January 2010 Archives

11:12 AM
Here's the third installment of a series of guest blogs by John Mack, an American who has been getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III for nine years. You can read Part I here and Part II here.

By John Mack

4560164655806_1L.jpgIn about 2004, Horiyoshi III was working on my back at the Isecho studio when in comes this Yakuza boss and his, um, assistant. It was apparent from his attitude, speech, and armed escort that he was a really big cheese.

I have mixed feelings about the relationship between the Yakuza and tattoos. I endure discrimination in Japan because of the association.

On the other hand, I owe a debt to the Yakuza for keeping traditional Japanese tattooing alive during that dark century before the current tattoo renaissance.

Anyway, the boss came to discuss a tattoo design with Horiyoshi. After he finished with that business, he turned his attention to me.

"That's a weird looking dragon," he commented.  I suppose he was referring to the acid trip proportions of my dragon.

The boss and his assistant leaned over me to further scrutinize my back. This was alarming, as I would rather not confront underworld figures while lying naked and prone on the floor.  Chuck Norris would never approve.

The boss quizzed Horiyoshi about other tattoos I might have on the front of me. Always eager to meet unusual people, I engaged them in a bit of chit-chat, but the boss was more interested in talking than listening.

After a while, they left. I had survived my encounter with the Yakuza. The only pain endured was that of the tattoo.

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere

For more on tattoos and Japan's underworld, see this National Geographic video:

12:38 PM
This Sunday, January 31st, is the opening of Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is... A LOVE STORY: a most exciting artistic collaboration in NYC, one that pairs an excellent tattoo artist and painter with an visionary artist in so many mediums that a blog post could never do the work justice.

Tattooist Daniel Albrigo, of NY & Brooklyn Adorned studios, has created a split exhibition with Genesis P-Orridge, most known for his music/performance in Throbbing Gristle (I still have them on vinyl) and Psychic TV, Thee temple ov psychick youth collective, numerous art exhibitions worldwide, and most recently, his body modification experiment in Pandrogeny.

Pandrogeny is a component of this exhibit so let me first offer a brief and simplified note on it: Genesis and h/er late wife and other half, Lady Jaye Breyer, began a project in 1993 to transcend "body-based genders- and socially imposed identities," thereby creating Breyer P-Orridge. Maxwell G. Graham sums it in the exhibition's release: "...their two identities were merged through plastic surgery, hormone therapy, cross dressing and altered behavior in an effort to deconstruct the fiction of the self, each moving to resemble the other. Breyer P-Orridge, the cross-pollinated name of this endeavor, has continued even after Lady Jaye's untimely death in 2007."

In tribute to Lady Jaye, Daniel and Genesis join to tell a love story in painting, sculpture, photo-works, assemblage and jewelry. I spoke with Daniel, and here's what he says of the collaboration:

"The show revolves around the set solid gold of teeth that Genesis has in he/r mouth. [P- Orridge has had all of h/er teeth removed, then cast in gold and installed in place of the originals.] My paintings are documenting the process materials, molds and castings for these gold teeth, along with a couple portraits of Genesis. Genesis will be contributing new sculptural objects, assemblages, photo-works and jewelry (edition of 23 silver rings with a gold molar in replace of a gem).
I met Genesis through a mutual friend and we hit it off right away. Working with Genesis over the last year has been amazing. I feel very honored that someone of he/r stature and iconic status would share an exhibition with me. S/he told me that collaboration has always been a part of her work. To he/r it made perfect sense to collaborate with me and my painting. Her past collaborations include Dr. Timothy Leary, Derek Jarman, William S. Boroughs and Bryan Gison. She is a great friend and is always very generous and thoughtful.

Over the course of the year, I did a partial sleeve on her:  all of the images are in memorial to Lady Jaye. She is a big fan of my tattooing, which also is a huge compliment."

For more on Daniel's tattoo work, check his portfolio online or stop by Brooklyn Adorned Wednesday through Saturday where he's been tattooing for over a year now.

And for more on Daniel's fine art, you can buy his book Life, Death, Letters, and Numbers, a collection of his ink and oil paintings, as well as tattoo flash, heavily influenced by Astrology and the Constellations.


Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is... A LOVE STORY runs until February 22, 2010 at the Renwick Gallery in SoHo, NYC.

11:49 AM
brighton tattoo convention.jpg
Brighton, UK is known for its beaches, bars, bands and now tattooed bods with its third year of the mega Brighton Tattoo Convention.

This weekend, Jan.30-31st, the Brighton Racecourse will feature thoroughbreds of tattoo including Xed Le Head, Robert Hernandez, Benjamin Moss, Liorcifer, the fabulous Frith Street crew, and a personal fave of the avant garde style--the artists at Boucherie Moderne from Belgium, plus many more.

There will also be plenty of walking works of art, as shown above and in the photo gallery from last year.

Beyond top tattoo work, live music, art exhibits and tattoo contests round out the weekend. Check the events listing here. Convention organizer, Woody, knows how to put on a show (he's also been behind the scenes at the London Tattoo Convention) so it should be a party.

Take pictures, send 'em here to share, and let us know how it goes.
10:14 AM
bangkok tattoo.jpg

Got your tattoo headlines right here, from convention coverage to tattoo law to a study that says we're all a bunch of "deviants." So consider this the freak edition of the Tattoo News Review and enjoy the sideshow.

Yesterday, Father Panik gave us his own (special brand of) review of the Star of Texas tattoo convention in Austin, but he wasn't the only one offering reportage of the event.  Austin 360 gave a play-by-play (and a small lame sideshow), while TV stations KRQE and Fox Austin posted short videos online of the show. I dig these photos and quick videos because they offer a look at the scene, which helps decide what will be on my convention schedule next year.

The Bangkok International Tattoo Convention also got some nice coverage. Reuters took beautiful photos from the show including the one above, and CNN has a few nice shots as well. Sky News joined in with a video from the floor.

With thousands attending these conventions worldwide -- and the media chasing after us -- you'd think that the debate whether "tattoos have gone mainstream" was thoroughly squashed, but a new study says otherwise.

Texas Tech University's "Body Art Team" [real name] has found "The more body art you have, the more likely you are to be involved in deviance," according to the Chicago Tribune. The swat Body Art Team surveyed 1,753 students at four colleges and reported that the heavily tattooed and pierced drank more, did drugs more, had sex more and cheated in class more. [They add, "For low-level body art, these kids are not any different from anybody else."]

NBC news in Dallas also reported on the study and gave this reasoning behind the results:

"Because tattoos and piercings are so common, the researchers wondered if people who saw body art as more of a subculture would turn to deviant behavior to show they weren't part of mainstream culture. After all, just having tattoos isn't particularly rebellious anymore. Research suggests nearly one in four people have a tattoo somewhere on their body."

To see what tattooed people think about the study, NBC went to a local studio and talked to artists and clients -- who, as expected, laughed at it. Watch their video report below: 

The study is somewhat silly in its over-generalization and limited study group: How many of us drank, smoked and fucked more in college? A lot.

But yes, we've seen more young people heavily tattooed and modified in more extreme ways than just a decade ago. I wonder, though, if it's because of a need to rebel or simply because there is greater access to tattoos and mod procedures. Feel free to weigh in in the comments section.

If anyone is pissed off about the popularity of tattoos, it's Helen Mirren, who got her hand tattoo while drunk and lookin' to be baaaad.

