Just got back into Brooklyn and wishing for a few more days of vacation, but to help me ease back into the NY grind -- and appreciate the treasures of the city -- our friend Nick Schonberger sent us the link to this wonderful BBC video interview with Tony Polito.
Tony is the very definition of a Brooklyn tattoo legend. He started in the business at the age of 14 in 1959 and continues to tattoo today (although he closed his Crown Heights studio last year). In the video, you'll hear him talk about tattooing sailors from the Navy Yard, his penchant for pin-ups, and the 1961 NYC tattoo ban, which forced him to work underground (literally, his basement) for a while. You'll also catch Tony tattooing another tattoo luminary of Brooklyn, Mike Perfetto aka Michaelangelo.
The footage is just over three minutes and leaves you wanting more from this old salt. But I have good news! Tony, Mike and many others will be featured in an upcoming book on native Brooklyn tattoo artists, culture and history by Pete Caruso, aka Brooklyn P. With such a strong tattoo heritage in the borough and stellar art being created, it will be an important addition to your tattoo library. More on the book when it's ready to drop.
Meanwhile, check the video to get a taste of Tony's stories.
In this latest installment of The Proust Questionnaire for Tattooists, we hit up Lalo Yunda of Bogota, Columbia, who tattoos in a variety of styles at Sacred Tattoo in NYC. Here's how it went down:
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Thirsty, in your bed, dying for water, hungover, not being able to get up.
What is your idea of earthly happiness? Being able to flow with life with a good rhythm, sometimes fast, sometimes slow and always curious to what's next.
Your most marked characteristic? Ask other people because if I answer myself i'll probably say what I would like to be my most marked characteristic!
What is your principle defect? None! Haha! Ok maybe disorganization.
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction? All the bad guys who in the end are good.
Who are your favorite heroes in real life? Banksy, Many Chao, and some regular people who live really tough lives with a smile on their faces and are able to share and care with others, expecting nada!
Your favorite painters? Joaquin Sorolla, Miro...so many.
Your favorite musicians? Systema Solar, Bomba Stereo, Buraka
Who are your favorite writers? Alejandro Jodorowski, Alvaro Mutis, Malcolm Gladwell.
The quality you most admire in a man? Honesty, humbleness, funniness and good heart.
The quality you most admire in a woman? Honesty, humbleness, funniness and good heart, smile, boobs and ass...
Your favorite virtue? Being able to feel and understand that we all are one....on the same boat
Who would you have liked to be? A better version of me, or some tribal man from the Caribbean, South Pacific like Bali or Hawaii who spent his days with littlle clothes on, fishing and swimming, all of these of course before the arrival of f**kin missionaries.
Where would you like to live? I would love to live in a place with the perfect mix of warm weather, great waves and enough flow of clients and adventure...may be Hawaii, Brazil or somewhere in California.
What are your favorite names? Simple ones.
What natural gift would you most like to possess? Will power without being boring.
How would you like to die? Fast and happy
What is your present state of mind? Snowboarding
What is your motto? I can't tell u. ;)
Photo by Edgar Hoill aka OSOKILL
Any time I read the word "tattoo poll" -- or even worse "tat stats" -- I shake my curly red head and wonder how a passion for art can be quantified and put into nice info boxes for media consumption. But damn the media loves those statistics. They cite the same old tattoo polls from 2003 and 2008 by Harris Interactive in news pieces on the "tattoo trend." But now they no longer have to.
Today, Harris released their latest tattoo poll, which surveyed 2,016 American adults online between January 16 and 23, 2012. Here are some of the highlights from that survey (most are direct quotes):
* One in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo (21%), which is up from 16% & 14% surveyed in 2003 and 2008, respectively.
* Those living on the West Coast have more tattoos (26%) than those on the East Coast (21%), the Midwest (21%) and the South (18%).
* Adults aged 30-39 are most likely to have a tattoo (38%) compared to both those younger (30% of those 25-29 and 22% of those 18-24) and older (27% of those 40-49, 11% of those 50-64 and just 5% of those 65 and older).
