June 2011 Archives

04:52 PM
photo by bryce ward.jpg
Portrait of Sarah Wolfe (without border) by Bryce Ward

As I mentioned in my post on tattoos in the LGBT community, I'm featuring renowned tattoo artists in the community whose work I find inspiring. One such artist is Stephanie Tamez, co-owner of Saved Tattoo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Stephanie works in a variety of styles, from Japanese to black & gray to etching-inspired work and much more. One of my favorite tattoo projects is the backpiece above on my dear friend Sarah Wolfe, who documented the tattoo on her fabulous Evolution of a Backpiece blog. See more images of her work by Bryce Ward here.

stepahnie tamez tattoo.jpg
Stephanie Tamez hails from San Antonio, Texas where she worked as a graphic designer. She moved to San Francisco and learned how to tattoo while also working as an artist for Tower Records. In 2001, she made her way to New York and joined the NY Adorned family. In March, Stephanie joined Saved Tattoo.

Read more about Stephanie and her work on her blog.
01:59 PM

Vice's VBS.TV will soon be airing a new series called Tattoo Age focusing on tattooers and their personal histories, and based on the trailer above, it looks like reality programming that is actually based on reality.

Tattoo Age profiles renowned tattooists and has them tell their own stories -- not the sob tales of clients that make up so much of tattoo TV today. It also includes the artists commenting on one another, which I think adds another interesting dimension.

The show premiers July 13th. Here's the line up:
  • Dan Santoro: Pt. 1, July 13; Pt. 2, July 20; Pt. 3, July 27
  • Grime: Trailer, August 3; Pt. 1, August 10; Pt. 2, August 17; Pt. 3, August 24
  • Troy Denning: Trailer, August 31; Pt. 1, Sept. 7; Pt. 2 , Sept. 14; Pt. 3, Sept. 21
  • Mike Rubendall: Trailer, Sept. 28; Pt. 1, Oct. 5; Pt. 2 , Oct. 12; Pt. 3, Oct. 19
  • Freddy Corbin: Trailer, Oct. 26; Pt. 1, Nov. 2; Pt. 2, Nov. 9; Pt. 3, Nov. 16
02:02 PM
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Photo of Cliff Raven Tattooing via Cliff Raven Wine

Late Friday night, New York became the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, making this weekend's NYC Pride celebrations fiercer than ever. Inspired by it all, I've been looking into the history of tattooing within the LGBT community but not finding a significant amount of information, especially considering the prominence of body art in the community. For this post, I've pulled together just a few resources for you to explore. I welcome other suggestions and leads to more info.

One of my favorite reads on tattoo culture is Samuel Steward's Bad Boys & Tough Tattoos: A Social History of the Tattoo with Gangs, Sailors, and Street-Corner Punks. The book is a personal diary that chronicles Steward's life as a tattooist for 18 years, in which he went by the name "Phil Sparrow." He also kept a daily journal for the Kinsey Institute, offering volumes to sex research on gay and fetish experiences as well as the sexual motivations behind getting tattooed. And so it's no surprise that homosexuality and tattooing is discussed in Bad Boys. Here's an excerpt:

One change, however, came about in the homosexual attitude towards tattoos around 1954 following the national release of the movie The Wild One with Marlon Brando; the original motorcycle film, it seemed to crystallize or release, the obscure and long-hidden feelings of many homosexuals. In a sense the so-called leather movement began with this movie...
These leather guys began to get symbolically violent tattoos--black panthers crawling up arms, or daggers or snakes or skulls or combinations of all the symbols of death and violence and sexuality and masculinity. I was overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of so many of these figures, and abandoned all records as the impulse of many homosexuals to be considered more masculine--by the addition of a tattoo--grew stronger.

Even before this leather movement began, however, there were undoubtedly many homosexuals getting tattooed or at least coming into the shop--perhaps as many as twenty percent of the visitors were homosexuals whom I was unable to recognize as such.

