July 2010 Archives

01:37 PM
In my next tattoo book, I won't just be featuring champion tattoo artists but also a number of exciting photographers. With this image featuring one of Americana's finest, Myke Chambers, photographed by Jaime Ibarra, it's a perfect union of the two.

Both Myke and Jaime have pasts that read like a novel co-written by Hemingway and Bukowski: Jaime surviving three military plane crashes, Myke hopping freight trains as a homeless 15 year old...their stories are as compelling as their art. Read Myke's on his site and Jaime's on his Deviant Art page.

While Myke introduced me formally to Jaime's work, I've seen his photographs of the tattooed online, everywhere from Flickr to Tumblr to Facebook, but sadly without attribution, so when this connection was made, I had an Aha-moment and had to share it with y'all.

The more popular tattoo image is the one below of his tattoo artist Hayley Lakeman and her husband. See another beautiful portrait of the couple here.

tattoo couple by Jaime Ibarra.jpgJaime's images are distinct, with photography forums discussing his signature look, which is best exemplified on the "retouche" pages of his online portfolio. Here's how Jaime describes it:

My 'style' is the visual amalgamation of over 15 years in Graphic Design, 25 years of composing & performing music, many years spent traveling around the planet, a lifetime of over-romanticizing things, insomnia, an inexplicable ability to hear what colours would sound like if they could sing (Synaesthesia, anyone?), an unfaltering fascination with humans, and an obsessive need to create.

To learn his photo-enhancing techniques, Jaime also offers online and in-person tutorials. A DVD is also in the works. For portrait/art photography as well as commercial and editorial, hit Jaime up via IbarraPhoto.com. His home base is Austin, but like Myke, much of his life is on the road.

JaimeIbarraPhoto_LaurenCalaway.jpg[Jaime Ibarra photo above of Lauren Calaway.]
10:52 AM
tattoo lego.jpg
Legos. Tattooed. One "badass" ad campaign.
[The "badass" was theirs, not mine. I told ya I'm weening myself off the word.]

The intricate and detailed tattoo designs were created to illustrate just how fine Pilot Extra-Fine ball-pens are. I think they proved their point. [doh!] Hell, even the lower back tattoo below is hot. Check all of the tattooed legos here.

Thanks, Mike, for the link.

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09:10 AM

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Next week, Solid State Publishing--an enterprise of Solid State Tattoo in Milwaukee--is releasing These Old Blue Arms: The Life and Work of Amund Dietzel. The preview page they've got up looks fantastic and at over 200 pages and a mere $50, you'd be crazy not to order this bad boy.

Marisa will have a full review coming up after she tears through her copy.

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02:55 PM
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When I got back to Brooklyn from the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest in Ireland, I found the latest issue of the wonderful Swallows & Daggers tattoo zine waiting for me. Considering it's published in the place I'd just come from, I've gotten to continue my love affair with the Irish beyond their pubs their lush scenery and vast cultural institutions.

Swallows & Daggers highlights Traditional and Neo-Traditional tattooing, promoting established and up-n-coming artists working in these styles. And they do so in the coolest of old school and new school ways by offering a paper zine (almost like a tattoo newspaper) with a dynamic blog. Bookmark it!

You can order the hard copy zine, as well as the digital version, through their online store, which also includes flash, tattoo books, prints, and some nice looking tees.

I particularly love the thoughtful tattoo interviews, but also check their section on the meanings behind common tattoo motifs, their growing convention coverage, and sketchbook reviews. In fact, there's a great article in this latest issue that explores the good and bad of mass-produced sketchbooks sold by tattooists and suppliers. ["Do they show a tattooer's particular approach to design or just make it easier for the uncreative?"]

Cheers to Cian David Wright who works his butt off putting it all together.
10:13 PM
bob roberts event.jpg
For my LA homies, this Saturday July 31st, Known Gallery will present Bob Roberts & Bert Krak's Ladies Welcome show, which will run until August 21st.

What's particularly exciting about the show, in addition to the art on view of course, is the release of In A World of Compromise...I Don't by Bob Roberts -- the first book ever on the tattoo legend. [Read more on the book in our May post.]

Who really is Bob Roberts?

