May 2010 Archives

03:57 PM
caesar tattoo.jpg
While at the NYC Tattoo Convention a couple of weekends ago, I was introduced to a phenomenal black & grey artist whose realism and ornamental work is stellar, not just in its complex composition but also in the absolute harmony with the shape of the client's body.

Check out the online portfolio of Caesar Tattoo in NYC.

Caesar, a Hungarian native, did his first tattoo in 1994 on a drunk in a smoky pub on the rural side of Budapest. Without someone to teach him the craft, Caesar "screwed up every volunteer's skin around," learning by trial and error, experimenting and carefully observing what worked and what didn't. Since that rocky start, Caesar has refined his technique and style, making him an exciting artist to watch. Yes, he's gotten international magazine coverage, but I'm surprised I haven't seen more considering his extensive body of large scale, powerful work.

I thought it would be interesting to feature Caesar today, in particular, based on the work above -- a half sleeve melding the Dominican and US flags, showing ethnic pride and American patriotism. [It's not an either/or thing, Governor Brewer.]

caesar tattoo2.jpg
Here's what Caesar said of the tattoo:

"Anthony is a broker from Long Island. He was born in the Dominican Republic--that's why there's the Dominican seal on the bicep and the gray-scaled Dominican flag--and he was raised in the US, which the American flag represents. I added the two little baby angels who hold the banner on the top of the seal. The cover up part is the window of the St. Rose Cathedral. His daughter's name is Rose. There's also a little rose bud growing out from the stone crack, fighting. We kept the original rose tattoos he had and just reworked them. I also added little daisies to break up the common sticker-style rose feeling."

Caesar's next convention date will be July 30-August 1st at the Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival in Ashbury Park, NJ. Otherwise, catch him at his East Village atelier

caesar 3.jpg
01:22 PM
tim hoyer tattoo.jpg
We've had our BBQs and enjoyed the sunshine of this weekend, but it wouldn't be Memorial Day in the US without giving pause to think on those who have lost their lives in serving our country.

Memorial and patriotic artwork is often tattooed to ensure that the fallen are remembered every day -- work like this chestpiece by Timothy Hoyer of NY Adorned, and the neck rocker below by Jerrett of Monarch Tattoo in Washington.

flag tattoo by monarch tattoo.jpg
For more military & memorial tattoos check the galleries and

12:38 PM
hhr worry.jpg

Our beloved tattoo and poetry journal, Holly Rose Review, has published its last issue but it leaves on its strongest note ever. As always, the poetry is finely curated by Editor and Publisher Theresa Senato Edwards, and the words are illustrated by the tattoo work of Luba Goldina, Maxime Lanouette, and Sean Herman.

The theme of this issue is Worry, as Theresa explains:

The poems share worries of all sorts: impending storms, the world ending, death, failure, germs, and aging. There is also an underlying motif of what transpires in dreams or when one lacks the capability to have them. There are questions of love, of living dishonestly, of inequality, even a subtle query of the laws of physics.

The art stuns us with facial expressions; well, let's face it (pun intended), the face is the first place where worry seems to land. And there is a vibrancy in the art, capturing the landscape of worlds filled with a tugging, terror, both real and surreal.

We're sad to see such a wonderful publication come to an end, but grateful for a project that brought our favorite art forms together so fluidly.
04:23 PM
Monicaartshowsacred.jpgIn 2007, tattoo artist and shining light, Monica Henk, was killed. It devastated so many of us. Countless reasons made you want to know Monica:  Her humor, her funny faces, her joie de vivre. She had the best laugh ever. Her passion for art and constant desire to learn more about her craft. She would have been thirty last week.

The Monica Memorial Show at Sacred Gallery comprises tattoo artist tributes on canvas to this tiny powerhouse. The group show opens this Sunday, May 30th from 7-11PM.

Kevin Wilson, Director of Sacred, said this of the show:

"A few months ago, Kike Castillo (Monica's brother), and Dan Henk approached me with the idea of having a small gallery show celebrating the life of Monica here at our gallery. Naturally I agreed since Sacred is where Monica started her career in the tattoo industry. It's just a shame that she was taken from us by a hit-and-run driver whom was never caught.

Dan & Kike started to talk with artists who were willing to support this show idea, and before we knew it, this small show grew into a monster. Most every artist approached was willing to submit for this show. Whether they knew her or not, they were willing to support a fallen artist from within their community. Even the artists who didn't have time to submit work agreed to come out and celebrate the life of Monica. This just shows you how strong of a community we've become over the years!"

nick baxter painting.jpgPainting by Nick Baxter for Monica group show.

I also spoke with Dan Henk about the exhibit:

"The exhibit is to commemorate her. It's a show of life and what was exceptional about her, not a melancholy commiseration on her death. Almost everyone who knew Monica was thrilled to participate. The time-line and story of a life full of potential cut short resounds with many people, and even those who only knew her from the sidelines felt the impact and wanted to contribute.

