November 2009 Archives

11:09 AM
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Love Me/Hate Me Ambigrams by Tiffany Harvey

I've always wanted an ambigram tattoo -- a blend of lettering art and illusion that can be read upside down to read the same thing (or something completely different) so that the tattoo is a reminder to myself as well as message to others. Now, there are a lot of ambigram tattoo sites but I didn't want computer generated image or cliche word flash, so I went to my next Holiday Gift Guide artist to create personalized designs for me.

Check out Word Illusion, Custom Ambigrams by Tiffany Harvey.

Tiffany offers a variety of fonts, embellishments and arrangements to design your perfect ambigram tattoo. She can create one, two or three word ambigrams but for my design I wanted two separate words that read the same up and down. I picked the font, sent her the words, then sent payment -- $30 each -- via PayPal. [The price may be a bit more than a word generator but it is custom work, and like tattoos, you get what you pay for.] 

The designs take a week to create but with a day or two she had two sample sketches for me. They were both great but I had envisioned something different so she came back with two more designs, and I chose my favorite from those two, both stellar designs.

Now all I need is the courage to tattoo my wrists (my sleeves stop about two inches above the wrist for when I need to be a secret agent).

For a gallery of Tiffany's work, check out her Flickr pages.

One final and important note: Tiffany makes a living designing these ambigrams and yet many have ripped them off -- including a number of tattoo artists -- without compensation. To use a design that has already been created is only ten bucks, so taking a screen grab of her work and tattooing it not only makes one a thief but a cheap ass. You don't want that bad juju going into your body anyway so do the right thing and respect her copyright.
01:58 PM
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This list of our favorite tattoo tomes was not easy to compile. A LOT of tattoo books are out there. But this list reflects new gems and some old favorites. All are great gifts or must haves for your own collections.

Tattoo Art Photography Books:

* Lal Hardy's The Mammoth Book of Tattoos is a brilliant paperback featuring the work of today's top tattooists by a prolific artist himself.

* Underway is the Only Way, available on BookMistress, also features spectacular tattoos as well as interviews with many of their creators. The 320-pager is out of print but a second edition is in the works.

* Shige and Pint: two volumes on masters in their own tattoo styles -- one Japanese and one Black & Gray -- by State of Grace Inc. Buy the two along with the Ichibay sketchbook on and save on shipping costs.

* The Leu Family's Family Iron, released in 2004, is a must-have hardcover on a family that revolutionized the art over generations.

* Tattoo in Japan is a monster art book housing gorgeous photography of Irezumi across the country, from traditional tebori work to new school stylings. Normally sold for $150, Amazon has it for $118 from select sellers.

* Black Tattoo Art. Oh yeah, I'm this shameless. But I have to include it because it's the only book ever published -- and as a 9lb massive coffee table book  -- on modern Blackwork tattoos. I'm proud of it so I'm pimpin it. Order it from Last Gasp and put in the code "Needles" at checkout for free shipping.

Tattoo Artist Sketchbooks & Fine Art books:

* Joe Capobianco's Knock Yerself Out, which we reviewed last month, is one of our favorite sketchbooks for fantasy art & delicious cheesecake tattoos. Available at Pulse Tattoo Supply.

* Dragons II by Filip Leu is a gorgeous compilation of signature dragon designs -- 45 large sheets -- created to inspire your next backpiece or bodysuit if you can't get an appointment with the master himself.

* Art By Tattooists: Beyond Flash, which we also reviewed last month, shows the artwork of twenty-six international tattoo artists in a variety of mediums, from watercolors to graffiti.

* Mike Giant's Coup D' Etat was published this past September in conjunction with his show at the Magda Danysz Gallery in Paris and not only includes his drawings, graff and tattoo sketches but his latest foray into photography.

tattoo secrets of a strange art.jpgNon-Fiction Tattoo Books:

* The Tattooed Lady: A History explores the lives of tattooed women who tantalized Americans across the country performing in circuses and carnivals in the early part of the century. I just received my copy and it did not disappoint.

* The precursor to The Tattooed Lady are these books by Margot Mifflin: Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo and her latest, The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman.

* Albert Parry's Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art was originally published in 1933 as an artistic, cultural and psychological look at tattooing. Dover reprinted the book in 2006 and it's amazing how many things have changed and stayed the same since the first edition.

* Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos is one of my all time faves. Published in the 1950s by professor and tattooist Sam Steward, the book looks at the culture of tattooing from its underground roots.

* Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old School Skin Art also explores old school tattooing but with a heavy focus on the art. I was surprised to see a snippet of my old Needled review on their Amazon page. Here it is again: "Vintage Tattoos is 256 pages of art and anecdotes. Salty stories of tattoo times when shotguns, not art school degrees, hung on the walls behind the parlor counter. When tattooists traveled with the circus, not metal bands. And when the art went underground because of tattoo bans."

* Modern Primitives, published in 1989, remains one of the bibles of body modification, including tattooing. There's intellectual discussion and images of genital mods, suspensions, and other more "extreme" body art so this may not be one for your coffee table but it should be on your shelves.

Tattoo Related Fiction:
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* Until I Find You by John Irving is an 800-page tome that follows the wild life of a tattoo artist's son and their search to find his "ink addict" father. It weirded me out at times because many of the "fictional" characters are real tattooists living today but overall it was a gripping read of a tattoo Odyssey.