Tattoos are not popular enough for Armani, however. They airbrushed those of Megan Fox in their latest undie ad.

Even less scientific than the deviant study: "How tattoos can reveal your lover's personality."

The Marine Corps are also concerned about heavily tattooed (deviant?) soldiers saying that "tattoos of an excessive nature do not represent our traditional values." Values like Shock & Awe?  A new Marine Corps reg tightens and clarifies tattoo policies for active-duty troops; most notably, it "prohibits enlisted Marines with sleeve tattoos from becoming commissioned officers, even if the tattoos, which were banned in 2007, had been grandfathered in according to protocol." I know this is wacky but I have no problem with our military lookin' badass tough.

[For more, check my old post on tattoo bans and employment discrimination, inspired by the Air Force rescinding their tattoo ban.]

Real deviants will soon be less likely to get tattooed with new technology that matches tattoos to criminal records. The newest development called "Tattoo ID" helps law enforcement match up tattoos to suspects and victims. For example, the Boston Herald says that "a security camera image of a suspect's tattoo could be checked against an image databank to come up with a short list of suspects." Problem here is that we assume most criminals have artistic acumen for fine art custom tattoos. What about those who picked off some flash from a tattoo shop wall along with tons of other clients? Internet-industry journal IEEE Spectrum asks, "Is a tattoo ... enough of a unique identifier to put someone under suspicion?"  A valid question to explore before innocent tattooed people are accused.

In more on the tattoo law front ...

A new tattoo bill in Florida will prohinit those 16 and under from getting tattooed even with parental permission. [Teenagers 16 or 17 years old would still need a parent to sign for them.] The bill also requires every tattoo artist in Panama City to register with the Florida Department of Health.

In South Carolina, however, tattoo rules are being eased. The state's tough tattoo law requires parental consent for tattoos on those aged under 20 years of age, but that restriction will be lifted if a state House bill passes and the Governor signs off on it. An impetus for the change is soldiers under 20 returning to South Carolina after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who want to get tattooed but can't -- they're allowed to be shot at but not tattooed.

On the pop culture tip ...

Check this black light Lost tattoo. The story behind it is pretty cool: 

lost tattoo.jpg

"In the late summer of '08, I took my Lost love to the next level by getting a Dharma tattoo inked onto my ankle. Since my good pal had recently started working at small parlor nearby, we decided to collaborate. I had been wanting to experiment with iridescent ink. My pal had never worked with the stuff, so we struck a deal: I would be his guinea pig if he would spring for the ink.

If you've never heard of it, iridescent ink is a dye that glows under a black light. The tough thing about tattooing with it is that you have to illuminate the surface of the skin just to see what you're doing.

The Dharma logo seemed perfect for this technique, with a thick, recognizable shape....We decided to use the Looking Glass Station's logo -- a white rabbit inside of the Dharma shape -- a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and the (site) of my favorite Lost episode, the Season 3 finale." 

In clear tattoo view, a Baton Rouge man tempts fate with a "Saints Superbowl Champion" tattoo even before this past Sunday's game. Thankfully, they at least made it to the Super Bowl.

Best Headline (and Jersey Shore reference): "This Is Why Cadillac Has an Image Problem.

Worst press release ever. "Tattoo body art is not only a kind of body art but a great way of advertising your business and products as tattoo advertising has many merits compared to other ways of advertising."

And More Quick & Dirty Links ...

11:43 AM
Austin Tattoo Convention 2010.jpg
Our intrepid reporter Father Panik (yes, of Father Panik Industries) went to the Star of Texas
tattoo convention in Austin last weekend and came back with the story. Kinda.
Also check more photos from the show on Flickr.

By Father Panik

We are here to celebrate art.
I think of that as a shitfaced "artist" in the booth next to me waves a buck knife around.
He's upset at not having won a tattoo contest.
He's already won a couple of contests this weekend. The trophies placed with pride at the center of his table for everybody to see.
But this one, this one he didn't win.
Not because the other tattoo artist on this day created a better tattoo.
Listen and he will explain. Beer in one hand, knife in the other.
He didn't win because the system is fucked. The judges are fucked. The winning artist is a pile of shit. It was ineptitude on the part of the the event organizers that created this colossal foul up.
The "artist", the one with the knife, is going to correct it.
"Imma cut that shit off his arm and wipe my ass with it," he announces to the cluster of suburban hillbillies gathered around him. They agree that this is a correct course of action. Never mind that he won two other contests. An injustice is afoot. A wrong needs to be right. A tattoo must be cut off and wiped across an ass.

This is where I work.
I make stuff, go on the road with tattoo conventions and try to sell it.
Father Panik Industries. Purveyor of fine clothes, jewelry and accessories.

This is another day at a tattoo convention. We've been celebrating art for three days now and I'm about to snap. I'm wondering if I have anything in my booth to fight with. A chair, a pipe, anything in case the dude focuses his attention on me.
While this goes on I try to sell my cute hand towels to a woman interested in my wares.
I speak up to drown out the indignant redneck.
"Imma rub my one good nut on his face" is countered with "It's made from high quality Egyptian cotton".

And the thing is, the Austin Texas Tattoo Art Revival is a good convention.
The quality of the art, the promotion, above average intelligence of the local attendees, all good. Folks not afraid to spend a couple of bucks, nice space, first rate hotel. This is as good as we've seen in a long time. Quality tattoos are cranked out at a remarkable pace. Even the trophies are amazing. Each handmade by Tom Molkenthen with a outsider art flair.

Austin Tattoo Convention .jpgStill.
Motherfucker is waving a knife, talking crazy shit and somehow, it's normal.
Does this happen at your job?
I need to know. I've been in this all-sideshow, no circus environment for a very long time so it's hard to get a firm idea on what is and is not acceptable behavior.

A couple approaches. A woman is interested the cotton shorts we offer.
She wants to check them out and asks her guy to hold her beer along with his.
He stares at her. Aghast.
She glares at him until he takes the beer muttering "you better watch yourself".
She holds a pair up to him and asks what he thinks of them.
"Your ass won't fit in those. You got an extra large ass".
She kills him with her eyes.
"How much?" she asks me.
The boyfriend snorts "ripoff"
I mentioned that I'm on edge right?
I make this stuff. Each item is designed by me and Mika. Each piece represents our hearts our passions, our social political and religious ideals. Childhood pain, cultural clashes. This is not some mass produced shiny derivative made in China crap with a 13 and a horse shoe that you get at Hot Topic.
I made it, flew cross country in two airplanes set up a booth and laid it out all nice and neat.
This is how I put food on my table.
The fucking Affliction wearing herd animal calls it a ripoff?
He insults everything Father Panik is about.
"What? What did you say?" I say, leaning in to him. My eyes lock onto his.
The woman is smarter than me and him. She gets her beer from him saying let me think about it and walks away. Not looking at me, head down, he says "nothing" and follows her.

austin tattoo.jpgNormally when our editrix Marisa sends me out to conventions to get the story I get the story. But me wandering off with a camera really pisses off Mika. I'm the pretty face of the company. It's my job to interact with the customers. She's forbid me to roam. She don't care about finding a higher truth, about getting the story, about my craft, my writing. She glares at me and hisses "sellsellsell" so I just stay in the booth and take notes.

