August 2012 Archives

12:44 PM
vice facial tattoo.jpg -- who has brought us the wonderful "Tattoo Age" video series (but also does stuff like this) -- recently posted "I Had a Face Tattoo for a Week" in which Brad Casey sets out to learn if "people with face tattoos want to be treated like garbage" by walking around with his "mug decorated like a homeless anarchist who keeps a dog on a rope." Here are some of the highlights:

* Brad discusses the types of stares and vitriol tattooed people enjoy by strangers on the street ["You ruined your life"] as well as how often we're fetishized ["A couple of women in their late thirties fawned over me and one of them said, "It makes me wonder what kind of fucked up things must be going through your head."].

* He experienced the feel-up by drunk people. We all know that one.

* A guy came up to him and with a high five said: "Welcome. Your life is now theater."I think it's a great quote and made me think that the stares, comments, and touching can stem from the idea that, by being visibly tattooed especially with facial work, you become public property.

* His great conclusion:  "the most difficult part of having a face tattoo is spending your day explaining your shitty life decision to every single person you meet."

While he drops some possible reasons why people would tattoo their faces, he can't really understand it -- and maybe that's because he engaged in the whole thing as a hipster experiment (and wow, Canadian hipsters seem just as ridiculous as those here in Brooklyn).

Reasons why people get tattooed are so individual and vast. Having a faux tattoo may inspire witty one-liners, but also inspires an unironic punch to the face. 
02:04 PM
Flash from the bowery.jpg
I finally got my hands on "Flash from the Bowery: Classic American Tattoos, 1900-1950" by Cliff White, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who loves tattooing and classic Americana.

Published by Schiffer Books, "Flash from the Bowery" is filled with nine hundred sheets of tattoo art from over the past hundred years that still attract collectors today. Here's more on the collection:
Between these pages are images of the original acetate rubbings from Charlie Wagner's turn of the 20th century tattoo shop, The Black Eye Barbershop, in the Bowery at Chatham Square in New York. This is the only known art that has survived from this shop, where Samuel J. O'Reilley's modern-day electric tattoo machine was born and patented. The imagery of this classic flash preserves the origins of American tattoos, when tattoo art was transferred to the client from these templates via an acetate stencil. Everything was done by hand until O'Reilley's electrified tattoo machine changed history. This rich heritage of folk art has more than 900 individual pieces of flash that provide commentary on the shop's clientele and reveal some of the social, economic, and political ideas of the time.
In the Introduction, Cliff offers some history on the sheets. This is to be expected of course. Every time I've had a conversation with Cliff, I've always enjoyed a history lesson. It's one of his missions to inform and carry on the great traditions of the craft.

Read more on Cliff here.

The book is just a small part of the tattoo gems Cliff has collected. His studio in Long Island, NY and his Victorian home (which was passed down from his great great grandfather) house artifacts that include photos and calling cards of the industry's godfathers and godmothers -- like the card of Mildred Hull, one of the few female tattooers on the Bowery in the forties. He also has sideshow memorabilia like a hand-carved wooden mermaid from Coney Island and Victorian spindled arch from Barnum & Bailey. And of course, he has vintage tattoo machines. [Cliff created the Oldtimer tattoo machine in 1989 as a nod to the forerunners of the craft.]

And so it's no surprise that Cliff's book is a rare and wonderful assemblage of old school tattoo. A must have. You can purchase it online at Schiffer Books.
12:26 PM
Last Wednesday, we let you know about the new special edition Sullen Clothing tees designed by renowned black & grey artist Jose Lopez of Lowrider Tattoo. Sullen has offered the tees to two lucky winners, and they were picked via from those who hit us up @NeedlesandSins on Twitter and commented in Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook.

And the winners are ...Charlie Bryson Altman and Stevis Gramenis. Congrats!

You can still get you hands on the tees
through Sullen's online store here. The "Jose Lopez (signature tee)," is now available for $24 and the second design will drop Spring 2013. Check 'em.
12:13 PM
jon clue tattoo on bill.jpg
With the news of Neil Armstrong's passing this weekend, I thought about giant leaps for mankind and how space and curiosity of what lies beyond earth have not only inspired science lovers but artists of all disciplines, including tattooing. Just a Google image search on "space tattoos" will show how widely popular they are. I also put a call out on Twitter and a number of great tattoo artists sent me photos of starscapes, spacecrafts and astronauts.