I appreciate all the artists who put in their hard work and time into rendering artwork for something that is very personal for me and her brother, Kike. Her whole immediate family will be in attendance, and to them, it is a great honor.

All the paintings will be collected in a book: text and personal photos will be added by me and Kike Castillo, and will be available through Durb Morrison's printing press."

monTL.jpgPainting by Tommy Lee for Monica Memorial show


Monica Memorial Show
May 30th, 7-11PM
Sacred Gallery
424 Broadway (off Canal)
11:35 AM
six flags tattoo mess.jpg
According to NBC Dallas, 30-year-old Texas mom, Samantha Osborn, went to Six Flags Amusement Park with her husband to celebrate his birthday but was denied entrance because an employee said her guns and roses tattoo was violent and offensive. As you can see from above, the tattoo is a chest piece of six shooters and some flowers--not an homage to Axl's  Chinese Democracy album so it clearly could've been worse.

The employee said the tattoo was as offensive as a swastika and those with swastikas are banned from the park by policy. While park managers do have discretion in denying customers access if they feel their clothing is "inappropriate or vulgar," the code does not mention tattoos. Oh, but she was offered the option to buy a $5 t-shirt to cover up. Customer service!

I like that Osborn didn't just let the incident go. She complained and got an email apology from the park, which means little really, but perhaps she motivated the company to draft better policies where employees can't discriminate at will. And with the press she's getting, maybe other companies will do the same. Meanwhile, she'll be taking her funnel cake cravings elsewhere.
02:40 PM
yer cheatin heart.jpgPhoto of Johnny Anderson by Allen J. Schaben for Los Angeles Times

In 2006, Johnny Anderson of Yer Cheat'n Heart Tattoo wanted to move his shop to a better location and decided on Hermosa Beach, CA; however, he was denied because zoning laws prohibited tattooing in the city (not as an outright ban but by not recognizing it as a permissible use). Johnny fought back, suing in federal court in LA claiming that his First Amendment rights were violated and that tattooing is protected artistic expression.

He lost that case because the court found that tattooing was a service and "'not sufficiently imbued with elements of communication" to be protected as speech.

But Johnny didn't give up. He appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently heard the case, and as the Los Angeles Times reports, "some constitutional law scholars predict the outcome could be different in what would be the first--and potentially precedent-setting--federal appellate decision on whether the tattoo artist is engaged in 1st Amendment-protected activity when designing and applying custom tattoos."

This means that if Johnny wins, similar oppressive zoning laws--which are some of the biggest obstacles tattooists must overcome in opening up shop across the US--could be challenged with greater success; even better, local officials may think twice before drafting/amending laws to keep tattoo shops out of their districts.

Other tattooists have challenged tattoo bans on other grounds and have won, but in my opinion, this constitutional question is the most interesting and far reaching in its implications:

Does the First Amendment right to free expression protect tattooing?

Here's what one scholar said to the LA Times:

"If it's art, it's art, and art gets protection," UC Berkeley law professor and 1st Amendment expert Jesse Choper said of the debate over whether tattoos are protected speech. Hermosa Beach might have a chance of prevailing with the 9th Circuit judges, he said, if it imposed regulations limiting the practice to certain parts of the city or required the involvement of medical professionals. But he said he doubts its total ban on tattoo parlors will pass constitutional review.

The state-wide Massachusetts ban on tattooing was deemed unconstitutional by Judge Barbara Rouse in 2000, who ruled on a civil case brought by a tattooist and the ACLU challenging the ban. In her opinion, Judge Rouse said that tattooing is an ancient art form practiced in almost every culture. She added:

"Persons obtain tattoos to demonstrate commitment to other persons, to institutions, to religious beliefs, and to political and personal beliefs. The medium on which the drawn image appears should not be relevant when determining whether something is 'speech'; the tattoo itself is symbolic speech deserving of First Amendment protection."


"The current ban on tattooing has promoted an underground tattoo industry with no controls which, in turn, has increased health risks."

Read more on the Massachusetts tattoo battle in this New Yorker article.

That was a state court case, however, and limited in its impact on other bans outside Mass. When a case challenging South Carolina's tattoo ban, White v. South Carolina, was appealed to the US Supreme Court, the highest court in the country refused to hear it (even with Ken Starr arguing it). The tattoo ban was eventually overturned in 2004. [More on that case here and see the S.C. appellate case here.]

FYI: The last state ban to be overturned was Oklahoma in 2006.

Now, with the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals looking into tattoo protections under the constitution, these local bans might also brought down, and just as important, another court will find tattooing as an art form.

Will keep on eye on it and let you know how it goes.


