November 2010 Archives

01:55 PM
tattooed lady.jpgPhoto from Amelia Klem Osterud's "The Tattooed Lady: A History"

Inspired by the Ladies, Ladies Art Show, today's holiday gift guide post features books that celebrate tattooed ladies through history. These titles have all been mentioned here before but worth repeating for those who haven't scooped them up yet.

* The Tattooed Lady: A History by Amelia Klem Osterud is a beautiful hardcover that explores the lives of tattoo's godmothers, complete with fascinating narratives and photos dating back to the 1880s. We wrote about its release last November, and it still sits close to my desk for reference. For more info, check out Amelia's blog.

bodies of subversion.jpg* Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo by Margot Mifflin remains a classic. From sideshow ladies to prominent female tattoo artists, the book looks at how tattoo culture has changed & the roles women have played in it. It features great stories and images as well. Margot's latest, The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman, is also an interesting read.

* The Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women by tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak is a scholarly book on the role of women as tattooists in many indigenous cultures, with over 250 photos & illustrations. Lars has a new book out called Kalinga Tattoo, which is so gorgeous it warrants its own post. That's coming up.

* Madame Chinchilla's Electric Tattooing by Women 1900-2003 is a yearbook of women tattoo artists over a century. It's not a fancy book but it is a Who's Who of Tattoo up until 2003 with quotes from each artist.

* On the fiction front, check out Tattoo Artist: A Novel by Jill Ciment -- a story about a New York artist who is marooned in the South Pacific and eventually becomes a revered tattooist among the Tu'un'uu people at the turn of the century. It then flashes forward, 30 years later, when she returns as a heavily tattooed woman to New York. A fun read.

If you have your own favorites, feel free to share them in the comments.
12:55 PM
ladies ladies art show.jpg
I'm crazy excited about this upcoming exhibit opening December 10th at Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Ladies Ladies Art Show features the fine art of 50 women tattooists, from long-time veterans of the craft to rising stars. See the full artist list below.

It's an event where tattooed women are celebrated for their artistry and not how they fill a bikini. [So let's just see how many tattoo mags actually cover the show.] I'll be there with my signature out-of-focus photo skills and let you know how it goes down. The opening party runs from 7-10:30PM.

Here are a couple of paintings that will be on view. See more on their Facebook page.

Titine Leu.jpgPainting by Titine Leu.

art by Maria Sena.jpgPainting by Maria Sena

ladies ladies artist list.jpg
06:20 PM
tattoo greeting card.jpg
Starting off this year's gift guide are my picks for tattoo-themed greeting cards should you be the type of person who puts me to shame by mailing holiday cheer before the actual holiday to be celebrated (and not two weeks later).

Of course, nothing compares in my mind to Rolling Stone magazine's Christmas card of a naked Lyle Tuttle (photographed by Annie Lebowitz in the 70s). But here are some of today's options from Etsy:

* "Tattooed Lady" holiday card set of 10 by Sugar Beet Press (shown above) where the backpiece proclaims "Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men." The original artwork by Sugar Beet owner Joy Kolitsky is printed on heavyweight watercolor paper and the cards are  blank inside. A set of ten with envelopes goes for $22.50. Individual cards can be purchased as well. 

* Painted Ladies postcards, without the holiday theme, designed by Amanda Atkins. A set of six postcards goes for $10. Prints and individual cards with the artwork are also on sale.

* Sideshow Tattooed Men note cards, stamped and embossed on a set of five colorful cards (with envelopes) by Emma Mount of England go for $8 for a set of five. I'm also digging her skull gift tags

There's always the e-Card option. I'm thinking of sending this Santa tattooed with my face on his back. You may want to go with other personalized options however.

 me as a tattoo.jpg
03:01 PM
Bugs tattoo art.jpg
For the December/January issue of Inked magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing tattoo artist, painter, and now sculptor BUGS, whose blend of cubism and art deco inspired tattoos have earned him international acclaim as an innovator in the industry. You can pick up a copy at local news sellers in the US & Canada or download the digital mag via Zinio. Here's a taste of our Q&A:

Because there's such a demand for your work, how do you keep things fresh and find new ideas to answer this demand?
Well, it's been about fourteen or fifteen years since I started doing my own style. I've been improving my style over these years and now it's kind of strong and powerful. When people see my work on others, they recognize it right away. I reached what I was looking for. To keep it fresh is a lot of work. You take a lot of time to progress but to stay on top of your game is the hardest part. Every day I draw. I paint a lot. I practice, and the more I do it, I discover new things.