One artist whom many associate with cosmic tributes -- as well as bio-organic and trippy dystopias -- is Brooklyn's own Jon Clue. Tattooing since 1993, he became particularly known early in his career for his "new school" graffiti-influenced color bombs. That vivid color saturation is found in his work today, but with less literal and more surreal subject matter. You can see influences of Guy Aitchison, with whom he's worked closely, as well as Aaron Cain and Paul Booth, among others. Prick magazine has a good Q&A with him, although now a bit out of date as Jon is back tattooing in New York.

Check Jon's work on his site and that of East Side Ink.

Jon Clue Space Tattoo 2.jpgTattoo in progress.

Jon Clue Space Tattoo 3.jpg
10:17 AM
Discussing his personal experience being portrayed in the media as a "tattooed dog freak" -- and the portrayal of tattooed people in general -- Craig Dershowitz offers this essay.

2212dog.jpgDressing for my appearance on the Today Show, I worried about what shirt to wear. It was one of the first real humid days of the summer and called for short sleeves, but I had to be a cognizant that I was appearing on national television and that not everyone would take kindly to my long (tattooed) sleeves.

That is the thing about most people who have marked themselves -- we are far more aware of the bias against us than of actually holding any bias ourselves. Each dressing decision is informed by our choices. There is a heightened self awareness amongst the initiated and an intangible level of vulnerability that betrays the tough guy (or girl) personae normally associated with tattooing.

I am the tough guy who spent $60,000 on lawyer fees to attempt to rescue my dog from my ex-girlfriend. In the two or three days that I became news content, opinions ranged. In the span of a news cycle, I was: A pathetic loser who could not get over his ex (not true); A sucker who had been milked by his attorneys (possibly true); A fiercely loyal father with more courage than money (very true). Regardless of the reporter's personal take or, more likely, the spin he was concocting to separate himself from the other reporters and try to get a few more hits on his social media platform of choice, they were always asking about my job. Every story began with my name, age and job description. If you remember the days of dial-up, AOL modems and chat rooms - you might remember how disappointing it was when we discovered that the internet, this new form of communication, would only lead us to discuss ourselves in the same superficial, box-creating definitional ways as before.

The other superficial box that was being created for me was that of one who is tattooed. No matter if I was a loser or a hero, I was a tattooed version of either. In fact, the first three reports in well-known, credible news sources referred to me as follows: A tattooed employee at an art gallery (true); A tattooed artist (possibly true); And, finally, a tattoo artist (not true at all). Forget the apprenticeship model, the news is a far quicker way for one to earn his machines. Again, regardless of their spin and the validity of their descriptions, reporters loved to point out the tattoo information as if it had some bearing on my extreme situation or my being at all.

I was incredulous. And, I was curious. I kept trying to figure out why tattoos meant so much. My greater concern was raising the funds I needed to pay the lawyers to ask the judge to do the thing he should be able to do for a lot less money. Looking at the very arms that I hoped to use to carry my dog back home, I realized just how much money was on them. I could have fought two more cases with what I had spent on ink. Then I realized, it meant everything.

I fought (and am still fighting) for my dog because of the same reasons I am tattooed. I have a sense of permanence and significance. Items that are important or significant to me are sacred to me, expressed in my skin, in my blood, in my life. I am fearless in the face of societal judgment and norms. I am generous with my time, spirit and money when it comes to holding onto beauty. I am, sometimes, reckless and impulsive in protection of my individuality. I am beholdent to no one but myself and to my puppy.