It's a fascinating read. I recommend picking up Bad Boys & Tough Tattoos, along with the biography on his life: 
Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist & Sexual Renegade. While the Secret Historian focuses more on Steward as "a furtive but exuberant erotic adventurer" it does include a bit of discussion on his life as a tattooer.

I do wish more was written on his importance in modern tattoo culture, especially as
a strong influence on Ed Hardy and for launching the career of Cliff Raven.

Cliff Raven (born Cliff H. Ingram). As best said in BMEzine's encyclopedia, Cliff, with Ed and Sailor Jerry,
"pioneered the adoption of the Japanese tattoo aesthetic in the U.S." [He was also an innovator in neo-tribal tattooing later in his career.] Cliff was openly gay, which was rare in such a homophobic industry at the time. BME adds:

The importance of Cliff's contribution to tattooing--and particularly with respect to the gay tattoo subculture--cannot be underestimated. Cliff was a resource for many gay men who began to explore the fetishistic aspects of tattooing. Some of Cliff's work featured the first overtly homoerotic tattoo images.
In the mid 1960s, Cliff opened, what is today, The Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company -- the oldest tattoo studio operating in Illinois. Read more on the shop's history here. He later moved to California where he founded the Tattoo Works studios with his brother Bob--one studio on Sunset Strip in LA and the other in San Francisco. He retired from tattooing in the early 80s and, from that time, ran a rare and used bookstore, Raven's Books, until his passing in 2001.

For more on Cliff's life in tattooing, check excerpts of an interview with him on the Tattoo Archive. You can also view some important (albeit shaky) videos with Cliff on the fabulous  Occult Vibrations YouTube Channel.

Phil Sparrow and Cliff Raven [notice the bird names] are just a couple of artists who have paved the way for top LGBT tattooists today, and in the next few days, we'll be highlighting the work of a number of artists in the community.
06:33 PM
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Illustrating just how artful and interesting a family tribute tattoo can be is this sleeve (in progress) by the wonderful Stefano Alcantara of Paul Booth's Last Rites Tattoo Theater.

The work is on native New Yorker Cesar who began the sleeve -- his very first tattoo -- with a reflection of himself being put together by demons (shown below) on the top portion of his arm. The work then moves down to his forearm with a portrait of his 6-year-old son (above), to be followed by another portrait of his other son. Cesar will also add a work commemorating his French bulldog that passed.

Looking forward to seeing how Stefano brings it all together. 

cesar tattoo2.jpg
10:57 AM
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Tattoo by Holly Azzara

It's party time tonight at the fabulous Sacred Gallery NYC in SoHo, from 8-10PM, celebrating the release of Color Tattoo Art: Comics. Cartoon. Pin-Up. Manga. New School. The 496-page hardcover -- which is graced with artwork such as those shown here -- will be available for the reduced rate of $150. [I'll also be selling any leftover books online for that same rate plus shipping. Hit me up at marisa at needlesandsins.com if interested.]

Special thanks goes out to sponsor Sailor Jerry Rum and to Sacred for hosting the event. There will also be other drinkies and pretty people. Hope to see y'all there!

Tony_Ciavarro_tattoo.jpgTattoo by Tony Ciavarro

Color Tattoo Art Book Release Party
Sacred Gallery
424 Broadway 2nd Floor Rear
(Between Canal and Howard)
New York, NY 10013

01:11 PM
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Today, our friend Erik Sprague, aka, The Lizardman, unveils his new waxy doppelganger at New York's Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. Tomorrow and Sunday, he'll be performing live outside of of the museum in Times Square every hour on the hour, from 12pm to 7pm, and posing for pics (most likely sticking out his forked tongue or running your long curly locks through his septum (I speak from experience). [Then, he'll be partying with us at the Color Tattoo Art book party from 8-10 at Sacred Gallery. More info on Facebook.] Here's how Ripley's describe the wax statute:

Taking Ripley artists nearly 200 hours to create, the wax statuette portrays each detailed characteristic of Sprague's extreme body modifications from his forked tongue down to each tiny green scale, a process which started in August 2010 when Sprague spent days in the Ripley wax studios for a fully body casting.  This life size figure will be the newest item on display in the main entrance of Ripley's Believe It or Not! Times Square. 

