October 2010 Archives

03:16 PM

I've written three drafts for a blog post, all sounding like I'm an angry person picking on the mentally ill for doing something that could inspire other mentally ill people to copycat in their collective desperation for attention. But of course, I wouldn't publish such a thing, so I'll just leave you with a post absolutely and completely unrelated: 

This CNN video of Matt Gone's latest "endeavor":  tattooing his eyeballs.
10:58 AM
Be it Arse-Antlers, Slag Tag or New Jersey License Plates... your Tramp Stamp isn't as good as this...


(image via CartoonBrew)
09:06 PM
 russian criminal tattoo.jpg
Photograph taken by Sergei Vasiliev in the early 1990s. [Fuel/Sergei Vasiliev]

In London, Fuel Design, publishers of the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia series, will be exhibiting a selection of 120 original drawings by Danzig Baldaev who documented the art and meanings of criminal tattoos--in over 3,000 sketches--during his time as a prison guard between 1948 and 1986. The exhibit also includes photos by Sergei Vasiliev, whose prints will be for sale, including the images shown here.

You can see a sample of the drawings and photographs on Fuel's site.

The Guardian has an article inspired by the exhibit called "Russian Criminal Tattoo: Breaking the Code," which gives some background on Baldaev's life and work, and how Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell of Fuel came to acquire his drawings. It's a pretty compelling story, albeit only touched upon in a short article. I wish the reporter had replaced the few "tattoos of the world" meanings at the end with more on Baldaev and what motivated him to come home to his small apartment after a long day at work and just draw, into the night, the tattoos he saw.

russian prison tattoo design.jpgThe article also discusses the symbolism behind many of the tattoos Baldaev recorded. Here's a taste of that:

In effect, the tattoos formed a service record of a criminal's transgressions. Skulls denoted a criminal authority. A cat represented a thief. On a woman, a tattoo of a penis was the kitemark of a prostitute. Crosses on knuckles denoted the number of times the wearer had been to prison, and a shoulder insignia marked solitary confinement, while a swastika represented not a fondness for fascism but a refusal to accept the rules of prison society.

A criminal with no tattoos was devoid of status, but to have a tattoo when you hadn't earned it - bearing the skull sign of a criminal authority, for example - often resulted in the tattoo being forcibly removed with a scalpel by fellow prisoners. And "grins" (depicting communist leaders in obscene or comical positions) were a way for criminal to put two fingers up at the authorities.

russian criminal tattoo2.jpg Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition opens this Friday, October 29th, and runs until November 28th at 4 Wilkes Street, London, 11am-6pm. You can purchase Fuel's Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedias on Amazon.
01:07 PM
tattoo revolution magazine.jpg
A new tattoo magazine has dropped in the UK, founded by two experienced and respected journalists, Neil Dalleywater and Alex Guest, former editors of Skin Deep & Tattoo Master magazines.

Check out Tattoo Revolution Magazine.

In response to the "greedy corporate shadow [that] has steadily engulfed the tattoo world in recent times," Neil and Alex have set out to create an ethical publication "that answers to the tattoo community and no one else."  This first issue delivers in its rich content with thoughtful profiles of artists including Marcus Maguire, Russ Abbott, David Corden and Nick Chaboya as well as convention coverage, event listings, product reviews and even a practical tutorial on drawing by Tony Ciavarro.  And of course we're a bit biased in loving the interview with Dr. Matt Lodder, our favorite heavily tattooed academic art historian (and Dandy) shown below.

matt lodder tattoo revolution.jpgYou know what Tattoo Revolution does not have a lot of? Gratuitous booby shots (unless you count Matt's tattooed pectorals). Now, we love boobs. But if you read us regularly, you know we're getting tired of the ubiquitous spreads of the "hot inked chick" who has the one ankle tattoo blurred in the background of her arched back, pouty-pouty pin-up shot. There are sexy women and men photographed in the magazine but they are beautifully tattooed and not, well, silly. Please, Neil and Alex, keep going along this path to respect over 50% of the tattooed population.