I'll have Takahiro 'Taki' Kitamura, publisher of the book (and renowned tattoo artist), tell ya:

The man, the myth, the legend: Bob Roberts. Few people have had the impact on tattooing that Bob Roberts has. His sheer artistic genius is sublime, and his biography reads the same way. For over thirty years he has been part of the vanguard of talented tattoo artists who, unbeknownst to them at the time, have pushed tattooing from a craft to an art form.

The list of artists Bob has worked alongside reads like a star-studded who's who of the tattoo artist hall of fame, of which Bob would no doubt be a member if such a thing existed. He apprenticed with Colonel Todd and Bob Shaw at the infamous Pike and then worked alongside Cliff Raven, Greg Irons, Paul Rogers, Jack Rudy and Don Ed Hardy. His own shop, Spotlight Tattoo, continues to house a roster of talented artists bent on following in Bob's footsteps.

Bob's creative genius is not limited to tattooing and painting, he is also an accomplished musician. His musical career reads much the same as his tattoo resume. Bob has played with Ruben and the Jets, Hot Tuna, The Offs, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, to name a few. His life has been 'rock and roll' as well; Frisco, New York, LA, Europe, Japan, Bob has done the world tour.

He's also ridden across most of the United States on a Harley, and he's 'ridden it like he stole it.' That is how Bob lives his life, and his artwork reflects it.
But the thing that stands out the most to me about Bob is his persona. Ungovernable, fiercely independent, Bob does not compromise.... He does it HIS way. And thankfully for us, Bob Roberts has forever changed tattooing for the better.

It's guaranteed to be an exciting book. If you can't make it to the show, you can pre-order it here for $320 (US). The books, signed and numbered, will be shipped in mid-August.
10:28 AM
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It's not easy setting up an interview with a tattoo legend who doesn't need any press and has no time for your shit. [Or at least my shit.] Thankfully, the Godfather of Black & Grey tattoo, Jack 'From Way Back' Rudy of Good Time Charlie's Tattooland still does a lot of conventions, and I was able to stalk him sufficiently--with the help of Edgar Hoill--to get his thoughts on everything from single-needle tattooing to kustom kars.

That interview is in this latest issue of Inked magazine, which you can pick up at newsstands or download from Zinio.

Here are a few snippets from our talk:

As one of the godfathers of Black & Gray tattooing, you're the best person to educate people on the basics. First, please describe the black & gray style.

It's something that has evolved over the years. Originally, when Charlie [Good Time Charlie Cartwright] and I started doing it, we called it "Black & White" like the photography, but then realized--with skin tones being different and so forth--that "Black & Gray" was more accurate to what we were doing because it was, ya know, from solid black to every shade of gray imaginable. It originally was a California prison style that we adopted. Being the first ones to do it in a shop, it just started out with very humble beginnings and has evolved into what it is today. It's a style with obviously no color, using solid black to the lightest shade of gray and everything in between with a person's own skin as contrast. It's actually a difficult style to master; a lot of people try to do it, and many people can do it well, but there are a lot of people who can't.


What do you think are the elements of a good tattoo, black & gray or otherwise?

I think that contrast is always an important factor; you know, sometimes using a dark background to make something light stand out. There are a lot of different aspects that make a tattoo good, regardless of what style it is: good line work, good shading, solid color (if that's what you're doing). It's more than just a good design; it's placement, it's the structure of it, where it's at...Can you tell what it is? Do you have to get right up on it? Because some miniature fine line stuff you got to get right up on it to tell what it is while other things you can read from across the room. Or if you're trying to do tribal, you want it as solid as possible. Does it move with the body? Does it go with that part of the body? There are so many factors that make a good tattoo good.

jack rudy tattoo.jpg
Beyond tattooing, you also have a passion for classic cars and hot rods,and co-founded The Beatniks car club where many of its members are tattoo artists and collectors. What's the connection between tattoo art and customizing 50s styled cars and rods?

Hmmm, for the Beatniks, this is a club that is 18-years-old and counting, and all of the members are very heavily tattooed. There are a lot of tattoo artists in the club as well, but it's not exclusive to tattoo artists by any means. All of the Beatniks share a love for tattoos and tattoo art. There are quite a few artists in the club as well who are not tattooers.For us, it's just part of the deal. There are a lot of people that are into old hot rods and customs who are not tattooed and don't have any desire to get any. For us, it's just always been part of the whole lifestyle--it's a little different for us. With most of us as artists, that talent shows in our kars, in our kustoms and hot rods as well.