And here they are. That's it. All my notes. Steers and Queers.
10:30 PM
matt_portrait.jpgAs a NYC based denizen, I've frequented a few (but not many) tattoo studios in the five boroughs. One of the best studios I feel is Three Kings Tattoo situated at the corner of McCarren Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, one of the artists- Matty No Times has been out of commission for the past few months.

From their news section: 'as i think most of you know, matty has been out of commision for the past few months. matt is waiting for a liver transplant and though he has been in and out of the hospital for the past 4 months, his spirits are high. we've all got our fingers crossed that his new liver will arrive soon and he can get back in the chair, but for the time being, he needs some help. like most tattooers, matt didnt have insurance and has a pretty hefty medical bill in front of him right now. he is also engaged to be married to a great woman, who also has an 8 year old daughter, so money is pretty tight for him right now. if you can help at all, you can donate to his paypal address


and come to his benefit show on january 29th. Gospel is playing for the first time in years, drunkdriver and tournament are both coming out to raise money, and i hope you will too. there will be posters for sale, t-shirts for sale, and hopefully a bunch more benefit shows and art auctions. thanks for all your help

matt_flyer.jpgI was lucky enough to be tattooed by Matty during their Friday the 13th Zombie special last March. He was the first artist in the past year to start tattooing my legs.

Shirt_Mohawk_john.jpgEvery little bit helps- whether it be a small donation, a t-shirt (only $20!) or just coming out to the show...

12:39 AM
Last week, we introduced you to John Mack, an American who has been getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III for nine years and is sharing some of those tattoo experiences in a series of guest blogs here. That first post caused some controversy in the comments section, and we continue to welcome your thoughts on this series (and all N+S posts). The photos in each post show a progression of the tattoo work as the stories go on. Here's Part 2.

johnmack02_earlyback.jpgBy John Mack

Having decided on Horiyoshi III to tattoo my back, I made plans to return to Japan in 2001 for my first sessions.

I vividly remember walking up the slope from the train station to the Isecho studio. These would be my last moments without an enormous tattoo in my skin. I waited in front of the bank as instructed, where Horiyoshi's son Kazu, then a teenager, came on a bicycle to meet me. He guided me to the famously obscure studio.

Once we arrived, I restated my specifications:  a dragon with black scales, red belly and yellow dorsal fins, full size with background. This was all the direction Horiyoshi needed. He rummaged around in a drawer labeled "Dragons" and pulled out a sketch of a dragon's head.

I lay down on the floor and he sketched something on me with a brush. He then prepared to tattoo whatever it was into my skin. I asked to first have a look. Horiyoshi seemed slightly taken aback, but motioned toward the sticker-encrusted mirror. I saw a dragon's face with a disturbingly huge claw next to it. I commented on the psychedelic proportions. 

"It looks cooler that way," he calmly assured me.

I assented.

You don't engage someone like Horiyoshi III and then second guess his artistic judgment. Especially if you are as artistically impaired as me.

When he started to outline my backpiece, I crossed that line, a line that over subsequent years would inexorably progress toward my extremities.

In my next guest post, I'll tell you about my encounter with a Yakuza boss there.

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.

01:12 PM
greek-tattoos.jpgHaving just written about Holocaust tattoos, I became curious about forced tattooing beyond Auschwitz. Hitler created nothing. His greatest evil was applying ancient barbaric practices to his time. Mass murder, extermination camps, frenzied national pride and race-baiting are tools of the past. So, too, is forced tattooing. 

Scholars argue whether the branding of concentration camp victims was an organizational tool, meant only to expedite his far greater crimes, or if it was part of the victimization. Indeed, the process of tattooing to differentiate, degrade and dehumanize is a practice as ancient as the beginning of religion itself.

Imagine yourself in Rome. Your Emperor is sleeping with his horse, quite literally, and drinking virgin blood out of a golden goblet. You, on the other hand, are living in squalor, burning in the unrelenting sun and suffering the perversions of poverty. So, you steal, and if caught, you are tattooed as punishment, permanently marked as a criminal. As Maarten Hesselt van Dinter writes on Mundurucu.com of forced tattooing:

"Their purpose was control and they were used to identify gladiators, soldiers, prisoners and slaves. Tattooing specific groups with clearly visible signs made monitoring their movements easier. From the fourth century, Roman recruits were tattooed with the emblems of their units. Apart from their administrative use, according to Plato, tattoos were also used as punishment. Another reason was humiliation."

Read more of Maarten's writing on tattoo history worldwide (with images and designs) in his brilliant book The World of Tattoo: An Illustrated History.

The same occurred in the 17h century of Japan, where serious criminals were marked on their arms and foreheads with various symbols representing their crimes and places of origin.

The same has happened forever amongst warring tribes of native peoples about which our own scholarship only prevents us from truly recognizing the power they conveyed through forced corporal manipulation.

Even when the criminal classes began to adopt their markings as signs of status, the punishment of forced tattooing remained. Russian inmates, most notable of all prisoners for their extensive and evolved physical hieroglyphics, would brand informants, snitches and homosexuals with unwanted tattoos. Say what you will about criminals, but many have a rigid moral order and a strong sense of visiting justice upon those who violate it. That they choose to use tattoos to stigmatize is proof of its power.

In the last few years and much closer to home, there has been a very public increase in acknowledging the forced inking against marginalized and under protected minorities. THIS STORY from Singapore, and THIS STORY from China describe tattooing as a form of domestic violence. THIS STORY describes an instance of child abuse that is not rare enough.

And so the practice continues, in our jails and neighbors' homes, taking what we celebrate as art and debasing it as infliction.

This post is not meant as a comprehensive academic overview, but a brief look at tattoo history that is not decorative but punitive. Those with more information on forced tattooing are welcome to share their thoughts in the comments.
09:55 AM

Yom Hashoah means the "Day of Devastation." It is the powerful and all too literal name by which the Holocaust is remembered in Israel and elsewhere within the Jewish Diaspora.

Regardless of the many ways that the Jewish community has chosen to deal with this personal devastation and the even more ways by which the world has attempted to understand it, it always returns to a very intimate understanding, a scar upon the psyche.

Which makes it appropriate that tattooing has, recently, become an important facet of this conversation. As is well-known, many Jews who were victimized by the Holocaust had identification numbers tattooed (branded, actually) onto their forearms.

Today, many descendants of these victims are considering and, in rare cases, actually getting their parents and grandparents numbers tattooed on their own arm. The reasons vary.

For some, it is similar to a Christian wearing a cross around their neck, taking upon themselves a piece of the burden administered by Jesus. For others, it is simply a reflex of memory. With Holocaust revisionist history gaining popularity and the witnesses to the Devastation passing away, it is a skin-based documentary of a time we wish not to remember but should never forget. Of course, with all things tattoo, the reasons, the logic behind the reasons and the quality with which those reasons are displayed are of subjective value and worth. What is unquestionable, however, is the growing popularity.

holocaust tattoo.jpgFirst reported in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, in 2008, this article on a son tattooing his father's Auschwitz numbers on his own arm encouraged debate and shock. Since then, the story has been met by many others, and today, the phenomenon is far less shocking, albeit still equally debatable. As the original article says, a Holocaust remembrance tattoo, particular one that mimics the identification numbers, is a delicate interplay between the sensibilities and sensitivities of the victims, those who seek to honor them and the religious community. 