To see the process of making the faux Lizardman, check this video. And for a list of upcoming performances, info on his band Lizard Skynard, and to buy his book "Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass," check TheLizardman.com.

01:45 PM

Thanks to an overwhelming childhood obsession with "Weird Al" Yankovic, I didn't listen to pop music until I was about 11-years-old.  Sure, I knew the melodies to pop songs, but you would have been hard pressed to convince me that Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was better than Yankovic's "Eat It."  For a dorky kid with a penchance for Dungeons & Dragons, there was no way anything offered up by the King of Pop was gonna surpass fat-suits and goofy lyrics.

While I've come a long way (though, I still despise pop music), my repressed inner nerd has arisen like a phoenix from the ashes.  Thanks to a great deal from Amazon MP3 (follow them on Twitter to get the scoop on daily deals), I bought my first "Weird Al" album in over 20 years, Alpocalypse.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't admit this to anyone but, as you can hear in the video above, Al does a version of B.o.B.'s "Nothin On You" called "Another Tattoo" - and it's amazing.

I'm pretty sure there's a couple of dorky N&S readers out there who appreciate this - and how can you not, with lyrics like:

No part of me's blank, I'm really ink-obsessed
It's like an art-show the moment that I get undressed
At every job interview they're just so impressed
'Cause I got all my ex-wives on my chest.

(The album is available for just $3.99 in the Amazon MP3 store and for the usual rates on CD even Vinyl(!) format)

UPDATE: After a little more digging online, I found this video - I have no idea if it's officially linked to Al, but it's a lot cooler than just the cover art video I had originally posted.  Any info on the animator(s) would be greatly appreciated - just click the email link in the upper right column.
06:30 PM
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Call it my obsession, but I've been following the Mike Tyson tattoo copyright (almost as intensely as Beyonce's career) because of its potential impact on the rights of tattooists to defend their art from others who wish to profit from it.

For background, see my first post on it (with some general copyright info) here and the update here.

This post looks like my final update on the case because, yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter published the news that a settlement had been reached between Missouri tattooist, S. Victor Whitmill, and Warner Bros. Whitmill sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement over its use of his facial tattoo design for Mike Tyson, which was prominent in The Hangover II film. The article stated:

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. When asked for comment, Whitmill attorney Geoff Gerber provided THR the following statement: "Warner Bros. and Mr. Whitmill have amicably resolved their dispute. No other information will be provided."

Sources say the deal was hammered out during an all-day mediation in St. Louis on Friday that was attended by Whitmill and his lawyers, as well as the Warners legal team.

The settlement was no surprise. As I predicted in my posts, these type of cases do tend to settle, and it was pretty clear that Warner Bros. would throw Whitman some money after the judge hearing the case had said that Whitmill had a "strong likelihood of prevailing on the merits for copyright infringement" and that most of the arguments put forward by Warner Bros. were "just silly."

While I'm happy that tattoo artists' rights to their designs were recognized, the tattoo law nerd in me wished that this case had been decided to finally see how the courts would rule on the issue.

Again, I fully believe in a balancing of these rights between client and artist -- or have those rights hammered out in advance between them, especially with celebrities -- but in this case, Tyson himself was not at issue. It was Warner Bros. use of the design in the films, ads, and to-be-released DVD.

Will post a link to this post soon on our Facebook page to get your thoughts.

03:39 PM
Breaking News: I love surrealist, highly-offensive, stoner-cartoons. 