UPDATE: More legal analysis on HuffPo

07:21 PM
The Hell City Tattoo Convention, for me, began the minute I boarded my flight to Columbus and ran into Dan Henk (shown below) and Frankie Scorpion, the notorious founder of The Gypsy Queens. Each of us sat separately on the plane and so each of us had to answer the same incessant tattoo questions from our seat mates--questions we later shared and mocked once we landed and piled into the truck of Myke Chambers who graciously picked us up from the airport and drove to the Hyatt Regency Convention Center. There, our (interrogated) tattoo minority became a monstrous majority of international artists, collectors & media. A caravan of art gypsies there to tattoo, shmooze, paint & party. For all my whining on the gentrification of tattooing, these events make me feel that we're still a neighborly hood. I like it.

Just as I did for the NYC Tattoo Convention, I'll break down my personal highlights here. But for a detailed account on the Hell City show, read my upcoming review for Bound By Ink Magazine (will let ya know when it's out).

Oh, and see my usual crappy convention photos here.

* I'll just come out and say it right away that this is one of the the most organized, artist-friendly conventions I've ever been to. Tattooists aren't corralled into tiny booths, squished on top of one another like in a chicken farm; they have the room they need to lay clients out for tattooing, a necessity considering so many artists were working on big pieces like backs, thighs and an occasional booty. Shows run by tattooists like Durb Morrison tend to make that extra effort to accommodate their fellow artists. And happy artists can translate into happy tattoos (unless they got too happy at the lobby bar the night before).

danhenk tattooing.jpg
* The use of technology--including the competition RSS feeds, Google calendar updates and judging software--kept things running super-smoothly. In fact, the competition judging system is so incredibly cool that I'm gonna do a separate entry on it later for my fellow geek squad.

* Like the NYC tattoo show, I met some truly beautiful characters. One whom I'll never forget is Dutch whose tattooed eyelids grace the top of this post. Dutch, an "Appalachian native," held court at his Dutch's Body Suit Supplies booth, next to that of his tattooist Scot Winskye of La Grange, KY. Dutch said that since he started getting tattooed by Scot, he hasn't had anyone else put their art on him. In addition to large beautiful pieces on his torso and legs--which you can see on Flickr--Scot has tattooed Dutch's head, ears and those pennies on his eyes. It was a treat meeting them both. In fact, I met a bunch of Scot's other clients at the show including this body builder whose claim to convention fame was his ability to bench of 550 pounds. People were very nice to him.

joe capo the bride.jpg* Another highlight was stealing Joe Capobianco away for an hour to interview him for an upcoming feature in Inked Magazine--time I greatly appreciated as Joe was booked up tattooing all weekend as well as promoting his latest Kid Robot toy, The Bride. [The hottest part of that promo was the live version (see right).] Joe said that Hell City is one of the last US conventions he'll be doing, so start booking those cheesecake tattoo appointments at his Hope Gallery studio in New Haven, CT.

* The Bride wasn't the only release this weekend. Guy Aitchison and Michele Wortman debuted two of their latest projects: first, the Innerstate DVD & book release was held Friday with a screening of the film, which documents the art jam held at the previous Hell City show (in which 40 tattooists created original works in an art performance). See a trailer here. Chris Stauber also wrote about it in her own Hell City Redux last year.

On Saturday, Guy & Michelle threw a party for the release of their Proton Press & Music label, (more on that here). Musicians, including the awesome Peter Stauber (aka Sursum) performed on stage, while in the back of the room, tattooists painted collaboratively on biomech and organic pieces. In the middle of it all, we grooved in that sensory sandwich. Yummm.

* The Pint Size Paintings release was also a tasty treat. There was some serious art on these tiny canvases--some surreal and some snarky. Looking forward to seeing the paintings again when it comes to NYC's Sacred Gallery in July.

kristel oreto tattoo pony.jpg* Did I mention the freakin awesome tattoo work being done at the convention? I love Kristel Oreto's Chanel-ized My Little Pony along with this Louis Vuitton version here.

* Finally, it all comes back to hanging out with friends and getting to know people whose work I've admired. I think I said, "I know that tattoo" instead of "I know that girl" too many times. Remedied that fast.

One of my favorite personal moments was watching the Steve Prue shoot for Urban Ink and Rebel Ink magazines--particularly pairing Shorty from the Lifestyle tattoo crew with 7-foot-tall Adam of for this photo.

[By hanging out with Adam, I also got to witness how often stupid comments are made about his height every 45 seconds. I won't complain about people resting their drinks on my head again.]

I only wish Steve could've photographed the high school prom that took place Friday night on the floor below, with all the tulle wedding cake dresses and big pageant hair. Awesome!