Read more in the August issue of Inked.

09:11 AM
Not too long ago, I was introduced to Gene Priest (above, right), a brilliant musician and tattoo-collector out of Knoxville, TN.  He was playing drums for a handful of bands at the time, but I was truly blown away once I heard the demo-recordings of his solo work that he was churning out on an acoustic guitar in his spare time.  Fortunately, I was able to convince him to let me produce the tracks (and add a couple of instrument tracks, myself) and just last month, we pushed his four-song EP, "Living To Die" (mixed by Scott Minor of Sparklehorse) out into the ether as a free download on Lapdance Academy Records.

"Free-floating art-folk (think Vic Chesnutt) on the four-song Living To Die... with disciplined songwriting [and] particularly long, billowy melodies that take a while to sink in but are inescapable once they do."
-- MetroPulse.com

I also got a chance to talk to Gene and his backing band, The Cardinal Sin, about their tattoos.  Some questions they took seriously and some, well... let's just say that I've taken the piss out of plenty of journalists over my own musical career...

[interview after the jump]

01:10 PM

Actually, the title of this post should be: The Human Avatar = Dumbassness.

The opportunity to be a video game character is cool. I get it. I too have dreamed of being a cross between Lara Croft and Princess Peach Toadstool. But behind it all, a corporation has marked this guy--permanently--so they can make money. And that's not so cool.

Here's the break down of The Human Avatar: EA Games & Realtime Worlds have just put out a game called All Points Bulletin, APB. It's basically your usual combat game in a fictional city that "plays out the daily conflict between gangs of criminal and enforcers." Yup, nothing new here. In the game, players can customize their avatars, choosing their hair and clothes as well as tattoos and piercings.

In this promo for the game, you can do the same but to a young, naive person: The Human Avatar. So Josh, who seems like a nice enough guy (with a killer body, albeit non-tattooed), wins an online competition to be the walking billboard. Online voters then decide his haircut, clothes, and piercing -- all things that can be changed, and so if they left it at that, I'd have no real problem here. BUT they also get to decide what tattoo Josh will get and it's that belittling of the art that makes me wanna (first-person) shoot someone.

Of the four meager design choices, the voters chose angel wings. Yes, Josh. You now have a larger version of Nicole Richie's tattoo.
The upside is that the tattoo was done by the legendary Lal Hardy of New Wave Tattoo in London, who did a great job on the art. But the dude is still wearing angel wings on his back and it's not 1989.

I know. I'm not being a nice person. Yet my ire isn't with the kid who wants to be a video game character. It's with the corporation who took advantage of that to make a buck.

[Thanks, Matt!] 
11:35 AM
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And speaking of criminal tattoos...

A collection of 60 tattooed skins (preserved in formaldehyde) taken largely from dead prisoners is the subject of a "photo story" by Katarzyna Mirczak called Preserving the Criminal Code.

According to Mirczak, the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, collected the skins "with a view to deciphering the code - among prisoners known as a 'pattern language'. By looking closely at the prisoners' tattoos, their traits, temper, past, place of residence or the criminal group in which they were involved could be determined."

Read more on the preserved skins and see more images, like the ones, above here.

[Via Morbid Anatomy. Thanks to Samantha of Haute Macabre. And Melina too!]
10:26 AM
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Check the top right of this site and you'll see our new advertiser: MIR Russian Criminal Tattoo Designs apparel.

The clothing line was created by two designers from Russia--now living in Brooklyn--who are inspired by the tattoos from the 40s through the 70s found on prisoners in their homeland. While the clothing designs are largely interpretations of the prison art, some stay true to the original tattoos -- but without the the affiliation with any criminal organization or code.

As I mentioned in our holiday gift guide, when I first found out about MIR, I dig the stories and history behind the designs offered on their site. For example, the Lenin portrait with BOP underneath comes with this explanation:

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

I have the "Free Woman" dress in black symbolizing "a woman that did not belong to any gang and followed only her own rules inside and outside of prison."