*Women are slightly more likely than men, for the first time since this question was first asked, to have a tattoo (now 23% versus 19%).
And here's where it gets sexy:
*Among those with a tattoo, most have never regretted getting a tattoo (86%) and three in ten say it makes them feel more sexy (30%). [Woohoo!] One-quarter say having a tattoo makes them feel rebellious (25%), 21% say both it makes them feel attractive or strong, 16% say it makes them feel spiritual and fewer say it makes them feel more healthy (9%), intelligent (8%) or athletic (5%).
And here's where it gets nasty:
While so many of us feel beautiful and sexy in our tattoos, it seems that many polled don't share this feeling. At least two in five say that people with tattoos are less attractive (45%) or sexy (39%). Not that we care really, but there are some numbers worth mentioning, particularly because certain stereotypes that still exist could potentially affect things like employment or admission to the country club.
* One-quarter say that people with tattoos are less intelligent (27%), healthy (25%) or spiritual (25%).
* Half of those without a tattoo say people with tattoos are more rebellious (50%).
I'm so rebellious, I'm writing this post pantsless.
See all the stats and charts here. There's also a PDF download of the survey.
I would have loved it if they asked poll takers whether the Ink shows, celebrities, merch and other elements of tattoos in pop culture affected their choices. Also curious about how people describe their collections; for example, whether they consider themselves "heavily" tattooed.
Feel free to post your thoughts on the survey in the Needles & Sins Facebook group.
Dedicating his life to Japanese tattooing and educating others on the art, Kazuaki "Horitomo" Kitamura -- resident artist at State of Grace in San Jose -- not only keeps the tebori hand tattoo traditions alive but also the rich history of the art and the meanings behind its iconic motifs.
In "Immovable: Fudo Myo-o Tattoo Design By Horitomo," he shares this knowledge in a beautifully illustrated 9" by 13" softcover art book. Fudo Myo-o (also known as Acala, which translates into "immovable") is one of the Five Wisdom Kings in Buddhism. His role is to fight ignorance and delusions, and lead people to self-discipline and peace. He is shown sitting on a pedestal, surrounded by flames (among other representative elements), but of course there are many artistic ways to embody this Esoteric Buddhist icon. In these pages, Horitomo presents various interpretations of Fudo Myo-o, often with information on that particular composition.
What I particularly enjoy about this book is how he breaks down the elements of many of his drawings; for example, he highlights the different manifestations of weapons, hairstyles and garments. He even devotes pages to close-ups of postures. It's an excellent study for artists, but also a great resource for anyone fascinated by Buddhist art and stories.
"Immovable" is available at State of Grace Publishing for $120 (US orders) and $150 (outside US).
If you'd like to learn about Fudo Myo-o drawing and design from Horitomo himself, he'll be giving a seminar with Horitaka on July 29th at 10am at the Kings Avenue NYC location (188 Bowery 2nd floor at the corner of Spring St). The cost of the seminar is $200 ($220 by PayPal). Space is limited. More info on the Kings Ave blog.
I also recommend checking out Horitomo's spectacular portfolio, which includes the tattoos shown below.
UPDATE: And the winner of Bob Tyrrell designed tee is ... Keith Smith of Ontario, Canada who came to the closest to the actual tattooing time of just over 9 hours. Congrats Keith!
Recently, black-and-gray rock star Bob Tyrrell was at Sullen Clothing's HQ designing artwork for a new tee, which will be out in the Fall. While he was there, he took a break to answer some quick & dirty questions I sent over to see what he's been up to:
What have been your favorite tattoos you've worked on recently?
Been doing a lot of skulls lately! Just did one with tentacles -- I just watched the new "Thing" movie, so I did one with weird arms and tentacles growing off of it. I did a Slash portrait recently that was fun, and a Ted Nugent portrait! Two of my guitar heroes.
Outside of tattooing, what projects are you working on?
Not much lately. I've been super lazy. I'm trying to get some prints going, haven't done them in a few years. I've been trying to play more guitar lately. I wanna get a metal band back together. I'm playing in a covers band now for fun, doing stuff by Sabbath, Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Metallica, Alice In Chains, Thin Lizzy...
