December 2009 Archives

10:42 AM
Just a gentle reminder, friends, that our book contest will end today at noon (EST) so you have a little more than an hour to fill out the survey for a chance to own Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old-School Skin Art. The winner be be picked by me yelling into the other room for Brian to pick a number between one and the final number of entries and that entry will get the book. It's very scientific.

Even if you're not a contest person, it would be great if you'd fill out the survey anyway because it will help us shape N+S in the new year to give you more (and less) of what you want in a tattoo blog.
03:08 PM
(While we're on a "funny kick" today, I just had to share this piece I caught in the Daily News last week - courtesy of Scott Hilburn and The Argyle Sweater)


10:43 AM

In our rare point-n-laugh program, let us heed the profound advice of Viral Video Film School on choosing a tattoo and then showing it the Internet via YouTube (where the above video is found here). It's a gloriously curated video tribute to bad tattoos.

To cleanse your palate, head to Hyperspace Studios' YouTube Channel "Tattoo Television." There you'll find videos such as Guy Aitchison & Markus Lenhard's two-part tattoo collaboration or fine art focused films like the HyperCoSMic Painting Jam with Alex & Allyson Grey.

[The above video via ModBlog.]
08:44 AM
GritCity Inc. recently released a tattoo photo-book focusing on Philadelphia's tattoo culture:  Tatted: A Documentation of Self Expression the Most Permanent Ways.

The Pure Gold Gallery, host to the book release party, exhibited images from the 160-page hardcover with this tag: "3 City Blocks, 1 Year, 1 Pad of Paper, and 1 Photographer."

That photographer is Philly's own Marianne Bernstein who hunted tattooed strangers along the three-block stretch of South Street for a year, asking if she could photograph them and their tattoos. She says that she approached about 100 people and only one refused. In addition to taking their portrait, she gave them her notebook and asked if they could write down what their tattoos mean to them.

The book opens up with an essay by Independence Seaport Museum curator Craig Bruns, who offers a history of the art in Philadelphia. He calls the city "the cradle of the American tattoo," noting that sailors brought tattooing to the "New World" when Philadelphia was the nation's largest port. Other essays include those by tattooists Guy Aitchison, Shawn Barber, Troy Timpel, and the old salt himself Philadelphia Eddie, among others.

Read more about the book's genesis in the Philadelphia Inquirer article, which also includes an extensive photo gallery  from the release party and the book itself.

You can buy Tatted directly from GritCity for about $35.

PS: Ok, you know how much I hate the word "tatts" and any derivative thereof, but as Miguel keeps telling me, it's part of street culture and I need to chill. Considering the book is about street photography and tattoos, I will.

01:11 PM
grilled cheese tattoo.jpgThe answers to our survey are flooding in -- I hear you Internet! -- and in crafting this week's tattoo news review, I kept in mind much of your advice and fought everything in me to link Miley Cyrus's tattoo advice [see, no link!]. Instead, I distilled it to the more meaty headlines like tattoo culture in Egypt and India, Maori Moko in fine art, tattoo art designs for vets with prosthetic limbs, and the "Why" question behind our tattoos. I've left most of the fun fluff to the quick and dirty links at the end, but please indulge me in this first item:

The Grilled Cheese Tattoo Promo -- one of the biggest headlines this week, from Cleveland to New Zealand. In essence, a restaurant in Ohio that specializes in variations of grilled cheese meals is offering a 25% lifetime discount to those willing to tattoo their love for the classic sandwich. My gut reaction was mockery, of course, but then I saw the gallery of grilled cheese tattoos -- most tattooed by Eric of Voodoo Monkey Tattoo like the one above. There are so many crazy creative renditions of the meal that I lost all snark in me. My faves: the R2D2 grilled cheese tattoo, the Sacred Heart sandwich, the Hello Kitty version, and the tough and manly Melt Army tattoo. Check the gallery, which also includes the artist credits (a rarity).

Ok, now for more serious news ...  

After reading about some market for human tattooed skin, a 28-year-old man in China got a backpiece and then posted an ad to sell his skin for 150,000 yuan ($21,965) to get out of debt. He'll also use part of the money for the skinning and then for new skin grafts. Other than a sad state of mind, his biggest problem is the law: it's illegal in China to buy and sell human organs, and guess what our largest organ is.

In Egypt, tattoos largely mark Coptic Christians even if their national identity cards do not. Tattoos have been a long tradition in their community to ensure Christian burials and, as one tattooist says, " identify Christian orphans whose parents had been killed in war...So they wouldn't be brought up as Muslims." I often use Coptic tattoos as an example of how companies can get in trouble when they ban religious tattoos. For Coptic Christians, tattoos play a big role. In one US case, Red Robin Restaurants fired an employee when he would not cover up his small Coptic wrist tattoos. The Equal Employment Commission took up his suit and it settled for a nice sum. Read more about it here. It's a rare case but one employers must be sensitive to.

