of a permanent change?!  To get something in and of itself, there is no pretension in this and no extraneous meaning.

You're abstract tattoos have gotten much attention recently. They are not just beautiful but also harmonize so well with the shape of the body. What's interesting is that not all are outlined like traditional tattoos. Some may argue that the old tenets of tattooing, like strong outlines, are the key to a work's longevity. How do you respond to that in the context of your tattoo work?

I think you said it best Marisa ~ old tenets.

You also do a lot of strong traditional tattooing. How do you approach each style?

Traditional in the sense that I also do a lot of work with a black line, but I have never really tattooed a lot of traditional American imagery. I love traditional tattoos: skulls, daggers, pinups, roses, they are classic images that have a rich history in American culture. But I also like to think beyond the repetition of those designs. And for each tattoo I try to accommodate the desires of my customer...I don't always put "my spin" on it....after all, the tattoo is not about me.

In the eleven years you've been tattooing, what have been the most important lessons you've learned, whether they be about the art or human nature?

Listen to the people you respect, watch the people who are skilled, and wear a thick skin.

Working at Daredevil, a very busy studio, you must get some strange tattoo requests. What has been the most memorable tattoo that you've done there?

A cupcake on a crotch with a cherry on top.

Have you ever tattooed one of your paintings on a client? Would you want to?

Sure, if the painting speaks to them I would gladly tattoo it.  I have tattooed images from my paintings before, but skin is more limiting than canvas, you can only go so far with detail and color.


Let's talk more about your painting. What's the process like for you -- is it cathartic, heavy, serene or intense?

Sometimes it's tedious. I like immediate results, and the kind of oil painting that I do...layering and glazing, requires diligence. It's good practice for leveling out my impatient nature though.  In the end painting is an emotional release for me. 

I see themes of sexuality, gender and race. Do such themes inspire the work? Do you look to make a social statement in your art?

Yes, those themes occasionally inspire the work. I think it's important to address some of those issues because they veil our true nature -- we are all a small slice of a larger whole, at the core we are all coequal. We forget this and judge one another based on gender and race.  Sometimes I like to be subversive, other times I just like to make something pretty.

I'm looking forward to seeing your work in the Tattoo Culture Art show. Do you have any other exhibits coming up?

I have a solo show at the Castellani Art Museum next year and have been focusing on making work for this.

For the last two questions, I'm gonna get intimate. First, what is your personal philosophy?

Cultivate a boundless heart!!!

Ok, now finish this sentence: A happy life for me is ...

100 mph on the highway, the final layer of varnish, and belly laughing over a big plate of bacon.


You can find Amanda at Daredevil Tattoo in Manhattan's Lower East Side four days a week by appointment: Wed., Thurs., Sat. and Sunday. She's always on the prowl for people who want to participate in her various tattoo projects. Her next one is called the Love Club, which will be in February for Valentine's Day. We'll have details on that soon.

Amanda and I will be at Tattoo Culture tonight between 7 and 10pm. Hope to see ya there!

09:50 AM
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Mario Barth's "Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth" kicks off today, and after back to back convention weekends, I'm sitting this one out. Just looking at the show's party and concert schedule is giving me a virtual hangover.

But despite the emphasis on the rockers that will be in attendance, the real stars are the A-list tattoo artist line-up. I just wonder if the crowd will get that. Nothing is sadder to me than watching some frat boy go up to, say, Bob Tyrrell and ask for a Kanji that means "warrior." And also tell him he only has $50. [Although, I'd love to see Bob do it as a gag.]

In the news today, Mario talks to the Las Vegas Review Journal about the show and his Starlight Tattoo Studio in the Mandalay Bay Hotel Casino. And the bottom line of that article is ... the bottom line. Tattoo studios that make their home in the Strip's top hotels -- eight and the ninth to come soon -- generate hand over fist cash allegedly. Prime example, last year, Starlight Tattoo reached its first-year revenue projections after just four months.

With this accessibility, will we see a changing demographic in the tattooed populace?

The first client at Hart & Huntington's Palms tattoo studio was "a 67-year-old woman who has used her casino players card points to get five more tattoos since 2004." With more retirees in the tattoo chair, maybe now, I can get a seat at the slot machines. 
11:09 AM
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To atone for the constant blah blah last month about my tattoo book release, I'm posting today about a great book I discovered while hanging at the Freak Books booth at the London Convention this past weekend.

I heartily recommend Art by Tattooists: Beyond Flash by Jo Waterhouse.

Featuring the work of twenty-six international tattoo artists, Art by Tattooists presents works using a variety of mediums, from ink, watercolor, acrylic paint, and oil to lino printing, painting on wood and board, as well as street art. And while tattoo imagery is heavily referenced, as the title says, you won't find flash design art as gathered in many other tattoo publications.

The 128-page book sells on Amazon for $14.36 and is well worth it.
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