Where can clients find you in the next few months, and what's the best way to get in touch with you to make an appointment?
They can go on my website, Bobtyrrell.com, for convention listings. I do guest spots out there in the LA area every once in a while, don't really advertise though, and guest spots at friends' shops all over the place. People can e-mail me on the site -- there's a form you can fill out for appointment requests -- and I finally have a business cell phone: 586-219-8661. You can call but texting is probably better. If I don't reply, hit me back as much as you want! I need an assistant really bad. I get nothing done if it involves business!
Will we be seeing you on a reality TV show any time soon? If you could have your own show, what would it be about?
I did a guest spot on LA Ink in Season 2, and one on London Ink in Season 2 also. That was a few years ago. It was fun, I got to be myself and there was no drama. Haha! Those shows were pretty good back then, before the producers brought more drama into the mix. Such is scripted reality TV. There's too many tattoo shows on TV now, and they're just getting worse. I definitely don't want my own show! It's getting out of control. Not just tattoo TV, but reality shows in general. Tom Renshaw here in Detroit had a pilot on Animal Planet called Detroit Ink, it was better than the other shows out there. Hopefully it becomes a series.
What are some of the tracks on your favorite playlist these days?
I got the new Van Halen album yesterday, it's killer! Can't stop listening to it. Been listening to The Little Willies lately, awesome country covers band! I love Norah Jones's voice. I'm hoping to marry her someday. Been listening to Joe Bonamassa a lot, one of my favorite guitarists these days. His solo stuff, and a project called Black Country Communion, kind of a supergroup with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bohnam, and Derek Sherinian. Killer stuff! Joe did an album with Beth Hart last year too which if totally killer. He released four records in 2011! A total workaholic. Slash's new live album is killer too! New Lamb Of God is also good...my buddy Rob Dukes, singer for Exodus, has a band called Generation Kill, good stuff! Latest Exodus is totally killer too. The latest Pink Floyd reissues have some amazing bonus stuff!
What are some of your upcoming projects in the 2012?
Just to get prints out, another Sullen shirt, form a metal band...that's about it! And try to tattoo a little more and travel a little less!
As we wait for that new shirt to drop, his existing tee called "Blood Lust" (shown above) is available at the Sullen store and we have one to give away.
Yeah, another giveaway!
Here's how we're going to play this one: In the video below, you'll see Bob tattoo a portrait on Sullen co-owner Ryan Smith. Watch it and let us know how long it took to complete the tattoo. Post your answer in the comment section to this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook or Tweet at us with your answer. Also include your shirt size. As usual, we'll put all the names of the commenters into Randomized.com and the internet gods will offer up the chosen one on Thursday, February 23rd.
The inimitable Pat Fish -- "The Queen of Celt" -- is internationally renown for her powerful and intricate Celtic knot work tattoos. She is also known for being quite outspoken, calling bullshit on issues she believes harm the tattoo industry and collectors. Pat does just that in our Icon Q&A for Inked mag.Your work has moved towards pointillism and other new directions, but still largely keeps to the traditional Celtic designs. Where are those influences coming from? Conventions?
In the interview, she raises some of those controversial issues, like potential dangers in color tattoo ink as well as the ethics of giving clients exactly what they want. Pat also shares some of the lessons she learned from her mentor, the legendary Cliff Raven, who changed her life, and how her pet mule, Tobe, has done the same. Here's a taste:
Absolutely. When I worked at the NIX Tattoo Convention up in Toronto, I met both Colin Dale and Cory Ferguson, and I was stunned by their pointillism. All the time when I was at UCSB art school, I was using pointillism, using dots to do my shading. But I had never done it in tattooing. Why not? I don't know. So I started exploring how to pull that into my style. Also, I had a pretty strong feeling that the governments of the EU and the US were going to outlaw colored tattoo ink, but I was wrong about this. I figured, well, maybe it will just happen that I have to adapt my style so that black ink is all I'll have, and it's good enough. I can't imagine why [colored ink] is still legal. It's just wrong. It's a hugely dangerous thing to have something that nobody knows what's in it. There's no oversight or MSDS [Material Safety Data Sheet] provided. Here we are hoping for the best and sticking it in our clients.