Most of the artists and collectors I spoke with never went to their own proms, many saying that they felt like outsiders when they were young. So in a way, Hell City was our own freak gala. And it was a hot time.
10:52 AM
Sure, we like to keep things high-brow and hoity-toity around the Needles and Sins compound; but while Lady Marisa is away at Hell City, I'm running sliding around the house in my socks and tighty-whiteys in a Risky Business redux, having a good laugh at the website devoted to questionable tattoos, A Series of Choices.

While I've seen most of these images before (it's the author's captions that I love), I had never seen this sketch by The Whitest Kids You Know, based on everyone's favorite tattoo of Bowser rocking out on a surfboard on a pot-leaf on a cross.

Cheap laugh?  Sure.  The paradigm of art-imitating-life-imitating-stupidity?  Absolutely.
07:54 PM
hell city needles and sins.jpg
With Twitter and Hipstamatic (my first try at the photo app above), I'll be attempting to live blog the Hell City Tattoo Fest. That's the goal at least. Just got to the Hyatt Regency Columbus where the second floor bar is already filling up, and it is there I shall begin my research and reporting. I do this for you.

Follow the tattoo tweets here.
11:24 AM
bob roberts book.jpgIn 1973, Bob Roberts began his life in tattooing at The Pike in Long Beach, a waterfront amusement park that was home to many tattoo legends--legends like Bob Shaw and Col. Bill Todd who taught Bob the craft. It was an apprenticeship where one learned to be equally adept at removing a drunk from the shop as well as putting on a solid tattoo. Bob went on to work with Cliff Raven and Ed Hardy, who pushed tattooing to an even greater level of artistry.

With this education, he took off for NYC and opened his Spotlight Tattoo studio, and after three years, he returned to LA where Spotlight has established its place as a tattoo landmark, where top tattooing continues to be the mainstay.

In these past 37 years, Bob has garnered underground cred and mainstream popularity for his tattooing and paintings. In this time, he's also racked up a lot of stories. Yet these stories and artwork have never before been published in one volume.

To ensure this important part of tattoo history is not lost, State of Grace Publishing has created the very first book ever on the tattoo legend:

Bob Roberts: In a World of Compromise...I Don't. 
The 304-page hardcover (10" by 13") will include never before seen tattoo and painting photos, an extensive interview with Bob Roberts with a foreword by Don Ed Hardy.

The first edition will only be a 1,000 copies, with a hardcover sleeve, signed and numbered. The pre-sale will be at the Ink-n-Iron show in Long Beach (June 11-13) and the All American Tattoo Fest in Sacramento (June 18-20).  Then in late June, you'll be able to purchase the book on the State of Grace online store via PayPal for $300 US/$325 world. The book will ship out in August. 

With a limited print-run for a book this rare (and rumored to be the best volume State of Grace has ever done), it's almost a certainty that the book will sell out in pre-sale so put it on your calendars. I'll also post a reminder next month. If you miss it, however, the softcover will be released next year.

Another must-have for your tattoo library.
04:17 PM
joe capobianco the bride.jpg
Following today's theme of I want, I want, I want...

Behold: Joe Capobianco's limited edition sexy art toy called "The Bride."

Working with toy creators Kid Robot, Joe modeled this "Capo Girl" on a tattoo he created for The Baroness, shown below. The figure is 8 inches tall of soft vinyl. As Joe posted on his blog, there's also a very limited number of glow-in-the-dark versions, which look killer cool.

"The Bride" goes on sale tomorrow at 11am EST on the Hope Gallery Online Store

The official release and toy signing will take place at the Hell City Fest this Friday from 6-8PM, where it will be offered at a special convention price of $75 (rather than $99).

Just another reason to join us in Columbus this weekend.

joe capobianco tattoo.jpg
01:09 PM
tattooed dolls.jpg
To be filed under I want, I want, I want!

These tattooed dolls are hand made by Mimi Kirchner, a Boston-based doll maker and "fiber artist." The faces are individually embroidered, and the bodies are made of reclaimed and over-dyed cotton fabrics (and scraps from her home decorating projects) stuffed with high quality polyester fill. These are not plushies for the kiddies but art toys for adults (although I kinda wanna squish them myself).

The dolls sell for about $250 US and can be purchased via her Etsy store or at markets like the upcoming Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair, June 5 & 6th, at McCarren Park.

The tattooed pirate doll below is my favorite.

tattooed pirate doll.jpgThank you, Samantha, of Haute Macabre!!
12:31 PM

And yeah, I'm not proud that this took place in Brooklyn. There's even a short Part II.
02:00 PM
Still in recovery from the NYC Tattoo Convention, which took over the historic Roseland Ballroom this weekend and the better part of my liver. [I've gotten to know the bartenders well over the past ten years.] 

Brian and I managed to shoot a few photos, which you can check here on Flickr. They are the kind of photos you've come to expect from me--that is, pretty sucky--but you'll get an idea of what went down.