* The Tattoo Artist: A Novel by Jill Ciment is another great work of fiction that explores the life of a New York artist who is marooned in the South Pacific and eventually becomes an revered tattooist among the Tu'un'uu people at the turn of the century. It then flashes forward, 30 years later, when she returns as a heavily tattooed woman to New York.

* The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall  follows a young man in the early 1900s as he learns the craft of tattooing in his small English seaside resort town (with a monstruous apprenticeship) and later as makes his way to tattoo Mecca, Coney Island, NY, where he finds love and the canvas of his most bizarre works.

Granted, there are many more tattoo volumes to list but these are guaranteed not to disappoint. If I missed your fave, feel free to list it in the comments section.
01:07 PM
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It's Day 2 of our N+S Holiday Gift Guide & we're doing something soft and sexy this Saturday.

Check out Black Corset Candles.

In addition to falling under our cool, independent seller requirement, here's why I like 'em:

* They use 100% natural soy biodegradable wax. And soy wax burns cooler, i.e., slower, so you get more burn for ya buck.

* Their soy candles produce little, if any, soot and smoke so you won't get those ugly black stains by glass rims.

* You can add their fragrance oil to the candle for a more sensual scent.

* The playful packaging means you don't have to dig out the old Santa wrap and bows. I loved the leopard box my mini-candle came in and kept it for my baubles.

* And for the naughty, the ladies of Black Corset Candles offer another way to use their product:

"With our natural & skin safe ingredients each Black Corset Candle can be used as a moisturizing candle. Simply light and let burn until a full melt pool is achieved. Blow out the flame & use the silky, sensual, melted wax to soften your skin."

Yeah, I meant for moisturizing. Why else would you pour hot wax on someone?

* And finally, the price is right. These hand-sewn corseted candles run from $22 to $9 USD.

Also check out their other products like Kirsten Easthope's Queen Pin Deluxe line, which includes the Pray for a Good Tattoo and the Tattooed Lady scented candles, for $14.50 each.
02:43 PM
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First up in the N+S Holiday Gift Guide are local Brooklyn, NYC clothing designers who pay tribute to tattoos of the prison kind.

Check out Russian Criminal Tattoo apparel.

Roman Belenky, co-owner of the company, whose father bares marks from his own time as a  prisoner in Russia, has redrawn many of the traditional symbols from the 50s and 60s and exhibits them on quality American Apparel tees, hoodies, and dresses. Roman is quick to point out on his Etsy store that none of the designs are affiliated with any criminal organization or code. So you won't get your ass kicked in Brighton Beach.

The coolest part is that the stories behind the designs are found on each product page. For example, the Lenin portrait with BOP underneath comes with this explanation:

"This particular one was a popular anti-authority tattoo but it has double meaning as do many other tattoos from that era. The letters underneath Lenin spell VOR, the Russian word for thief (which Lenin definitely was). But the letters are also an acronym that stand for Leader of October Revolution. So if an inmate was hassled by administration, he could always state that he was just really patriotic."

I have the "Free Woman" dress in black symbolizing "a woman that did not belong to any gang and followed only her own rules inside and outside of prison." It washes great and the silk-screening stays fresh.

You can custom make your own Russian Criminal Tattoo clothes as well. Check out the designs available here, choose a fave or faves and the item you want them on, and you'll get a price quote back.

And the prices are VERY reasonable, especially considering they print on American Apparel. Tees will run you about $20, dresses $35, and hoodies (front, back and sleeve design) for $50.

For design, quality, price and cool concept, Russian Criminal Tattoo apparel is our first Holiday Gift Guide pick.



* Alix Lambert's The Mark of Cain DVD
Also by Lambert, Russian Prison Tattoos paperback
01:59 PM
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In the US, today is considered either Black Friday Shopping Melee or Buy Nothing Day. But for me, it is neither. I will refuse to trample hapless Walmart employees for a "hot holiday hamster," but I will also not play the holier-than-thou card and pontificate over the evils of over-consumption. I save my holier-than-thou-ness for other things.

I propose a middle ground: let's shop, but do so supporting independent, tattoo-friendly artists, crafters and small businesses. With this in mind, I've come up with a Holiday Gift Guide for y'all to lessen the pain of holiday shopping and not feel dirty while doin it.

Starting today until next Friday, I will post a gift suggestion every day. Everything I suggest, I own so I can vouch for quality, shipping and ease of transaction online. Some are made by strangers. Some are made by good friends. Either way, it's all cool shit.

The first item is coming up soon.
P.S.: I made this pretty little picture above using the Tattoo Shop iPhone app.
11:44 AM
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If you're like me, you'll soon spend today gorging yourself so the sound of chewing drowns out the familial questions of why you write about tattoos daily instead of regularly practicing law. I know, it's a common problem.

When asked, "What's new?" you'll leave out the part about your newly decorated foot, and instead quickly discuss your joy over the Greek soccer team qualifying for the World Cup. The latter topic being a much bigger crowd pleaser.

And when the wine starts to flow and cousin Arthur wonders out loud whether he should finally get "inked" at the age of 68, you whip out your trusty  Thanksgiving Tattoos, and slap 'em on his wrist so he feels just a wee bit badass when taking his third helping of stuffing.

It's probably around the time you've had your own third helping of pie that you begin to wonder out loud yaself how you'll fit into any bathing suit next month when you head to Puerto Rico for some sun and drop in on the Skin Designs Body Art Fest (December 13th). You keep chewing & vow to juice-fast in the morn.