On the issue of cultural sensitivity, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with a Maori tattoo on her chin has sparked the ire of Kiwi monarchists and at least one Maori. The artist, Barry Ross Smith, has said "it was meant to be a sensitive depiction of two cultures coming together."  I understand how Maori could be offended, especially after the sacred Moko has been appropriated so many times by companies; the best example is Sanro's Hello Kitty Maori. However, in this case, I can see the artist's intention.

Please feel free to weigh in on this issue or any raised here in the comments section.  

In India, Mumbai's tattooed Goths lay low as many feel that, even in a more permissive city like Mumbai, they will be discriminated against.

Back in the US ...

The Department of Veteran's Affairs has contracted with the company Global Tattoo Orthotic Prosthetic Innovations to offer custom tattoos on prosthetics and orthopedic braces for vets at VA hospitals and clinics across the US. See a gallery of the artwork here.

This profile on a new tattoo studio/art gallery in Cary, NC has interesting stats on tattooing throughout the state; for example, the number of tattoo businesses in North Carolina spiked 45% in 2009. Also, in NC, every tattoo artist must apply for a permit through their county health department, which each have their own rules and with different permit fees and rules; thus, you'll find some counties with many shops and some with none. Another example of how local laws impact tattoo culture and business.

The SF Examiner talks to Ed Hardy about his art and, yes, trucker hats. I did like this question and his answer:

How do you see your role in the world?
As an artist and somebody that can hopefully light up people's lives with the work that I make and influence people with my art. If it makes you think -- takes you outside yourself and opens yourself to the mystery of life -- that's great.
The interview is inspired by Ed's art show at San Francisco's Beat Museum, which runs through January 20th. Read his artist statement here.

The San Francisco Chronicle goes to Mom's Body Shop on Haight Street to talk to customers about "the allure of body art." And what is that allure? Well, we don't know because they never really ask the question. Just the standard ones about the pain and how many they have. I'd love for reporters to delve into the "Why" question. Not simply accept answers like, "I got it for my dead grandmother" but the real why we chose to mark these moments or simply beautify ourselves permanently. I always say, "I got it because I like it" but why I like it changes as I get older (as if I'm growing into my tattoos). I'd love to see an in-depth, modern study on it.

Let's leave the philosophy & psych, and shamelessly enjoy some quick-n-dirty links:

12:11 PM
vintage tattoos.jpgBefore we head off to my Ouzo-soaked Christmas Eve in Brooklyn with my big fat Greek family, I want to give one of y'all a gift (a book so good that I've found myself with two copies):  

Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old School Skin Art by Carol Clerk.

To choose the lucky winner, I figure I'd also be a little self-serving and create a super-quick 7 question survey on how to make the blog better for you in the new year. The survey is anonymous unless you'd like a chance to win the book, and then we'll just need your email address. The contest ends at noon (EST) December 31st, so you have a full week to fill it out although it only takes a minute to complete.

Click here to take survey here and get a chance to win "Vintage Tattoo."

Ok, off to drink and be merry. We'll be back on Monday. Have a wonderful holiday.

03:13 PM
The fabulous Selvedge Yard blog has done it again with more archival goodness on tattoo culture: a look at the story behind Norman Rockwell's iconic painting The Tattooist.

With a little help from the equally wonderful Tattoo Archive, they provide interesting facts surrounding this painting and others by Rockwell. For example, the painter often worked from staged photographs as an aid, and for The Tattooist, positioned a fellow illustrator as the tattoo artist and a neighbor (in Arlington, Vermont) as the sailor. But Rockwell did consult with Bowery tattooist Al Neville and borrowed a tattoo machine from him to ensure accuracy in the painting.

A fun side note: Despite the long list of (crossed out) ex-lover's names on the sailor's arm above the new one he's adding ("Betty"), Rockwell's model-neighbor, Clarence Decker, was never tattooed at all. His great, great nephew told the Tattoo Archive:

"Clarence didn't have a single tattoo in real life.  Also the last name on his arm is Betty-that's because my great, great aunt Belle told Norman that if he put her name in the painting, she wouldn't speak to him ever again. So Norman crossed the L's and added a Y."

Read more on historic tattoo culture from the Selvedge Yard here and here.

Thanks, Matt, for looking out while we were on vacation!
09:09 AM
Brian and I were supposed to be back in Brooklyn today, blogging our hearts away after a refreshing sojourn to San Juan, but because of the beautiful NY weather, our flight has been cancelled and we're "stuck" in Puerto Rico. Oh no!

While I was taking an internet break (I had to get back online to stop the nervous twitching), the powers that be at BoingBoing reviewed my book Black Tattoo Art. Xeni gave it a gracious review and I'm thankful. She asked that I send her more "techy" photos from the book, and I sent her many from the Art Brut chapter, which she loved.

The commenters were less generous than Xeni, however, (except the one person who actually owns the book) and offered insight like "I do believe tattoo overdose is this decade's mullet" or comments (a lot of them) on whether a butt tattoo was of Starsky and Hutch.

Rather than play with the trolls there, I'll simply answer 'em here before I go back to the pool:

* The book is covers everything from traditional tribal (e.g., Maori and Filipino tattooing)  to Zuluetta's Neo-Tribal to Dotwork as well as the "techy" tattoos of Art Brut. You can see more photos here.