Considering my new extreme circumstance, I would trade all these tattoos back for the money to rescue my pup. But, I would never trade the passion that created my desire to tattoo myself and to hold on to my dog.
02:29 PM
contaminated ink infection.jpgYesterday, The New England Journal of Medicine published the article "Tattoo Ink-Related Infections --Awareness, Diagnosis, Reporting, and Prevention." The article is based on investigations by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into an outbreak of tattoo-related skin infections cased by a family of bacteria called nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) that has been found in a recent outbreak of illnesses linked to contaminated tattoo inks. Coordinating their investigation with state and local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they discovered 22 confirmed cases of this infection primarily in New York as well as Washington, Iowa, and Colorado. It was found that the inks were contaminated before distribution and is believed to have occurred during the production process. The inks in which the bacteria were found have been recalled.

You can find all the details in the following reports:

* FDA: Tattoo Inks Pose Health Risks
* CDC: The Hidden Dangers of Getting Inked
* CDC: Tattoo-Associated Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Skin Infections -- Multiple States, 2011-2012

Here are some key aspects of the reports I think are worth highlighting:

First, the FDA is quick to note that no matter how diligently tattooists follow hygienic procedures, infections can still incur because the bacteria were found in non-opened bottles of ink and contamination is not often visible.

Fourteen of the confirmed NTM infections, specifically Mycobacterium chelonae, came from Upstate Tattoo Company in Rochester, NY. reports that one of the tattooists bought ink at an Arizona tattoo convention and used it on clients and the co-owner of the shop. A second supply was then ordered and that batch had the bacteria. The ink allegedly is "Catfish Carl's Realistic Wash." While the CDC does not specifically name the inks recalled, on the FDA's Enforcement report for May 23rd, 2012, it does list a recall of three different Catfish Carl's Realistic Washes. says that Upstate Tattoo is considering legal action against the ink manufacturer.

[Update: Upstate Tattoo Co. has been given a clean bill of health by the Monroe County Health Department, which stated the shop followed all hygienic procedures.]

The infection was first identified by a dermatolgist who contacted The Monroe County Health Department when a patient's rash persisted for a long time after receiving a tattoo at Upstate. The rash was located in the specific area where the grey wash was used, not throughout the entire tattoo. This sparked the investigation.

The CDC blog says that, after it was notified about these NY cases, it issued a public health alert and found two clusters of tattoo-associated NTM skin infections in Washington state, one in Iowa, and one in Colorado. Contamination was found in inks produced by other manufacturers, which they do not identify, and could have come from unsanitary manufacturing processes or the use of contaminated ingredients. It adds the following key fact:

[...] All were related to inks likely contaminated by non-sterile water either during the manufacturing process or during dilution by the tattoo artist just prior to tattooing a client.

Contamination of tattoo ink products by non-sterile water is an ongoing problem, and this group of identified clusters may represent a snapshot of what we could expect to find at any given time.  Until tattoo ink manufacturers and tattoo artists fully understand the dangers of using non-sterile water to manufacture or dilute tattoo ink, these infections will continue to occur, and they can be far more serious than just an annoying rash.

Non-sterile water includes filtered or distilled water as well as tap and regular bottled water.

NTM infections look like allergic reactions and can be hard to diagnose and treat. Different types of antibiotics are often prescribed. [Ointments won't treat the problem.] If not properly treated, the FDA says that Mycobacterium chelonae can cause lung disease, joint infection, eye problems and other organ infections.

According to the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, Dr. Linda Katz, if you experience tattoo-related complications, notify your tattooist and the FDA through its MedWatch program.

contaminated ink infection2.jpg
06:49 PM
NDLSINS_JoseLopez_Tee_1.jpgThe fine folks at Sullen Clothing must love ya because they want to give even more fantastic tattooist-designed apparel to Needles & Sins readers.

This time it's a special collaboration with one of black & gray's most sought-after artists, Jose Lopez of Lowrider Tattoo. Jose has created not one but two custom designs for the brand. The first, called the "Jose Lopez (signature tee)," is available now at Sullen's online store here. As noted on the site, "the front features full printed artwork in his amazingly detailed pencil drawn art and the back showcased his signature, the Sullen Badge and Lowrider Tattoo logo." It retails for only $24. The second design will drop Spring 2013.

Sullen is offering two tees to two contest winners. As usual, here's how we play it: The winners will be selected randomly from those who comment -- any love note will do -- on this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook or hitting up @NeedlesandSins on Twitter. On August 29th, we'll put all the names of the commenters into, which will pick the winners. Easy breezy.