But at the end of it all, you'll feel thankful for your tzatziki-flavored family who are loving and colorful -- despite being tattoo-free -- and grateful for friends who are gracious enough to listen/read to your holiday moanings without telling you to shut up because you're damn lucky.

Thank you, friends, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
09:37 PM
nikko_hurtado+edward_scissorhands.jpgEdward Scissorhands tattoo by Nikko Hurtado.

I was going to take a full day off to mentally prepare for Thanksgiving with my family tomorrow, but after spending the afternoon at the MoMA, especially for the Tim Burton exhibit, I couldn't resist this links list.

Granted, going to see a popular exhibit the day before a holiday is never a bright idea -- although indeed amusing to hear parents explain to their kiddies what a severed head is; nevertheless, Brian and I braved the crowds and viewed everything from early character sketches to creepy baby mobiles. Awesome!

I was so inspired by the show that I did what any bod-mod nerd would do: I came home and researched Tim Burton-inspired tattoos. Wha? You wouldn't?

tim burton tattoo.jpgSadly, what I was found less than inspiring. Burton characters are imaginative art that professional tattooists can run wild with but unfortch it seems that many professional tattooists were not consulted. Instead a Google image search largely finds the work of that dude who "tats up" {shudder} from his kitchen table.

But when they are good, they are very good. So instead of doing the point-n-laugh at the bad ones, here are some faves:

* Nikko Hurtado's Edward Scissorhands portrait above. Nikko is incapable of doing anything but A-plus portraits but I particularly love how Johnny Depp's eyes glisten with soulfulness. Just like they did in 21 Jump Street.

* Brian Brenner of Truth & Triumph Tattoo is known for his smooth black & gray flow but how he uses perspective in tattoos, like in this Burton sleeve detail (right), shows how he expertly translates the 2D designs on a 3D canvas. [Image via]

*Luca Natalini at Transcend Tattoo has done a number of Burton-inspired pieces like this Corpse Bride sleeve and Nightmare Before Christmas work.

* I love Kristel Oreto's own cartoon creations but this Willy Wonka Augusta Gloop tattoo is supa- sweeeet.

So that's my skin ode to Tim Burton. The MoMA show runs until April 26, but you can also catch a glimpse of the works on view by downloading the PDF of the Exhibition Checklist here
04:33 PM
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While the nitrous given to Brian wears off (the only explanation why he'd post that old SNL vid), I'm gonna give you something new, brand new in fact:

Brazilian tattoo artist of over 13 years, Gustavo Rizerio, has made his home in Brooklyn, NYC now and has become the newest resident artist of the Tattoo Culture family in Williamsburg. Gustavo's portfolio ranges from Japanese to Biomech (as shown in this post) as well as Black & Gray, and feminine florals.

He's also renowned for his fine art work. Check his paintings and photography here.

For appointments, call Tattoo Culture at 1-718-218-6531 or hit them up through their site.

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03:36 PM
With the exception of the occasional Andy Samberg song, I do everything humanly possible to avoid Saturday Night Live - even going so far as to throw out my television (contrary to media reports that if was sold for blow and an outstanding debt to a bookmaker).  But thanks to my primary news source, Metal Sucks, this little piece of "advertising" came across my radar...

Yeah, the bit's almost six years old, but who has even watched SNL (on purpose) in the last decade?  Yeah, we usually discuss tattoo removal in a very serious fashion around here and, yeah, I probably even made a promise never to use the "T-S Word" so as not to alienate any of our readers, but it gave me a good laugh in my post-dental-work novacaine-haze.

Oh, and...
11:50 AM

Haven't seen the Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry documentary yet? Buy a DVD now  (Amazon Sale: $22.49).

It's not only an intimate look into a man who revolutionized tattooing, as told through his contemporaries including Don Ed Hardy and Mike Malone [RIP], but it also includes ridiculously funny scenes with Philadelphia Eddie.

Just check the scene with him above that didn't make it or this Pineapple Juice outtake. Granted some may question the veracity of Eddie's tales but he can pour a good story.

Via Jason at Inked Mag
11:58 AM
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It's early afternoon in NYC on a rainy Monday and I'm having the pleasure of canceling credit cards and pondering the contents of a purse that is no longer in my possession. With a To DO list gettin anxious as Celine Dion plays on the phone while I hold for my bank representative, my laptop dings. I have new mail from the fabulous Jeffrey. And what do I find, all by myself, that makes my heart go on? This:

Tattoo Lady Edith and Tattoo Man Percy selling for $28 on the equally fab Spitfire Girl shop. The dolls are beautifully designed by California tattoo artist Jason Schroder of Incognito Tattoo. Jason also designed these "Gang of Punks" plushies.

Other snarl reducing gifts found on Spitfire Girl: sassy hankies, teeth mug, gypsy wood journal,and the Little Lady Gift basket.

The greatest tragedy here is that my cards are canceled, and until I get replacements, can't order my tattoo dolls yet. It's moments like these I could use those sassy hankies!
01:20 PM
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Photo by Ariel Jankelowitz

My Top 5 Worst Jewish Tattoos post caused a lot more controversy than I anticipated. With the threat of a Nuclear Iran, Holocaust denial and Lady Gaga performing in Israel, you'd think that the American Jewish community would have more to be concerned with. Apparently not. There were a lot of thoughtful comments, however;  one even suggested I provide a positive list of top tattoos among the Tribe. Einstein (a Jew.)! And so, without further ado...