It is outside my realm to discuss the actions, motivations and judgments of my peers. Instead, allow me to share my personal story. When I was 19 and, at the time, only sporting one other tattoo, I decided that the weight of the Holocaust was too much to bear internally. I had no outlet for the emotion I suffered. I wrote poetry but none read it. With youthful anger, I could have killed a Nazi with my bare hands, but such an angry fantasy was just that, a fantasy waiting for a Quentin Tarantino movie to give it boundaries. I knew not how to quench my anger nor salve my pain other than to place it somewhere outside of myself.

At the time, I was editing a Holocaust survivor's book and I told the author, Alex Levin, of my idea for a Holocaust memorial tattoo. He was thoughtful and considerate. And, resolute. "Absolutely not," he demanded. "We need no other reminders of that time and place. No." For that day, our interview was over. He became quiet, bowed by knowing that his suffering had found its way, if only minimally, into my own heart. And, perhaps, angry at my heart for being so weak and selfish.

I vowed that day to never get one of these tattoos. Not because I knew it would hurt the living  or harm the memory of the dead. But because I did not understand its power and, I know enough to leave alone that which I do not understand.
11:50 AM

Australia's TattooInk.tv took their cameras to the Singapore Tattoo Show and came back with footage of the scene (above) as well as interviews with artists  Bob Tyrrell and Kim Saigh.

DevilCityPress also has a short video of the convention's closing ceremony with a traditional dance performance.
11:27 AM
Just received the message below from Dr. David J. Ores and Michelle Steckert of Dare Devil Tattoo who have joined to create Ink4Haiti -- an initiative that unites tattooists to raise money for the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund: 

"Here's the idea: Donate ONE tattoo you perform to help the good people of Haiti.

Tattoo artists from all over the world can donate the fee they collect for one tattoo they perform directly to RED CROSS to help out the people suffering in Haiti from the recent devastating earthquake. It does not matter what the tattoo is, who the client is, or what the amount is. None of that matters.

ONE tattoo. ONE fee collected. ONE fee donated. That's it.

Do not send any money to us. Donate your amount directly to the RED CROSS by clicking the "Haiti Relief and Development " button.

THEN, please send us your name, the name of your shop, the amount you donated and, if possible, a JPEG image of the tattoo so we can post all that up on www.Ink4Haiti.org. Send it to drdave666@gmail.com

Let's show the world that tattoo artists and collectors care and know how to show it."
01:07 PM
colorblind tattoo.jpgPhoto by Louis Cahill

Today, we celebrate the life and works of Martin Luther King Jr., a man described as a "human rights icon." Some, however, choose to honor him every day with tribute tattoos, and those are the people I'd like to feature today; people who tattoo themselves with inspirational figures, instead of, say, Old Dirty Bastard or Gwen Stefani (sadly I found more tattoos of them than MLK).

The tattoo above is by Watson Atkinson on musician Killick Hinds who was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. to have the word "Colorblind" tattooed on his chest. Here's his story behind it:
"The design was a collaboration between me, my wife Delene, and the brilliant tattoo artist Watson Atkinson. This particular section of my huge tattoo project was done in Atlanta in 2007. Watson is currently at Blndsght Tattoo in Portland, Maine.

A favorite ritual upon moving to Athens, Georgia in 1995 was listening to local college station WUOG every Sunday morning for Dr. Martin Luther King Speaks. I was entranced and elevated by MLK's rich melodic tenor, his message of reconciliation, peace, and societal improvement. His encouragement to awaken the slumbering beast of universal brother and sisterhood helped in my releasing that which can't stand the light of day. I felt gratitude to be living in Georgia, in the heart of this sweeping and long overdue change. Some years on I began my tattooing and wanted a strong central anchor. My chest seemed a good place to highlight my hope for a world where we are all accorded without prejudice. The word "colorblind" is written backwards to highlight a graphic sense, and to recognize that words are only surface symbols pointing to something deeper. It's framed by 3's or E's, depending on your vantage. "33" is known as the age of wisdom and a nice entry into focused meditation. "EE" stands for "embrace extemporaneity," my unofficial improviser's motto. I'm also slightly red-green colorblind, and my father was completely colorblind, so I come by it honest. But the motivation was not to advertise my visual acuity or lack thereof, rather to celebrate the everyday work-in-progress of relating to one another."

Larger views of Killick's tattoo are here and here.

Other beautiful MLK tattoos include this one below by Jason Grace (currently having a non-tattoo adventure in South America) and these portraits by Joshua Carlton and Mike Demasi.

martin luther king jr tattoo by jason grace.jpg

12:46 PM
burlesque.jpgPhoto by Bill Buschel

Our opening for Maria Guido's Girls photo show was a huge success thanks to all of y'all who came out.

In case you missed it, our party pix are up on Flickr. Enjoy!

More N+S coming up in a bit.
12:39 PM
A wee reminder to all of you that Needles and Sins is sponsoring tonight's art-party, GIRLS, featuring the amazing (and sexalicious) photography of Maria Guido at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, NY, from 7-10pm.

The amazing art (both on the walls and on the bodies of attendees) will be paired with wine, beer, food and a live burlesque performance from Madam Leon.  Those of you with bare walls at home will also be able to purchase silver gelatin prints of select pieces.

The google map is here, the facebook invite is here and the flyer is below.  All of us at the Needles and Sins Compound hope to see you there!

burlesque photography.jpg

12:20 AM
Editor's Note: In our survey, many of you wanted to read more personal experiences from other tattooed readers:  not the reality show "every tattoo has a meaning" thing but stories on creating the design, choosing the tattooist, the vibe of the shop, the artist's bedside manner, plus any fun anecdotes. Well, I've got something gooood for you. In a weekly series, guest blogger John Mack shares his stories on getting tattooed by Japanese master, Horiyoshi III. Here is Part 1.

By John Mack

horiyoshi-top.jpgI've been getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III for nine years now. Originally attracted by his first class tattooing, I also had the pleasure of getting to know a fascinating and intelligent individual. I've experienced a side of Japanese society that I otherwise would not have encountered. This has been by far the most interesting application of my Japanese language skills.

Getting tattoos all over your body is never boring, but an unexpected bonus has been the amusing anecdotes I've accumulated. I'd like to share some of them with you. I'll start with how I met Horiyoshi III and how I chose him to transform my skin.

I had admired tattoos since I was a boy and had dabbled in hidden tattoos. In 2000, I decided that at last it was time to go big with a backpiece. I began my search for a local San Francisco artist skilled in Japanese style tattooing, but Japanese style was not enough. For me, Japan itself was an essential component of this adventure. I decided to go directly to the source of the art form.

On my next trip to Japan, I interviewed two artists. My first consultation was with Horitoshi, whose art I had long admired. I arrived punctually for my appointment. An apprentice greeted me at the door. I was cordially invited to sit down to discuss to the tattoo. The apprentice brought us tea. I held forth in my most formal Japanese. Horitoshi responded in kind. Now this was first class. They made the people at Brooks Brothers look like fishmongers.

I explained that on my back I wanted a traditional dragon with black scales, red belly and yellow dorsal fins. He examined my back, took careful notes and agreed to tattoo a dragon on me. Horitoshi was not just Japanese style, this man was the real thing--a first class craftsman with impeccable etiquette.