Good luck!

jose lopez tattoo tee.jpg
11:49 AM
"Tattourist" Jason Tyler Grace sold his possessions and set out to travel the world in early 2010, immersing himself in life-changing experiences, personally and professionally. He says in his first Tattoo Artist Magazine column: "I had no idea at all what a huge fucking impact this [traveling] would have on me and my work or what it would do for my outlook on tattooing, the craft, the industry and the community." In that column and subsequent writing on TAM, he shares his wild and wonderful adventures, and you can indeed see the impact of them in the tattoo works he posted along the way.

Now, JTG is settling down and making NYC his home. This month, he joined the stellar crew of Kings Avenue Tattoo and will be working at both locations -- two days a week in Massapeque, Long Island and three days a week on the Bowery in Manhattan. He says on his blog:

Well sheeeeit, after exactly two and a half years on the road, two and a half years of different beds and pillows and wearing clothes pulled out of a bag rather than off of a hanger or from a drawer, after 913 days of different faces and families, after essentially being homeless, I now have a place to call home, a bed to call my own and a shop to become a part of. [...] I'm incredibly excited to have a place like this shop to finally settle down and have the opportunity to pull from all of the inspiration and experiences of my travels, all of the people I've worked with and the fascinating things I've seen.

Jason employs vastly different visual imagery, so that you may find old school traditional work next to LA-styled black & gray next to graphic abstract art throughout his portfolio. Check his tattoos on Facebook as well as his blog and website.

To make an appointment, contact Kings Avenue Tattoo via email or phone [LI: 516-799-5464 and NYC: 212-431-5464].


01:30 PM
John Anderton tattoo.

Last week, I mentioned that I'll be at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering -- one of my favorite tattoo events, not just for the stellar artist line-up, seminars and workshops, but because it's one of the few left where you actually feel there is a real tattoo "community." And it's a serious fun.

Because of The Gathering, many international artists will be stateside and doing guest spots at shops across the US. Our friends at Off The Map Tattoo in Grants Pass, Oregon and Easthampton, MA will be hosting many of these artists next month. Check out this insane line-up:

At the Oregon studio, renowned resident tattoo artist Jeff Gogue will host David Corden (9/4/12 - 9/8/12), Remis Tattoo (9/18/12 - 9/22/12), and John Anderton (9/18/12 - 9/22/12).

On the East Coast, the Massachusetts Off the Map crew welcomes Thomas-kYnst (9/1/12 - 9/3/12), Aurora Lancaster (9/5/12 - 9/11/12), and Fabian Danger De Gaillande (9/18/12 - 9/23/12).

I'm posting a tattoo by each of these artists here and highly recommend you check out all their work. Contact Off The Map for more info.

David Corden tattoo.jpgDavid Corden tattoo.

Aurora_Lancaster_tattoo.jpgAurora Lancaster tattoo.

remis tattoo.jpgRemis Tattoo.

Thomas-kYnst-tattoo.jpgThomas-kYnst tattoo.

Fabian_Danger_De_Gaillande_tattoo.jpgFabian Danger De Gaillande tattoo.
12:33 PM
topical anesthetics 2.jpg
These days, "earning" your tattoo by sitting through hours of pain doesn't get you as much street cred as it used to, especially when the focus of large-scale work is the artistry. Indeed, many tattooists are offering the option of numbing products to take the edge off so that clients can sit longer and with less squirming.

One of Needles & Sins' sponsors, Face & Body Professionals, provides artists and collectors with an array of topical anesthetics, among other supplies for permanent cosmetics and tattooing. Anesthetics include creams, gels and sprays to be used before tattooing and also during your session.

Also check the latest "face" of Face & Body:  Trianna Sartori.

Face & Body Professionals have been around since 1995 and are a trusted brand within the community. We're happy to have their support for the site so that we can bring you the tattoo goodness gratis.

12:11 PM
c3po.jpegTattoos aren't the only thing we nerd out about here at the Needles & Sins Compound.  And - despite my extreme loathing of George Lucas for retroactively destroying my childhood with his prequels and "re-releases" - when my love for Star Wars collides with the world of tattooing, I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl.