How do you find the balance between very angular design and the contours of the body?
That's hard to explain. It has become natural to me--it's the way I draw things. When it comes to designs like flowers or women (there are a lot of women in my work), I try to avoid too much detail and information. I try, in just one outline, to show the silhouette of the body, for example.

What do you think is one of the biggest challenges?
It is to be creative every single time. Consider that all my work is custom and original--that's where it becomes complicated. When you do flash, you can do the same design ten or a hundred times with little variation, but when it comes to my kind of work, people are expecting original art. It's a lot of work. How many cubic women or flowers can I do? They all have to be different--in my style--but different. I never do the same tattoo twice.

Read more in Inked. You can make an appointment with Bug's at The Tattoo Lounge in LA.

bugs tattoo feet.jpg

bugs tattoo large.jpg
11:58 AM
black & Grey tattoo.jpg
Advertising's mad men and marketers have deemed today, "Cyber Monday," where our consumer fetish can be satisfied without knocking someone over with a granny cart, all for a deep discount. Well, I got your deep discount right here. If Amazon can give you a break, so can I.

Starting right now through Friday, December 3rd, 11:50 PM, I'm offering my limited author copies of the Black & Grey Tattoo box set for $350 including shipping for those in the US. [The book retails for $550.] Hit me up via email at marisa @

To make up for this shameless promotion, I got an artist profile and our first official gift guide pick coming up.
06:52 PM
Today is called "Black Friday" in the US where people storm the mega-stores in hopes of getting a Wii Fit half off. The video below shows just how ugly this can get. To make your holiday shopping easier -- and less offensive -- we're working on the N+S Holiday Gift Guide, where we'll feature goods from tattooists, indie artisans, and just cool people who make cool things. So we'll be posting these shopping picks alongside our regularly scheduled content over the next couple of weeks. If you have a favorite item or seller, feel free to let us know.

Video via Dangerous Minds.
11:06 AM
Tattoo project photo by Dan Kozma 1.jpgPhoto by Dan Kozma

For our Vancouver homies, starting tonight through the weekend, The Tattoo Project takes over Performance Works Granville Island for an exhibition that showcases the work of 12 photographers who shot 100 tattoo collectors in just three days. They sequestered themselves in the Vancouver Photo Workshops studio space. Here are the results.

The exhibit is produced Vince Hemingson of [Their videos on tattoo culture are some of my favorites.] Curator Pennylane Shen gathered Vancouver's most esteemed photographers for this show: Wayne A. Hoecherl, Melanie Jane, Marc Koegel, Spencer Kovats, Syx Langemann, Aura McKay, Pooya Nabei, Rosamond Norbury, Johnathon Vaughn, Jeff Weddell and Dan Kozma (whose work is shown above). Vince's own photography is part of the exhibit as well. The exhibit asks viewers to reflect on this:

The portrait camera and the tattoo--both profess, or pretend to reveal character. Richard Avedon said of portrait photography: "A portrait isn't a fact, only an opinion." It's true that the surface is all we've got. But what if that surface is adorned with images? Are tattoos symbols of a secret self? An attempt to bring the inside out? To reveal ourselves to the outside world? If tattoos are so meaningful, shouldn't that influence the portraitist's 'opinion'?

The fine art images that emerge from this experiment constitute a gallery exhibition unlike any other. It's here that artists, critics, and the public at large weigh in: Is the portrait a likeness--or is it a revelation?

See the video below for a behind the scenes peak:

The Tattoo Project will be the subject of an upcoming documentary film. More on that as it progresses. Admission to the exhibit is free, but a calendar from the project will be on sale, and the proceeds will go to DTES Vancouver's Ray-Cam Community Centre
02:48 PM
turkey tattoo.jpg
Tattoo by Joe Capobianco via TattooNow

The Needles & Sins crew has the day off to gorge ourselves have introspective moments  where we reflect on that for which we are grateful.  So, I'm throwing up this open post and turning over the reigns to you.