You can also custom make your own Russian Criminal Tattoo clothes as well. Choose your favorite designs and the item you want them on, send them a message, and you'll get a price quote back.

For standard items, tees & tanks start at $20, dresses at $40, and hoodies (front, back and sleeve design) start at $50.

As I always note, please support our advertisers so we can continue to keep giving ya the tattoo goodness for free.
11:57 AM
DAN HAZELTON BIOMECH TATTOO.jpgIn continuing to highlighting tattoo art featured in my upcoming book, I figured I'll give ya some biomech goodness courtesy of Dan Hazelton.

I've been a fan of Dan's work for a while--not just his tattooing but also his airbrush art on everything from canvas to cars to guitars and indoor decor like his work for Ice Bar. Tattooing professionally since 1996, this Milwaukee native spent 9 years at Absolute Tattooing in Menomonee Falls working on finding his style and building clientele, and now can be found at his own private studio in West Allis, WI (by appointment only).

I asked Dan about the influences in his art, and here's what he said:

"My influences consist of the amazing Guy Aitchison, Robert Hernandez, Aaron Cain, and Paul Booth to name just a few--all of whom are greatly responsible for my style. I like to do a lot of biomech and sometimes throw in some expression-filled faces or skulls. Some eyes and mouths are always good too! That is my main focus lately. I do tend to dabble in other styles but it's getting rare.
For the past few years, I've really gotten into digital painting. It's like a painting video game! Very collaborative friendly too."

Check out Dan's digital prints, like the one below, which he has for sale on his site.

dan hazelton art.jpg
To view more tattoo work, check his Facebook and MySpace pages for regular updates.

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10:20 AM
It was way past midnight and we had all thoroughly over-served by the bar-staff at the pre-party for the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival.  At this point in our European trip, Marisa and I had gone from tiny airline seat to tiny hotel room to a tinier airline seat to an even tinier hotel room - so we were utterly gobsmacked when we discovered that Matt Black of New Wave Tattoo (London) was staying alone in a three-bedroom suite in our hotel.

It's often said that the United States and the U.K. are "different cultures joined by a common language," but it appears that we share another common element in our trans-Atlantic Venn Diagram: MTV's Cribs.

Be sure to check out Matt's work on his MySpace profile!
02:39 PM
joe and cammy.jpg It was a tattoo love fest this past weekend at the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Festival -- festival being the key word as Phil Cummins made it clear that he set out to organize a gathering that was far from the impersonal mega-conventions ubiquitous around the world. And he did so.

See over a hundred of Brian's photos here.

The fest felt like a cross between a family reunion and mini-Woodstock (or Glastonbury for my UK homies). Most tattooists worked in yurts surrounding the Marlogue Inn, and in adjoining fields, you found a big circus-like tent for bands and burlesque; a small group of vendors selling jewelry and clothing; and some convention-goers pitching their own tents to crash close-by after all the partying. Overlooking the fields, by the tree line, a suspension rig was hung for flesh-pulling fun.

Flowers adorned women's hair (mine with a skull barrette courtesy of Goldilox).
Shirtless kids ran around tattooing each other with marker pens.

Vegan yummies were sold just steps away from flaming burgers.

Booze, booze, booze.

And of course, there were drunken sing-a-longs around a Pan-like punk with an accordion.

Yup, it was pretty hippie.

But Brian and I dropped our Brooklyn badittudes, threw ourselves into the spirit of it all, and came outta the weekend smiling and (largely) unscathed.

I'm gonna break down my highlights below, but for full festival coverage, check my upcoming review for Total Tattoo magazine.

durga tattooing.jpg The festival stayed true to its "Traditional Tattoo & World Culture" label. Hand tattooing was ever-present, which was best considering the downpour on Saturday making electric tattooing in the main tent troublesome. In the smaller tattoo yurts, you had Durga from Indonesia (shown above) hand-tapping traditional Mentawai and Dayak Borneo tattoos. It was wonderful to watch and learn, and I'm grateful to him and Janti for letting me hang out.