All this amounts to one well curated tattoo publication. The artists are vetted for stellar portfolios, the layout is clean, the photos tight and the writing smart. Unlike many other mags, I wouldn't be embarrassed to open it up on the subway and read it in public.

I downloaded the digital edition for 2.49 BP. Keep in mind that it doesn't read on the iPhone or iPad -- which I'd love to see in the future.

You can purchase it online here.
12:02 PM
kat von d tattoo.jpg
Today's post is inspired by the numerous emails I've been getting from agents looking for fresh cast members to join LA Ink and a new show, NY Ink (it was only a matter of time).

This Kat Von D tribute was tattooed by the fabulous Erin Chance in Auckland, New Zealand, who is a resident artist at Sacred Tattoo. When I asked Erin what the backstory was behind the tattoo, she said, "The kid just really loves Kat Von D." A tattoo without a grand story and deep meaning? In what reality is this?
12:33 PM
photo by edgar hoill.jpg
I want to thank all the very beautiful people who came out Saturday night to party with us at Tattoo Culture for the NYC release of Black & Grey Tattoo: From Street Art to Fine Art, my latest tome co-authored with the excellent Edgar Hoill, who also shot many of the images in the book including the one above.

Alas, we were so busy drinking, eating, and dancing Saturday, that we didn't take many party pix. [If you took some, send 'em my way please.] Here are a couple below and more to be found on our Black & Grey book Flickr set.

UPDATE: the fabulous Jeff Rojas took some wonderful photos from the party and posted them in a Flickr set here.

** I still have a few author copies left at a reduced rate. Contact me at marisa @ needlesandsins dotcom for details. **

More on the book here.

 black & grey party.jpg
All these people rock.

tim kern salute.jpgI don't think I have one photo with Tim Kern that doesn't have us throwing up devil horns. Photo courtesy of the beautiful Hang Tran--soon to be Mrs. Kern (not pictured here).

And speaking of Tim Kern, I'll leave you with one of his many works highlighted in the book.

Tim Kern Tattoo.jpg
10:49 AM
jamie siever photography 1.jpg
Philadelphia photographer, Jamie Siever, has a body of work that is awwww worthy: the tattooed family portarits with beautiful newborns (and pregnant bellies) cradled in decorated arms. Jamie, who also photographs the unadorned, explains the spark behind this work:

From the very first time I photographed a tattooed mother with her newborn baby, I was hooked. I love the striking contrast of a tattooed parent's inked skin against their new baby's pristine skin. I love to see the arms of a tattooed daddy tickling his son, or a child peeking around her tattooed mama's calves.

Jamie was so inspired by the tattoo stories that a blog was born complete photos and interviews with Phillie tattoo artists. The portraits of tattooists working are less cute but pretty cuddly nonetheless depending on your taste.

See more tattooed portraits below.

jamie siever photography 3.jpgjamie siever photography 4.jpg
03:33 PM
den yakovlev2.jpgThe November issue of Skin & Ink magazine has Traveling Mick's coverage of the Moscow Tattoo Convention, which is a great read but also includes photos of some exciting tattoo work being done in Russia. A number of backpieces that particularly grabbed my attention in the article were done by 28-year-old artist Den Yakovlev, whose work is shown here.

See more in his online portfolio of exceptional photorealism in color and black & gray.

den yakovlev1.jpg
den yakovlev3.jpgPS: That same issue of Skin & Ink has the second part of my column on blackwork tattooing. Check it out.
08:42 AM
iphonethief.jpgWe've written time and time again about criminals being identified, incarcerated and databased by their often questionable display of tattoos, but this piece I discovered at Gizmodo this morning takes the cake. 

They report that 19-year-old Joseph Eric Williams is the mastermind behind a wave of iPhone thefts in South Florida.  However, while he's smart enough to pull off a string of tech-thefts, he doesn't appear to have been smart enough to not get an easily-identifiable facial tattoo before entering a life of crime: the words "I'M ME" over his left eye.

In an effort to evade police efforts, he might consider chaning it to read "I'M MEL" - though most American police officers (especially my Jewish brothers and sisters) are champing at the bit to throw a guy named Mel in the slammer.

My personal suggestion for Mr. Williams' potential cover-up, however, would be changing it to read "HI, MOM!"  After all, it probably won't be long before we see his face again... on a local Miami-Dade news broadcast while being taken into custody.

05:02 PM
Today on my Facebook page, my status update read:

I wonder what would happen if I created a tattoo magazine where young tattooed men suck on their fingers, cup their scrotum (all shy and coy like), arch their backs and pout, and wear banana hammocks. Any boys wanna do this? I won't pay you at all but it will help your self-esteem and mommy issues.

Well, it turns out some of y'all wanna see this happen. So I created a page to meet this need. This is what I do on a Saturday. Without further ado, I'd like to welcome you to:

If you want to be a part of what will be the tattoo industry's sexiest publication, here are the rules:

1. You must be tattooed. A star on ankle or Ohm on the hip because you're spiritual is ok.

2. Your photos submissions must fit the follow categories:
  • Pouty, finger to lip or actual finger sucking: self-explanatory
  • Porn for Women: you cleaning, cooking, giving foot massages...
  • Product Placement: strategic use of Needles and Sins stickers
  • Other: this could be dangerous, but hell, let's see what happens

3. You must agree to the terms that you will receive no payment what so ever. BUT everyone will think you are hot and want you.

4. You must be over 18 but act coquettish.

5. On certain occasions, you may be asked to fill out a Tattooed Boys Gone Wild data card with your age (lie), measurements (lie), your turn-ons and turn offs (at your discretion). However, we promise not to ask what books you are reading.

That's it, guys. Put out or get shut out.

And ladies and boys who like boys, feel free to share with your friends and recommend your own faves for Tattooed Boys Gone Wild!
03:15 PM
A bunch of you have been sending me the link to this article on MSNBC today:
"In tattoo business, profits are hardly skin deep."

All I kept thinking when I read it was This is going to piss a lot of artists off who don't want the IRS looking into their books.

Aside from the most annoying of opening lines to any tattoo article [yes, yes, we know tattoos don't belong to sailors and convicts anymore!] and the word "tats" [shoot me now], these little tidbits are not going to make studio owners and tattooists happy who like to keep their business close to the vest:

"Several years ago Inc. estimated there were about 15,000 tattoo parlors in America, making somewhere north of $2.3 billion annually."

"Joe Miller, owner of Old Larimer Street Tattoo in Denver, says that he's currently taking home about $125,000 annually...He says his tattoo artist colleagues average about $50,000 a year, and a good number scrape by on less than half that."

And Scottie DeVille, owner of Th'ink Tank Tattoo in Denver, says "Since we've opened, our profits have increased about 10 percent per year. In 2008, the average hourly [rate per artist] was $120. Today the average is $150."

What do you think about artists and others in the community giving out these numbers to the press? Will the IRS crack down on tattooists? Do you think the government is already on to this? Does it matter?
02:03 PM
Last Rites guest.jpg
I'm a huge fan of tattoo artist Goethe Silva, and so I'm excited that he's back in NYC doing a guest spot at Paul Booth's Last Rites Theater from October 23-31st. [Goethe, Paul and the Last Rites crew are all in our Black & Grey Tattoo book.]

Mexican-born Goethe pays tribute to his pre-hispanic roots and its dieties, rituals and sacrifices with his signature tattoo style. His dark expressions make him a perfect fit for Last Rites...and Halloween! See more of his work here.

Also check this clip below from Marked, where Goethe explains the inspiration behind his work, and the story behind his own tattoos.

Goethe along with other artists from Black & Grey Tattoo will be partying at our book release soiree, October 23rd (from 7-10pm) at Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Would love for you to join us. More on the party coming soon.
02:11 PM
mastectomy scar tattoo.jpgI've gotten a number of emails in the past couple of years asking me about tattooing over mastectomy scars and nipple reconstruction, and I've referred breast cancer survivors to long-time practitioners, listed below, for this type of tattooing. [It's an issue close to my heart as my both mother and aunt have had breast cancer.] Beyond realistic tattooing in creating the look of the nipple & areola, decorative tattoos over these scars can be a beautiful option.

A perfect example is this work by tattoo artist David Allen, whose blog I've been a fan of for years. I talked to David about the tattoo and he gave me some interesting info on the process and procedure. His client, fellow New Yorker Adriana, also offered her thoughts on her tattoo.

Adriana was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at age 31 in September 1999. She had a modified radical mastectomy removing a 5cm tumor. At the time of the surgery, she had reconstruction and several follow-up surgeries after chemotherapy and radiation. As the radiation ruined her skin, she was unable to have a nipple reconstruction. Almost exactly 11 years to the date from her surgery, Adriana made an appointment for her first tattoo.

Adriana came to David with a basic idea of "vines or branches with flowers" that could "go across the scar." But because she knew the skin texture varied along the area, she was open to suggestions. Before her appointment, David picked out a number of floral designs but no matter how many photos he saw of the scar, he needed her presence to make the tattoo flow and fit her form. Here's how he described the tattoo process:

"After sizing and spending awhile figuring out placement, I realized I could mask the scar by pulling the eye away from a horizontal line, accentuate the curve of the implant and make sure the organic nature of the flower blended in with the most obvious areas of the scar tissue. The implant was directly under her muscle, as the fat layer was removed, so the transition from chest to implant was abrupt. Making sure the design blended the two was important.

Tattooing over the scar altered depending on the area. Towards the armpit, some of the fatty layer was intact, so I had to stretch like normal. The actual scar reacted normally with swelling and redness. But as soon as I started tattooing over the saline implant, the skin was already taut. So taut I had to turn my machine down and treat it with finesse, like I was tattooing an ankle bone. When broken down, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

David adds that he'd like to see Adriana again to darken the blacks and see how well it hid the scar. He says that he's never done this type of work before, but would definitely love to do it again.

As for Adriana, she had lived with what she saw as a disfigurement for ten years. David said that when she looked in the mirror, she was amazed and proud of what she saw, which was overwhelming for both of them. Adriana told him, "I feel repaired and whole for the first time in ten years. Incredible. I want to flash everyone to show them. It's a beautiful piece."

It's an inspiring story, and I'm grateful to Adriana and David for sharing it. 
See more of David's tattoo work here.

Noted studios who do do nipple & areola reconstruction as well as decorative tattooing over mastectomy scars:
If you know of other studios that do this work, please suggest them in the comments.
06:13 PM
Around 5am tomorrow morning, I'll feebly attempt to wake up, pull on a crusty pair of Levis and welcome Gene Priest and The Cardinal Sin (remember when I interviewed them a few months back?) into my home.  Not that I run a home for wayward musicians, or anything, but the boys will be traveling up from Knoxville, TN, tonight to do some shows and recording with me and my band over the next few nights.


Tomorrow night, we'll be jumping off at Fat Baby in NYC, with Gene starting at 8pm (I'll be sitting in with him on a few songs on lap-steel guitar) and my own band following up at 9pm.  The first 10 people to pay the $7 cover and tell the doorman they're there for "Brian Grosz" will get a complimentary copy of my 2007 album, Bedlam Nights.

The following night we'll be up at Two Boots in Bridgeport, CT, for a FREE show and then we'll wrap it up with a super-special secret-show somewhere in the northeast on Friday night - stay tuned for details on that one!

Marisa and I hope to see you out at Fat Baby tomorrow night - we'll have plenty of Needles and Sins and Lapdance Academy swag available for all!
05:35 PM

This video is fun on so many fronts. We get to see our friend The Lizardman engulfed in goo for his waxy doppelganger that will be on display at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum at the end of next month. It also offers a close-up look of his extensive tattoo work, largely green scales on his face and body. And hell, I thought it was cool just seeing the process of making a dummy. [By dummy, I mean the faux, not real, Lizardman.]
02:13 PM

Robot tattoos have been a hot topic this week with BoingBoing's "Epic Robot Tattoo post" [and tie-in to an article on "The legal implications of intimacy with machines." No joke.]

There's also Botropolis' 20 Awesome Robot Tattoos run down. With both sites, however, I was bummed that not all the tattoo artists were credited with the images posted. I also can't believe that Peter Stauber's robotic arm by Mike Cole (below) was not a part of the hoopla.

My fave robot tattoo find was this video above of Lux Altera's robotic sleeve in progress, which is part of TattooNow TV. A must see.

robot tattoo.jpg
05:24 PM
geek tattoo.jpg
Ok, it's not high art but these tattoos on Christophlr -- submitted to Fuckyeahtattoos on Tumblr -- made me giggle.

Via Jess Versus.
12:19 PM
partycombo2.jpgI'm really excited for the opening of Tattoo Culture's anniversary group art show in Williamsburg this Friday, October 8th from 7-11PM. The tattoo studio/art gallery is our second home -- an attitude-free zone that welcomes top artists around the world to work alongside resident tattooer Gene Coffey. This week, France's Loic and Noon have arrived to create their abstract/art brut badassness.

Gene and Noon will be showing their fine art in this group show with Emma Griffiths, Bailey Hunter Robinson, Fade Kainer, Dan Marshall and Liorcifer, among others. There'll be beer, snacks, and as usual, really hot people in attendance.

Hope to see ya there!
01:36 PM
David neck tattoo.jpg
David's neck tattoo by Bobby Serna of Inkslingers

Finally recovering from the four-day debauchery that was the Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth in Las Vegas, which began last Thursday night and ended sometime around Monday morning.  Like everything Vegas, it was glitzy, over the top, and a helluvalotta fun.

See my usual bad pics of the show here.

The minute I got to Vegas I saw an ad on top of a taxi cab for the convention. It was also heavily promoted in the media, with convention organizer (and tattoo mogul) Mario Barth hiring a PR firm to bring in a crowd. In the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which housed the show in one of its massive convention halls, there were people handing out wrist bands in the casino for reduced admission -- do well at roulette and treat yourself to a tattoo.

Despite the tireless promotion, however, a number of artists and vendors said that there were less people in attendance than last year. [This was my first time there.] But it all depended on who you asked. The experiences of those working the show widely varied. Some said they were completely booked. Others were trying to hustle for business. And then I spoke to a number of artists who were happy to do a few tattoos and mostly hang out and have fun, like a tattoo vacation with some extra dollars to pay for the trip.

knux by Mark Mahoney.jpgKnuckle tattoos by the legendary Mark Mahoney

Vegas has it's velvet ropes and A-listers and this convention was no exception. As I mentioned last week, I was super-stoked to see legendary artists like Horitoshi, the Sulu'ape family, and Americana's bad boys Stanley Moskowitz and Crazy Philadelphia Eddie. [I bought Eddie's new book "Tattooing: The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, My Vida Loca, Vol 1" and will review it here soon.]  Portrait prodigies Mike De Masi, Mike Devries, Nikko Hurtado were in attendance, and I also got to meet some Greek homies doing a wild fusion of abstract art and realism from Sake Tattoo in Athens, Tattooligans in Thessaloniki, & Fabz Tattoo Gold Coast Tattooligans. Baba & BJ Betts schooled young artists on lettering while Jime Litwalk and Tony Ciavarro worked their New School. Black & Gray maestros Shamrock Social Club, Bob Tyrrell, Tony Olivas, Andy Engel, Robert Pho, (among many other greats) dominated the tattoo competitions.

horitoshi tattooing.jpgHoritoshi tattooing

The competitions were MC'd by the rock/TV/porn star Evan Seinfeld, who was his usual brand of delishiousness. I was also hoping to ogle the cast of Sons of Anarchy (the one reason I own a TV these days) but it seemed the only thing going on in their large booth was airbrushing the show's new logo onto tees and tank tops.