Motor City illustrator Mark Hammerstein has offered up these great prints in his Etsy shop for just $30!

As an old-school SW fan, I prefer his piss-take on the classic Norman Rockwell illustration (pictured above), but if you're a fan of Sith Lords and tribal tattoos, perhaps you'd like his Darth Maul piece (pictured below).

The signed/numbered prints measure 13x19" and are printed on acid-free paper.

03:32 PM
On Tuesday, I gave nine interviews with local stations of CBC radio on tattoos, taboos, discrimination and dress codes. Here's a link to one of them.

Interested in your thoughts on this post in the Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook.
10:52 AM
tattoo copyright.jpg

If you're a regular reader of this site, you're probably ready to run away. How much more can this woman talk about tattoo copyright, right?! It's almost a decade of this discourse, from my first article in 2003 on BME -- which was oddly quoted again today in Bloomberg's BNA blog -- to posts on this blog here and here and here ...

But I got so much more to say, and I plan to do it in a hands-on practical way that will help artists and collectors truly understand how copyright and trademark works, how to protect your rights, AND how to profit from your artwork through licensing. And I'll be doing it with fellow tattooed attorney John Kastelic at the wonderful Paradise Tattoo Gathering next month in Keystone, Colorado, September 13-16.

Our seminar is called "Controlling, Protecting and Profiting from Your Work: Copyright, Trademark & Licensing for Tattoo Artists & Collectors." 

tattoo copyright trademark license.jpg

We'll be addressing these questions:

Who owns your tattoo? Is it you . . . or your client?
Do you need to copyright your work?
How is a copyright different from a trademark?
How can you protect your art from being used without permission by media, corporations and others?
How can you protect your studio's name, logo and reputation?

In addition, artists more and more are finding alternative avenues for generating revenue from their artwork, image and even endorsements - this seminar will provide information to understand how to control the use and licensing of your work and image as well as understand the issues you may confront and how to be prepared to maximize your profits and best protect your interests before signing away any of your rights.

The multi-media presentation will include real world examples, informative handouts, sample contracts, and a Q&A. I encourage participants to submit questions beforehand to marisa(at)kakoulaslaw(dot)com but any question during the seminar will be addressed.

Space is limited so it's best to book your spot now online. The cost is just $175, a bargain just for the sample contracts alone. It will take place 5-7pm Saturday, September 15th.

04:42 PM
viktor koen tattoo.jpg
Our good friend Viktor Koen -- fine artist, illustrator, professor and mensch -- sent me this photo of the tattoo above, which was designed by him as an illustration for the NY Times in 2010 and later tattooed by Errol of Inkstitution in Rotterdam on Ruud, a PhD candidate in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Obviously, Ruud has a professional interest in this art.

Viktor says on his Tumblr that he believes "butterfly-brain man" was one of his first illustrations to appear on the front page of the printed NY Times edition (on Tuesday June 29th, 2010). When Ruud saw the illustrations, he ripped them from the paper and took them to Errol. [The illustrations are placed on the back of Ruud's arms facing each other.] This June, after the last session, Ruud contacted Viktor to say that the artwork was now permanently displayed on his body. Viktor was happy.

I wanted to share this with y'all because I really liked how Ruud let Viktor know just how much his art was appreciated. Often when images are ripped from media, the original creators aren't made aware of how their work has been translated on skin. Of course, legally, it's better practice to get permission first from the artist for copyright purposes but I'll save the copyright talk for another time. I just thought this was cool on many levels.

I'm also digging many other works in Errol's portfolio. Check them on Facebook and the Inkstitution site.
04:43 PM
Pazyryk Mummy tattoo 2.jpg
Photos via Siberian Times.

A number of you passed along this Daily Mail article entitled: "The astonishing 2,500 year old tattoos of a Siberian princess, and how they reveal little has changed in the way we decorate our bodies." Considering the nature of the tabloid [one reader called it "Daily Fail"], the real meaty info of the news is buried at the end in favor of quoting a scientist at the onset discussing how Greeks make fun of British tourists' tattoos. They do, but the scientist had more to say.