That said, it should come as a surprise to no one that I am a huge fan of Cartoon Network's Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 (nee: Aqua Teen Hunger Force).  You can also imagine how giddy I was while watching the "Freedom Cobra" episode in which Master Shake gets tattooed in an effort to help him get laid.  I won't spoil any further plot-points, but it had me dying with laughter (Marisa... not so much).

shake.gif(the tattoo reads "Dangercity - Population: Me")

Adult Swim appears to have disabled their embed codes, so I can't post a clip in here, but you can view the entire episode on their site for free (or for a quick two minute clip which shows Master Shake's transformation to bad-assery, click here).

06:24 PM
Dragons mutated and infused with psychedelic colors in trippy tableaus. Preening pin-ups with the luscious, highly exaggerated proportions of adolescent fantasy. Creepy cute children inhabiting dark freakscapes. Political satire played out in anthropomorphic caricature. Kittens and rainbows.

They're all in Color Tattoo Art: Cartoon. Comics. Pin-Up. Manga. New School.

Yup, we've given birth to another monster in the series of large format, too-heavy-to-carry hardcovers for Edition Reuss Publishing. This time it's an ode to color bombs -- 496 pages filled with them. I'm honored to have worked with 42 exceptional artists from around the world (they are listed below), selecting 580 images of their stellar tattoo and fine art, as well as interviewing a number of them for thoughts on tattooing (and some personal gossip). It was a helluvalotta fun.

For a sneak peak into the book, check out the Color Tattoo Art Flickr set.
Genko_tattoo_LOW.jpgTattoo by Genko

Color Tattoo Art: Cartoon. Comics. Pin-Up. Manga. New School. It's a highly literal title to describe a book dedicated to graphic, animated tattoos as well as the paintings and drawings of tattooists. Were this book to be published in the 80s and early 90s, it may have simply been called New School -- a label often used to describe art that didn't fit into traditional tattoo categories like Americana, Tribal, & Japanese. But today, with styles blurring and evolving at a great pace, these highly saturated works are moving in different directions, defying easy classification with a catchy title. I briefly discuss this movement in my introduction and in the artist interviews, but we've largely let the work speak for itself on these full-color pages.

Joe_Capobianco_tattoo_low.jpg Tattoo by Joe Capobianco

In the book, you'll find the awesomeness of these international artists featured:

Joe Capobianco, Tony Ciavarro, Genko, Gunnar, Kristel Oreto, Jime Litwalk, Kowhey, Fred Laverne, Ed Perdomo, Jee, Joako, Eva Schatz, Ulrich Krammer, King Rat, Leo, Sean Herman, Bammer, Daveee, Woodpecker, Josh Woods, Steph D., Jason Stephan, Dimitri, Broda, Slawek, May,  Tiraf, Holly Azzara, Naoki, Fide, Electric Pick, Leah Moule, Jesse Smith, Morof, Kozuru, Ivana, Dave Fox, Gerrit Termaat, Peter Bobek, Scott Olive, Kosei, Olivier. [Olivier's work is featured on the cover.]


BOOK RELEASE PARTY: I hope you'll join us Saturday, June 25th, from 8-10PM at Sacred Gallery NYC in SoHo to celebrate the release of Color Tattoo Art. Copies of the book will be on sale for the discounted rate. [As well as discounted copies of Black & Grey Tattoo.] More info on the party to come.

Gunnar_art_low.jpg Fine art by Gunnar
11:17 AM

Yesterday, in my post on the Ink-n-Iron show, I mentioned that so many tattoo conventions seem to have their own distinct personalities. Well, no greater proof of this are the videos popping up online from The 2nd Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest, which took place in Cobh, Ireland June 3-6. Consider the Fest the hippie cousin of the tattoo world.

Last year, we had such an amazing time (read my redux here) and were bummed we couldn't make this year's gathering. Thankfully, our friends were there to capture the scene. Blue Shed Productions offers a beautiful overview of the love fest in the video above.