Use the comments forum to express whatever you want:  whether it be your thoughts on the state of the industry, your tattoo wishlist, how you feel about slaughtered turkeys and a bloodied history surrounding this holiday, whether you like long walks on the beach and the company of blow-up dolls. It's all in your hands.

I know this is dangerous, but it's my way of saying thanks to all y'all for being the most beautiful and sexy blog readership on this wacky internet of ours.

Much love, Marisa
01:52 PM
billy eason tattoo.jpg Portrait tattoo of Billy Eason by Phillip Spearman.

The tattoo community has lost another one of its original badasses. Billy Eason, owner of Capital Tattoo and B.I.R.D. Productions, who put on the Richmond Tattoo Arts Festival in Virginia, just passed away. He was 72 years old. This past weekend, at the 18th annual Richmond show, Billy's tattoo family got to see him one last time. He was loved by many and even immortalized in this portrait tattoo above by Phillip Spearman. You can read tributes to Billy and see photos on his Facebook page.     

RIP Billy.
11:15 AM
tattoo artist 3 flash game.jpg There's a whole lot of wrong with Tattoo Artist 3, but there's also awholelotta right.

UPDATE: I removed the game embed because the autoload was annoying, so head here directly to play.

The premise is this: it's your third week as an apprentice and you get to actually work on somebody. [I know, pretty quick on the draw there.] Using your mouse, you first work the outline and then fill in. You can use different needle configurations (or something like that) to work the tattoo, and your score is based on accuracy, time...and pain. With the latter, if you work a line too long, the skin starts getting red--keep going and you fail. You have to pause often for it to hurt less. If you fail three times, game over.

You get paid for each client, and if you want to make some money on the side after you're done with the tattoo, you can pierce them as well. [And you all know we love a good piercing after going through a long session.] The clients include Dr. Paul, Geek, Brokerman and many others, who have different design needs and pain thresholds. For example, Brokerman wants a big dollar bill on his back (shown below).

tattoo artist game 3.jpg 
The flash game, by Game Pill, was awarded "Best Game from Planet Random" by Nickelodeon. It's geared towards teens and that's the level of sophistication you should expect. But last night at 1am, I was still at my laptop trying to work Dr. Paul's stethoscope and failing miserably. And while failing miserably, I had some cartoon dude with a bad tribal yelling at me via text bubble. Another reason why I don't tattoo.  

tattoo artist 3 game.jpg Don't waste time on Tattoo Artist 1 and Tattoo Artist 2. This third one beats them both.
09:23 AM
russian criminal tattoo fashion.jpg
Very cool to find BoingBoing's feature on MIR, the Russian criminal tattoo fashion company and Needles & Sins advertisers. [Many of you thought it was cool too, and we thank you for sending in the link.] In that post, co-owner Roman Belenky discusses his experience growing up in Russia surrounded by the tattoos and what inspired him to start the clothing line, which I thought was pretty interesting. Here's a taste from that part:

I was working in a tattoo shop and started noticing more and more people were coming in with the [Russian Criminal Tattoo] Encyclopaedia and asking to get an image from the books. We turned them away mostly because the shop was owned by Russians and we didn't think it was a good idea to tattoo most of the stuff from the books on someone that knows close to nothing about that world and sub-culture. At that time I thought it would be cool if I could offer those people a T-shirt with the image as a sort of "consolation prize." Plus a part of me also wanted to spread this fascinating Russian underground art to more people.
On MIR's site and on their Etsy pages, they offer explanations of each design, although some like the one below don't really need much explaining. What the BoingBoing article doesn't mention is their new SHTRAFBAT military-inspired line where most of the items are vintage or reconstructed military surplus clothing silk screened or altered with the Russian designs. You can hit them up by clicking the banner of the right.

russian criminal tattoo2.jpg
11:42 AM
tattoo timeline.jpg
Tattoo timeline on the bar at King Ink tattoo studio/club

There are tons of articles on "tat stats" [I know it even pains me to type it] but the folks at College Crunch put together a list that I like, highlighting the demographics of collectors, and the milestones of tattooing's popularity. One of the more interesting finds for me was this:

People aged 18-24 were the second least likely to have a tattoo (2008): Just nine percent of them said they had at least one tattoo in 2008; down from 16 percent in 2003. Only the aged 65 and older group had a lower percentage. Could the decline indicate that tattoos are becoming less hip?...