Across from Durga's tent was Denmark's Colin Dale, who not only tattooed his signature hand-poked Nordic motifs, but also paid homage to Inuit skin sewing on one brave man who was gracious to allow a stream of convention goers come in and out of the tent to gawk in utter fascination. Yesterday, I posted Brian's video of the skin sewing here. Ya gotta see it.

As I mentioned, most machine work was in the main tattoo tent. Dotwork guru Xed Led Head got an early start on Friday night during the pre-party by continuing a facial tattoo collaboration with Matt Black on fellow blackwork artist Joe Munroe. [That work is the first image shown above.] Matt also got a few dots in the next day (shown below).

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That pre-party was pretty lubricated, so in our feel-good state at 3AM, Brian had the idea to create a "Tattoo Cribs" video (ala MTV) featuring Matt and his monster suite--three times bigger than our musty micro-room. That video is coming up.

[**Actually, the pre-party for us really began on the flight over when we met Cammy of Metalurgey in Dundee, Scotland, and his beautiful girlfriend Katie on the plane. It appeared that we were grouped together and segregated from the other passengers, like in-flight detention for the tattooed. And that was just fine with us.**]  

The nerve center of the fest was inside the Marlogue Inn's bar and restaurant, where I had a table for signing copies of my Black Tattoo Art book ... and playing Pippi LongShortstocking. As it was the driest area on Saturday with the largest wall space, I was surrounded by beautiful fine art work including that of Boz (his online gallery is a must-see) and Claire Artemyz, of whom I'm a long-time fan for her "body landscapes," which are intense and intimate super close-ups of tattooed skin.

ManWoman.jpgAlso in our indoor space was the incomparable Pat Fish, the Queen of Celt, who surprisingly was the only one tattooing the native art of the Irish. Pat was a machine and didn't stop working the entire weekend, but we did find a moment to chat about tattoos, law and her most excellent mule.

The keynote speaker of the fest (shown right) was ManWoman, an artist who has devoted most of his life to reclaiming the swastika from its Nazi association and bringing it back to its ancient, peaceful origins. This reclamation was an overriding theme throughout the fest and "gentle swastika" tattoos adorned many bods there. I interviewed ManWoman for Total Tattoo and had a lot of questions on whether the symbol could ever shed the horrors that surround it. ManWoman had his own yurt where he sold his books and his "Smiley Swastika" tees.

Another huge highlight for me was finally meeting in person Dimitris of Hellenix Stixis and the gorgeous Clare Goldilox -- both of whom I've featured here for their hand-poked tattooing. Dimitris schooled me on the importance of learning the symbolism and history behind the motifs he extensively researches and then tattoos. And Goldilox, well, she did the wildest tattoo of the weekend: a hand-poked handprint butt tattoo. Ok, this tattoo needs its own paragraph ...

So, the I-will-never-anger-a-man-that-large head of security for the festival, Mick, and his lovely wife Christine approached Clare wanting the imprint of his hand on the right cheek of her behind. Next thing ya know, his hand is dipped in ink to make the stencil, a skirt is lifted, and the task of proper placement on the butt cheek begins ... oh, and with the couple's awesome teenage daughter standing by and offering guidance on whether it should be a little higher up and to the left. Claire spread out rugs on the floor of the restaurant, then had Christine lay upon them, and proceeded to hand-poke her butt.

Wait, it gets better ...

Once the outline was done, Phil's son Callan Cummins arrived to take part in the tattooing. Callan is Ireland's famed 8-year-old tattooist featured in mass media and even this documentary. The decision to have him tattoo went something as nonchalant as this:

"Mum, may I help Clare tattoo Christine's bum?"
"What did ya father say?"
"Ok, but do whatever Clare tells ya."

And this is what it looked like:

Goldilox and Callem tattooing.jpg
Callan was serious and tattooed like a pro.

Clare finished it up after a brief interruption by the cops (the bar/resto was not supposed to be open that late but something was worked out), and Christine was left smiling with her sexy new tush.

Then pints were poured.  A drunkenly exuberant DJ played that funky music.  And it seemed that every single person there was feelin' the love.

Ok, I've written too many words here, but the very best way to get the feel for the fest is to check out our Flickr photo set.