And in the footage below, well, there's some man-on-man foot action in the form of synchronized hand-poking on the soles of two tattooists' feet. The video was taken by Peter Schachner of Lard Yao Tattoo (who specializes in Thai tattooing by hand). There are a lot of ouches and giggling. Kinda cringed when I first watched it, but hell, you may think it's funny/ridiculous as well.

To see photos from the fest, check its Facebook page.

12:21 PM
ink-n-iron 2011.jpgWe're back in Brooklyn after a gorgeous weekend in Long Beach for the Ink-n-Iron Tattoo & Kustom Culture Fest...and really not a moment too soon as the California sun, cool breezes and laid-back dudeness were dulling our New York self-righteousness and sarcasm. But we made it back in one angry piece.

It was our first time at this monster convention aboard the legendary Queen Mary cruise ship and on its dock, which was blanketed with shiny kustom kars, vendors, and a stage that rocked with a serious line-up of bands including Buzzcocks, Fishbone, Skatalites, The Sonics, The Vandals, and other legends. It was all done up big and badass -- from buxom pin-ups to car club bruisers to bold backpieces on many, many beautiful people in various states of undress.

See photos on Brian's Ink-n-Iron Flickr set.

tattoo by tommy montoya.jpgBackpiece by Tommy Montoya

When we arrived at the convention, a queue of hundreds lined the dock waiting to get it. It was a sea of parasols and pomade and it hit me that many conventions worldwide do have their own distinct personalities. Ink-n-Iron is a Rockabilly, kustom culture Disney Land. And to me, that's a good thing. Tons of eye candy, a light and sexy vibe, and less tattoo snobbery (although we embrace that kind of thing).

The pin-up contest seemed to attract a bigger crowd than the tattoo competitions. As a side note, if you ever want to gauge "trends" in tattooing, tattoo competitions are the best places to do so. There were tons of young girls with tattoos that stretched along the sides of their lithe torsos. I heard one guy in the audience say, "The rib tattoo is the new tramp stamp." Indeed.

When the competitions weren't taking place in the Queen's Salon on the Promenade deck, Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School (LA club) took over with live drawing and attempt at a record to have 1,000 people sketch a host of posing models. I hope they reached their goal.

tattoo by Tim McGrath.jpg Tattoo by Tim McGrath of 13 Roses Tattoo, Atlanta

On the decks below, tattoo artists from all over the world filled three levels with non-stop buzz. Being SoCal, the work was heavy on the black & grey but all styles were repped with a top notch roster of artists.

Despite my incessant eye rolling and head shaking, Brian decided to continue his quest to get his toes tattooed, asking great artists to perform general dumbassness. On Sunday, he convinced Sweety of East Side Ink to needle FU on his paw. To(e)-fu. I know. I had no control over this. [Clare Goldilox did a truck on his big toe in London.]

crazy Eddie.jpg Photo of Crazy Eddie by Tommy B.

This all happened before the major drinking, inspired by the convention-wide toast to Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins in honor of the day he passed, June 12th, 38 years ago. Crazy Eddie Funk (above) took the mic and offered his tribute: "Fuck Chicago ... Fuck Sailor Jerry." No one expected any more.

Sailor Jerry actually kept people pretty happy all weekend in front of its sweet Airstream (below). The Airstream shared dock space with a cigar lounge, beauty salon tents, beef jerky vendors, among many others. Something for everyone.

Beyond the jerky, what makes a convention for me is meeting up with friends who we haven't seen since the last show in our traveling circus of a subculture. No matter how big the show and all its attractions, the greatest lure remains the growing family of tattoo freaks who have become just as much a part of our lives as the tattoos we wear. Maybe Cali has mellowed me after all.

Photo by Tommy B.

If you have your own photos from the show and wanna share, send me the links.
03:55 PM
After a luxurious 12-hour trip, Marisa and I have finally arrived safe and sound in Long Beach, CA, just in time for the Ink-N-Iron Tattoo and Kustom Culture Festival.