Here are my personal highlights of the show, in no particular order:

* I LOVED meeting Batso, formerly of Rescue Ink, shown above with his wife. [Yes, that's a tattoo of him on her back.] He told me that he, and a couple of other members, left the group because it became less about saving the animals and more about money with their reality show. He is just as passionate about animals as shown on TV, warm and very kind, but I would never want to get on his bad side. [He said that when he finds men who have tortured animals, he wants (has?) to torture them so they can know what it feels like). He continues to do animal rescue, work on his cars, and now he makes special soap that he says will keep us all looking as young as he does at 77 years old. Check his personal website here (although it doesn't seem to have been updated recently).

richie magicsmall.jpg* Another great character I met was Richie Magic (best to turn your sound off if clicking). Richie is the world record holder for extinguishing 200 lit cigarettes in his mouth in 6 minutes and 37 seconds. Here he is on the right with his tribute tattoo, to himself. Richie is also a master magician, sideshow performer, and part of the Ripley's Believe it or Not family (often working with his wife of 25 years, Barbara; check them on The Marriage Ref show). Richie and Barbara were a lot of fun, and I may just follow his advice to one day become a target girl for knife throwers impalement arts practitioners.

* The tattooists all seemed to be working on interesting pieces.

* There were many of the under-ten set in attendance--most with temporary tattoos from a special kiddie booth.

* There were also less people getting drunk, although the ones who did, clearly made up for the rest. We salute you drunken girl with the super-sized fake breasts who kept yelling, "I can pay you in tits!" when given her bar tab.

* And of course, I loved meeting all of y'all who came over to the Father Panik booth, where I was held captive, and proved my theory that N+S readers are the smartest, hottest, beautifully tattooed, and most forgiving people on this planet. I kiss you.
12:53 PM

In an hour, I'll be heading to the NYC Tattoo Convention, one of my favorite shows--with its diversity of top tattoo artists and crowd of beautiful freaks--all in the historic Roseland Ballroom in Times Square. For the past ten years, I could easily be found at the main-floor bar, but this weekend, I'll be spending most of my time at the Father Panik booth, off to the side of the stage, selling my Black Tattoo Art tome alongside their kickass clothing and jewelry.

To get a preview of the show, check the Cool Hunting Video above from a few years back, which has great shots from the convention floor as well as stellar sound bits from Lucky Diamond Rich, the world's most tattooed person. I also interviewed legendary tattoo artist and activist Spider Webb who offers his infamous Webb-isms like,  "Once you drop the whole idea that you care about something, then you're really free."  I feel this way about pants.

Also check Daredevil's booth-eye view of the convention from last year.

If I wasn't staying in NYC, I'd be in the Motherland for the Fourth Annual Athens Tattoo Convention in Greece. The economy has tanked but tattooing is booming and it's very exciting to see all this wild new art in a country that is just experiencing its tattoo renaissance. When I'm there this summer, I'll add more to my Tattoos in Greece posts--found here and here.

Next weekend, we'll be heading to the Hell City Tattoo Fest in Killumbus, Ohio. Once again, Durb and the HC crew gather the very best tattoo artists from around the world, offer seminars, art shows, music performances and tons of tattoo goodness. It has really become one of the best shows in the country. Looking forward to it.

Other upcoming conventions we love:

Art shows opening this weekend...

Tomorrow, at the Last Rites Gallery in NYC, the second Flesh to Canvas group show featuring the fine art of renowned tattooists opens at 7PM. Artists include Paul Acker, Alex Adams, Guy Aitchison, Nick Baxter, Aaron Bell, Paul Booth, Joe Capobianco, Joshua Carlton, Mike DeVries, Chris Dingwell, Little Dragon, Alex Garcia, Goethe, Gunnar, Anil Gupta, Ryan Hadley, Robert Hernandez, Phil Holt, Nikko Hurtado, Brian Murphy, Roman, Juan Salgado, Stefano, Toxyc, Kurt Wiscombe and Phil Young.  

tattoos by Bill Canales.jpg
Also opening tomorrow is Masterworks of Body Art. The exhibit at the Oceanside Museum of Art in North San Diego, CA will feature a live tattoo runway show where 45 collectors will model the work of about ten tattooists while Master of Ceremonies Jade Winn will discuss the symbolism and history behind the tattoo imagery. Artists featured include Fip Buchanan of Avalon Tattoo, Rob Benavides of Flying Panther Tattoo, Roy "Loy-Loy" Leyva of Classic Traditions Art Company, Opie Ortiz of World Famous Tattooing in Long Beach, Louis Perez II of Will Rise Tattoo in Hollywood, and Bill Canales of Full Circle Tattoo. Bill's tattoo work shown above--which we first posted here in February--will be part of the exhibit.

More events listing coming up next week.
11:57 AM
new foot tattoo.jpgI'm in pain.