The other consultation was with Horiyoshi III. He told me to just show up any time. Such informality is so uncharacteristic in Japan that I called a few minutes before my arrival to make sure it really was okay. When I arrived at the Noge studio, he was tattooing a client. The client did not seem to mind my intrusion; I myself would later come to welcome the diversion provided by such visitors. Horiyoshi listened to my plans as he worked. During his next break, Horiyoshi took a brief yet thoughtful look at my back and agreed to tattoo me. Horiyoshi had that rare balance of familiarity and formality, confidence and humility possessed only by those few who are accomplished and intelligent, while also managing to be pleasant people.

Success. My top two choices in the world of tattooing had agreed to accept me as a client. Both men were professionals I could trust. I liked both Horitoshi's more muted and traditional work, and also Horiyoshi's louder, evolved yet traditional style. Either way, I was in for a sublime tattoo experience.

In the end, the tiebreaker was not skill or style, but location. Getting tattooed requires a huge time commitment, and Horiyoshi's Yokohama studios were more convenient. The three-hour round trip to Horitoshi's studio from my usual base of operations was too much. Ironically, I once lived just down the street from Horitoshi's studio. Too bad I missed him then.

Having made my decision, it was time for action. I'll tell you about the first tattoo session with Horiyoshi III in my next guest post.

Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos. People are no longer welcome to just show up at his studio without an invitation. As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.
05:36 PM
We've got a lot of love for Brooklyn here at at the Needles and Sins Compound and an even deeper love for Coney Island; with it's boardwalks rotting out from under your feet, rides that might kill you at any second and the glorious art of the sideshow.  No summer in NYC is complete without a Nathan's hot dog, some Coney Island Lager and someone pounding 10" nails into their sinuses.

rollino.jpgSo it's with sadness that we report the passing of former Coney Island strongman, Joe Rollino, who was struck and killed by (of all things) a minivan earlier this week.  He was a boxer, a Coney Strongman (who started his strongman career at the age of 10), a member of the Polar Bear Club and just a year ago, at the age of 103, he could still bend quarters in his teeth.

As we watch Coney Island change, gentrify and Disney-ify, it's sad to know that one of its legends is no longer with us.

The New York Times wrote about his passing here, and NPR also did a broadcast about him, which you can read the transcript of or stream the audio here.

[photo credit: Charles Denson]
01:46 PM
I promised changes to the site in the new year and they are underway, my friends:

* First up, welcome our newest tattoo blogger: Sean Risely, a New York artist whose beautiful tattoos have graced fashion campaigns including those for Rodarte, Converse, Betsey Johnson, Alexander McQueen (his ad shown above), and many, many more. To find out more about Sean, check his Paper Mag interview.

* Because we have Sean on board now, well, we didn't think we needed to continue with our "objectified tattooed men" category. [Actually, not enough of you wanted to be exploited. And that made me sad.]

* We've also removed our graffiti category based on your overwhelming suggestions to do so and when we can locate him under any of the Brooklyn bridges, we shall remove Bobby Fisher as well.

* We hear you, Tattooed Internet, and we'll be bringing you more artist interviews, book reviews, convention coverage, lots of news and sponsored events.

* And speaking of events, if you're in the NY area, join us this Friday in Brooklyn at Tattoo Culture for the solo photography of Maria Guido entitled "Girls" -- featuring selected images from over a decade of Guido shooting burlesque. More details on Friday's event here. If you can't make it to the show, view Guido's work on her (reVAMPed) site.

**As an extra treat, a burlesque performance by Madame Leon will compliment the show.**

* Some of you have suggested that we post more events outside of NYC and LA -- where our writers are -- and we want to, but need your help. We do our best to scour sites and magazines for listings but if you see a tattoo-related event that you think is cool, let us know.

* Finally, thank you for your suggestions, comments, and kick-in-the-asses. It may be a labor of tough love, but we're all used to pain around here.

Much love,
01:04 AM
It's hard to believe, but it feels like only yesterday, when I was a child, that Bart Simpson t-shirts were considered to be a serious controversy in grade school. Flash forward to a little over 20 years later, the show continues to tread on and on with a full length feature film, a new high-definition format & more officially licensed goods.

simpsons_special_03.jpgA ground breaking television series then & now, it's first episode even featured a tattoo centric plot involving Bart Simpson.

simpsons_special_01.jpgA great documentary, hosted by Morgan Spurlock, aired recently on television about the history of the series. Within it, a few minutes were dedicated to those fans' tributes on their skin to the prolific show, with even comments from the show's creator- Matt Groening.

You can watch that documentary online here.

I'm new as well- my name is Sean!
02:02 PM
There's been a lingering itch that I have yet to scratch (and not just from last Thursday's outline session at Kings Ave Tattoo) - to do a post on my favorite songs about tattoos.  But after enough time with my iPod in the NYC subway system, I realized that there's a tattoo reference on just about every Tom Waits album ever recorded.

So I present to you, in no particular order, my top five Tom Waits songs that mention dermal decoration (and feel free to click those iTunes buttons to preview and get the songs for yourself).

9th and Hennepin from Rain Dogs
"And the steam comes out of the grill / Like the whole goddamn town's ready to blow / And the bricks are all scarred with jailhouse tattoos / And everyone is behaving like dogs"
Tom Waits - Rain Dogs - 9th and Hennepin

The One That Got Away from Nighthawks At The Diner
"Tattoo parlor's warm and so I huddle there inside / The grinding of the buzz saw / whatchuwanthathingtosay / just don't misspell her name, buddy, she's the one that got away"
Tom Waits - Small Change - The One That Got Away

Circus from Real Gone
"She had a Tattoo gun made out of a cassette motor and a guitar string / And she soaked a hanky in 3 Roses / And rubbed it on the spot / And drew a rickety heart and A bent arrow and it hurt like hell"
Tom Waits - Real Gone - Circus

Warm Beer and Cold Women from Nighthawks At The Diner
"All my conversations I'll just be / Talkin' about you baby / Borin' some sailor as I try to get through / I just want him to listen / That's all you have to do / He said I'm better off without you / Till I showed him my tattoo"
Tom Waits - Nighthawks at the Diner - Warm Beer and Cold Women

That Feel from Bone Machine
"I cross my wooden leg / And I swear on my glass eye / It will never leave you high and dry / Never leave you loose / It's harder to get rid of than tattoos"
Tom Waits - Bone Machine - That Feel
01:37 PM

File this under "Ways to enhance tattooing as a fine art."  This video, which went up on YouTube today, shows a guy named Matthew getting a pair of glasses tattooed around his eyes. I had to watch it a few times to see if it was the real deal because I guess I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that someone -- who has some really great tattoos -- would get a facial tattoo that screams out to the world "I'm a douchebag." But it's pretty safe to say that it's not a hoax considering the blood seeping through the ink and the irritated skin around it.

He also posted photos of it on his Flickr page.

It's making me sad for tattooing, but maybe I should just lighten up about it. What's your reaction to the tattoo?

[Many thanks to Derek for the link.]
UPDATE: Some people in the comments are saying that it still could be a hoax: he could've been tattooed without ink and the faux glasses placed over it. It's a possibility for sure but I'm not fully convinced. Many said the "tattoo star face girl" was a hoax, and while she lied, the tattoos were still real. So we'll see how it plays out. If it is fake, it's really good.
01:48 PM
matt shamah backpiece.jpg
Photo by Charlie Brewer for News.com.au.

Photos of "Painted Ladies" dominated this past week's tattoo news with galleries from the  Miss Tattoo Asia Pageant at the Singapore Tattoo Convention to Miss Tattoo Australia -- including the photo above of the Matt Shamah backpiece on the winner May Cheung.