Share and enjoy. 
08:54 AM

While I'm writing my monster redux of the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest, I thought I'd give ya a preview of a wonderful experience we had: watching the skin sewing method of tattooing done by the always awesome Colin Dale of Skin & Bone in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Brian entered Colin's tattoo tent just as a reporter from Bizarre Magazine had begun to interview him, and so Brian was able to capture a part of that discussion (about three minutes) where Colin talks about the history of skin sewing. There are also close-ups of the procedure in the video that will make you feel that phantom pain while watching. [FYI: the video starts off with a quick line where Colin makes fun of my NY accent.]

Skin sewing was practiced by the Inuit people of the Arctic. Dr. Lars Krutak, our favorite anthropologist and Tattoo Hunter, wrote an article called Tattoos of the Hunter-Gatherers of the Arctic, which examines the ancient art. Here's a bit from that article:

"As a general rule, expert tattoo artists were respected elderly women. Their extensive training as skin seamstresses (parkas, pants, boots, hide boat covers, etc.) facilitated the need for precision when 'stitching the human skin' with tattoos. Tattoo designs were usually made freehand but in some instances a rough outline was first sketched upon the area of application."

Read more on skin sewing here.

More on the tattoo fest to come!
07:33 PM
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Horns High!  Awesomeness by Loz of West Side Tattoo in Australia. Also check the portfolios of all the West Side crew. 
08:23 AM

Yesterday, the Nowness premiered its film on Horiyoshi III: a beautiful collage of tattoos, historical imagery and scenes from Yokohama (home to his studio) surrounding an interview in which the master explains symbolism in Japanese motifs, his methods, the culture of tattooing and how he wants to see greater acceptance of the art.

Entitled Horiyoshi The Third: The Skin Carver, photographer and director Johnnie Shand Kydd's not only looks at Horiyoshi's master craftsmanship, but also "examines the recent influence of tattoos in fashion while taking a look at the tattoo legend's latest clothing and accessories line."

More on the Horiyoshi The Third street wear line here.

[Thanks to Evan and Zhan for the links!]
10:05 PM
ass buster tattoo.jpg
Just arrived back in NYC after an insane time at the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest, and while I have tons of things to say about the event with hundreds of photos to share, at this moment of exhaustion, I can barely type.

Thankfully, my dear friend (and uber-stylist) Butch said, "Don't worry Mz.M, I got a tattoo you can post on N+S while you recover." And this is what he sent. Have you deciphered the deep meaning of this tattoo yet? [Thanks, Christian of Berlin, for sharing it!]

I know, this is a half-ass post (*sorry*) but will have some serious tattoo goodness tomorrow.
01:17 PM
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We just got into beautiful Cobh in County Cork, Ireland for the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Festival this weekend, and the artists are all artists pouring in. Just saw the wonderful Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Denmark, whose Nordic dotwork is spectacular. We also got to hang with Cammy of Divine Canvas on the flight over from Edinburgh, Scotland. [Air Lingus unintentionally(?) grouped the tattooed freaks together on the plane, so the party has started early.]

Brian and I decided to fly into Edinburgh, Scotland for a couple days of sightseeing before the fest and on our itinerary was Red Hot & Blue Tattoo, Paul Slifer's shop, which is home to a number of stellar tattooists. [Paul's work is shown above]

Ok, when I visit tattoo studios and I'm not getting tattooed, I never want to take artists' time away from work and nerd out on them, but the Red Hot & Blue crew were so gracious with my geekiness. Jason aka Zig Zag, had just finished a piece, so he had time to chat and we got to look through all their great portfolios, so I wanted to give a shout out to the shop and say thanks for the hospitality.

Here are just snippets of work from the Red Hot & Blue artists.

jason aka zig zag.jpgHand tattoo by Jason, aka Zig Zag, of Red Hot & Blue Tattoo.

Ian red hot and blue tattoo.jpgBackpiece by Ian McAlister, Red Hot & Blue Tattoo, Edinburgh.

sarah red hot and blue tattoo.jpgSarah Schor tattoo, Red Hot & Blue Tattoo, Edinburgh.
01:27 PM
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Hand-poked. Dotwork. Skull.

Three of my favorite words in the tattoo language, so naturally, I had to know more about this chest piece on musician Johnny Kowalski tattooed by Clare Deen, aka Goldilox.