* I am not independently wealthy nor a construction worker. I am a lawyer who has worked on Wall Street and international firms in Europe. I just didn't go to work in a bikini.

* Every page has the artist credit so you know right away who did the tattoo. Their contact info is in the back of the book.

* You CAN get a tattoo simply because you think it's cool.

* As for the Starsky & Hutch(??) butt tattoo, well, I'll let you have some fun with that in our own comments section.

Ok, off to bathe in SPF50. Hasta La Vista!
12:47 AM
VincentCastiglia painting.jpgDecember and January are usually pretty quiet as far as tattoo events go, but there are a couple of impressive gallery shows and conventions to check over the next few weeks.

This Saturday, December 19th, head to Sacred Gallery -- part of Sacred Tattoo -- on the Chinatown/SoHo border in NYC for their first annual "Un-Holiday Party." This one day event -- a soft launch of the gallery -- will feature the fine art of tattooists including Paul Booth and his Last Rites crew, Jon Clue, Mike Bellamy, David Sena, Adam Hays, Vinny Romanelli, Picasso Dular, Matthew Adams, Lalo Yunda, Shey, Betty Rose and Vincent Castiglia (whose blood painting is shown above), among others. Live music and drinks abound. Party starts at 9PM.

Mark your calendars for our own sponsored art show: On Friday, January 15th, Needles & Sins presents "Girls," an exhibit of sultry photography by Maria Guido at Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. More on that show to come.

On the convention tip ...

It's not too late to book your flights to Singapore for the Second Annual Singapore Tattoo Show January 8-10, 2010. Every tattoo artist I spoke to who attended last year said it was one of the best conventions they have ever done -- a real feat for a first show. Everything from tight organization to interesting seminars to enthusiastic crowds make it a top tattoo vacation. Check the 300+ artist list. It's reads as a Who's Who of the world's best.

The following weekend, January 14-17, is a long-running favorite: The 15th Annual "Marked for Life" Female Tattoo Artist Expo in Orlando, Florida. Men and women alike are welcome at the Embassy Suites Orlando Downtown hotel to get tattooed from female veteran artists and rising stars. Art work created during the Art Fusion Experiment live drawing project will be auctioned off Sunday and proceeds will be donated to the Shriner's Hospital.
12:40 AM
Brian and I are off for a few days in the sun, away from our laptops, but if the N+S blog bots do their job, there will be fresh content posted while we're gone. We won't be answering messages while away, but we'll get to your requests for more Rihanna tattoo photos, free legal advice, and questions on my boob size soon enough.
10:32 AM
world tattoo convention.jpgI am PSYCHED! And when is the last time you saw me using all caps here? But the coolest thing in the tattoo world is going on right now and you gotta check it out:

Today is the first day of the World Tattoo Convention, an online gathering of tattooists and collectors from around the world broadcasting from their studios via live web-cam transmissions for the next four days

Before I posted this, I watched artists from Russia, Egypt, Belgium, Canada, and Uruguay working. The feeds come with chat interaction so you offer your thoughts on the tattoo or just say Hi. Of course, the quality is as good as the cam feed, so some artists didn't have sound while others came through loud and clear. For a couple, the positioning of the cam didn't allow for the best viewing so the World Tattoo moderators messaged them to change the angle when they took a tattoo break. Yet, despite some minor glitches, it's all just too cool. I'm giddy.

Top artists participating including Benjamin Moss, Bob Tyrrell, George Bardadim, Kurt Wisombe, S.Pili Mo'o, Yushi Takei, Vincent Hocquet, among many many others.  

The World Tattoo Convention is brought to you by Spain's TattooArte Magazine, who have been covering conventions for years, so they've taken the elements of what makes a top tattoo gathering and brought it online.

For example, they've organized "the first world tattoo contest," letting the audience participate and vote for their favorite artists and pieces. The artist with the most votes for a tattoo done during the live broadcast will receive 1000€ in cash. Other prizes are awarded to tattooists as well as participants.

It's also a great way to discover new artists. Besides watching them work live, you can view their tattoo galleries and read their bios. Look for tattoo artists near you on the interactive map or leave messages for artists on the other side of the world and ask what their travel schedule looks like.

Admission to the online convention is $7.50 US (5 Euros) for all four days. You won't get that kind of door price at any offline convention. The show ends December 20th. A must see. 
12:15 PM
Beyond Nazi tattoo cover-ups and and celebrity tattoo trifles, the headlines this week also featured stories that made us feel a little less soiled.

On Discovery's awesome Science Tattoo blog, I learned from this science teacher and her endangered species tattoo about the Ext Inked, a project from Ultimate Holding Company (a Machester art co-op) that celebrates Charles Darwin's 200th birthday by inviting 100 volunteers to become the ambassadors of 100 endangered UK species -- that is, by being tattooed with the image of their chosen mammal, invertebrate, bird, reptile, fish or plant. The tattoos, like the one above, were done by the artists of Ink vs. Steel in Leeds. See more photos on their Facebook group and Flickr pages.