I also learned that Miami is the most tattooed city in America, and only 16% of people polled regret getting tattooed. [I can use that last one to rebuff the constant "oh everyone ends up wishing they didn't do it" line.] College Crunch not only offers the list but links to the studies behind the statistics. Check it.
01:32 PM
Yushi_Takei_Tattoo.jpgFor about ten years now, I've been running into the wonderful Yushi Takei across the globe at conventions, including the Brussels tattoo show this past weekend. Yushi has been specializing in traditional Japanese tattoo since 1998, bringing his own unique interpretation to the art form.

Yushi is currently working at Schiffmacher en Veldhoen Tattooing, home of the original Hanky Panky in Amsterdam, but will be traveling extensively for conventions and guest spots. Here's his schedule, which is largely a list of the top upcoming tattoo conventions. 

* This weekend, November 20-21, is the Wildstyle & Tattoo Tour in Austria. The 15-year-old tattoo fair is entitled "The Reunion of the Original" and will be drawing top artists including Jack Rudy, Bernie Luther, Shinji Horizakura, and many others.

* December 3-5 is the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Tattoo Convention. This is going to be a huge show (more so than usual) with many tattoo legends in attendance as well.

* January 28-30, Cape Town, South Africa hosts the Third Annual Southern Ink Xposure. Check their impressive artist roster here

* February 11-13, in Italy, is the 16th Annual Milano Tattoo Convention, a massive event that has drawn 10-15,000 people.

As for guest spots, Yushi will be at Frith Street Tattoo in London and White Light Tattoo in Berlin next month, and in February, he'll be at Italian Rooster in Milan. From March on, Yushi is tattooing at shops in LA, NYC, Seattle, Japan and other cities so check his site for further details and more from his portfolio.

06:55 PM
Todd Noble tattooing.jpgTodd Noble Tattooing

Belgium is a country known for chocolate, waffles, french fries, comics and Jean-Claude Van Damme. [In the 7+ years I lived there, however, I've never met a Belgian proud of that last claim to fame.] For a country of almost 11 million people, there is a high density of tattoo talent--artists renowned in every genre. This first Brussels Tattoo Convention highlighted the work of many of these artists and those around the world.

See my usual bad convention pics here. Good photos can be found on the show's Facebook Page.

The lines that wound around the Tour & Taxis expo hall both Saturday and Sunday were a great start. One of the most difficult tasks in putting on a convention is getting people through the door--people who want to get tattooed. You can have as many burlesque dancers as you can shake a tassel at, but if artists aren't working (after incurring booth costs & travel expenses) then it can't really be a huge success. The Brussels organizers did a great job promoting and advertising the event. 

Of course, there were burlesque performers as well as bands and a custom car show. Pencil skirts and pompadours abound in Rockabilly revelry, although largely among Europeans. Check this fabulous video by Laurens Groven featuring the cars and girls (in some NSFW states of undress; the girls, I mean).

custom cars.jpg
[As for Americans there, my friend Clarissa of Clarabella Tattoo Wear in Holland marveled at the many finely cultivated beards that adorned our artists and collectors. I blamed Zack Galifanakis. She had no idea what I was talking about.]

One of the greatest spectacles was the Migoii and Sanhugi crew working simultaneously on one backpiece [see below]. It's truly a shame that I suck at taking pictures, because this was something to see, but someone did take a quick video of it (it's less blurry as it goes on). It also begged the question: Who the hell are the clients that can withstand that kinda pain? Do they go into a meditative state? A hypnotic trance? Or is it tons of drugs? Anyway, that badass feeling I had for soldiering through my 7 1/2 hour session at Calypso Tattoo two days earlier quickly escaped me as I watched.

sanhugi crew.jpg Another highlight of the show was talking with the legendary Henk Schiffmacher, aka Hanky Panky. Henk is a painter, curator, designer and writer but it's his tattoos on the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam and many other rock stars that have brought him great fame. His books "1000 Tattoos" and "Tattoos" for Taschen's Icon series are best sellers. And his conventions in Amsterdam were legendary. But a few lines cannot do him any justice. You can read more about him on Wikipedia. Henk was at the show with his "The Encyclopedia for the Art & History of Tattooing" (now available in English), which is filled with random tattoo goodness. He drew a quick sketch in my copy with my name. I was giddy. Henk said that he'll be opening up a new tattoo museum this summer, bigger and better than his famous original. I'll be there.