The Five Best Jewish Tattoo Ideas:

5. Meaningful biblical quotes in ancient Hebrew: I have a friend of a friend who has tattooed his entire back and one full sleeve in these messages. They range from reminders on how he should live his life, humbly and aware of the needs of others, to descriptions of the better world that is to come. Wrapping himself in these words, he has turned even his corporal skin into a living, breathing Torah.

4. A Menorah: The Menorah has as much traditional Jewish perceptual connection as the Star of David, but providing two distinct advantages over the Star:  First, the Menorah allows for internal embellishment, giving the tattoo artist an opportunity to create an intricate and proud piece. Second, the Menorah harkens back to Chanukah and the victory of the rugged Maccabbees over those who sought to oppress the Jews. Whereas the Jewish star tattoo seems passive in many cases, the Menorah declares an adamant, almost macho declaration of Judaism.

3. Portrait work: As shown above with my own tattoo of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, portraits of heroes can inspire daily. There are so many Jewish faces to choose -- and as most recently demonstrated by the cast of Glee, the Jewish people are a bunch of lookers. Add to that a long history of unusual costuming and we have a near Broadway range of expressive, intense Jewish faces to tattoo that could become as iconic as Che Guevara's blowing mane.

2. Judaica Art: Ranging from hand-paintings to elaborate, artistic installations, Judaica art has a long history of representing the people and culture of Jews through creative means. The soft colors and painting techniques of Eastern Europe would work well with some of the new Abstract tattoo artists out of Europe (like Noon). The Sephardic style stuff, full of sand colors and vine-like, interconnected lines, is inspiration for artists specializing in tribal and blackwork. Bonus points if you get something from Mark Chagall!

1. Propaganda posters. There is a rich visual history of early Zionist propaganda posters, like the wide selection found here on Celebrate our return home with some powerful graphic statements of our not-so-distant past.

Bonus Suggestion: Craig Dershowitz! Yes, you heard me right. Anyone who gets my name or likeness tattooed upon themselves wins a free lifetime membership to Needles and Sins.


[Editor's note: N+S is free. A Dershowitz portrait, however, will cost you a lifetime of celibacy.]

01:03 PM
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Still wrestling with jet lag since my return to Brooklyn from the Ta Moko Tatau Tattoo convention in Auckland so I'll keep this short and simply direct you to pretty pictures.

Check out Mikey Freedom's Flickr set from the show.

He says he has more to upload including pix of me making painful faces during my foot tattoo session with Jacqueline Spoerle. Probably not my best look.

Have a wonderful weekend y'all. Lots of tattoo goodness scheduled for next week.
09:31 PM
foot tattoo mk.jpg My freshly tattooed foot, still a bit swollen, by Jacqueline Spoerle.

From my old days to today's N+S posts, I vowed I'd never do one of those Tattoo 101 things like How to Chose a Tattooist or Convention Etiquette. It's all been said and done. And I'm writing for people with a real passion for the art already. This dance ain't for everyone. Only the sexy people.

But the one basic aspect of tattooing that has launched a thousand theories is healing.
What's the best way to heal a fresh tattoo

For a glimpse at just how many different kinds of theories are out there, check R.A.B.'s FAQs on tattoo aftercare. Yeah, I'm takin it old school today. The list includes some offbeat suggestions like the "Noxema heal" but doesn't include the more recent "Japanese method" of hot water soaking (also noted in Wikipedia).

As for me, my back, arms, stomach, ribs and even the back of my head (see my tattoo pix here) have all healed according to the LITFA method. Leave It The Fuck Alone. Keep it clean. Dry it out. Don't scratch and later moisturize.

But this was not going to do for my new foot tattoo, needled by the wonderful Jacqueline Spoerle at the Auckland tattoo fest Sunday. I faced two problems: I was going to be on my feet for a long time and walking around not-so-clean places AND I had a 13-hr flight less than 48 hours later.

Jacqueline has been working a great deal lately with doctors in Switzerland doing reconstructive nipple and mastectomy scar tattooing for breast cancer survivors, and has asked the MDs how they suggest healing fresh tattoos. They recommended the opposite of my usual dry-it-out method: Keep it moist! In fact, she advised that I keep it wrapped for 3-4 days particularly because feet are more difficult to heal, even without long flights and running around.

That's what I've been doing.  I've also been using After Ink Tattoo Care, which I picked up at the convention. It's petroleum-free and uses natural ingredients including calendula oil, which is high in Vitamin E. See the full ingredients list here.

So far so good. It's still a bit red and swollen but to be expected. I just took the iPhone photo above in my LA hotel (a quick stopover as I wait to head back to NYC tomorrow. Another long flight!). Will post photos of the tattoo when it heals and we'll see how this new method worked.

Feel free to share your tattoo aftercare in the comments section.
01:13 PM
diabetic_mice.jpgMost of the time, we're hearing reports from the medical/news community about the dangers of tattooing (hepatitis, keloids, staph infections, devalued real-estate, etc).  So it's always a nice refresher when we hear about the scientists out there who are looking at the dermal arts in a positive light.

While it's only been tested in lab mice (which is generally a good place to start), doctors are hoping to utilize a pigment that changes color depending on the subject's blood-glucose level.  What does that mean for you?  Well, if you're diabetic, it could mean an end to the endless finger-pricking associated with blood-sugar monitoring.