On the other English coast, in Lincolnshire, tattooing the town mascot will cost ya. The Skegness Town Council is requiring tattooists pay a ten pound fee for tattooing the famous Jolly Fisherman, somewhat of a local logo since it was designed as a ad for the coastal resort town in 1908. Could this be the makings of a tattoo copyright fight?

And in Derbyshire, university forensic scientists are exploring how using an infrared digital camera can determine if a tattoo is an original or a cover-up. So criminals who have tattooed over or lazered distinct tattoos to evade identification may not have an easy pass after all.

In Nottinghamshire (if you're not sure on shires, see this map), one rock fan is trying for a world record by getting portrait tattoos of his favorite musicians and celebs, and then having them sign his bod (he then tattoos the autographs). Portraits range from Ozzy to Anastacia to The Corrs. And, surprisingly, he is being abused on message boards for his musical taste.

Back in the US ...

fort hood tattoo.jpgThe American Statesman (A.S. photo above by Ralph Barrerra) looks at how soldiers deal with the stress of war and last month's shootings by finding comfort in places like tattoo studios. The owner of La Rude's Tattoo Studios explains:

"There's more counseling involved than artwork on a lot of weeks...We're like the bartender without the alcohol. Sometimes they need a nonmilitary ear to listen."

Army Sgt. Ryan Witko, a 27-year-old injured Iraq War vet comes to La Rude's regularly:

"On his right arm, Witko has the words "Only God Can Judge Me," a phrase, he says, meant to "cleanse me of the guilt of the things that I had to do while in Iraq."

"When I can't find relief anywhere else, I come here and get a tattoo," he said on a recent evening. "There are three or four guys here on a regular basis who are going through the same thing, and this is like a meeting spot."

For more on tattooed soldiers and Fort Hood, see our post on the Tattooed Under Fire documentary.

The Stateman article also looked at how soldiers have turned to churches as well as tattoo studios. A church in Mill Creek, Washington offers both worlds. During their Permanent Ink series, sermons are accompanied by the buzz of live tattooing. Praise be.

The waning of the "tattoo taboo" isn't just in the US and UK. The Bangkok Post says that more women in Hong Kong are following the "trend" and getting tattooed.

But there are moments when I long for the "good old days" of underground tattooing, a time when you had to really do your homework and seek out masters of the craft to create your desired work, a tattoo of Lily Allen's nipples on your buttocks.

I'll end there.
01:51 PM
nazi tattoo.jpgToday's tattoo law post raises this question:

Should the state pay for a cosmetologist to cover the Neo-Nazi tattoos of a defendant in a murder trial where he faces the death penalty?

A Florida judge presiding over a Pasco County murder trial said Yes according to this Miami Herald article:  

"Judge Michael Andrews, acting on a request by Ditullio's lawyer, ruled that the tattoos are potentially offensive and could influence a jury's opinion in the state's death penalty case against the 23-year-old accused of donning a gas mask, breaking into a neighbor's home and stabbing two people, killing one of them."

The decision led to a flood of articles and editorials over whether the state should've picked up the $150/day tab for the tattoo cover-up. My guess was that the judge was being cautious in light of previous cases.

For example, in Dawson v Delaware, the US Supreme Court said the defendant's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the prosecution admitted his Aryan Brotherhood tattoo into evidence -- the murder he committed wasn't racially motivated and so the hate group association and tattoo were not relevant.

However, this past June, in Wood v State, the Eleventh Court of Appeals in Texas ruled that the prosecution did not violate a defendant's First Amendment rights when commenting on his tattoos -- text on each eyelid that said "Lying Eyes." The court said that, unlike the Dawson case, the tattoos were not used to show gang affiliation but "to show his disregard for the truth and his moral character. A person's tattoos can reflect his character and demonstrate a motive for his crime." For interesting commentary on this case, read what Eugene Volokh has to say.

In NY, the state's highest court ruled in 2004 that Nazi tattoos could be used as evidence that a defendant committed a hate crime in The People v. Slavin. In that case, Slavin was tried for luring two Mexican laborers into an abandoned warehouse and killing them. During the trial, to show hate was a motivating factor, the prosecution offered jurors a slideshow of Slavin's tattoos including black swastikas, a white fist and a skinhead kicking a large-nosed man wearing a skullcap. Slavin appealed saying that this violated his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The NY Court of Appeals disagreed saying:

"We conclude that defendant was not "compelled ... to be a witness against himself" within the meaning of the privilege. The tattoos were physical characteristics, not testimony forced from his mouth. However much the tattoos may have reflected defendant's inner thoughts, the People did not compel him to create them in the first place."

Back to this past week's case, the question is whether the judge played it too safe in light of the case law. Defendant Ditullio showed up in court with his Nazi tattoos covered and hair trimmed, as shown here. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. The retrial is scheduled for March 22. Let's see if that jury will see the real Ditullio, tattoos and all.       
12:25 PM
portrait of me 2(small).jpg
I was going to entitle this "Me in Oil" but that would make me a tease on the RSS feed. With the naked bod and come-hither stare, I already look like a Suicide Girl den mother, but the beauty of portraiture is that the painter transforms the tattooed lady from minx to muse. I'll take it.