Don't you think that there would be an epidemic, with so many color tattoos, if the inks were dangerous?
I think the big risk is that there are so many more suppliers today than there were in the past. It used to be that you would get powder and put it with your own preferred suspension agent and there you go, you have your ink. Now there are, what, a hundred ink suppliers and none of them have any MSDS, and even the really famous ones have ended up with fungus in a batch.
Beyond health issues, there are also moral issues to consider in tattooing. For example, there was a lot of buzz over a woman getting a huge "DRAKE" tattoo (in honor of the singer) on her forehead and whether the tattooist should have done it. What do you think about that?
I interact with a lot of the older generation of tattoo artists and they say, "Somebody is going to do that tattoo. Why do you pretend that you care about that person? It's money." My attitude is that I rather have them angry with me over something I didn't do than something I did. I have morals, and I have to be responsible in this life for everything I do. If I really feel that it will make them a person who relied on welfare because now they made themselves into a freak and can't get a job, then I need to step up and tell them No. I've had people come in and thank me later for not having done a tattoo that I refused to do. That's a nice moment.
You have a lot of people flying into Santa Barbara from all over the world to get tattooed by you, but is Celtic work still as popular as it was, say over ten years ago?
I've been selling my designs online now at Luckyfishart.com since 2001, and there was a point where people were buying a lot more Celtic stuff than they are now, but it's hard to tell. Right now the trend is words. People will call me and go on and on about how much they love my designs and then just ask for two Gaelic words on their arm. Give me a break. For me, words age badly and look goofy. Unless they are really big, they don't have a graphic quality to them. I usually decline to do it, which is hard to do in this economy.
Last Thursday, Brian and I attended Tokio Confidential, a musical that centers around Japanese culture and tattooing. Yes, a tattoo musical. How could we not see it?
Written and composed by Eric Schorr and directed by Johanna McKeon, Tokio Confidential takes place in Japan in 1879, a time when tattooing was outlawed and underground (although an exception was made for tourists wishing a permanent souvenir). One such visitor is Isabella Archer, a young widow who lost her husband in the American Civil War, and who travels to Japan to find the beauty and magic her husband so often spoke of and promised to show her. Upon arrival, she meets fellow American Ernest and his gay lover Akira who bring her to Tokyo's pleasure district and soon introduce her to Horiyoshi (sound familiar?), who becomes her tattoo artist and lover. Horiyoshi transforms her into a work of art, which leads to a dark end.
... an end I won't spoil for anyone who wants to see the play at the Atlantic Theater Stage 2 in Manhattan before it closes this weekend on February 19th.
Tokio Confidential is meticulously researched (research supported in part by The Asian Cultural Council) and you get the feeling that Schorr is covered in tattoos, although he says in The Huffington Post that he's just a "tattoo voyeur." The cast sing of ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblocks prints that inspired traditional tattoo designs, and of tebori, the hand tattooing method. The mostly grey-haired crowd got a full education on the art form. But we wondered if they'd retain it. Beautiful voices carry each lesson within lyrics like "lots of money, lots of pain" and "what have I done," but there are no real choruses to sing and remember once you leave the theater. Perhaps, it would be best if the academics are left in the dialog, and the tunes were catchier. It is musical theater after all.
Beyond tattooing and woodblock prints, Schorr explores other Japanese arts like Noh, which he describes as "one of the oldest forms of what we might call musical theater" that "artfully and seamlessly combine speech, song, and dance." It took me a while in the beginning to realize that the abstraction of the cast's movements were a nod to Noh, and it was a bit distracting; however, I did enjoy the choreography when placed in the context of a Noh performance within the story line.
The cast and orchestra are indeed fantastic, and Jill Paice who plays the lead Isabella has the luminescent skin that tattooists would die to work on. [And that's also noted in the dialogue.] Yet they are given the task to capture the soul of tattooing, to truly convey the experience of transformation, the raw desire to endure pain for art. And how does one do it in a two-hour musical?