On the fine art front, the massive canvases of graffiti and tattoo artist Polak One were phenomenal. Gotta do a full post on him. More on him to come.  

frites.jpgThe downside for me, as with many conventions, is the food; the greasy offerings that just smell like it'll give you a heart attack. And there were even long lines to get that coronary. I know many expo halls require organizers to use their vendors but hopefully, next year, they can negotiate a better deal. Evidently there were other hiccups because the MC of the show apologized a couple of times, reminding people that it was their first event. Personally, I didn't really see anything that would warrant it. 

Thankfully for my liver, there seemed to be a bit less partying compared to the last few shows I've been to. On Saturday, many returned to the HUSA President Park Hotel for post-convention food and drinks.

Strange enough, the next day, I was approached by the hotel waiters wanting to know when the tattooed people were leaving. Same thing happened at the London show, but this time, the staff looked disappointed--rather than relieved--that the show ended Sunday. When I asked what they thought of us descending upon their  four-star establishment, one waiter said: "Oh, we like the tattoo people. They are very nice...and clean."

Thanks to Vicky from Original Sin Tattoo for her letting me steal and crop her fries pic.
07:52 PM
atom bomb.jpg
If it wasn't for Twitter I wouldn't know things like Fake GaryBusey's tips on hookers, the exploits of douches on the subway, and what injustice is being done to our tattooed brethren. The latest in Delta doucherie happened earlier today to food stylist Adam Pearson.

Adam's first tweet, which sparked the re-tweet madness among foodies and tattoo freaks, said:

"Just pulled off delta flight, passenger said I was suspicious looking due to my tattoos @DeltaAssist not happy at all #goldmedallion fail

Adam then rightfully asks:

"If this pasngr was uncomf with my tattoos why wdnt they offer to rebook them on another flight, why do they need to bother me @DeltaAssist

Adam wasn't kicked off but pulled off and questioned for his "Atom Bomb" knux. The LA Times blog has the deets. Here's a bit from their post:

"Noted Los Angeles food stylist Adam C. Pearson was settling into his seat aboard a Delta flight Saturday morning when the flight attendant tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to come to the front of the plane. His first thought? "I'm getting an upgrade!"

Not exactly.

Pearson was temporarily asked to step off the plane and learned that another passenger had reported him for suspicious behavior, and noted that he had the words "Atom Bomb" tattooed across his fingers. Questioned by the captain and the flight attendant, Pearson explained that the tattoos referred to a childhood nickname. After answering a few more questions, Pearson -- who is a frequent Delta passenger and has flown over 142,000 miles with the airline this year alone -- was allowed to return to his seat."

Read more here.

I fly back from Brussels on Delta Monday. Let's see what they say about my muthafuckin snake tattoo on their muthafuckin plane.
08:18 AM
snake hips.jpg
It's red. It's swollen. And it needs to be lubricated.

My new tattoo, that is. But before I head off to the Brussels Tattoo Convention to show it off, I wanted to give y'all a sneak peak. This baby took 7 1/2 hours of straight tattooing and done by none other than blackwork guru Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Liege, Belgium. While I've been tattooed by a few others, Dan is my main artist, having done my sleeves, back, belly, ribs, and my pretty hobbit foot last May. You can see all my tattoos on Flickr here.

The photo and the work itself now is dark but as you know, once it settles, we'll get a better idea of what the tattoo will look like when I'm eighty years old.

I arrived in Liege on Wednesday, ignored the jet lag and headed to Calypso Tattoo to start drawing out the work with Dan. My idea was to have two snakes winding from my hips down to my thighs. Sexy, huh? Dan thought that we should add flowers on the hips as a base for the work and have the snake moving up towards them. [I also have dotwork floral designs on my belly.] The movement and then placement of the snake took the longest time to figure out. While Dan does mostly freehand, for this work, he sketched it all out and made a stencil for tattooing the next day.

dan skteching.jpgOk, Thursday. Game day. I leave my hotel and the city is a ghost town. Nothing is open. Barely a car on the road. I walk into the studio nervous -- about the zombie apocalypse and all -- and find Dan refining the dot patterns in the stencil.

"Dan, where is everyone?"
"It's November 11th, a national holiday."
"What are we celebrating?"
"The Armistice that marked the end of the war [in 1918 -- more here]."
"Well considering we're divorced but live in peace, this is my armistice tattoo."
[loud laughs]

But hell, that armistice tattoo was a battle. I always like to start the needling at the more painful part first, when endorphins really kick in. My right hip was particularly sensitive because I had zapped an old tattoo a few times and there was some minor scaring and skin sensitivity. But the pain was nothing like my foot or upper ribs.

We did the lining of the hip and upper thigh part of the tattoo -- and damn, Dan does looooong lines in one shot -- and then worked in the dotwork patterns. This took up most of the time. You have to have A LOT of patience for dots. It also does a number on the artists' wrists. The effect is beautiful, however, and settles in nicely over time.

Then came the snake's tail end. That was around the 6th hour and I was shot. I really wanted to grab the bottle of Vasocaine numbing spray I bought, desperate, like a pregnant woman begging for an epidural. But Dan encouraged me to tough it out with only an hour or two left because he wasn't sure how the skin would react. So I toughed it out.

Remember when we talked about tattoo pain in the Robert Atkinson post?

Robert said that he had no problems with people using the numbing sprays, adding: "At the end of the day, no one is giving out trophies for being tough." But I also took your thoughtful comments into consideration where many had negative experiences with healing tattoos that had been sprayed, so I did it old school. No trophy. But I came out of it with a tattoo I adore.

Will post pics once it's healed. My session for the other hip is in May. I have time to forget what it feels like until then.

Ok, off to the Brussels convention!

PS: There was some reason for having a Shakira song in the title of this post but now I forgot why. I should practice my snake hip moves just in case.
04:54 PM
Not that we have to worry about our educated and polite readers, but - seriously - don't be that guy, dude...

(Tip of the Friday Happy Hour Pint Glass to my pal, Charlie, for sending this along)
02:51 PM
I just got a message from our Editrix-In-Chief: she's currently in the midst of her 7th hour of tattooing at Calypso Tattoo and wants to apologize to all of her minions readers for the lack of updates today and tomorrow.  She'll resume blogging once she gets to the Brussels Tattoo Convention, where I'm sure she'll keep us entertained with live-tweeting and blurry iPhone snapshots.

That said, if you're anywhere near Belgium (as an American, it is my God-given right to know absolutely titty about European geography), get yer butt on out there, bring our Fearless Leader some antibiotic ointment for her fresh ink and buy her book!


12:54 PM
While I sit here trying to find ways to battle the rogue army of Comment Spam-Bots that took Needles and Sins offline for a little while yesterday, I've just received this video from our good pal Bill Buschel, compiled from footage he shot at the release party for Marisa's "Black & Grey Tattoo Art" at Tattoo Culture.  If you haven't had a chance yet to see the monstrous tome in person, this video will give you a little peak at the art within (and a glimpse of the work upon our party-goers).

I believe that Marisa still has a few copies of the book at a reduced rate (US customers only), so click on the email link in the top right column for more information; and if you're interested in getting a copy of "Lady On The Low" (which Bill used as the soundtrack for this video) for just $0.50, please click on my BandCamp page.
04:28 PM
Tim Kern backpiece.jpg
It was strange typing in the headline because normally the descriptor for a Tim Kern tattoo would be "cutesy zombie girl eating the head of the pope sleeve" or some variation thereof. But over lunch today, Tim showed me the piece, kinda nonchalantly, and I had to put it up -- not just because it's a bit of a departure from his general portfolio (although diverse), but because it's a beautiful tattoo on a member of the US Armed Forces who was just shipped back out to Afghanistan and I wanted to say a special thank you for his service. Thanks, Matt!

The backpiece took about 60 hours, with an average of five hours a session. Tim also did Matt's 3/4 sleeve, which is a tribute his Irish heritage.

FYI: Tim's work is featured in my Black & Grey Tattoo book. I still have limited author copies for the heavily discounted price of $350 plus shipping in the US (sorry, only US orders). The book retails for $550.

Tim Kern backpiece2.jpg
03:35 PM

In last week's post on Erin Chance's Kat Von D portrait tattoo, I linked the online casting calls for the next season of LA Ink and a new show, NY Ink. I had also sent a tongue-in-cheek email around to tattoo artist friends here in NYC asking if they'll be trying out to be the new tattoo TV sensations. Turns out, well, a bunch of them are.