Juango Martinez Canovas of Spain is the artist behind my portrait, who has placed me in the beautiful company of tattooist Jo Harrison and painter Titine Leu. Also check his Memento Mori series, which showed at the Laboratorio d Arte Joven this past summer.

Beyond canvas, Juango has been creating art on skin for over 12 years. He's currently working at Other Side Tattoo in Murcia, Spain.
12:53 PM
brad fink inked mad dec.jpgThe December/January issue of Inked Mag is now out and along with beautiful heavily tattooed women in lesser and lesser states of undress (it is a men's "lifestyle" mag after all), there are a number of features you got to check out, especially because we wrote them.

Our Patrick Sullivan has a great feature on how technology is changing tattooing including the new air-pressured tattoo machine and one-shot laser removal inks.

There are the party photos from my Black Tattoo Art book release shindig at Tattoo Culture.

And my Icon interview with Brad Fink, the most fun I've had interviewing a tattoo artist in a while. Here's a snippet as to why:

[As a young tattoo apprentice] Did you have to clean toilets and all the nasty stuff?

brad fink tattoo.jpgI did it but it wasn't Mitch telling me to do all the disgusting things. It was me knowing it needed to be done and doing it myself. This leads to my disdain for the younger generation coming into tattooing today. Back then there were no references or all the information on the Internet that is readily available. Back then, I had to search and search for it. I had to go to the library, seek out Easy Rider tattoo magazines and Ed Hardy's Tattoo Time series. Today, there are instructional DVDs and all this crap on how to tattoo. They even have premade needles now. When I started, I had to get to the shop two hours early to make my needles for the day or next two days. Today, people get very good in a short time, and there's this sense of entitlement young people have in the business that everything should be handed to them.

We didn't have a "shop person" back then to wipe people's asses. Today, these kids want to come in, do their tattoos, and leave. Back then, I had to make needles, clean the shop, stock my station, and answer the phones.

Did you also walk miles in the snow to the shop barefoot back in your day? [laughs]

Yes, I did! I wrecked enough cars by 17 years old and my insurance was cancelled, so as a matter of fact, I had to ride a bicycle or walk to the shop. Yes, Marisa, I did have to walk to work in the snow. [laughs]

Now you have a young apprentice. What lessons are you passing down?

I teach him life lessons! That there's more to tattooing than actual tattooing. I teach him everything from adapting to every quirky personality that walks through that door without those people you would have nothing. I'm teaching loyalty and respect. I want him to know the history and how tattooing got to this level.

brad fink tattoo eagle.jpgBrad splits his time between his three studios, DareDevil and Fun City in NYC, which he co-owns with Michelle Myles; and Iron Age in St. Louis, which he co-owns with Mark Andrews and spends most his time. Brad is also a partner in Me Against The World clothing, a new advertiser to N+S.

11:50 AM
knuckle tattoo.jpg
I've been obsessing over knuckle tattoos since Nathan Black of visited the N+S headquarters in Brooklyn [Moe's Bar], during his 30 Days in the Air Tour via JetBlue.[Check Nathan's airport code tattoos from that trip.]

But considering my equal obsession with being gainfully employed, I found something at the Exit 9 boutique yesterday that could satisfy both:

Temporary Knuckle Tattoos for Him & Her.

temp tattoos.jpgDesigned by Fred & Friends, the peeps that brought you the Stiletto Door Stopper and Pick Your Nose Party Cups, these temp tattoos seek to have you "toughen up, temporarily." With that kinda talk, I couldn't resist so I forked over five bucks each for two packs -- his and her.

I should've only bought the dude one, however, because I wasn't feeling the female options like "Gold Diga," "Porn Star," "Head Case," "AHot Mess," or "Mean Girl," among other messages a mano. The temp tattoos for him were more my taste: "Book Worm," "This Hurt," "Riff Raff," "Rock Star," "Last Call," & "Geek Life" (shown above). [I'll never be NerdCore as MC Router & her (real) knux but I can play one on the Internet.]

The temps were easy -- but not quick to put on -- and Brian and I giggled over my tattoo nerdiness, but the actual tough part was taking them off as we neither had baby oil nor rubbing alcohol around (the suggested products for removal). Nail polish removal and scrubbing eventually got the temps off, just in time for a work meeting.

They don't call 'em "career killers" for nothin.
03:14 PM
tatremoval.jpgA model friend of mine forwarded me this call for models from the Elite Casting Network.

It appears that there will be yet another reality television show dedicated to our little tattoo subculture. Yet, this one removes itself from the traditional style of watching clients get inked and, instead, focuses on watching them get that ink removed.

It seems as if tattoo shows have jumped the shark so completely that they've landed, all wet and bothered, on the other side. I wonder how many "I got this tattoo for my wife but then I caught her in bed with the gardener" tales will be told.