It's a valiant effort but almost impossible to accomplish.
For more on Tokio Confidential, see the video below as well as interviews with Shorr and Mckeon, and bios of cast and crew. Tickets are still available for performances through Sunday.
February is National Cancer Prevention Month and our friends at Sullen Clothing are helping raise awareness with limited edition "Cure Cancer" tees. All proceeds from the $20 sale of these shirts are being donated to cancer research.
Sullen is also doing a "Who do you wear it for?" campaign to honor those who have been affected by cancer. Once you've purchased and received the tee, take a photo of yourself in it and upload the picture to Sullen's Facebook page with the name of the person you wear it for. I'll be doing it for my wonderful mom, a breast cancer survivor.
I also want to take the opportunity here to encourage all you beautiful tattooed freaks to get a skin check. It can be difficult to detect growths and abnormal changes in your skin if you are heavily tattooed, and so it's important to see a dermatologist for a thorough examination. I had one done a few months ago and it was easy and painless.
...or just for your fabulous self.
There's a common cliche among Valentine's Day haters that we don't need a corporate-created pseudo-holiday to spread some lovin. "We should express our love every day," say the damn hippies. But I don't care about any of that. Whether single or coupled, Valentine's Day for me is about the chocolate.
Bringing together my chocolate and tattoo obsession are Brooklyn homies BCake NY and Alex McWatt of Three Kings Tattoo, who teamed up to create old school flash-styled Valentine's Day cakes and cupcakes.
Woohoo! They're available right now to be personalized and delivered anywhere in the five boroughs in time for Tuesday if ordered by tomorrow, February 10th. Personalized cakes are $75.00 and a dozen cupcakes are $45 (including delivery).
To place an order, call Miriam at 347.787.7199.
If you're not in NYC, you can still check out the tattoo eye candy online at ThreeKingsTattoo.com.
While we're in the midst of some renovations here at the Needles and Sins Compound, I'd like to direct your attention to my other blog, Bodysuit To Fit, which I'm using to chronicle my backpiece by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo. We just wrapped up my sixth sitting last Friday (putting us at 22 hours of work to date) and my latest post touches on the pain, the process and the progress.
(WARNING: there are some pictures of my butt up there so, depending on where you work, some pics might be NSFW).
And, while I have your attention, I want to let you know about an event that I'll be taking a part in this coming Sunday at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn. A fellow musician and old friend of mine by the name of Alex Berman has been battling Hodgkin's lymphoma for 12 years now. He's a tough dude, not to mention a father of young, twin boys. He's about to begin an allogenic bone marrow transplant, which doctors say will save his life. Needless to say, it's an expensive process, so a bunch of us in the New York music-scene have come together to help out.
This Sunday, starting at 1pm, we'll be having live performances (including an acoustic set from yours truly at 1:45pm) and a ton of CDs, vinyl and t-shirts for sale from local musicians - all of the proceeds from which will go towards Alex's care.
I sincerely hope you can come out to help us help Alex. You can read about his story and donate online here.
Helmet Art by John Dickinson
Bringing a little light to the dark side, HalloweenCostumes.com is auctioning Darth Vader helmets customized by artists across the US, including tattooists Megan Hoogland, Makeba Ische & Karl Schneider of Cactus Tattoo, and Staci Queen & John Dickinson of Mecca Tattoo. Proceeds from the auction benefit Midwest Art Catalyst and the Miracle League of North Mankato.
The bidding started about an hour ago. Here's how it's going down: "Individuals can enter a dollar amount to place a bid on a helmet. The placement of a bid will start a 24 hour timer. If another bidder places a higher bid within that 24 hours, the timer will start again and the new high bidder will have 24 hours to be outbid. This process will continue until a high bidder maintains his or her position for all 24 hours." So I guess, essentially, it could go on forever like Star Wars prequels.
Have fun bidding!
Helmet Art by Megan Hoogland.
Tattoo by Matt Geiogamah
I've been a big fan of Ryan Keough's Tattoos In Flight for many years, so I was thrilled to see Ryan get some love on another favorite blog: Wired's Danger Room profiled Tattoos in Flight with great samples of aviation tattoos like the ones shown here.