In addition to the Miss Tattoo Australia photo gallery, the Courier Mail has an article on the  "fast-growing female tattoo culture" in Australia. The article also mentions the Surf 'n' Ink tattoo convention on the Gold Coast taking place this weekend.

singapore tattoo convention 2010.jpg For more Miss Tattoo Asia photos, check Klik TV. Klik also shot plenty of tattoo photos from the Singapore Tattoo Convention that were not only of half-naked women (like the one shown right) -- best viewed on their Flickr page.  They posted additional photos on their site in contest format where you can vote for your favorite tattooed person.

Also, on Flickr, check photo sets from photographer Naveen Prabhakar, Anvil Den, Apocalypse22001 and DumbKuKu.

[The Convention's Facebook pages, here and here, are being updated regularly with photos from attendees.]

The Sydney Morning Herald has a well reported short video on the Singapore Tattoo Convention. The paper's article on literary tattoos, however, is too snarky even for me.

Getting back to the fore-mothers of today's painted ladies...

Read this article on Sarawak women whose tattoos once marked status and beauty, but today, are rarely seen except on the elderly.  Reviving Filipino tattoo traditions are the Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe. Last year, members traveled to the Kalinga mountains for the Kalinga Batok (tattoo festival) and had a chance to tattoo and be tattooed by local elders, including 89-year-old tattooist Whang Od. Read more (and see photos) about that festival in this great article by Lars Krutak. [The Revival chapter in my Black Tattoo Art book also features the Tribe and traditional Filipino tattooing.]

Tattoos for beauty and status can be found in Chanel's upcoming line of trompe-l'œil temporary tattoos shown during their Spring-Summer 2010 fashion show. The transfer will go for about $75 US (50 Euros) at Chanel stores and high-end boutiques beginning March 1st. Fashion divas Susanh Breslin and Samantha of the fabulous Haute Macabre sent me the Chanel links, and we all agreed to reserve judgment until we saw them in person, but as I told Sam, I think transfer tattoos are perfect for people who really shouldn't get tattoos (like the guy at the gym with the armband that only goes half-way around his bicep who thinks we both have something in common). At $75 a pop though, it's still a commitment, financially.

For more faux tattoos in fashion and home decor, check NBC San Diego's Imitation Ink gallery.

I've given you the pretty links, now time for the quick-n-dirty:

If my resolution is to stop saying the word "badass," what tattoo should I get?
12:49 PM
Underground outfitters, Father Panik Industries, have clothed and bedazzled me for years (and yeah, fancier people), transforming my closet from Banana Republic to (literally) Badass.

And so, it is with great joy that I introduce them as our newest advertiser (and not just because I'm finally getting my money back from them).

Last month, I included them in our gift guide (see here), particularly for their Knuckle Tattoo Gloves with the thumb-flap for winter texting. Coupled with their long-lasting hoodies (which fits nicely under my coat without being bulky), my winter outerwear is more swagga and less sherpa.

Please support Father Panik and our other advertisers because they help keep this site running as well as allow us to put on art shows and hand out free swag at parties and conventions, all free to you.
07:33 PM
I'm wishing I was at the Singapore Tattoo Show, which was such a success last year and sure to be this weekend. [See a video preview of the show here on YouTube.] But we can enjoy some live action on Twitter. Here are my faves to follow:

  • * First, hit up the organizers' live feed: TattooPride. They've already begun posting photo links.

People are also now posting photos from the convention on its Facebook Wall. I'm really loving how tattoo conventions and social media are coming together so we can get a glimpse of shows around the world and also the views of those attending. Check'em.

09:56 AM
I had to get the Christian fish tattoo. The problem came the other way & when I rejoined Tap and they looked at the fish tattoo and said, "what's this?" So, after a few days of thinking about it in consultation with my tattoo master, I had a second tattoo...this was before laser removal of course...a second tattoo of a very large devil with an open mouth consuming the fish. So, I made it a two parter.

Yup, those are the words of Spinal Tap bassist, Derek Smalls (as interviewed by Ear Candy Mag), on his brief stint with with Christian rock group, Lambsblood, and his subsequent return to the almighty Spinal Tap.

shark_sandwich.jpgI have to admit, I was a little amazed that my webernets-search for Spinal Tap tattoos came up almost entirely empty.  Given the wealth of Ironic Ink out there, you'd think that someone out there would have tattooed the numbers 1-11 around their nipple like a Marshall knob or some Celtic armband homage to an 18" Stonehenge.  All I managed to find was the image at right, which admittedly is pretty rad - Eric Mai's ink is a tribute to a Tap album that was mentioned in the film but never actually released, Shark Sandwich (and, yes, Tap *did* release albums and even tour).

"Why all this talk of the Tap," you ask?

Because Lapdance Academy has some new, free music for all of you - a trilogy of works from the canon of Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls and whichever drummer hasn't spontaneously combusted just yet.

First up, is "Rock N Roll Creation" from my stoner-metal act, Dogs of Winter.  Drop-tuned to a sludge-tastic C# standard as two drum kits pound away in tribal fury, not only does RRC feature an analog-keyboard breakdown, but it's also got a sample of the pre-natal heartbeat of bassist/vocalist Ryan Dowd's son (not to mention some killer cover-art for you fantasy-genre junkies by illustrator, Joe Boyle).

But the real kicker for you members of the Needles and Sins Syndicate will be my piano/guitar arrangement of "Lick My Love Pump," which features vocals from the lady of the manor herself, Miss Marisa!  I managed to convince her to purr and coo Nigel's lines from that infamous scene (performed here by Legos!!) and all I had to do was make some vague promises about housekeeping, bathing and dinner at a four-star restaurant.  (Oh yeah, I also did a blues cover of "Gimme Some Money," which is a part of the same download.)

Who says we never give ya nuttin for nuttin?

Dogs of Winter - www.lapdanceacademy.com/rrc
Brian Grosz & The Bad Idea - www.lapdanceacademy.com/tap
03:07 PM
The Lizardman, born Erik Sprague, needs no introduction almost anywhere in the world. He has a new book out that I'll get to soon but first, a quick story:

A few years ago, I was on the Greek island of Chios, where my family is from, and went to a small photo lab to get some pictures printed. Now, Chios isn't your touristy kind of island, and unless you had a satellite dish, there was only a handful of TV channels to watch. But when I came back to the lab to pick the pics up, the owner couldn't contain his excitement: "The Lizardman, The Lizardman!" I stood there stunned and couldn't decide what was more bizarre, that the islanders knew of Erik or the hoppity dance the guy was doing. The shop owner then asked me a slew of questions like how do you know him, are those really tattoos, how do you split a tongue...I got my photo prints, only after answering all he asked, and left one Lizardman photo for him. As I was walking out, he said in English, "Tell Lizardman I like him very much."

The point of this story is that The Lizardman inspires excitement and curiosity from small Greek islands to NYC's Coney Island.

From 2003-2007, The Lizardman satisfied the curiosity of many by answering questions posed to him online in his column, Through the Modified Looking Glass, on BMEZine.com. He also interviewed other performers in his column like Mike Jones, Penn & Teller's tattooed jazz pianist; and Dick Zigun, "The Mayor of Coney Island."

With his book, "Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass," The Lizardman has collected, in one volume, his BME columns with notes and updates, in addition to three never before published columns.