Ads have also been put out on Craigslist, like this one, so maybe the E.C.N. call is legit, but it doesn't hurt to be suspicious when you read complaints such as this post about a lot of the casting sites being scams. Considering more tattooed people are being searched for on these sites, best to be aware.
02:02 PM
wing tattoo.jpg
Wing tattoos by Vincent Hocquet (featured in Black Tattoo Art).

Last Friday, the US Air Force rescinded a new ban on tattoos visible on a recruit's right "saluting arm." The ban had come into effect November 25th and met with a great deal of scrutiny in the press as 26 recruits were soon turned away from basic training because of their tattoos, tattoos that were acceptable under the original standard.

According to the Air Force Times, that old standard is the following: "Official Air Force policy bans only tattoos that are obscene or do not fit a 'military image,' that cover more than one-fourth of a body part, or are above the collarbone."

This Air Force policy has renewed interest in the debate over tattoo policies -- not just in the military -- but in the workplace.

Here are some basic points on tattoos and workplace appearance policies:

Companies have a great deal of discretion in enforcing their workplace appearance policies as long as they don't discriminate on the basis of religion, sex, race, color, or national origin under Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act.

Even if you claim your tattoos are protected for reasons such as religion or national origin, that doesn't mean you can wear a swastika on your neck and serve customers with abandon. Courts will often look to see if an employer offered you "reasonable accommodation" -- that is, whether they found a way to eliminate the conflict between your tattoo and their work requirements without undue hardship to the business.

Perfect example is in Cloutier v Costco. In this case, a cashier at the mega-wholesale chain sued because she was not allowed to have visible facial piercings. She claimed that her eyebrow piercing was part of her religion as a member of the "Church of Body Modification" (CoBM). After a lengthy court battle, the US Court of Appeals in Boston did not rule on whether CoBM is a bona fide religion but found that Costco met its burden of showing that it had offered Cloutier a reasonable accommodation of her religious practice: a clear plastic retainer that took the place of the eyebrow jewelry. Therefore, no conflict.

BUT ...

virgin tattoo.jpgWhen an employee has been outright fired for visible religious tattoos and offered no accommodation, it has not gone so well. The Red Robin restaurant chain paid out $150,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when it dismissed a waiter for not covering up a verse from an Egyptian scripture tattooed on his wrists, a noted practice of his Kermetic faith. As part of the settlement, Red Robin also had to change its policies to accommodate religious beliefs.

Workplace dress codes should be clear and reasonable, but again, employers can often mandate cover-ups or not hire someone because they are tattooed. Granted, in the US where over a third of the population is tattooed, it doesn't make much business sense to keep a large portion of the work pool away, but companies are allowed to make bad decisions and get away with them.
12:31 PM
The latest issue of the Journal of Human Behavior and Evolution Society has an article entitled "Tattoo & Piercing as Signals of Biological Quality" based upon a study conducted by three researchers in the Anthropology departments at the Polish Academy of Science and The University of Wroclaw in Poland.

These researchers set out to prove the following:
"Since both tattoos and piercings can present health risks (e.g., due to blood-borne disease transmission risk), postulate that people who decide to have such a body decoration might have relatively higher biological quality and that tattoos/piercings can be an honest signal of genetic quality."

The result?

They found that tattooed and pierced men had significantly higher biological quality ... which I will assume will prompt y'all to give me a collective "DUH!" And how can I deny this when I wake up to the higher biological quality of Brian Grosz above (photographed before the second half sleeve by Mike Rubendall was done).

I wanted to find out more, so I bought the article ($30 for six pages!) so I can bring you the highlights of the study. Here we go:

* They based "biological quality" on levels of fluctuating asymmetry (FA) -- a low FA signals better symmetry, and therefore, higher hotness factor and what they call "good genes." Tattooed men (64 males recruited from two tattoo studios in Western Poland) had much lower FA than those men in the control group (38 male university students).  BUT there was no significant difference in the female participants.

* People with tattoos are more likely to be more competitive, risk takers, and have a "less restricted sexual strategy" [read: we like f*cking?]

* Tattooed people, more than others, seek "uniqueness" and because this can be stressful  than following social rules, "it is likely that mainly people with relatively high biological quality can afford such behavior."

* They also looked at whether people use body art to "to increase their own physical attractiveness or to hide some shortcomings in their appearance." They found no support for this for both sexes. The problem with this part of the study for me was the premises they based this on: finding no difference in self-ratings of attractiveness between the two groups, suggesting that way more men are tattooed than women in "western societies," and citing a non-scientific study conducted in the UK that claimed tattooed women are rated as less physically attractive than non-tattooed women.

First. recent statistics in the US, show almost an equal percentage of tattooed men and women. [The US doesn't make up all "western society" of course. It's just one indicator.]

As for attractiveness, well, that depends on who you ask. Unlike the FA test, this part of the study is subject to greater error.

For example, last year, I surveyed 561 people online from around the world for my Erotic Ink column on Suicide Girls and found that, while getting tattooed to become more attractive was not a factor for most -- in agreement with the Polish study -- most people did feel more attractive after getting tattooed. Also, tattooed women were rated as more attractive. Ok, I know. I wrote this for Suicide Girls, but my point being that attractiveness studies will differ depending on the culture of whom you're asking (as opposed to the biological measure of the FA tests).