Or, ya know, you could just get a really bitchin mood-ring tattoo and have a great reply to those irritating inquiries regarding the "meaning" of your ink.

"It means I need a Snickers bar or, I'm going to punch the next motherfucker who asks me a dumb question."

Read more about it here.

[Photo courtesy of Draper Laboratories and thanks to Charlie A. for the tip!]

05:25 AM
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The Ta Moko Tatau Tattoo Convention came to an end Sunday night (or Monday morn if you count the after-party) and succeeded in its overriding goal: Kotahitanga, the Maori word for unity. It did so by bring Ta Moko practitioners together with Tatau masters (tufunga ta tatau) as well as tattooists from Europe and Australian working in a variety of styles under one roof -- the America's Cup Boat Sheds in Auckland, New Zealand, which also welcomed tattoo collectors from around the world including one very giddy redhead from Brooklyn.

See reasons for the giddiness in photos here from Day 1 & Day 2.

The weekend was a wonderfully overwhelming learning experience for me, meeting so many people for the first time and hearing their stories about their art and culture. I can go on for a hundred blog pages, but let me break it down to the highlights of the convention:

* On Friday the 13th, a welcome ceremony or Powhiri at Orakei Marae took place to kick off the weekend's show. As the convention celebrated the legacy of tufuga Paulo Sulu'ape, murdered ten years ago, a number of participants went to his grave site, led by his brother Sua Sulu'ape Petelo.

pat morrow tattooing.jpg* Saturday, the first official day of the convention, the wonderful S. Mo'o took a break from his hand-tapping tatau and led me by the hand to introduce me to artists I "must meet."

I gotta admit it was a bit intimidating. I spoke to generations of tattoo masters, old school and new school, including Moko practitioners from Mark Kopua to Te Rangitu Netana, and Samoan tufunga from Petelo Sulu'ape to Pat Morrow (who is seen working here).

* Tricia Allen -- tattooist and anthropologist -- helped me with my Polynesian pronunciations and over breakfast, regaled me with stories of her amazing adventures from hitching rides to the islands on whaling vessels to listing the numerous tropical diseases she battled.

Buy her book Tattoo Traditions of Hawaii, the award-winning, definitive book on the subject.

* Sunday highlights are a tie between two most memorable moments for me. The first is watching a beautiful seven-year-old tattoo her father with complete confidence and grace for paparazzi like myself -- see above and Flickr for more photos -- at the Hammerhead tattoo booth. We may have been looking at the next Filip Leu.

* But I had paparazzi of my own as I stood above the crowd on the table of the Corazon Tattoo booth while Jacqueline Spoerle designed, and then tattooed, my tiny elf foot. Jacqueline is an amazing blackwork artist, also featured in my book, with a light hand and great sense of humor. I can't wait to travel to Switzerland for her to do the other, hopefully next year. And yes, foot tattoos hurt. A lot.

As for Sunday's after-party ... a blur.

Now, I'm gonna take my achy paw and rest up before a veeeerrryyy long flight to back to NYC.

Hei kona!
02:54 AM
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Today was the first day of the Ta Moko Tatau Tattoo Convention in Auckland, New Zealand, and as usual, I took my bad point-n-shoots and uploaded pics to Flickr.

See the Day One photos here.

I'll have a proper redux of the show after this weekend because all I can muster right now is ... wow. I'm overwhelmed with the beauty, kindness and spirit of today's convention, and so to spare you my sentimental melodrama, I'll just leave you with the images of the day. More later.
05:19 PM
While the Lady of the Manor is off cavorting with the Maori in sunshine of Auckland, New Zealand, some of us are still stuck here in the cold, harsh, grey reality of the northeastern United States.  Better still, some of us get to travel to a Massachusettes town on the coastline during a Nor'Easter to play some stoner-metal with a horrifically mangled finger.  But I digress...

No, it's not a tattoo convention, but I can almost guarantee that there will be a convening of many fabulously tattooed bodies - not to mention 11 great bands over 10 hours (including the illustrious Dogs of Winter at 6pm) and a cover charge and 50/50 raffle that will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  That's right - it's DINKSTOCK 2!

If you're in the Boston metro-area, please come on down and say "hello."  I'll be the sleeved, bald dude who's either bleeding profusely from the fingertips onstage or just drinking in the corner to ease the pain of a cooking accident gone horribly awry.
01:06 AM
body_mod_800.jpgThe other day I stumbled upon this great little comic from traveling pal Nick James: illustrator, graphic designer, creepy mask-maker. But what's kinda funny is that the comic's subject, artist and tattooer hopeful Dan Bones, was actually tattooed by Timothy Hoyer over at Brooklyn Adorned. Nick, however, was not tattooed by Johnny Piranha; his leg is still intact. Nick's blog is also really fun. Check it.

01:04 AM
This Saturday, November 14th, is the opening of Micailhuitl: An Exhibition Celebrating the Gathering of Souls Inspired by the Lives that Have Gone.

Curated by the fabulous Edgar Hoil, photographer and editor of Lowrider Arte magazine, the show features fine art inspired by the Day of the Dead, and includes some stunning pieces by top tattooists including Goethe, Chuey Quintanar, Pint, Kiki Platas, Carlos Torres, Carlos Rojas, and Fonzy (who's work is shown above), among many others. Check Juxtapoz for the full artist list.

The opening reception begins at 7PM and is part of the Downtown Artwalk in Pomona, located at 565 W. 2nd Street, Unit 5 [91766]. The exhibit will be on view until December 10th.