The only other "celebrity" I spotted was skater/Jackass Bam Margera at the after party, which took place Friday and Saturday at King Ink, Mario's tattoo studio-boutique-dance club complete with velvet rope and a line of tattooed Snookies waiting to get in. Oh, and there were TONS of cougars hitting on young punks with stretched earlobes and neck tattoos. I had one 50+ woman come up and ask me what was best way to take one of these guys home. [Answer: Jack Daniels. Lots of it.] As for me, I stayed sober just to take in the scene. It was surreal.

Overall, it was a convention for the masses. Serious collectors were there but it was far from an insider art snob show or hippie gathering. The airbrush artists, faux-tattoo sleeves vendor, and even the psychic readings kept spectators on a blackjack break busy. There was no mystique but it was accessible to all. It was Vegas.
01:00 PM
mummy tattoos.jpg
Image from the Journal of Archeological Science.

USA Today's science blog posted an article yesterday entitled "Mummy tattoos hint at ancient Andean acupuncture." In it, they talk about the discovery of a 1,000-year-old female mummy in Southern Peru who wore two distinct types of tattoos (shown in the illustration above). A study of this mummy was published in the recent issue of the Journal of Archeological Science, which highlighted that "it was the first time that two different kinds of tattooing materials were found in one and the same mummy."

Researchers believe some of the tattoos were therapeutic:  "The tattoos on the neck region could have had a therapeutic, ritual or protective intention. A possible therapeutic origin may lie in the fact that the circles on the neck lie close to acupuncture points, having a relaxing and pain-relieving effect in the neck and head region."

The other tattoos, which included animals like apes and reptiles as well as symbols and rings tattooed on her hands, were ornamental (common in prehistoric mummies found across the globe). USA Today offers more on mummies' decorative tattoos:

The oldest known tattoos date from 6000 B.C. from the Chinchorros culture. They show a thin pencil mustache tattooed on the upper lip of a male adult. One of the most impressive sets of decorative tattoos was found on the skin of a Skythian nomad prince from the Altai mountain (500 B.C.). Aesthetically designed pictures of mythical creatures were tattooed on his arms, shoulders, chest, back and the right leg. But not only men were tattooed in ancient times: an obviously upper class female mummy was excavated in the Altay. She was enveloped in silk, crowned with a half-meter-high headdress and had a Skythian- pattern tattoo on her left arm. During excavations in a tomb of the Menthuhotep-temple in Deir el Bahari, figures, fish, birds, and what appeared to be landscapes, at about 1000 B.C.

So the next time you hear someone call tattooing a "trend," you can tell them it's one of the longest trends in history.
04:57 PM
las vegas tattoo convention 2.jpg
Mario Barth's Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth just opened its doors for a tattoo weekend that's expected to bring in 50,000 people to the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.

According to Robin Leach's "Luxe Life" Blog -- yes, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous Leach -- this is the event where all the beautiful people will be this weekend. I could've told you that but I have a different A-List, which includes artists in attendance like the Suluape Family, Horitoshi, Bob Tyrrell, Bill Salmon, Horitoshi, and many, many, many, many more.

There is heavy promo on the after-parties, rock stars, and the Sons of Anarchy dudes who will be there signing autographs and unveiling the new logo for the show, which Mario designed. [Ok, I'm kinda excited about the Sons. It's the only reason I keep my TV.]

Will let you know how things go down with my convention redux on Monday.
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