In the end, I don't think we can read too much into a tattoo study done on a couple hundred people in one country, but it is nice to see the results come in favor of us for a change.

[Photograph by Maria Guido]
02:32 PM
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Our Holiday Gift Guide is at an end and we'll be back to our regular news, events, and blah blah next week. Gonna run-down the week's posts but before I do, a gift from us to you:

A full free download of the Priestess and the Fool's album Ride On, Santa (by our own Brian Grosz and Saint Bernadette's Meredith DiMenna). It's a collection of re-imagined holiday music for scrooges, atheists, and all types of bah-humbuggery, which features old classics, cult Muppets and a drunken '80s Irish Pogue. Down a bowl of spiked-eggnog & enjoy.

And now the Holiday Gift Guide Round-up:

I hope we've helped with your shopping lists. The best gifts you could give us are supporting our advertisers; hitting the donate button (right); posting our banners; sharing our posts on your blogs, Facebook pages and in your Tweets; or just simply keep reading and giving us feedback so we can give ya what you want in a humble tattoo blog.

Much love. More Monday.
12:01 PM
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Today's gift guide post is inspired by an upcoming art show so I figured I'd meld the two to present the fabulousness of ...

... Lea Vendetta, tattoo artist, painter, model and -- little known fact -- accordion player.

Next Friday, December 11th from 6-10PM, is the opening of Lea's solo show, Sous Le Soleil Exactement (Exactly Under the Sun) at PreviewMod in Fort Lauderdale, FL. In this exhibition, she will present new works and old favorites of her Art Deco depictions of underworld women, from burlesque performers to painted ladies, as well as sultry couples cavorting on dance floors. A large body of her work pays tribute to her native France, particularly Paris (where Lea once walked the fashion runways), with a Moulin Rouge feel.

lea vendetta painting .jpgIf you can't make it to the art show, you can purchase prints and cards of some of the works from her new online store. Ok, here's where the gift guide part comes in with a smooth transition.

The coolest thing about Lea's store is that you are given a number options on how you'd like her work printed with a few clicks. For example, you can order a $7 card, a $40 poster, a $50 matted print, or canvas, mounted and framed prints of various sizes ranging from $80 to $270. Delivery takes 10-15 business days.

If you're interested in Lea's wearable art, check her tattoo gallery. She's currently taking appointments at Altered State Tattoo in Lake Worth, Fl. but also does numerous guest spots across the country throughout the year.
01:48 PM
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Carved bone spirals by Ebone Designs.

Our Holiday Gift Guide ends tomorrow, and I hope we helped tattoo lovers with their lists this week, but we haven't forgotten our pierced pretties out there. Here are picks for top body jewelry available online and off.

* Ebone Designs has been my long time favorite since my old days. Owner Dy Robbins in Bali works with local artisans who carve and shape organic materials into gorgeous designs, like the Garuda spirals above and this Dragon loop I love. The prices are very reasonable for these materials and craftsmanship. Check out their clearance page for even better deals. My go-to place for my stretched lobes.

* One Tribe Organics is also an eco-friendly small business comprising young artisans. Their showroom/workshop is in Richmond, VA, and they have a Bali workshop as well. Their wide selection of products are also reasonably priced. My recent faves are the Saraswati Swan in Bloodwood and the Chrysanthemum Moose Antler Plugs [see their statement on using animal byproducts here). Also check their selection of vegan friendly jewelry.

* Reign Custom Design specializes in large gauge plugs and weights that have more bling for ya buck. Their Copper Death Bowls are legendary for being beautiful and badass at the same time. [I'm trying to cut down on my "badass" usage but I'm at a loss for a better word to encapsulate the, well, badassness.] To buy online, download their catalog and email your order or head to BME Shop, which carries much of their merch.

* Venus by Maria Tash will always hold a special place in my heart because, a billion years ago, before Christina, Britney, & Jessica got pierced and adorned at Venus's luxe Broadway studio, I was at their local East Village shop, just a few blocks from my bachelorette pad, getting multiple holes in my body and filling them with gorgeous gold and gemstones. Maria was doin high-end body jewelry from the beginning.

sm_cover.jpg* Le Roi is a larger company with a massive catalog of decently priced jewelry, from surgical steel to niobium to 18k gold. LeRoi Manhattan, which has been around since 1995, recently shacked up with DareDevil Tattoo, so you'll now find piercers in the back of their LES lair.

On a final note ...

A must for long-time piercing lovers and newbies wanting to know more is Elayne Angel's The Piercing Bible, the definitive piercing guide by a practitioner who revolutionized body art.

Oh wait, just one more thing ...

For piercing and tattoo care (and a variety of vegan skin products), check back on our Punk Medics post.
12:14 PM
Appetitefordestruction.jpgLike most people in the third decade of their life, I was first exposed to the work of Robert Williams through the appearance of his controversial painting on the Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction album cover.  Well, let me rephrase that: the migration of said painting to the inside of the jacket after the people of Wal-Mart threw a hissy over the subject matter.