The book is available online at Lulu for about $15. You can also order a special-edition signed and numbered copy (only 250 copies available) by contacting him via email. More info here.

My favorite part of the book is the Q&As, so I figured I'd share a bit with ya:
What words of advice would you have for someone interested in attempting a full-body transformation through body modification?

Get the rest of your life together first because the transformation will consume you otherwise. Plan, consider, revise, repeat. Find support before you begin. Think twice. Have a life besides the transformation project, in as much as it can take over your life at times, the project itself is not a life or a solution.

What is the biggest way your philosophical background affects your outlook on life, both as a modified man and as "just Erik"?

I take philosophy very literally - love of wisdom. Wisdom for me is the practical interpretation and application of knowledge / experience. The experience of life, while an end in and of itself to me, can be further enhanced through the practice of philosophy.
Why is my cat looking at me like I'm food?

You are food.

Having walked around with you in London, it appears to me that people seem more accepting and less fearful of you than some one with maybe only 25% tattoo coverage and a few facial piercings. Why do you think that is?

It's all in the presentation. Today it is a bit easier to attribute it to things like recognition but things today aren't much different than before I became the media whore I am now. I have always said that the key is how you present yourself. Nine times out of ten when people treat you like a jerk it is not because you have mods, it is because you are acting like jerk - walking around with some chip on your shoulder and not giving them the chance to be decent to you. Another theory I have is that it is easier for people to look at my project as just that - a project. It has an obvious theme and that reflects a certain amount of consideration. Even though this is the case for many other people, it is not as obvious to the casual observer and so instead of thinking 'creative person with an overall goal' they think 'punk' or 'thug' who doesn't give damn.
What wouldn't you do for a truckload of cash? Meaning, is there a moral you won't break for any amount of money?

I once turned down over $10,000 to eat a football as part of the super bowl halftime show. This was the same one that featured the infamous Janet Jackson nipple. Since no one else did it either I guess they dropped the bit or just couldn't find anyone. Frankly, the former seems much more likely. It wasn't so much a moral decision as it just wasn't my thing. I'm sure I could do it but I didn't want to. I don't have a lot of moral objections but I am very obstinate about only doing what I want or absolutely have to do.

Does it creep you out at all that someone has a tattoo of your face?

Not at all. I think it is incredibly cool. I just hope that down the road they still think it is as cool as I do. [You can find that portrait tattoo on this page (scroll down).]

Read more reptilian goodness in "Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass."
02:52 PM
Filip Leu tattoo.jpgFilip Leu sleeve on David Bragger

Every time a contest winner is chosen, I feel like I've won something: interesting stories, beautiful photos...That's the magic of our scientific method whereby I ask Brian to shout out a number and that numbered entry wins. And the winner of our Vintage Tattoo book contest is:

The impeccably tattooed David Bragger (pictured here).

When I contacted David about winning, I also asked him about his tattoos. Humbly, he answered that he has work from Filip Leu, Scott Harrison, & Shige. The Trifecta of Awesome!! He let me in on the stories behind the tattoos and some photos to share with y'all, but before we get to them, here's some info on the man behind the art. 

* City: Los Angeles, CA

* Work: Musician/Teacher of Old-Time Americana music on fiddle, banjo and mandolin

* Fun: Play fiddle in Los Angeles-based old-time hillbilly jugband Sausage Grinder. Our upcoming cd features artwork by Scott Harrison and guest vocals by Bad Religion's Greg Graffin [Listen to the music of the Sausage Grinder Band on MySpace and Facebook.]

* Ok, the big question: Tell me about your tattoos.

 "First tattoo is an Oni wrestling with a fiddle. I decided to get my first tattoo while traveling in Switzerland in the Summer of 2006. I heard there was a tattooer I should look up, a guy named Filip Leu. At the time I was totally ignorant. I called Filip and did a 9-hour session with him. It didn't take long to realize I was in the hands of genius. 'Twas an incredible experience [Sleeve shown above].

Then I started researching tattoos. Months later, I came across the fine art of Scott Harrison. I was blown away by the imagery: banjos, dogs, diapers, erotic misery, etc. It wasn't the usual derivative tattoo art. It was something very special. Then I saw his original tattoo designs and knew I needed to get hold of him. So, now I've visited Scott several times and have completed a sleeve with him chock full of original art with some Stoney St. Clair flash thrown in too. [Sleeve is shown below]

scott harrisison sleeve.jpg

One of my Tantric tattoo favorites is also from Scott. [See it here on Flicker]

I've also gone to Bill and Junii Salmon's Diamond Club where Shige tattooed his first Baku on my right leg and where Filip completed my right sleeve in March 2008. 

Also, Scott Harrison has designed the art for the inlays and neck carving on two custom banjos I own, in addition to painting the cover for an upcoming Sausage Grinder CD."

Wait! A tattooed Banjo?
"Yes. How many tattooers are doing banjo art? Talk about folk art and tattooing! [See photos of the tattooed banjos here, here, and here.]

The banjo makers are two of the best custom banjo makers alive: Jason Romero and Kevin Enoch. Romero cut and engraved mother of pearl inlay for the crowned skull banjo and Enoch did some wooden marquetry and neck carving for the devil banjo. He used different color woods. Very cool stuff ! I think they are the first tattooed banjos!"

And this, my friends, is why I like giving out free stuff. More contests to come. Oh, and feel free to keep answering the survey to help us make N+S they way you want it.

10:30 AM
burlesque photography.jpg
Mark your calendars New Yawkers and Tri-State sexy people: Next Friday, January 15th from 7-10 PM we'll be hosting another fabulous exhibit at Tattoo Culture, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. GIRLS is a solo show of fine art photography by Maria Guido featuring selected images from over a decade of shooting burlesque.

What I love about Maria's work is that she brings her feminine eye and street photography style into portraits that are typically highly stylized and often shot from a male perspective. The result is an intimate look into the stage lives of the burlesque performers, celebrating them as strong and beautiful. And while dedicated to feminist ideals, Maria is not afraid to present the sensuality and sexuality of the performers.

Selected 11x14 framed black white gelatin silver prints of this series are available for purchase at Tattoo Culture from January 15th until February 15th, 2010.

See images from the show on Flickr here and here.

Art. Burlesque. Booze.  Need I write more?
10:33 AM
preserved tattoo skin.jpg
Starting off 2010 with a mega-news review, from tattooed skin bags to more eyeball tattooing.

In perhaps the most creepy cool headline we've read in a while, a pocket-book from the 1800s made of human skin -- which was tattooed -- was found in a flea market (car boot sale) in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK. According to the Daily Mail (which published the photograph above):

"The skin is believed have been taken off the back of a man who was executed after he tried to shoot a British major in the first Chinese Opium War of 1839."

The skin eventually came off the pocket-book and was then preserved in oil in a bottle, which was how it was sold at the market to a Dorset historian. Clues to its original ownership are found in a letter with the bag, which traces its origin to the Egerton family. In 1901, one family member alluded to the skin in her memoir:  "Behind the green and beige doors of the bookcase of my mother's bedroom was one of the most gruesome of all her possessions." Read more on the history and details of the tattoos in the article.