Updating the blog from my iPad is proving to be quite a chore, but if you're in Southern California, you already know that this convention is the place to be this weekend (I'm particularly excited about tomorrow's band line-up with Fishbone taking the stage at 3pm, followed up by the Skatalites, The Adolescents and then The Vandals).

We'll be back to bringing you tattoo goodness and a full recap on the convention next week.
10:37 AM
[Source: Robby and Bobby]
03:06 PM
NikkoTattooBlog_Giveaway_Images.jpgRealism wunderkind Nikko Hurtado of Black Anchor Collective in Hesperia, CA has teamed up with Sullen Clothing for a pretty spectacular sweepstakes:  up to five hours of free tattoo time with Nikko; $500 worth of Sullen Clothing; a hotel for one night; and a feature on Sullen TV.  

All you have to do is go to Sullen's Facebook page, become a fan by clicking Like, and then click the sweepstakes link. That's it. Nothing crazy. They're not asking you to tattoo every Facebook friend on your arm.

The contest ends August 1st. More details here.

I'm generally not a fan of promotional tattoo giveaways but Nikko is an exceptional artist and this is an opportunity to book some of his limited time for free. And get some sweet swag! I'm a fan of Sullen's The Collective apparel line with its designs from top tattooists including Nikko.

Nikko has a very distinct flavor to his color realism, often exhibiting a cartoon and comic edge. And I particularly love the ethereal backgrounds that give his portraiture a flow with the body.

For more on Nikko's work, check his online portfolio and Facebook page.

04:05 PM
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In the latest issue of Skin & Ink magazine (August 2011), I take a look at the progressive work coming out of Brooklyn's own Tattoo Culture via resident artist Gene Coffey (whose work is shown here) and a host of international talent including Belgium's blackwork specialist Dan DiMattia, and France's avant-garde artists Noon and Loic [aka Xoil], among many others. In fact, owner Chris Budd acts as a "tattoo concierge," helping tattooers from outside New York find places to stay, procure temporary permits, and build a local fan base.

While Tattoo Culture is a full-service custom shop where clients get tattoos in a variety of styles, the focus of the article is the more controversial work that push the definition of what a tattoo should be. Here's a bit of that discussion:

[Gene] credits the roster of guest artists at Tattoo Culture for his artistic growth. "We just feed off of each other's creativity. If I had never worked with people like Noon or Loic, for example, I wouldn't have even tried something weird like what I've been doing lately."

The "weird" tattoos that Gene refers to are abstract pen and ink watercolor styled designs. [Shown below] It began when a long-time client was flipping through Gene's sketchbook and said she wanted to get one of his drawings tattooed on her. They agreed on the drawing, and after it was permanently inked, they both loved the result. Gene says, "It felt really awesome. It was the first time a tattoo was a hundred percent my art. It wasn't drawn to be a tattoo. It was drawn because of something I felt, something that just came out of my head."

Since that time, Gene has further explored translating his fine art on skin, but he's quick to note that he still employs traditional tattoo technique. "The things that I tattoo - even the weird abstract work - still follow the fundamentals of tattooing. There's line work, there's contrast, there's shading, there's saturation of the colors. It's still a tattoo, just different imagery."
Beyond the weirdness (and Gene himself is a strange egg), Tattoo Culture has a relaxed friendly vibe that seems to stand in contrast to the cooler-than-cool attitude of their Williamsburg neighborhood, also known as ground zero for hipsters. The studio also holds regular art shows, exhibiting classic tattoo-inspired painting, photography, mixed media and modern works. 

Check their Facebook page for events and guest artists. Gene regularly updates his portfolio on his own Facebook page as well.

gene coffey tattoo culture.jpg
03:20 PM

This past weekend, thousands of people showed up for the 15th Atlanta Tattoo Arts Fest, organized by the inimitable Tony Olivas of Sacred Heart Tattoo.