The work was done all by hand over eight hours in a couple of sittings. Beyond the logistics, the stories behind the tattoo are what's really compelling. Johnny wanted a tattoo to celebrate his thirtieth birthday and here's the inspiration behind it, in his own words:

 "I've always appreciated the beauty of animal skulls, and it seemed an appropriate symbol of adulthood because of the obvious connection with hunting. I also liked the connection with the Norse rune Algiz, which I have tattooed in red ink on my left big toe.

Above all, I knew that the tattoo would look fucking cool. I think that the cliche about knowing when you are in love also applies to finding the right tattoo design--you just know when it's right.

I chose Clare because I have held her artistic abilities in extremely high esteem for a very long time now, since before she started tattooing. One of her great strengths as an artist, on skin or on canvas, is that she has an amazing gift for depicting natural forms, whether that be as a painted portrait or a tattooed butterfly. The stag skull was a departure from her normal style, but once we had discussed the idea and she'd done a few preliminary sketches, I knew we were on the right track.

We both agreed that hand poking would be the best way forward for the tattoo, both in terms of allowing Clare to get as much detail she thought the tattoo needed and would hurt less for me. Having both machine and hand poked tattoos, I can safely say I prefer hand poking--it feels less traumatic and spares you the incessant buzz of the machine. However, despite the relative ease of hand-poked tattoos, I still found the tattoo extremely painful in places, which was in a strange sense what I was looking for:  a big, bewildering experience that would push my limits beyond what my experiences had previously led me to believe I could handle and to be left with an amazing image on my skin at the end of it to mark my thirtieth birthday." 

I like these kind of stories. But I'm nosy and wanted more.

Considering the large work, I asked Goldilox about her process in hand-poked tattoos and surprisingly, she told me that she had only been tattooing by hand for about a year (she had been using a machine since her start in the art). Goldilox is a self-taught tattooist, originally from rural Wales and now working at Painted Lady Tatoo Parlour in Birmingham, UK. She's has worked in many artistic disciplines: pin-striping cars, sign-writing, airbrushing, sculpting, drawing, painting, and sewing (among others) and so working by hand in tattooing "feels right" to her.

Here's more on what Goldilox said about her hand worked tattoos:

"I started tattooing by hand initially on myself. It felt intuitive. The fine lines I could create using just a needle just inspired me. My artwork has always been intricate, and tattooing like this felt like an extension of this...a very natural progression, and within no time at all, all my clients wanted hand-poked work...

To me, another wanting my artwork on their skin is an immense honor, and I feel that tattooing by hand,adding every minute dot one by one in the same way it has been done for millenia makes the tattoo all the more precious...it adds a certain magic!

I like working with color. Many hand-artists avoid it because colored inks have less saturated pigment so it takes a lot longer than black to actually get the color in the skin--but I like challenges!

I draw lots of my inspiration from many sources-old Victorian botanical plates, mehendhi art,Islamic geometry to name a few.I really love reinterpreting ancient artwork into the modern day using what is essentially an even older technique."

It looks like I'll be seeing Goldilox at the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival this weekend, and hopefully, will bring back more examples of her work.

Check more of her work here. And hear Johnny's music here.
12:24 PM

The mother of all tattoo websites, The Vanishing Tattoo, which is one of the oldest and most comprehensive online resources on the art, has a new feature that I'm just loving:

Check out the Tattoo Theater, a collection of video interviews, like the one above, with tattoo legends talking about everything from getting your first tattoo to old time tales of tattooists working in meat lockers and plexiglass-protected spaces to keep the bullets away. It's a treasure trove of thrilling stories. More footage will be added to the Theater on a regular basis. Bookmark it!
03:22 PM
metanoia postcard.jpgIn 24 hours, Brian and I will head to Edinburgh, Scotland for some fun and then Cork, Ireland for even more fun this weekend at the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Fest. [Looking forward to seeing Colin Dale, Xed Le head, and the fabulous Pat Fish, Queen of Celt, among so many other wonderful artists.] Will have a convention review and photos when we're back next week.

Meanwhile, I wanted to leave you with a few events from NYC to Liverpool (Sydney, Australia) to supplement our list of favorite upcoming conventions through October.