The tattoo news that garnered the most headlines in the US surround parents who gave six of their under-age kids home tattoos and were subsequently arrested. The Georgia couple used the typical jail-house method of taking a pen tube, guitar wire and electric motor to tattoo small crosses on their kids' hands. The parents' defense, "They wanted it. They asked me." They're charged with three counts each of illegal tattooing, second degree child cruelty and reckless conduct. They may soon find out what a real prison tattoo looks like.

And speaking of jailhouse tattoos...

Idiot inmates tattooing their eye balls does not make for a trend, HipHop Wired!

In 2007, Modblog first wrote about the eyeball tattooing of three bod mod practitioners. The post began with this caveat: "Warning: This entry documents a highly experimental procedure that should not be emulated." It also stated that it was extensively researched and meant as an experiment. Afterward, mainstream media called eyeball tattooing a "dangerous trend" even though there were no reports of others doing it. This is the first report since then. It raises the question whether these inmates were inspired by the Modblog post or decided to do it on their own without any information (the former was an argument against publishing the procedure). Of course, there's the question of whether we will see more extreme forms of the art and legitimize the trend label now that tattooing losing its badass stigma. As for trends, I'd rather see MC Hammer pants come back in style.

In tattoo law news ...
On New Year's day, a new tattoo law in Iowa went into effect that requires tattoo studios and artists to keep records on every client they tattoo for at least three years. Specifically, shops & artists must record every client's name, birth date, photocopy of his or her driver's license or birth certificate, date of the procedure, artist's name and client's signature.The question raised here:  Is it a burden to the artists and violation of the client's privacy, or is it a measure to protect artists from potential suits?  Considering that the tattoo design is not part of the record requirement -- police have indeed used tattoo records against accused -- I believe the law does greater good than harm, especially in light of the increasing law suits and criminal investigations against studios for tattooing minors. By copying the drivers license, studios can instantly prove that they checked ID (they're not asked to decipher whether an ID is fake). This is a deterrent to minors seeking a tattoo but also lawsuits from angry parents. As many, if not most, professional studios keep records, the burden seems to be minimal. Do you think the law is fair? Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section.

And while we're on the law, I wanted to point out again that local bans against studios still exist even if state law permits them, but city councils are finally coming around across the US and re-examining their bans like in Jefferson City, MO. I'll say it again and again, the best way to combat tattoo bans and heavy handed laws is to vote for the right council people or run yourself.

In "this is a bad idea" news ...

In Chicago, a mom opens up a tattoo school in memory of her dead son. Whatever the motivation, I still think these tattoo schools are a bad idea, especially under a women who says things like this:  "Baron said students need not worry about possessing artistic skills, " and remarks that apprenticeships can cost up to $10,000. Anyone hear of that? One of her greatest lessons should be how to deal with the taunting and laughter from studios once students try to find work with their "tattoo degree."

In this profile on Doug Phillips of Torture Chamber Tattoos in central NY, the best argument against tattoo schools is offered by Mike Hynes who apprenticed Phillips: "There are things that are going to happen in a studio that aren't going to happen in a classroom...People who have funny skin, people who are freaking out. You're going to have to deal with the person who doesn't follow after-care instructions." Phillips adds: "If you can't draw, you shouldn't be here in the first place." Amen, brothers.

[Correction: Bill Pogue at "The World's Only Tattoo School" in LA apprenticed Phillips. See the comments for further clarification.]

Mark Moford of the SF Chronicle agrees with Phillips in his essay on young tattoo collectors and their bad choices:

"...I couldn't help but look down and realize she had something inscribed high up on the back of her neck, just beneath the hairline.

It was a tattoo. A bad one, naturally. Crooked, wobbly, amateurish in that way that makes me sad because I fully believe bad tattoos are a scourge on the American animal and crappy tattoo artists should be punished and get their goddamn slacker butts to art school, and Something Must Be Done."

Yes, something must be done.  


In dirty but maybe not so quick links ...

  • * Survey says that cellphones have made the world a better place. Tattoos, not so much. I believe the converse is true when discussing better people. I'm talking to you, blackberry dude on the train talking loudly about your sexploits.
  • * And speaking of assholes, Charlie Sheen's arrest for threatening his wife with a knife reveals another character flaw: bad tattoos including one that reads "Back in 15 Min," angel wings, a burning cigarette, a stingray and a baseball.

phew. I'm done.
11:51 AM
Tattooist Chris O'Donnell (not to be confused with Dick Grayson, The Boy Wonder) has always been on my short list of "people to get tattooed by," so I rather enjoyed this two-part video interview conducted by VBS TV.

If you want to dig deeper, check out Chris' wordpress blog - thanks to Sarah for blowing the whistle on this piece.
05:10 PM
happy new year.jpg
Needles+Sins is not even a year old but the blog peer pressure to do a yearly round-up is like that first free toke, and so, in our post-New Year's Eve haze, we're going back to highlight a few special posts and offer fun site stats:

Most Linked Post:
"Dirty Tats." The Game. The Tragedy. In September, I wrote about a new off-road racer game that promoted its launch with an app called "Dirty Tats" where you can tattoo the (moving and throbbing) boobs of your usual video vixen. The real fun was when BoingBoing.net linked it and 120 commenters warred over feminism, misogyny and how many things I have "stuck up my arse," to which I say "Kiss my tramp stamp."

Second runner up:
KoRn guitarist gets "Jesus" tattooed on his knuckles to stop masturbating. If only "Freak on a Leash" fit on ten fingers, then maybe we all would've been saved from "Nu Metal."

Most Commented N+S Post:
Tattoo & Employment Discrimination prompted debate over tattoo stereotypes and freedom to conduct business as a company sees fit, even if it's bad business.

Creepiest Post:
FBI Wants Tattooists To Rat on Clients. After that was posted, a few tattooers in NYC contacted me to say that they too were approached by the FBI to give info about "terrorist" tattoos.

Second Runner Up:
Tattoo Freaks: The Hottest Halloween Costume.

Most Popular Artist Profiles:
  •  * Zulu and Miya Baily's by Miguel Collins.
  •  * Bailey Hunter and John Reardon by Pat Sullivan.
  •  * Yoni Zilber by Craig Dershowitz.
  •  * Amanda Wachob by me.

  • Best Interview on Judaism and Tattooing Anywhere on the Internet:
    Tattoo Jew: The Definitive Guide to Jewish Thought and Law Regarding the Practice of Tattooing. Craig's provocative Q&A with Rabbi Henry Harris.

    Keyword Searches Leading People to N+S (aside from our name):
    • *  "naked tattooed breasts" (you knew that was coming)
    • *  "naked marisa kakoulas" (I only wrote for Suicide Girls!)
    • *  "career killer tattoos"
    • *  "miley cyrus tattoo" (sigh)
    • *  "are tattoos a sin" (answer below?)
    • *  "in russia you got tatoo if you commited to sin"
    • *  "my daughter went to bali with friends and returned with a large tattoo on her tummy" (I kid you not)

    My Own Personal Faves:

    *  Brian's post and free download of his rendition of Lydia the Tattooed Lady.
    *  Hell City write-ups by Chris Stauber and Justin Stitches
    Evolution of a Backpiece.
    *  And the Tattoo Shop iPhone App with which I make cheezy images like the one above.

    More on new schemes & changes to N+S in 2010 next week. Thanks for reading. You are beautiful.
    connect with us

    Marisa Kakoulas
    Miguel Collins
    Craig Dershowitz
    Brian Grosz
    Sean Risley
    Patrick Sullivan
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