Tattoo News Review
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.


in re: the three-year record keeping - considering that individuals (not just businesses) are already encouraged to keep extensive three to five year records in terms of accounting (in the event of an IRS audit, seeking approval for a loan, etc) - i don't really see the big deal.

my luthier records the serial numbers of my guitars every time i bring them in for repair or *ahem* modification. to me, that saves *my* ass in the event that the guitar is ever stolen (even better would be if some theif brought it in to the same guy).

personally, i can only see how this Iowan law would *help* tattooists in the case of future lawsuits - or help the public at large in the event of, heaven forbid, some outbreak of a blood-born pathogen (not that that should be a problem in a sterile shop).

considering that the design is not included in the records, i think there are more important things to shout "big brother" over.

If memory serves, in Jeff Johnson's book Tattoo Machine, released last summer, he devoted some page space to the problem with state-mandated schooling for tattoo artists in Oregon. This is required for licensing there.

It seems to me (and I may be paraphrasing Mr. Johnson's rant a bit), that it's exploitation of the artists by requiring classroom time. Aside from the multitude of scenarios that can't be "taught," but only learned through experience, I would rather learn the art from someone who engages in it every day, not someone who lectures on it in a sterile classroom.

Excellent point, Bill.

Oregon does require artists attend tattoo courses but teachers can also include accredited tattooists. You'll find a number of tattoo shops listed under their accredited tattoo schools. So an apprenticeship at one of these studios (which follow the state ed requirements) would suffice.

As a side note, experienced tattooers (as they define it), need not be subject to the tattoo school requirement, no artists licensed out of state -- but they must present that license.

I'm not sure about state requirements but the shop that I spend far to much time at. (Warning to those that would date a body piercer who lives with a tattoo artist). Photocopies the ID of all clients onto the back of a relese form that asks for all the information mentioned above.

There boss keeps all papers in storage for 5 years. It doesn't seem to be a big deal, in fact until I read this article it didn't even occur to me that it was any kind of hassle. I think everyone just looks at it as a good business practice.

Where the hell can I get 1 of those bags ? I think it would go great with my newest design that was introduced on new years eve , DISCO BALL SHRUNKEN HEADS.

IMHO the record keeping isn't really that big of a deal. I live in Oregon and gave my artist my id for his records, as well as the release form. No biggie. I have a BIG TIME problem with the tattoo school concept, though. I won't mention any names but there is a shop/school in Portland with a website where you can view the students work. Not pretty, but it is really a great tool for the collector. You know to avoid them all together! Now I'm going to go convince myself that the tattooed eyeball convicts were just a bad dream.

Yes, I understand the "something must be done" thing.
Immoral shops and unskilled scratchers blah.......... for what they're worth, here's my thoughts.

How about some kind of "Guild Of Tattooers" ? A universal seal of approval that even religious freaks and blind grannies can recognise (if such a scheme has been tried, I'd love to hear about it).

Hardened tattoo fans tend have hardcore fetishes for obscurity - they like they're culture not to have a big sign above it saying "THIS STUFF IS SAFE". However, this is exactly the kind of thing the general public and government officials love and possibly even need. It's a sad state of affairs, but if every little teenager's going to mark their coming of age with some ink then a self governed, self defined body of tattooers is probably the best way to go.

If the tattoo industry goes down this route, the situation's going to be a lot more rosey for everyone than if control ends up in the hands of government officials with zero body mods and zero understanding of the body modification scene.

An artist is an artist, not a doctor or mechanic or something where accreditation is mandatory. If you are getting a tattoo then you go to a trusted artist you know or that comes recommended from a trusted source. If you have neither, then you shouldn't be getting a tattoo. One gal's opinion.

FUNNY U use that Excerpt from an article written about me. TOO BAD U read it WRONG!!! Mike Hynes did NOT apprentice me! Bill Pogue at the World's Only Tattoo School In Sherevport ,LA DID!! I worked out of Hynes shop when I came back. BUT before I started Tattooing I did however have over 25yrs Experience in art. So it not the Tattoo School that is a Bad Thing its the crack heads that run them. Bill Pogue is Amazing and has been Tattooing for over 45yrs He was Amazing to study under. its the rest around the country that are turning out crak head SKRATCHERS!! I am Doug Phillips the Owner of Torture Chamber Tattoos Weedsport,NY the person talked about in the article used, even though they chose to only use words that they wanted too. And I went to Tattoo School and Proud to say that I did.

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