Yes, we know tattoos hurt. It's what gives the art much of its badassness. I used to think that the pain was absolutely necessary to be part of the tattoo tribe. That is, until I got my feet tattooed and all I wanted was a Vicodin. [I didn't get one.] There was a time when I would've said tattooing my ribs had to be the worst, but now I know that my freshly tattooed foot--all swollen and throbbing (and not in a good way)-- wins for the most suckage.

But I'll stop my whining here and give you the lowdown on my new pretty tootsie.

Yesterday, I was at Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where Dan DiMattia works as a guest artist when he's in town, away from his Liege, Belgium studio. Dan has done most of my tattoo work: my sleeves, backpiece, ribs, stomach, and small hand tattoo.

In advance of my appointment, I sent Dan an email with images of my other foot tattoo by Jacqueline Spoerle--which you can read about here--and told him I wanted a floral design as well with a shape symmetrical to the other. That's all I said.

When I got to Tattoo Culture, he had a bunch of designs he drew up for me to choose from for the top of my foot; I picked my fave and then he freehanded the side up by my ankle and added a few extra touches all around. Perfecto.
foot tattoo.jpgNow the hard part.

The needles went it, the endorphins kicked, and all was cool for a hot minute until my foot then wanted to twitch and do a little dance. I kept it steady but it caused my body to tense up, so it took a while to relax and get into the shop banter. And there was plenty of it.

Loic from France is also guesting at the shop along with Noon--two of my absolutely favorite artists of the French Avante Garde/Art Brut style. The same way he needles humor into his tattoos, Loic offered comic relief. Or maybe it was just easy to make fun of him. Or maybe it was easy to make fun of both he and his client, a young girl who wanted a French sentence on her wrist that didn't make much sense but still insisted on getting it even after two native Francophones advised against it. [In the end, Loic did word it in a way that was understandable, albeit still retaining its desired idiocy.] Beyond that, I think the dude has a foot fetish, but I'll leave it at that.

It makes such a difference to get tattooed in a friendly and relaxed shop where the art is serious but the people are goofy. Or at least my own goofiness was allowed to flourish and shine.

The downside of being in a friendly shop, is that the guys are too friendly. When a woman walked in with a stroller asking if she could calm her screaming baby down inside the shop instead of outside, they said Ok. She didn't stay long but I was more annoyed by the audacity than the wailing. If there was ever a final nail in the coffin of tattoo studio intimidation, this was it. Again, a trade-off.

While Dan takes his time in designing, he is really fast at tattooing, which is pretty amazing considering he's meticulous in his line and dotwork. The actual tattooing took less than an hour. *phew*

We wrapped my puffy foot up, and I managed to stuff it into my over-sized rain boots. Today, it's nestled comfortably in monkey slippers. [sexy time!] The big question, however, is what to wear when I'm on my feet all tomorrow and through the weekend at the NYC Tattoo Convention.

As I ponder the great footwear debate, I'll end in all caps:  I LOVE MY TATTOOED FEET.
10:24 AM
Japanese Tattoo historic.jpg
Our go-to source for historic photos, including but not limited to tattoos, is The Selvedge Yard. What's particularly cool about the site is that editor JP also puts the images in context with interesting background info.

Our most recent fave, which Pat dug up, is this post on Japanese tattooing in the 40s called:
Ancient Art of the Japanese Tebori Tattoo Masters: Ink in Harmony.

Images include the one above of "A group of traditionally tattooed gamblers," hand-tattooing (tebori) on women, and preserved tattooed skins, among other beautiful photos. They illustrate the words of legendary Japanese master Horihide, which were taken (in their entirety) from his personal story told on Here's a taste of that story:

When I was an apprentice, feudal customs still existed in Japan. The apprenticeship was one of the feudal customs called uchideshi in Japanese. Normally, pupils lived with their masters, and were trained for 5 years. After 5-year training, the pupils worked independently, and gave the masters money that he earned for one year. The one-year service was called oreiboko in Japanese, the service to express the gratitude towards the masters. The masters usually told new pupils about this system, 5-year-training and 1-year service, when they began the apprenticeship.
Today's young people never understand how tough the training was. Sometimes the master yelled at me and even hit me. To endure such treatment needs patience. Because of such unreasonable treatment, most pupils gave up and ran away from the master. Of course, I often wondered why he hit us. Although I had anger towards the master, I could not talk back. All I could do in the feudal period was to obey what the master said. I was so frustrated that I cried in bed so many times. The master sometimes slapped me without any reason. However, I found the master purposely hit me and forced me to do overwork for my mental training after I became a tattooist later on. I hated him so much during the apprenticeship. Looking back now, I am ashamed of having had such feelings towards my master.

[I chose this particular quote to shut up whiny tattoo apprentices today who think they have it so rough.]