The East Atlanta Patch did a good job capturing the action in the video above, complete with artist interviews and close-ups of some strong tattoo work. They also caught up with Tony who showed a recent tattoo of his own -- scratched up "NYC" letters that he got on the New York subway via a wireless machine.  [By the way, if anyone else is using a wireless, hit me up because I'd love to learn more about your experience.]

WSB TV also covered the show with a photo slide show, which includes this pic below of sword swallower Chris Steele aka Captain Stab-Tuggo. I also found some more photos on jramspott's Flickr page. Check 'em.

atlantca tattoo art fest.jpg
01:49 PM
The UK's Daily Mail has a great story on 69-year-old Tommy Wells, whom they say is the most tattooed man in Britain. [The World's Most Tattooed Senior Woman, Isobel Varley, is also English.]

I was at first skeptical of the article and whether it would be another "point and laugh at the freaks" piece, especially when I read about Tommy spending 52 of his 69 years "indulging in his bizarre hobby and now has tattoos not only across his arms, hands, legs, torso and back but also on the soles of his feet, bottom, entire head, lips and even his genitals."
A penis tattoo...on someone's great-grandfather! Heaven forfend!

But if you read on, it turns out that the focus is more about love and his life with his late wife Sandra who died seven years ago. They were married 44 years. Sandra dared Tommy to get his first piece when they were 17 during a picnic with friends who were getting tattooed at a parlour in Blackpool. Tommy said, "[...] it was agony but I kind of loved the pain and it became a bit of a drug after then, so I got all my body covered except my head and face."

Sandra never got any tattoos herself but never minded Tommy's as long as he did not get tattooed above the neck. Tommy broke that promise after her death:

I did promise at the time, but after she died I was so devastated that the only thing that I could do to make me feel better was have a tattoo tribute to her - and my face and head were the only places I had left.

Tommy's last tattoo honors her with the phrase, "I love you always, Love Tommy" on the back of his head, where a bit of non-tattooed skin remained.

I found this whole story very moving. It's funny because I've been mocking the faux drama in last night's premier of NY Ink, in which every single client had a memorial tattoo accompanied by tears and sob stories (and the artists trying to give sympathetic looks). Even Brian tweeted during the show: "Let it be known fans - you don't have to have someone die to get a tattoo

But I felt Tommy's story had soul, commitment and true reality. I recommend it.
11:52 AM
nyinkbanner.jpgTonight at 10/9C, The Learning Channel will be debuting their latest tatttoo-reality show, NY Ink - and if you're anything like us, you rolled your eyes upon learning of the show and let out an ultra-snotty, "Oh, just what we needed, another tattoo-reality show."

(Full Disclosure - We actually have several friends on the show and wish them the best of luck.  After all, most tattooists don't have 401(k) retirement plans, so we're all in favor of "buying-in" before our tattooist pals get arthritis and scoliosis.  That said, we gave our pals full warning that we'd be mocking them incessantly - because that's what friends do.)

But after a dozen adult beverages at happy hour, we at Needles and Sins (along with the awesome help of Nathan at KnuckleTattoos.com) think we've found a way to incorporate an exciting plot twist in what will otherwise be a "same story, different city" situation.  That's right - we hereby present to you the SEMI-OFFICIAL NY INK DRINKING GAME!

The rules are listed below my introductory video, but if you don't want to drink in front of the TV while cradling your laptop (and we wouldn't recommend that) we've also whipped up a printable PDF Rulesheet.

  • Every time they do an establishing shot of a New York landmark (the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, subways, yellow cabs, etc).
  • Every time there's incredibly scripted voice over/testimonial monologue (ie - "If you can make it here in New York, you can make it anywhere" or "It's not easy running a shop, but with a crew of talented artists like this...")
  • If someone gets a NYC tattoo (see above references, plus Yankees logos. If they get a twin towers tattoo, pour two tall shots and drink both)
  • During any discussion of the Sacred Three Taboo Tattoo Areas (above the collar, below the cuff, under the underwear)
  • If anyone actually gets a tattoo in one of the S.T.T.T.A. you have to drink every time it is shown.