If you can't make it to see the work in person, a number of the works can be viewed at Lowrider Arte online here.
07:27 PM

In a few hours, I will take off for the Ta Moko Tatau Tattoo Convention, which takes place this weekend in Auckland, New Zealand.

Never before have I been so excited to spend 13 hours on a plane. But for good reason: I'll be witnessing the hand-tapped and machine work of Tatau and Blackwork masters from around the world.

In addition to the tattoo booths and vendors, the convention will host  "The Living Art of Pacific Tattoo" exhibition, a collection of documentaries, photographs and moving images celebrating the many faces of Pacific tattoo, curated by Steven Ball. Also showing is a new series of photographs by Helen Mitchell, celebrating the many faces of western tattooing in Aotearoa.

It will be an education to say the very least, but rather than wait, I've been further researching traditional Tatau. In doing so, I found beautiful online videos called Skin Stories, like the one above, created by Multinesia, a multicultural production company with South Pacific roots, based in LA.

Naturally, I'll be taking my usual bad photos and will have a redux of the convention for ya.

Kia Ora!
03:45 PM
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Photo by the Associated Press for the Military Times.

Today is Veteran's Day and Needles and Sins would like to say Thank You to the men and women in the US Armed Forces. 

Military tattoos have held fascination for many, whether they be corps insignias on skin or memorials to fallen soldiers. See the variety of veteran tattoo tributes on these sites:

01:04 PM
Thumbnail image for 12966_1278220799105_1337551152_30828679_4891032_n.jpgThat's right, I used the word tat, but in all fairness it goes really well with the word zappin'. Let me preface this post by explaining something about dudes and tattoos and barber shops. Nothing beats a good haircut, especially when you've got a great barber and especially when that barber is a great old guy from Sicily named Gaspare. His father owned a barber shop there and he started helping out by shaving customers at age seven. With a straight razor. When Gaspare was still a kid in Sicily, barber shops in New York City were sharing space with tattooers like Charlie Wagner and Jack Redcloud, and some barbers also tattooed on the side, like Willie Moskowitz.

Yesterday, after literally months of rescheduling, myself and a couple friends finally got to do a  day of haircuts and tattoos. (No buzz-cuts, though. That also just sounded good.) Put down the Lame Whistle; I understand we can't recreate the days of the down and dirty Bowery -- besides, I'm pretty sure I'd get my ass kicked real quick in those days -- but the least we could do is have a good time while giving a slight nod to tattooing's roots. 

We got to the barber shop around noon and lined up for haircuts. Andy got a shave, too, and we all left Gaspare's feeling like a hundred dollars. I first met Andy Perez a couple years ago around the time I'd heard he had started tattooing. Currently, he's working out of Jersey City Tattoo Co. with tattooers Adam Paterson and Chuck Daly, but since he's only there a few days a week, we headed back to his place and got set up. Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 11047_204027122515_587927515_4272261_1269339_n.jpg

Quick disclaimer: neither myself nor Needles and Sins promotes sketchy, kitchen table tattooing. Luckily, Andy's setup is all above board: sterile needles, disposable tubes, madacide, etc.

And hey, if Marisa can handle getting tattooed in a hotel lobby, I can handle a rumbly apartment off the BQE. It should also be noted that I'm not one to go around posting every time I get a new tattoo, but I figured this is okay because it's a little different.
Ryan went first and writhed through some serious script on his collar bone. He made it out alive, if not a little exhausted, and I chose a pretty righteous skull from Andy's latest set of flash. He opted to stick with just black, red and yellow, leaving out the bits of blue from the original design. He knocked it out in no time and now I've got a sweet and clean daggered skull just below the knee pit. It's even got a gold tooth, so it's legit.   

Check out Andy's blog and if you can't make it out to Jersey City, it's possible he'll make a private appointment. Getting haircuts is also recommended. 

01:45 PM

I'm Marisa Kakoulas, and I'm an iPhone addict.

On my little handheld lies the secrets of the universe: how many calories in that burrito; the fastest subway route from Brooklyn to the West Village; how my boyfriend would look with a fake 'stache and mullet; and how I can best kill time time digitally instead of doing something wacky like reading a book.

But when I'm killing time with an iPhone app, I want it to be pleasant, to make the corners of my mouth turn up rather than freeze into a scowl. I want my eyes to brighten -- not roll around in my head -- as I rack up points and leave other high scorers weeping in their parents' basement.

Unfortch, Tattoo Mania by Handy Games is not that kind of app. You can check the preview vid above and see for yaself. As a public service, however, I'll  save you the $3.99 and break down the suckage:

1. First, the game opens up to what is described as "rock music" that is supposed to provide authentic tattoo studio ambiance behind the buzz of the machines. The soundtrack could've easily been by Nickleback or Creed. [If you're a fan of either, you may just like this app.]

2. The aim of the game is to complete as many tattoos as possible on clients with varying pain thresholds and patience, so you gotta be quick. Thus, inspiring a legion of those Guinness Book tattoo marathon wankers.

-2.jpg3. To complete a tattoo, you have to rub your finger over a stenciled design. Easy for my small nubby digits, but have Brian's calloused guitar fingers try to roam over a tribal and it becomes impossible.

If you tattoo outta the lines, bruise marks appear on the body part. Too many bruises and you lose. Ah, if only fleeting black and blues were the souvenirs of a nasty scratcher.