For much more of Horihide's stories on Japanese tattooing--from apprenticeships to traditional designs to the tebori technique to tattoo thieves--go to the original article on


Our past posts on The Selvedge Yard:

02:11 PM
In December, we wrote about the release and exhibition of Tatted: A Documentation of Self Expression the Most Permanent Ways. Father Panik got the book and offers his thoughts.

Guest review by Father Panik:

I'm here to tell you what the problem with tattoos is. It's OK, I don't mind.

Too much damn thinking. That's the problem with tattoos today.

Like when you watch those tattoo reality shows. All the tattoos start with the artist asking "So what does this tattoo mean?" which is bullshit in the first place because those guys really don't give a shit what your tattoos mean. They're not therapists or dream interpreters or whatever. Besides, all we ever hear are tales of woe. It's like there's a country song behind every tattoo. In order to get a tattoo today you need to have some deep story to back it up. It gets all wrapped up in convoluted symbols, fancy script and general all around jerking off.

We need to stop forcing ourselves to be deep thinkers. That's how you end up with NBA quality or minor Hollywood celeb tattoos. Garbled deep/stoopid quotations that don't make no sense. People are working too damn hard to squeeze something out of the sphincter between the ears.

Now take Philly. Philly is a good tattoo town. Your average tattoo fan in Philly knows we're all kind of thick skulled. They take pride in it. Philly is to tattoos what Papst is to beer. Trailer park porn stars.

Tatted, published by Grit City Inc, gets it. Photographed by Marlanne Bernstein in Philadelphia, it's a large coffee table-style book filled with fantastic, deceptively simple photos of tattooed locals. A small, hand written, one-page note where they write about their tattoo, accompanies each photo of a person and their tattoo. Not a lot of room for over-analysis or deep thinking. We get lots of spontaneous wise-assness, accidental ballpoint haikus, misspellings and attitude.

tatted two.jpg
You get the feeling those being photographed kind of resented being given homework. What you have are average people with average tattoos and it's beautiful. A rare honesty is conveyed through the photos and notes. The cover blurb says, "Stunning photographs and simple hand written notes." That's pretty much it.

The first 30 pages or so are filled with interviews with tattoo artists and writers. I don't know, I just sort of skimmed through that part. Like I said: Too much thinking.

I like to look at pictures.

You can purchase Tatted for $20 from Grit City here.
12:04 PM
rock and rebar 3.jpg I'll admit that Needles and Sins can get pretty snobby with all our highbrow and tattoo couture blah blah because we want to show that white collars cover up colorful tattoos as well. At the same time, we can't neglect our blue collar brethren, so I found a new company who is showing some love with tattoo-inspired tees for Plumbers, Carpenters, Electricians, Masons, Painters, Roofers and Iron workers. 

Rock & Rebar designs work-wear for men "to salute America's craftsmen and union members." The tees are thick, 100% cotton emblazoned with traditional Americana motifs--skulls, daggers, snakes and the like.

On the inside of the collar, where you'd normally find a clothing tag, there's a dedication to James Daniel Butterfly (1973-2007) who died of an accidental overdose. Rock & Rebar is his sister Helen Butterfly's tribute to him.

Helen is a designer who has worked in the industry for over 15 years. When Jimmy died, she wanted to do something positive to recover from the loss, so she created this line to honor her brother as well as her family's blue collar roots.

You can purchase the tees denoting different trades online at Helen also sent me tees to give away to two Needles & Sins winners.

GIVEAWAY:  I have the Electrician and Carpenter tees (both medium but on the large side). The first two people to send me a message at marisa at needlesandsins dotcom -- with a description of your tattoos and what trade you're in -- will get one.

05:10 PM
small bugs.jpgTo get us warmed up for the NYC Tattoo Convention next weekend, Tattoo Culture will be hosting an exciting solo show featuring the painting of legendary tattoo artist BUGS on Thursday, May 13th from 7-10PM.  

With his signature blend of cubism, art deco and classical art in his paintings as well as tattoos, BUGS continues break ground in melding the fine art and tattoo worlds seamlessly-- something he has done for over 25 years, from his old studio in Camden, London to his new home at the Tattoo Lounge in Los Angeles. And for a short time, you can now find him in NYC for this exhibit and the convention.

Check his site for more tattoos and paintings.

As usual, the Needles and Sins crew will be in attendance enjoying the art and also drinking as wine, beer and light snacks will be served. Hope to see you there.

bugs tattoo.jpg

05:54 PM

From Boing Boing:

"To promote their forthcoming debut album release on Interscope (news of which first broke here on Boing Boing), Ninja of Die Antwoord gets a full-back tattoo of the album title, $0$. (And yes, haters, it's real: Ninja explains to Boing Boing that the video documents an uninterrupted 11-hour inking session, all in one shot)."

Would love to know who the tattooist is. Rarely in credits--whether in fashion spreads or music videos that even feature the tattoos--will you see them listed.

01:09 PM
About two weeks ago, I was sitting in the lounge of a midtown Manhattan voice-over studio, wrestling furiously with the typography and liner-notes for the next Lapdance Academy release.  There was another guy sitting on the couch across from me, also on a MacBook, messing about with FinalCut Pro and calmly giving direction to an editor on the other end of the iPhone tethered to his ear.  We didn't speak; with a simple nod and a smile, we made it clear to each other that we were busy.

I later found out it was the director Robert Rodriguez  and he was there to record a few lines for a popular animated series on Fox.  I really shoulda struck up a conversation.  Anyway...

Today, Ain't It Cool News linked to the trailer his new film, Machete.  Rodriguez's latest homage to B-movies stars his cousin and everyone's favorite tattooed, Mexican bad-ass - who proudly sports the massive bandita tattoo on his chest, voted the "Most Recognizable Tattoo In The World" by International Tattoo magazine - Danny Trejo.

I won't speculate on that one, but I will say that I have the utmost respect for Trejo and his humble outlook on his acting career.  As he told the Guardian UK:

From 1985, when I first started, to 1990, I did a shitload of B-movies about prisons. They would always say, "Get that Mexican guy with the big tattoo." I'd show up and I'd have one line, like, "Kill 'em all!" or somethin'.

Plus, the trailer for this film looks totally.  Friggen.  Sweet.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Felicidades a todos! Bebe mucho, pero con cuidado!
12:23 PM
goethe tattoo.jpg

In honor of Cinco de Mayo and Mexican culture, I'm sharing the work of one of my long-time favorite tattooists, Goethe Silva Mier, or just Goethe as he's best know. Born in Durango, Mexico, Goethe has been been tattooing for over 18 years, the last 8 at his studio in Pomona, California and around the world at conventions and guest spots. His work is largely devoted to pre-Hispanic art and culture, particularly Mayan and Aztec.

To learn more about Goethe, read his Q&A with Edgar Hoill in Lowrider Arte.

goethe tattoo2.jpg

01:35 PM

I've posted a number of tattoo videos here but this documentary short on Royal Street Tattoo in Mobile, Alabama is by far the very best I've seen. My friend Dave just sent it over, and I had to share it with you right away.

Written by Bijani Casalan and directed by Michael Howell, Live Free is described as a portrait of Royal Street, which "covers the philosophy of tattooing as seen from the eyes of the artists at the shop." And indeed it does, but there is so much more to it. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that it also gets to the soul of tattooing with these artists meditating on what it is that impels them to tattoo and to be tattooed.

My favorite quote is from artist Sean Herman, whom I'm a fan of professionally and personally:

"There are no such things as bad tattoos...they're all something. My stepdad tattooed me, he's 86 and doesn't tattoo at's just a blob of ink but it's probably one of my favorite tattoos ever.[...] It symbolizes something more than if I were to get a portrait of him after he has passed away; it is something he touched, he did.Tattoos have that magical art to it."

Founder of Royal Street, C.W., as well as the studio's artists Pete, Dony, Drew and apprentice Dusty also offer insightful commentary on many aspects of tattooing, such as why the art draws a diverse group of people (including a Southern Baptist preacher), and even their own motivations. [C.W. says tattoos are "milestones of where you are in time."]

Live Free is 15 minutes long but worth every second. To view the art of the Royal Street crew, see their profile in last month's Prick Mag or head to their MySpace and Facebook. pages.
12:52 PM
the list app.jpgA new tattoo app has just been released and it's a must have for those wanting top tattoo art at their finger-tips and information on where to find those who've created it.

The Tattoo List is created by tattoo artist David Allen (check his an amazing blog), so this is an app created by someone with the knowledge and passion for the art, and not some company trying to cash on "the tat craze."

The Tattoo List isn't a game like Tattoo IQ or photo app like Tattoo Shop--it's a beautifully designed and easy way to find new artists or check in on your favorites. You can also sort and search by tattoo style or location, then save your own list in the "Favorites."

David offers some history behind the app and how the featured artists were chosen:
A year ago I was putting together a list of tattoo artists for personal inspiration. I wanted a single resource to keep track of those I enjoyed. While researching, I found many of the artists have information scattered all over the place... the process took a few months and was just too tedious.

With that idea in mind, the next step was honing a better version of "The List" and making it available as an application. I removed myself and setup a panel of four respected tattoo artists. They voted on 500 nominees. To be included, each nominee had to get three votes after being viewed by the judges separately. The process was strict, and, in the end, 323 artists made the first release.

The Tattoo List will continue to add artists--and their sample images--after each monthly judging session, so the app will continue to grow.

Another feature will be updates from us! You'll soon be able to get select N+S posts in the "News" section.

The app sells for $1.99 on iTunes and we think it's well worth it. If you do download it, let us know what you think.
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