A professional pilot and tattoo collector, Ryan curates top flight-themed tattoos but also provides information on the subject matter, making the blog a great read as well as eye candy. His own tattoo work, which inspired the site, has an interesting story behind it as well.
If you have an aviation tattoo you'd like to share, hit up Ryan at email@example.com.
Tattoo by Mike Devries
The media just love the throw around tattoo statistics (no matter how outdated), but these stats do serve a purpose of forming some idea on the breadth of tattooing's popularity.
A more artful way to convey people's love for the craft is found in this infographic by Paul Marcinkowski, which was created as a student project at Academy Of Fine Arts in Lodz. Check Paul's Behance page for close-ups of the work.
And for more statistics, check The Vanishing Tattoo, who have been compiling tattoo data in one place since 1999.
Thanks, Mikey, for the link!
In this guest blog, Pat Fish pays tribute to tattooist and author Pati Pavlik.
Pati Pavlik began her tattoo career studying with Cliff Raven at Sunset Strip Tattoo in Hollywood, and went on to own several studios, most memorably the Laguna Beach Tattoo location that gave several of today's prominent artists their starts. When she sold that, she semi-retired to a large ranch in Tehachapi, CA, where she maintained her cosmetic tattoo pigment supply company Cleo Colors and did private work at Tehachapi Tattoo. She established the Tehachapi Mountain Research Center to promote the arts in the local community.
She authored "The Breast Book", a guide to areola re-pigmentation for breast cancer survivors, which she was. She also wrote a memoir "Through My Eyes" that told the story of her many experiences in the tattoo industry, especially her role in establishing the National Cosmetic Tattooing Association (NCTA).
In recent years she had been working on another more private autobiography, however she was in failing health for a long time, and died peacefully on 2/5/12.
Despite being a New Yorker, the Super Bowl today means nothing more than free televised a Madonna concert. Perhaps my aversion to sports stems from just how bad sports related tattoos are. You have athletes making astounding amounts of cash, surrounded by handlers, and yet they get the worst tattoos money can buy. [Actually, many don't pay. I've personally witnessed one sports star become incensed when the tattooist told him how much a work would cost.]
To understand my distress, check "Championship Ink: The Best Super Bowl Commemorative Tattoos." Our friend Nick Schonberger put together the gallery so we could just post the link and not be sullied by going through countless football tributes that offend our delicate tattoo sensibilities.
I know a bunch of y'all are football fans with kickass art, so enjoy the game and pat yourselves on the butt for tattoos well done.
Last week, we posted another Sullen contest to win a special edition tee designed by Boog for the Sullen Art Collective's upcoming Spring 2012 line. All y'all needed to do was either Tweet at us or post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook with your shirt size. Really, these contests are getting too easy.
I put all the names into Randomized.com & the internet gods picked ... Joey Romano. Congrats, Joey! Sullen will be sending your shirt once it drops.
But we still have a special deal for all of you. You'll get a discount on any Sullen purchase by putting in this code at checkout: NEEDLESANDSINS. The promotion runs until Feb. 29th
Tons more contests to come!
Filmed at the London Tattoo Convention this past year, Zeitgeist Magazine's "Behind the Needle" series, produced by Alice Snape, features noted artists talking about their art and inspiration, and musing on the state of tattooing, often while tattooing clients at the show.
In this fourth installment, Alice & Papercut Pictures interviewed Zele of Zagreb Tattoo, Jason Donahue of Idle Hand, and Alex Binnie of IntoYou. These artists, from very different backgrounds, discuss their individual tattoo styles and also address the good and bad of the "tattoo fad." [Zele remarks, "Tattooing has become a victim of its own popularity."]
In all of the interviews, the passion for the craft is most evident. I particularly enjoyed hearing Alex Binnie's thoughts on tattooing being a beautiful private contract between the client and tattooist -- an art that is outside the exploitative nature of the gallery fine art system. No fad can say that.
Watch the full video above or catch it on Zeitgeist. Also check the previous episodes: