Tattoo lore spoken in gritty detail and tone. The Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants By Walter Moskowitz is a gift that this Bowery Boy left us before his passing. Walter's son Doug recorded these stories in the last year of his father's life so that they may live on. And now they are being shared in a two audio CD set (more than 2 1/2 hours of tattoo tales) accompanied by a 24-page color booklet with photos and articles. It is all richly designed, with cover art by CIV, into a perfect collector's piece.
You can buy the collection from the Moskowitz family on Scabmerchant.com or but it on Amazon.com.
The stories are funny, educational, sad and triumphant. As Doug says, "You will not only get to hear great tattoo stories but you will also get a nice perspective of who my dad was as a person; the era he, his father, and brother tattooed in; and how that related to what he did."
The audio documentary also includes guest commentators, and I'm honored to be one of them. As I wrote in my memorial to Walter in 2007 (originally published on my old site Needled.com), I was pretty nervous when I met him. What would I say to "one of the last links to New York's tattoo heritage" as per Michael McCabe's New York City Tattoo: The Oral History of an Urban Art. But Walter Moskowitz was warm and welcoming and instantly made you feel at ease -- the perfect tattooer trait.
Here's more from that memorial:
He was also a gifted story teller. Listening to him, transports you to the 50s, NYC's Lower East Side.
His father, Willy Moskowitz, emigrated from Russia and opened up a barbershop. He soon learned that he could support his family better through tattoos than cutting hair, so he had his friend Charlie Wagner, another legend, teach him the craft. Along with tattooing came the drunken shop brawls between (and with) rowdy clients, police harassment, and the general hustle to make a living during and after the Depression. Not an easy life, but a good trade.
Willy Moskowitz passed down the trade to Walter and his brother
According to the article "The Kosher Tattoo Kings," Walter learned to tattoo at night after spending the day studying the Torah and Talmud at a Brooklyn yeshiva. The article quotes Walter as saying "It has been a very interesting life. I came in contact with every type of personality, from the highest to the lowest -- and sometimes the highest was the lowest."
An interesting life is a humble understatement. Many of us tattoo history buffs pass around stories of the Bowery Boys with a bit of awe. McCabe says it best: "Young tattoo artists are always asking me about the Moskowitzes. The mythology of these guys is like that of the Bowery in the 1940s and 50s -- big, bad and bold."
I love that mythology, the stories. But I'm also thankful that I got to meet Walter in person, feel his strong but friendly handshake, and thank him for the history lesson.
Photo by Dale May, All Rights Reserved
I'm a long time fan of photographer Dale May, whose portfolio includes many lush and sexy tattoo portraits. On his new Tumblr blog, Dale posted this image under the headline: Mama's Boy - Tattoos For Children! Here's what he says of it:
The other day I took some pictures of my Godson, Owen. He's quite the little actor, especially when he's promised Ice Cream and all he gets is the cone. Whoops. Well, as soon as I captured this shot of Owen on the verge of tears, I knew I had to call my good friend Michelle Myles at Daredevil Tattoo, and ask her to draw me a "Mama's Boy" tattoo.Dale adds he's planning on tattooing more kids. Follow him on Tumblr and Twitter for updates.
Yesterday, Mathematics Today published a paper discussing a model designed to predict what kind of tattoos stand the test of time. According to the New Scientist, Ian Eames (a researcher at University College London) created the mathematical model "to predict how tattoos should change over long periods--up to 20 years--by modeling the way skin cells shunt the ink particles around." Eames says of his findings:
Broadly speaking, what my paper shows is that the small details in a tattoo are lost first, with thicker lines being less affected. Although finely detailed tattoos might look good when they are first done, they tend to lose their definition after 15 years -- depending on how fine the lines are.I know what you're saying: "Tell me something I don't know, Marisa." But I think it's particularly interesting in light of debates in the industry over whether certain tattoos will hold up. In countless interviews I've done with artists, the issue arises. There's little to no disagreement over the strong outlines & bold color tenets. The question centers around tattoos that don't follow those rules. If there is no line work, will contrast, shading and color saturation, for example, be enough. Many say, hell yeah and just as many whom I've spoken with say hell no. Maybe this model will add something to the debate.