We've all heard the arguments against the shows. In almost every interview I've done with artists for Inked and Skin & Ink recently, there's a general lament that no reality exists in the way tattooing is portrayed in mainstream media. No great story need be behind your desire to get tattooed. No sleeve is completed within 48 minutes. And skate ramps in tattoo studios are generally frowned upon.

It's rare to hear of any desire to be a part of the shows, particularly from long-time tattooers, so I was surprised when my friend Michelle Myles of DareDevil and Fun City tattoo studios -- who's profiled in the video above -- sent me a text telling me to read her latest post on Devil City Press. Turns out that Michelle along with co-owner Brad "You Kids Get Off My Lawn" Fink, resident artist Big Steve, and pretty shop boy Reid Waters have put themselves in the running for NY Ink's casting. Here's what Michelle has to say:

Anyone who's been involved with tattooing pre-Miami Ink didn't get tattooed to be a part of a trend. I started getting tattooed because it was anything but trendy or even acceptable. Tattooing was a fringe subculture we worked our way into, and it certainly wasn't seen as a valid career choice. It breaks my heart to see tattooing get sold out to the media and popular culture. TV producers aren't on our side. The tattoo industry doesn't have a say in the way it's portrayed in the media. Overall it depresses me to see our industry be represented by such vapid host. We can only hope for the best with what gets spewed out.

Now there's a call for characters for  New York Ink, the latest incarnation of TLC's tattoo reality series. My response to the casting call?...... Sign me up. I don't really think I'm someone they would pick. I don't drink, I'm in a stable relationship, I run a solid shop, I'm not very emotional and I'm not a huge jerk who yells at people. There's two ways to respond to change. You can be bitter and mourn for what once was. Or you can step up and try to be a part of the change. We can't control how they portray us but you can control how you portray yourself.   I like seeing artist I respect on TV (Chris, Kim, Hanna...). At the same time I don't like seeing assholes represent my profession. Now to make matters worse they're rolling  into our neck of the woods. I'm hoping they don't pick a bunch of losers for this one. This one's New York. This one's ours. I'm not embarrassed to say I want to be a part of representing my community.
Yes, I would love my DareDevil friends repping me. [They are also freakin funny and would make for good TV aside from their strong portfolios.] Where my concern lies is whether one can really control how "you portray yourself" in the quick edits, scenes taken out of context and the faux drama that will be created. Will legal contracts bind the artists into doing something they wouldn't? Will we see Brad Fink in a kicky little pin-up outfit?

Despite my concern, I'm rooting for them because I don't want my NYC tattoo world turned over to scratchers and "professional tattoo models" for the masses to mock. If there will be any mocking, hopefully, it will come from me teasing my friends over the long stories we'll endure waiting to see how their tattoos turn out.

Have your say in who will be on the show by voting on  Here are the Daredevil profiles: Michelle Myles, Brad Fink, Big Steve Pedone, and Reid Waters.

I also voted for another dear friend and fabulous artist Lea Vendetta.
06:44 PM
The fabulous Sunny Buick knows how to work a design around a 90s lower back tattoo, giving our favorite tramp stamp some competition.

Also check Sunny's blog with gems on her tattoos, travel, paintings, fashion and fun stuff like Henry Goldfield's word of wisdom.
02:38 PM
paul ecke human canvas.jpg
An exciting solo show of paintings inspired by tattoo art opens November 19th at the Gebert Gallery in Venice, California: The Human Canvas by Paul Ecke.

Paul contacted me after finding my Black Tattoo Art book last year and being inspired by work he saw in it. I helped put him in contact with a number of the tattoo artists in the book like Yann Black, Rory Keating and Roni Zulu among others, which led to the beautiful collaborations that comprise The Human Canvas series. In this video interview below, Paul and Zulu discuss "how both artist's passions cross over into each other's mediums."