4. The tattoo designs. This is the downfall of the app for me. If you're going to do a game on an art, at least make some effort on that art part. Ripping off 80s Cherry Creek flash is just lazy. If Handy Games had hired a tattoo artist to provide the designs, they could've salvaged at least a star from me.

Speaking of review stars, I seem to be alone in hatin on this game. Most reviews I've read are just giddy over it, like the Kingston Guardian who called it "ingenious," but the Guardian also had some good practical advice:

" would also really benefit from some sort of design element that allows players to create body art for their customers instead of just tracing lines on the 30 templates provided in the game at present."

The App Struck blog gave Tattoo Mania 4 outta 5 stars, and also offers some decent critique on how to improve it, that is, if you can read through the initial blather like this: 

"I admit I've held a morbid curiosity for the craft, sometimes peeking into the dank and seemingly invite-only domain of tattoo parlors, with their heavily inked and metal-adorned inhabitants..."

Are you scowling too?

Tattoo Mania is the only tattoo game so far for the iPhone and iTouch, so there's nothing really to compare it to.

The photo-fun app Tattoo Shop, which I reviewed in March, is also high on the cheeez factor but lately I've been having way more fun with it "tattooing" my mom and giving myself Mike Tyson facial ink. I'd pick that for tattoo fun over the game, and leave my time killers to Bookworm and Tetris.
12:04 PM
milestone tattoo.jpgPhoto by Tom Wallace for The Star Tribune.

It's been a while since I did a major run down of the tattoo headlines, and so to make it up to ya, I have monster review today -- one that begins with meaningful "milestone" tattoos and ends just above Khloe Kardashian's butt. I didn't say it was going to be a classy review but it will be meaty.

Let's start with the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune "permanent milestone" article, illustrated by the photo above and other shots by Tom Wallace, including some silver haired foxes who look great in their tattoos, answering that oft-repeated idiocy, "What will you look like at 70?" Like that question, the article has its share of tattoo cliches as well but we'll let it slide as it positively looks at tattooing to mark moments in people's lives. I know, we're all sick of the reality TV line that every tattoo has to have a story, but the real reality is that many still get tattooed to commemorate a person or moment, and the article reminds us art snobs of that.   

And hell, Minnesota needs some positive tattoo news as one city, Watertown, has banned any new tattoo studio from opening up next year. Officials say, "We have nothing against tattoos" [followed by "some of my best friend are tattooed"?], and that the ban is in place while they craft regulations for the industry. Currently, no professional tattoo studio exists in the city, so guess what usually happens in these cases: kitchen table scratchers and dangerous tattoo parties fill the void. It's a sad irony that rules meant to "protect the public" often end up hurting people the most.

Regulating the tattoo industry can be done without full-on bans. Just look at how Indiana tattooists are lobbying for stricter tattoo laws while their machines keep running. According to the Journal Gazette, anyone can buy a tattoo kit and work underground, so professional tattooists are asking legislators to limit the sale of tattoo equipment in the state to licensed artists. They are also asking that certain requirements be met before a tattoo license is given. Those requirements, supported by the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, include the following:  "a three-year apprenticeship, 1,200 hours of training and 50 supervised procedures before granting a permit and allowing an artist to work on the general public."

Yikes, too many blocks of text so far. I will lose you, precious reader, if I don't do something. Behold, Darwin's finches as a butterfly tattooed by Henry Rhodes of Electric Ladyland (via the Science Tattoo Emporium):

darwin finches tattoos.jpg
Ok, back to my tattoo law blather ...

Zoning continues to be the biggest obstacle facing artists in the US who want to open up shop, like those at Thoroughbred Tattoo in South Carolina. [Keep in mind that South Carolina didn't legalize tattooing in the state until March 2006. Oklahoma was the last state to lift their tattoo ban in May 2006.] Best way to combat it: make friends with your local city council or run yourself.

The final legal news nugget is about appearance-based discrimination. The Missouri Southern State University Nursing School has a new admission policy barring visible tattoos, saying that the policy helps students who may later seek jobs at hospitals who have similar tattoo bans. The article is quick to note hospitals that do allow tattoos and only ask that they be covered at work. What is truly bizarre about this article is a statement by the school spokesman that "tattoos on the hands could pose an infectious disease risk, even if a student covered the ink with a bandage." Huh? What am I missing here? How?

hellokitty tattoo.jpgTime for more tattoo eye candy: Hello Kitty as the Greek goddess Athena by Kristel Oreto (shown right).

Kristel is one of three female tattoo artists profiled in the news this past week. She talks to the Tampa Tribune about how she came to the craft and also offers some tattoo tips. See Kristel's online portfolio here.

Melanie Nead of Icon Tattoo, is profiled in The Oregonian. My favorite quote from her is when she was asked "Why tattoos?" Her response: "It's one of the crafts where you're never truly a master at it [...] You can always outdo yourself."

And tattoo veteran of 31 years, Sheila Whited talks to the Surburbanite about owning the oldest operating tattoo parlor in the Akron, Ohio area. She says, "I've tattooed generations. Some kids come in and say that I tattooed their grandparents, so they had to come to me to get theirs." Sheila is also known for doing cosmetic tattoos to help surgery patients disguise scars, and has worked with the Akron Health Department to develop health and hygiene laws.

Another tattoo artist also made the mainstream media despite not possessing ovaries: 

Ottawa's Glen Paradis has a Q&A with the Ottawa Citizen on his Princess Leia crush, religious butt tattoos, and the latest tattoo trend in his city.

Quick and Dirty Link Time:


11:46 AM

All of us at Needles & Sins are deeply saddened by yesterday's Fort Hood tragedy where an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others on the Texas base.

Fort Hood -- the largest US military facility in the world -- is a major center for soldiers being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and also houses the Army's Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program, which helps soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress when they return. In both cases, deployment and return home, soldiers work out heavy issues, and many seek tattooing as a way to express them or even see the process as therapy.

Tattooed Under Fire is film that documents the young men and women at Fort Hood who seek solace at the tattoo studio, confessing fears, expressing anger, sharing secrets, and relaying personal war stories.

The shows begins airing across the country next week, and while created long before yesterday's shooting, may nevertheless offer some insight into the tragedy.
10:44 AM
The Tattooed Lady.jpgI regularly like to search for new tattoo tomes, and funny enough, the one that looked the most fun is a recommended companion buy with my own book:

The Tattooed Lady: A History  by Amelia Klem Osterud explores the lives of tattooed women who tantalized Americans across the country performing in circuses and carnivals in the early part of the century. These foremothers paved the way for Suicide Girls and "Hot Inked Chicks" whom we ogle online just as eagerly today. But back then, with opportunities limited to women, the life of a tattooed attraction provided them, not only with income, but travel and experiences beyond the kitchen. Here's more from the book description:

"Living in a time when it was scandalous even to show a bit of ankle, a small number of courageous women covered their bodies in tattoos and traveled the country, performing nearly nude on carnival stages. These gutsy women spun amazing stories for captive audiences about abductions and forced tattooing at the hands of savages, but little has been shared of their real lives. Though they spawned a cultural movement--almost a quarter of Americans now have tattoos--these women have largely faded into history.
Combining thorough research with more than a hundred historical photos, this social history explores tattoo's origins, women's history, and circus lore."

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon, which is due out later this month. For further reading on the history of tattooed women, from sideshows to riot grrls, read Margot Mifflin's classic Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo.
07:08 PM
I have few words. See for yourself as you rubberneck on the information highway of horror.

Episodes are on YouTube but they disabled the embed function and maybe that's a good thing because I already feel dirty watching things like "InkSlinger Girls" and do not wish to further soil my precious tattoo snob blog.
02:55 PM
Skuse Schiefley tattoo.jpg
The Selvedge Yard blog -- whom we've link loved before -- has a fabulous array of vintage photos in today's post: "BTC Bristol Tattoo Club: The Skuse Family, Generations of Killer Ink."

The post offers historic info along with the many photos of the legendary tattoo family, whose studio, Les Skuse Tattoo, still operates in Keynsham, Bristol. You can read more about the Skuses's 80+ years in tattooing here and here (check the lip tattoo pic!).

Here's my favorite quote from Les (which we should all heed today):

"I have always been ready and willing to learn, never thinking I knew it all and continually searching for ways in which to improve my work and equipment. It is my firm belief that the more tattooists meet, correspond and exchange ideas, the better it will be both for the individual and the profession."

Thanks to Matt, Jake, and Rafe for the link!

UPDATE: The Lizardman just reminded me that many of these images can be found in Taschen's 1000 Tattoos book.
01:47 PM

Yesterday, 60 Minutes aired a feature on the Yakuza, Japan's own mafia, which you can watch in various video clips of online, including this one above.

And like most talk on the Yakuza, the program talked a good deal about their Irezumi, the full body tattoos that are a standard mark of Yakuza (other than "the smell of the wolf" that let's the criminal underground know when they are in the presence of one of their own).

It's an interesting article overall and some great video footage online. Worth checking out.

The one part of that tattoo discussion that got many viewers talking was this statement by Jake Adelstein, a Yakuza expert (but not a doctor):

"The tattoos are so dense that it's very hard to sweat, which means when you can't get rid of the toxins in your body, that's also very hard on the liver."

So I got a few emails and Facebook messages asking whether tattoos make us sweat less?

Like Jake, I'm no doctor, but I did some quick searching and found that Dr. Dawn Richardson has answered this question on Velo News. After giving a great explanation about the skin and how tattooing works, she then discussion tattoos and how they could affect sweat glands:

"I searched the medical and tattoo literature for a definitive answer on just how much sweat-gland damage occurs, and came up empty. I spoke with Tanya McKeehan from the American Academy of Micropigmentation. She insists that the dearth of medical information and research on such damage in tattooing is because there isn't any. There are about 100 sweat glands per square centimeter of skin, so it would be hard to imagine that all are damaged. I suspect that many of them survive intact. Those that are damaged may not function at 100 percent when healed.
I would recommend having major work done in the off-season to allow the skin ample time to heal and train back up to maximum sweat-gland function before [bike] race season. Even with a full suit, there are many bare areas that have no ink at all and are completely undamaged."
Just watching the beautiful heavily tattooed people running the NYC marathon yesterday past my apartment, I witnessed many a misty sleeve, so yeah, I'm gonna say it: Don't sweat it; your tattoos will not lead to liver damage.

What leads to liver damage more is a hard partying -- no stranger to the Yakuza lifestyle nor my Halloween Bash this weekend -- and so to stay healthy, I'll be laying off the booze more but not the tattoos.

Thanks, Lara, for the links!
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Marisa Kakoulas
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