I've been a long-time fan of Nathan Black's Knuckletattoos.com, which focuses on the finest of career killers and the stories behind them.
Nathan will be coming in from Austin to hang with us at the NYC Tattoo Convention, May 13-15, and take photos of special hand tattoos for an upcoming book. Follow him on Twitter for updates.
He's also got a fun app that let's you make your own faux knux. Here's mine.
Get your own knuckles at the knuckle tattoo gun.
In this installment of the Proust Questionnaire for Tattoo Artists, we hit up Ron Russo of 570 Tattooing Co. in Wiles-Barre, PA.
On August 7th, 570 Tattooing Co. will be holding The Art of the Dead/Horror art show at The Mines in Wilkes Barre. The one-day show will include work from numerous artists, live painting and pastel collaborations, as well as food, drinks and music. For information on attending or submitting art, email email@example.com.
The Proust Questionnaire for Tattoo Artists
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Not being in control of your life or your own destiny.
What is your idea of earthly happiness? Spending time with my daughters, tattooing, painting and racing quads.
Your most marked characteristic? My tattoos.
What is your principle defect? Nothing. I am perfect! [laughs] No, I would have to say I'm a little high strung.
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction? Skeletor, Space Ghost and Leather Face.
Who are your favorite heroes in real life? Phil Anselmo. Nobody says they don't give a fuck like Phil.
Your favorite painter? Dan Henk. Not because he is one of my best friends but because I've admired his paintings from day one.
Your favorite musician? I'm into some really brutal stuff. I listen to the Acacia Strain more than any other band at the moment. The positive message really moves me.
Your favorite writer? I'm a fan of John Grisham and Dean Koontz, but I really don't read much.
The quality you most admire in a man? Hmm...I don't know how to answer this. [laughs]
The quality you most admire in a woman? Every quality that my wife possesses.
Your favorite virtue? I try to be cool to everyone and live happily.
Who would you have liked to be? I'm pretty happy with myself. I never really wanted to be anyone else.
What are your favorite names? Brilee, Madison and Lucifer.
What natural gift would you most like to possess? To be an art genius.
How would you like to die? Hopefully of old age or going very fast.
What is your present state of mind? My present state of mind is thinking of how much I always need to accomplish and get done. Crazed!
What is your motto? Who gives a fuck? Keep rollin...
See more of Ron's work here.
I'm still nursing a Greek Easter hangover, and in this spirit of piety meeting debauchery, I'm posting these tattoos that take an irreverent look spiritual themes.
The work is done by Iban who is a resident artist at Fuer Immer Tattoo in Berlin. Iban was born in Mexico City but has been working at Fuer Immer for over eight years. His portfolio is diverse, from solid classic Americana to trippier New School-styled work.
See more of it here.
Here's an idea whose time has come: custom tattoo bandages that replace the old practice of slapping on tape and Saran Wrap over a fresh tattoo.
Ink Health is an indie company -- owned and operated by tattoo artists and collectors -- that manufactures and distributes non-allergic and water resistant surgical grade bandages. The cool part is that it takes these dressings and pretties them up with the tattoo studio logo, design, contact info and the date and time to remove the bandage for fairly idiot-proof aftercare. [If only it slapped your hand away when you go to scratch.]
The logos and designs (which can be done in multiple colors) are printed before sterilization so the bandages are 100% sterile. The bandages come in the following sizes: 5x5, 7x7 and 8x10 inches. Ink Health also does custom orders. More info here.
Yes, I've walked around in bloody Saran Wrap plenty of times and my tattoos did not fall off, but I much prefer a less gooey, safer, and better looking bandage to protect my next work.
Photos by John Agcaoili.
The latest issue of Skin & Ink magazine (July 2011), on newsstands now, features my profile on the multi-talented Takahiro Kitamura, aka Horitaka, tattooist and owner of State of Grace Tattoo and State of Grace Publishing in San Jose, CA. Born in Japan but raised in California since the age of two, Horitaka has worked tirelessly to educate and promote Japanese tattoo culture worldwide. In our interview, Horitaka explains what led him on this path. Here's a taste from the article:
"I always had my heart set on getting a backpiece from Horiyoshi III of Yokohama, whose work I found through the Tattoo Time books. Even then, when I had an extremely untrained eye, I knew that this guy was the best. Something spoke to me. But I thought, I can't go there. I can't afford it. A bunch of can'ts. One day-this was around early 1998-I'm making tattoo needles with Jason Kundell and he says, 'Why don't you just call him? The worst thing he can do is hang up on you.' So I got up the nerve and called the number."
During the time he was getting tattooed, Horitaka developed a relationship with Horiyoshi. He would help translate letters sent by fans around the world. He was also encouraged to come to the shop outside of his appointment times and copy the drawings Horiyoshi set out for him. Most important, he intently observed everything that went on around him. "I was amped and inspired. The code, the way people act. Every romantic notion of that Samurai spirit of honor and tattooing all came alive right there." He adds, "Of course I was naive about certain elements, like what types of customers were coming in. In the beginning Horiyoshi said, 'Yeah, I've tattooed some Yakuza [Japanese crime families] but mostly carpenters and laborers.' And I'm thinking, carpenters and laborers don't wear Louis Vuitton. And then little by little he admitted, 'Well, maybe 50% of the clients are Yakuza...well, maybe 80%.' I'm not knocking it because some of those guys were the most polite, respectful clients and seeing that respect was amazing."
After ten years, however, the apprenticeship came to an end. "Unfortunately, as what happens in many relationships, we started to grow apart. I found it harder and harder to be a Japanese apprentice. There is still an element of following the master's will, and I was never 100% good at that. Growing up American, I was always testing that boundary. I was always one to question authority and that doesn't really work well in the Japanese framework. Sadly, I ended up quitting as an apprentice, but I will always love and respect Horiyoshi III and will never forget all he taught me."
Read more on Horitaka in Skin & Ink's July issue, out now. Also check the State of Grace Facebook page.
On a related note:
State of Grace has donated
Tattoo by Rick Daignault.
With greater acceptance of tattooing and also greater competition, studios have been stepping up their game to present their work and attract new clients in wonderfully creative ways. [We recently posted Nazareno Tubaro's video, which parodied the TV show Dexter.]
In another beautifully produced ad -- one that brings the old school sexy back -- Mata Mata studios in Hamilton and Cambridge, Ontario have created this smokin video (below) with photographer Brooks Reynolds.
The video has a definite allure; now let's see just who it lures into Mata Mata.
For a bit of background, Rick Daignault opened up Mata Mata in Hamilton, Ontario in February 2007. Since then, the shop has grown with the additions of Kevin Urie, Darryl Hart, Craig Grainger, Jon Gray, Dana Wood, Thomas Penny, and their receptionist Keosha Blaine, whom they say makes the artists' lives much easier. [I love it when artists give props to their receptionists and managers. It's still rare these days.] In November 2010, Mata Mata opened their second location in Cambridge, Ontario.
All the artists use the hand-made machines built by Rick himself. You can check Mata Mata's Facebook page for a look at his handiwork. You'll also see more tattoo work from each artist in their individual photo sets.
Hand tattoo by Kevin Urie.
It's been a while since we put up a shopping post, and I thought today was fitting to do so as I just installed this featured product in sprucing up my place for Spring.
Check out BEEPART wall art & laptop decal on Etsy.
Beepart are designs influenced by tattoo, retro and other iconic imagery that are produced on vinyl to decorate walls, laptops, cars and other indoor & outdoor surfaces. Artwork includes sugar skulls, sacred hearts, swallows, koi fish, and pin-ups, among many others. I contemplated the Rock On wall art but felt the Hamsa was a better fit (yes, I know it does kinda match my tattoos). I was looking for something to decorate the wall near my shower that wouldn't be ruined by steam and vinyl decals do the trick.
I'm happy to say that installation is idiot proof. Which means that I was able to put it up all by myself (like a big girl) without it getting tangled in my hair or making me want to rip out my hair as I've done before in other attempts with removable wall art. I was surprised just how easily such a large and intricate pattern went on but I did follow the detailed instructions exactly.
Another plus: the price. The Hamsa only costs $28. Others range from $8 (for vinyl stickers) to $105 (for a wall full of beepart creatures). Right now there's a 20% spring promotion with this code: BEEP20.
Beepart decals are designed by artist and freelance illustrator Neil Jeffery of London, Canada. In his Etsy shop, you'll also find original mixed media and collage art. [More on Neil here.]
So, overall, thumbs up (or horns high) for beepart for prettying up my place cheap & easy as well as artful.
On April 1st, Holly Ellis celebrated the 7th Anniversary of her Idle Hand studio with a monster bash, where bands played on the roof of her shop while the hopeful crowded outside to be a part of Get What You Get Night. As Holly explains on her blog, people lined up to put a quarter in a gumball machine and whatever design came out, that's the tattoo they would get. Here's more:
I think we've done somewhere around 6 or so of them and there are some people who have been to Every.Single.One. I believe the final count was around 45 tattoos during our most recent one. We had to start turning people away at 10pm because we were already so deep in people waiting that if we took any more we'd be there all night. So we felt bad having to say no, but we aren't robots, dammit! The last tattoo was finished around 1:30 AM! What an awesome night! We had people buying tattoos off each other, trading tattoos, getting several tattoos, it was insane!Tattoos included skulls, snakes, dragons and even these mini-portraits shown below.
You can see more of that party in this video by Corduroy films.
Beyond gumball tattoos, Holly has a seriously solid and diverse tattoo portfolio, from classic Americana to vibrant florals to buttery black & grey work. And her fine art must not be missed. Holly, who holds a BFA from Texas State University, has been painting since 1990; she has a passion for printmaking & book arts as well.
To get tattooed by Holly, or any one of the talented artists at Idle Hands, you must go to the shop (no email or phone appointments), or you can catch her at one of these upcoming conventions:
This post is a love letter to my Copenhagen homies, with links to videos, photos and books on Denmark's rich tattoo history and its most recent international convention, the Copenhagen Ink Festival.
First up is this wonderful Cool Hunting video (below) in which Jon Nordstron, photographer and author of Nordic Tattooing and Danish Tattooing, takes us back to a time when tattooists would ride their bikes to the Port of Copenhagen to drum up business among the sailors. In the video, you'll see the oldest tattoo shop in the city, which is still buzzing today. And he offers background on prominent artists who shaped tattooing in the country and beyond. Lots of goodness in 3 1/2 minutes.
In more recent history, photographer Hampus Samuelsson captured this video (below) and some gorgeous stills from the Copenhagen convention [April 1-3]. The video offers wide shots from the floor to give you a feel for the show but also intimate close-ups of tattoos, including traditional hand-tapped work. In addition to tattooists working and clients wincing, you'll see clips of the Lizardman's performance, Viking sword fighting, and at the very end, there's a bonus clip of California's Rory Keating and Borneo's Jeremy Lo doing a drinking dance, which I plan on reenacting myself at the next convention. Fun stuff. [See more of Hampus's photos on his Facebook page.]
Special thanks to Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo for the video link.
Tattooing ultimately began to fade when missionaries and modernity arrived at the beginning of the 20th century. Furthermore, as new medical advances became known, tattoos of the medicinal kind were no longer believed to "hold power" or to cure. Chris Koonooka (Petuwaq), a local teacher at the Gambell School stated, "It seems like those folks who were born after 1915 stopped getting tattoos. Some were actually feeling fortunate for not being tattooed and some were feeling ashamed for being tattooed. Perhaps some were embarrassed about their tattoos, as some may have been influenced by the Christianity of those times."
But Lars was also hopeful that the younger generations of Yupik women would revitalize their tattoo traditions. It seems that this hope is being realized.
Last week, the Anchorage Daily News featured Yaari Kingeekuk (shown above), an artist and educator who wears the tattoos of her ancestors and also teaches native Alaskan songs and dances. While her tattoos were done by machine, not sewn, they still hold their original meanings:
Yaari credits her grandparents Jimmy and Mable Toolie for her interest in reviving St. Lawrence Island arts. Mable was one of the women Lars interviewed for his research into Yupik tattooing, and the first photo in his article.
Also reviving the skin sewing practices is Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen. We got to see Colin stitching first hand at the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest this past summer, and Brian posted a video of it here. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you check it out to watch the intricate (and painful) process.
Even more on skin sewing can be found in "Tattoos of the Hunter-Gatherers of the Arctic."
We've been getting a lot of requests for information on vegan tattoo practices, and so I thought it best to defer an expert on the topic: tattooed vegan mom and author Jinxi Boo. Jinxi recently posted an information sheet on vegan inks and aftercare that was created by The Vegan Society, and includes a wealth of links to products and online articles discussing veganism in tattooing.
Also check out the blog VeganTattoos.com, which posts tattoo images and the stories behind them, as well as a list of vegan-friendly tattoo studios in the US. You can follow Vegan Tattoos on Twitter.
On Facebook, the Vegan Tattoo group has their own list of vegan tattooists and also post photos of their tattoos.
If you have a favorite vegan tattoo site or forum that's not linked here, let us know.
[Photo found in the Peta2 Flickr pool.]
My favorite tattoo convention is fast approaching, and I wanted to give y'all a heads up to mark your calendars: May 13-15, at the historic Roseland Ballroom in the heart of Times Square, the NYC Tattoo Convention takes over for its 14th year, featuring a finely curated roster of international artists, including legends like Jack Rudy, Paul Booth, Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand, Bill & Junii Salmon and many other greats.
I've been attending the show for 12 out those 14 years and it's always a party with sideshows, first class vendors, and some of the hardest working bartenders in the city. Then there are the characters who attend, like the wonderful Basto (of Rescue Ink) and Ripley's Richie Magic, both of whom I wrote about in last year's convention review. Just a couple of the beautiful freaks who pack the three-level venue.
For a glimpse into the show through an out-of-focus lens, see my collection of convention photos from the past few years. But really, Efrain John Gonzales's convention photos are the ones you want to look at. [The rest of his site has sexy NSFW images.]
The Needles & Sins crew will be at the show all weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, I'll be doing a book signing for Black & Grey Tattoo and offering copies of the 3-volume, 22lb monster box set for the reduced rate of $350. [If you'd like to order a reduced rate copy online, contact me at marisa @ needlesandsins.com.]
Looking forward to the show and hope to see you there!
Sure, we've all made jokes about Americans unwittingly adorning their bodies with kanji that actually spells out a lunch-special menu rather than "death before dishonor," but apparently it can work the other way around for our non-English speaking tattoo enthusiasts. At least, that's what this Norwegian commercial would like you to believe...
Hold your horns high, gang - DEAF METAL 4EVER!
[Video swiped from the Heavy Metal Hebrews over at Metal Sucks]
I'm loving this this playful video of blackwork badass Nazareno Tubaro, which offers an up-close look at his set-up (with a wink). The video is shot by Emiliano Vargas and Macarena Magnani, and edited by Magnani and Bruno Gradaschi (who also did the post-production work). A fabulous collaboration.