In that list, I mentioned the one-night-only-must-see exhibit: Pint Size Paintings at NYC's Sacred Gallery this Friday, July 9th. [I wrote about the book here, and have a couple photos of the exhibit from my Hell City gallery here.] So, I'm offering this quick reminder because I really recommend the show.

Also in NYC, P.J.S. Exhibitions presents Metanoia, a group exhibit featuring the fine art of top New York-based tattooists Chris O'Donnell, Stephanie Tamez, and Thomas Hooper of New York Adorned; Josh Egnew of Three Kings; Jason June of Daredevil Tattoo; as well as a hand crafted motorcycle by Ryan Bonilla of Bellum Concepts. Bevin Robinson and Patrick Sullivan will be co-curating the show, which runs July 15th through August 29th. A preview of the artwork is shown above.

Finally, for my Aussies, Liverpool's Casula Powerhouse Art Centre presents Body Pacifica,  a show focusing on Samoan, Maori, Tongan, and Niuean tattooing and ceremony. For me, one of the more interesting features of the show is Leo Tanoi's exhibition, which looks at the history and change of islander attitudes towards Samoan tattooing, and "explores stories of copyright and change, and the uncertain future of tattoo designs from a traditional perspective." The show runs until August 29th. Read more about the show and see a photo gallery here.[Thanks, Zhan, for the heads up!]  

body pacifica.jpgTe Ao Hurihanga, photography by Chris Barber
02:53 PM
tattoos and tentacles by Julian Murray.jpg
Photographer Julian Murray is shooting a series that will appeal to tattoo and mollusk fetishists alike-- and how often can one claim to say that.

Tattoos & Tentacles is a photo project with the end goal of collecting the images in a coffee table book and presenting the work at fine art galleries and tattoo conventions. Julian has about 15 shoots done, which you can see more of at JulianMurrayPhoto.com (many NSFW).

Also check the behind-the-scenes video of the shoots here. (Also not really safe for work).

The crew would like to get about 40-50 more shoots for the project and are looking for more tattooed men and women to throw octopi on. If you're interested, submit photos of ya fine selves "in all your tattooed glory" to julian@julianmurrayphoto.com.

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02:03 PM
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I just learned that a gem of the tattoo world, Herbert Hoffman, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91. You can easily tell from the photo above (at the 2006 Milan Tattoo Convention) that Herbert was a warm, sweet man who was generally excited to meet people who shared his love of tattoo. In fact, he's been described as a "friendship collector."

On my bucket list was to travel to Switzerland to have him tattoo me with his iconic anchor design and signature. I regret I missed that chance.

Often, when I've mentioned a tattoo book that I love here, I say it is "one of my favorites." Herbert's Living Picture Books: Portraits of a Tattooing Passion 1878-1952 is the favorite. The book is a collection of photos and "the family stories" behind them of tattooed people--400 in total--born between 1878 and 1952. For thirty years, Herbert traveled around taking portraits of his favorite subject with his Rolleiflex camera. This collection of images is beautifully presented in a large format hardcover published by Memoria Pulp. While their site says the book is sold out, you can find it online at Book Mistress and on Amazon. You can also purchase his book of flash via Amazon.com as well.

To view photos from Herbert (and of Herbert) from 1955 on, check his online photo album.


Memoria Pulp also did a documentary featuring Herbert, as well as Albert Cornelisse and Karlmann Richter, called Flammend Herz or Blue Skin in 2004. It's a truly moving film about the passion these men had for tattooing and what they gave for it. It also delves into the complex relationship that they had with one another, a relationship that began when they met at Herbert's tattoo shop in Hamburg, "the oldest tattoo parlor in Germany." Eventually, that relationship soured when Herbert gave the shop to his cousin and not the others. The film brought them back together after all that time. Read more about this beautiful documentary on IMDB (particularly the reviews). The film is also available on Amazon.com.

For more on Herbert, including links to interviews and photos, go to his Facebook Fan Page.

I will miss Herbert dearly.
01:03 PM
It's happy dance time. Just received photos for my next book project from the Filip Leu.
I won't sully this moment with commentary. Here's just a taste.

filip leu tattoos5.jpg
filip leu tattoo6.jpg
filip leu tattoo2.jpg
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