  • Every time Ami James complains about being in New York City (adventurous, high-tolerance drinkers should simply drink every time Ami complains about anything).
  • Every time Ami has his shirt off in the shop for no explicable reason (this ain't Miami, son)
  • Every time the "shop girl" looks like she's near tears.
  • Every time someone is wearing those fashionable, black latex gloves.
  • Every time an artist is late for an appointment
  • Every time an artist storms out of the shop in anger (take two drinks - one for you and one for the drink he/she is about to go get around the corner).

  • Every time someone mentions a personal project (band, blog, self-published book, etc) to garner press for personal gain.
  • Every time a client is getting a "memorial tattoo" (however, any time it's for a "homey who ain't here" you are required to pour some out - pets and family members are excluded from this stipulation).  If you tear up during one of the memorial tattoo descriptions, CHUG your drink and then punch yourself in the junk.
  • Every time there is a meaningful, heartfelt "back story" behind a client's inspiration for their tattoo.
  • Every time a client mentions their congenital/accidental disability (drink twice if the tattoo "empowers" them)
  • Every time a client starts crying at their new, beautiful tattoo (CHUG for as long as they're crying DURING the tattooing process).
  • If someone pusses out on a tattoo, finish your drink and then hunt them for sport ("Functioning Alcoholic" level players only).
  • Every time a client walks in with a completely un-tattooable piece of reference art (drink double if the client or their friend drew it).


  • Pick three (3) rules total from any category.

  • Pick six (6) rules total from any two categories

  • (Well, now... someone wore their big-boy pants today!)

  • All rules from page one apply, plus...
  • If you know the client personally, double all drinking requirements.
  • Every time a large-scale tattoo (full sleeve, backpiece, etc) is completed in one episode - take one drink every session it presumably took to complete.

  • All previous rules apply, plus stock your bar for the following:
  • Make your alcohol-choices directly related to the tattoo happening on-screen.  Sake or Asahi for Japanese work, Miller Lite for tribal work, Irish whiskey for "memorial" tattoos, tequila for fine-line black-and-grey work, wine coolers for tramp stamps (amaretto sours are also acceptable - but one is required to scream "WOOOO!" or chant "Gym, Tan, Laundry!")

And may God have mercy on your soul... and your liver.

(Thanks again to Nathan at KnuckleTattoos for his help - if you have any recommendations for additional rules, tweet them with the hashtag #nyinkdrinkinggame)
02:48 PM
Yesterday, a number of news agencies, including the Global Post, reported that Thailand's Ministry of Culture is considering a ban on tattooing sacred Buddhist and Hindu symbols on foreign tourists. The National News Bureau of Thailand offered this explanation:

Citing a survey in Phuket Island, Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat admitted that a number of foreigners coming to Thailand are interested in having their skin tattooed with Buddha images or Hindu god Ganesh in several parts of their bodies such as arms, legs, ankles or chests.

The Minister indicated that using religious objects as tattoo patterns is inappropriate according to the Thai tradition and culture as well as affect the faith of people toward those religions.

Religious tattoo patterns are very popular among foreign tourists and can be as expensive as 20,000 baht each. Some of the tourists deem religious tattoo patterns a fashion without any religious respect while some probably have those tattoos because of ignorance.

The Minister has asked provincial governors across Thailand, especially in popular tourist areas, for their cooperation in cracking down on religious tattoos on foreigners. As noted in the Phuket Gazette, this won't be an easy task. Tattoos on tourists is big business with some costing over upwards of 20,000 baht (over $650).

There's also the issue that many of the tourists could indeed be Buddhist or Hindu themselves. I personally know many who have traveled to Thailand specifically for a sacred Yantra (or Sak Yant) tattooing. One such person is Father Panik who offered a guest blog on his experience seeking Sak Yant last year. He also shared a few photos like the ones shown here.

For more on Yantra, check this site, which has extensive links and photos.
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