I'm a long-time fan of Naza. [He's featured in Black Tattoo Art.] His powerful black tattoos -- from geometric dotwork to twists on Borneo tribal -- have earned him a reputation that reaches far beyond Argentina. He began his career in 1996 in his hometown of Bahia Blanca. It was at a time when information on the art of tattooing was extremely scarce. Without industry magazines or tattoo blogs to guide him, Nazareno set out for a more traditional arts education to further his craft and enrolled in the state university of fine art in Buenos Aires. He says that the lessons learned in art school opened him up to new ways of expression in his tattoo work. He continued to practice and study tattooing while at the university, and shortly after graduation, he began working as a tattoo artist professionally.
Art school, however, did not provide all Nazareno needed to know to master his craft so he traveled, visiting artists around the world, including those in Borneo, Spain and Mexico, to learn different tattoo approaches and also make a network of friends who share information and support each others' work.
In 2009, Nazareno opened his private tattoo studio in Buenos Aires. He also does frequent guest spots at Windhorse Tattoo in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now I just need to convince him to make a trip to Brooklyn.
This past weekend, the AFP reported on ancient tattoo practices having a contemporary appeal in Rob Bryan's article "Myanmar's tattooed women lure tourists."
In it, you'll read stories of the few remaining Chin women who bear the facial tattoos of their ancestors, a rite of passage and act of beautification for young women that is vanishing as the new generation of Chin have not see its aesthetic appeal. They are, however, seeing how it could prove lucrative. As Rob Bryan reports:
The article also discusses the ethical debate on "human zoos" -- exploitation or education/documentation?
When one of the Chin woman is asked how she feels about the tourists, she says that she welcomes those wishing to learn more about her and her heritage, adding "Sometimes I feel like my parents' spirits are coming back to me through the visitors."
I recommend a full read of the article.
For a related look at the traditional tattoos of that region, read Lars Krutak's article for the Vanishing Tattoo: "Tattoos of Indochina: Supernatural Mysteries of the Flesh."
About a week ago, tattooist Eva Huber began posting info online about an ambitious tattoo project she's undertaken called 12 in 12, a mission to tattoo 12 full sleeves in 12 months. Yes, Eva is not only a dedicated artist but it seems a masochist as well.
The custom sleeves will be referenced from original paintings that Eva will create before inking. The entire process will be documented on Tumblr & Twitter, and will culminate in a book.
Tattooing for eight years now, Eva says that her current residency at Horseshoes & Hand Grenades in Chicopee, Massachusetts finds her increasingly busy but the 12 in 12 project further motivates her work. She explains more about the project in our email interview:
The main reason I decided to do something like this is because I just fucking love what I am fortunate enough to be allowed to do. I was leaving the shop late one night, and on the way to my car, it just hit me. I was kind of assessing where I'm at in my life right now and I just had this divine zap of inspiration to do something ambitious and fun based around what I am in love with. To complete 12 large scale projects in 12 months just seemed to make sense and something I could achieve--if everything goes according to plan that is!Eva adds that the blogs and book will not just present the creative process but every aspect including tools & supplies. For example, one of her latest entries features the hand-made Dankbuilt machine she's using (shown above). [She welcomes further sponsorship.]
When I asked her what she indulges in when things get stressful -- sex, drugs or rock-n-roll -- she said her only addiction is to sugar, adding that meditation helps her to best relax. But Eva doesn't foresee too much stress despite the pace of the project, and is just excited about its prospects: "I am really looking forward to getting my hands dirty and continue to break my back. There are not many other things I would be willing to do that for."
More on Eva and 12 in 12 via the links below.
Dia de los Muertos + Star Wars = A very happy Brian.
You can buy John Karpinsky's prints on his Etsy page.