And as a guy who's done more than his fair share of interviews over his adulthood, I hate reading features on artists that center around the rank-and-file, "boring question and boilerplate answer" route of lazy journalism.  That's why I was thrilled to find that the November issue of Juxtapoz Magazine featured a lengthy discussion between Robert Williams and Ed Hardy on the nature of their respective art-forms.  No Q&A to speak of, just two grumpy old grouches grumbling about art.

Sadly, issue 106 already appears to be off the newsstands (I'm always a little late to the party), but I wanted to share some quotable gems that were locked within...

Ed Hardy: "I don't give a shit if people get tattoos.  I don't even know why people get them.  My stance was I shouldn't get looked down on as some subhuman piece of shit because I wear tattoos or want to do them."

Robert Williams: "Eventually I'm going to be completely run over and forgotten by the people who paint big-eyed children, and I'm going to be smeared into a footnote... You're probably going to end up being a fucking footnote, too."

Ed Hardy: "I still think tattooing is the most loaded kind of medium, because of course, it's tied into the whole thing about mortality and social conditioning... But it's just a medium, an innocent meidum, inert as oil paint lying there.  Until the paint gets laid on by a human, it's just paint.  But it's the power that these images evoke."

For those of you in the NYC Metro Area with any interest in the hallucinogenic work of Mr. Williams, he has a solo show at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, running until January 31st.  For those of you who can't attend, there's also an online slideshow.

12:09 PM

Madonna has Gaultier. Sharon Stone has Calvin Klein. Me...I have Father Panik Industries.

Celebs like Margaret Cho, The Van Zandts, and Dee Snider may model their wares on red carpets, but whose tattooed sleeves are modeling their Knuckle Tattoo Gloves online?

Who wears their hoodies, tees, shorts with the same aplomb, aplomb I say, as Anna Wintour wears dead animals?

And that gold Bad Ass nameplate? Who's tattooed cleavage has been photographed numerous times with that baby on?


And yet, Father Panik Industries has yet to officially declare me as their fashion muse. Oh, they do have rare moments where they woo me. A text saying they'd like to offer me a free manicure. But in the end they just want my stubby fingers to fill out their latest gloves with the thumb holes for texting tease ease. But I won't do it this year! That is, unless they make me the next tattooed Edie Sedgwick.

A girl's gotta play hard to get.

Or a girl can be totally shameless and tell you to shop the Father Panik Store Online or find them at fairs like the fabulous Gifted Market in Manhattan. If you do stop by their booth, tell them "their muse" sent ya. Maybe it'll work for me. 
02:29 PM
matw photo.jpgIt's perfect timing that we're introducing our newest advertiser during our Holiday Gift Guide extravaganza (I never get to use this word enough) because this art-meets-fashion brand has limited edition apparel for the design snobs on your shopping list.

Check Me Against the World clothing company and art crew.

The team comprises Josh Rowan, Sean Baltzell, Adam Taylor, and one of my favorite tattooers and all-around funny guy, Brad Fink owner of Iron Age studios in St.Louis, MO. [Brad also co-owns Fun City Tattoo and Daredevil Tattoo in New York with Michelle Miles.]

The artists of Me Against the World translate tattoo imagery in a way that's unique and refined in their streetwear line, just as they do in their tattoo work. You won't find these clothes amidst the tribal flash tees in Hot Topic. You will find them in boutiques across the country as well as in their hometown of St Louis, where they have also thrown numerous art shows, parties, and events.

Better yet, buy the clothes online. The limited edition tees go for $25 and $28 USD. Check out some designs below.

MATW also offers graphic design and merchandise production for many local and national bands, restaurants, clubs, tattoo studios and events. If you are interested in having them create something for you, you can contact them at matwstl [at] gmail [.] com.

Our Needles & Sins team is thankful for the support of MATW and our other advertisers Devil City Press and Tattoo Culture, which helps take care of our server costs, promo items (more stickers & tees on the way) and our bar tabs so that you can read N+S for free. Please support them for great merch and tattoos.

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12:11 PM
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Since Friday, our Gift Guide has listed products from indie artists and crafters to help hit your shopping list. But today, I have a gift for you. A blend of poetry and art to relieve the madness forced open us this time of the year.

You'll find it in the latest issue of Holly Rose Review's December issue released today.

The theme of this issue of Wonder. The poems selected, mindfully vetted by Publisher/Editor Theresa Edwards, reflect various manifestations of the theme like admiration, puzzlement, awe, curiosity and reflection, as that shared between new lovers in Chaussure by Erika Moya accompanied by the photography of Efrain Gonzales.

Or in marveling at nature, like "the language of the peacock" in Sketches of Birds by Martin Willits, Jr. illustrated by the tattoo above by Tel Aviv tattooist Michael Kozlenko.

Other tattooists who contributed images of their work to this issue include Sean Herman, Rich Bustamante, Luba Goldina,Seven Beckham, and Avi Inks.

The entire issue can be viewed online for free. It will be a beautiful break in your day.

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