For more on the paintings, Virginia Repasky of Art Management says:

In "The Human Canvas," artist, Paul Ecke explores the reality that each of us is tattooed, some on the outside but all on the inside, where we all hide our burdens and pleasures in a very secret way. This suite is a continuation of the artist's earlier work "Men Behind Gates." "Men Behind Gates" represented a return to his classical figurative training and became an awakening of man's emotional struggles--struggles imposed by society as well as self. Like "Men Behind Gates," this is a raw and an emotionally driven series that is both bold and honest in content. Yet "The Human Canvas" forgoes the implementation of the painted gate and instead propels the viewer to a more provocative and passionate exploration through the form of the tattoo.

Each painting was a collaboration of letters, drawings from tattoo artists and models who all participated to bring each work to fruition. All were united through the commonality of the tattoo--the art form of using skin as canvas. [...]

On the surface, the artist was confronted by the cultural stereotypes of tattoos. Instead he found intellectuals, professionals and artistic expression. He examined the historical, trends and decorative nature of the tattoo and discovered that the tattoo consciously or unconsciously is another form of a doorway to one's deeper self.

The Human Canvas will be on view at the Gebert Gallery until December 15th.
08:40 PM
robert atkinson.jpg
The latest issue of Inked magazine is out, and for the "Icon" feature this month, I had a blast interviewing LA native Robert Atkinson, who is widely respected for his Japanese-inspired as well as black & gray body suits. In the Q&A, Robert talks about how he went from tattooing tribal arm bands to crafting his signature large-scale work. He also muses on custom cars, the state of the industry and how to make tattoos hurt less.

You can pick up a copy at major newsstands or download the digital version here.

It's the making tattoos hurt less part that really had me thinking about what it means to "earn" your tattoos. Here's a taste of our talk where Robert discusses using numbing creams and sprays on certain clients:

Your clients seem to trust you with a lot of their skin. You've done a lot of huge backpieces.

I've done about 35-40 backpieces in the past 8 years. Large-scale tattoo work is a luxury for sure. Any time you see someone with large work you know they paid for it. It's like wearing a Rolex or driving a nice car. It's luxury lifestyle shit, but it's not something you can just go buy. You have to deal with a motherfucker like me, show up for your appointments, pay a bunch of money and get it done.

And it hurts.

It hurts more ways than one -- it's painful and it's expensive.

There are a number of tattoo artists these days offering numbing creams and sprays that make the tattoo process hurt less. Do you offer it to your clients?

I keep a thing of spray for a few guys -- not for someone who's going to sit for two hours -- but for someone who will come in from out of town and wants to sit there and get four to five hours done. It makes it easier on him and easier for me. If people come in after wrapping themselves in Emla cream [to numb the area], I'm cool with it, but I'm not gonna say, "I have a have this cream and for $50 bucks extra I'll numb you up." I used it myself for the last sitting I had with Filip [Leu] and it fucking helped man.

Don't you think you lose some badass cred by taking away some of the hurt?

At the end of the day, no one is giving out trophies for being tough. In the beginning I was like, "Oh no, fuck that shit." Then, at one point, I lined 18 backs in one year and all these guys were going to a spa to get numbed up before coming in would lay as stiff as a board and get four hours out of that shit. So I started to think it wasn't so bad because they weren't moving around, or pissing and moaning that they need to get up every ten minutes. It's just another tool for big work, especially if you're looking at a 20-plus hour ordeal.

Robert also shared his thoughts on how he's seen the industry evolve and where he thinks it's going. We talked about the progression of his own work and what he does for fun when not tattooing. But it's that pain part of the our conversation I've been fixating on as I'm staring a five to six hour rib session next week. In light of the news that no one will be handing me a badass trophy when I'm done, I may so opt for the Vasocaine.

For an appointment with Robert, hit him up through his site.

robert atkinson tattoos.jpg
11:31 PM
The Needles & Sins crew is grateful to our most fabulous advertisers who support us, so we can give you the tattoo goodness for free -- even better is when they offer you special deals on their own brands of goodness. Here's the latest offer: has new plugs, including wood with pearl inlay, and black & red hearts (perhaps a gift for your sweetie) at reduced prices. Plus, all orders will receive 15% off if you use the N+S coupon code:  NAS15.

I've gotten feedback from readers who've told me that shipped fast, and they were happy with their order. The prices are affordable, and there's free shipping for all orders over $25. Stretch safely and beautifully.

connect with us

Marisa Kakoulas
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
Needles and Sins powered by Moveable Type.

Site designed and programmed by Striplab.

NS logo designed by Viktor Koen.