So I hit up the original article quoted by The Mail, which was in The Siberian Times and it is packed with much more interesting information.

The Siberian Princess is also called the Pazyryk Mummy because she and the other bodies found with her are believed to be from the nomadic Pazyryk tribe. She's also known as the Altai Princess & Ukok Princess as she was found in the Ukok Plateau of the Altai Mountains near the border of Mongolia.

The "princess" was discovered in 1993 by Dr. Natalia Polosmak, the archeologist quoted in the articles, and largely kept at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, preserved by the same scientists who who preserve the body of Lenin.

It's making headlines now because she'll be coming home to Altai and will soon be displayed in a glass sarcophagus in a mausoleum at the Republican National Museum in the capital Gorno-Altaisk.
princess of Ukok mummy tattoo.jpg Believed to be a 25-year-old healer, storyteller or shaman, the mummified woman was buried among others, including two tattooed men who also had intricate tattoos. Dr. Polosmak offers more on their markings:

Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful. More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps - but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks.

Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification - like a passport now, if you like. The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death.

For more on the Pazyryk mummies and additional photos, I highly recommend clicking The Siberian Times article. And if you want even more, check these articles on other tattooed mummies.

The New Scientist: "Ancient tattoos linked to healing ritual."

Otzi the Iceman.

Smithsonian: "Tattoos, The Ancient and Mysterious History"

And Lars Krutak's texts for The Vanishing Tattoo (like this one).

Pazyryk Mummy tattoo.jpg

"Reconstruction of a warrior's tattoos, who was discovered on the same plateau as the 'Princess'. All drawings of tattoos, here and below, were made by Elena Shumakova, Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Science."
05:03 PM
old tattooed women .jpg
Just got back from vacation and catching up on the tattoo news. Here are some interesting reports and features:

Juxtapoz's post "Grandma's Ink" -- featuring our tattoo godmothers -- inspired to create a an extensive slideshow of vintage photos of tattooed ladies, which in turn may have inspired this Daily Mail article (although no credit is given). The Daily Mail article begins with the typical cringe-worthy cliches of tattoos belonging to bikers and "the wayward," and follows with some basic tattoo history and more vintage photos. Nothing mindblowing, but if you want to brush up on your tattoo FAQ, it's worth a quick click. In another UK paper, there was a pretty pathetic article about a mother who was "griefstricken" when her son came home with a tattoo. I refuse to link it or comment because it's pure trolling for clicks and comments to attract more visitors, and thus, more ads. I suggest we all abstain from commenting on these type of editorials. It won't stop the bigotry and feeds into their flaming.

Speaking of tattoo discrimination, in the city of Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada, a new policy was put into effect where police officers must cover tattoos and remove piercings. I get the piercing requirement for safety reasons like rings being yanked from the body in a scuffle. As for tattoos, I'm on the fence. You'll find I'm mellowing from my previous position where I felt that some tattoo bans were acceptable if they impeded the performance of one's job. It gets tricky with cops. One of the main arguments for the visible tattoo ban by the Medicine Hat police force was that they polled the community last year and residents said they want their officers to cover up. As the police must create trust and respect with residents, the ban was then justified. Will tattoos slow officers down when chasing a suspect? Will it affect the way they gather intelligence when investigating crimes? Will it impeded the ability to write traffic tickets? Looking at the big picture, it may seem obvious to us that it wouldn't. However, those with serious prejudice against the tattooed may argue that suspects could claim they were running from cops because they thought they were thugs (if out of uniform); or they would not trust an officer to give possible information on a crime; or they might feel intimidated by officers at the traffic stop. Ridiculous you may think, but stereotypes are generally ridiculous. I've written about tattoo discrimination before here and here on the blog. Feel free to offer your thoughts on this in the Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook.

In a different vein, the WSJ had this video report on tattoos seen in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn -- where not having a tattoo puts you in the minority. Talk of tattoo acceptance is a big part of the piece, which brings up the point of location and culture in the discrimination discourse. Also some great shots in the video of local tattooed hotties. Bonus!

Helping to bolster stereotypes is this report on the "Anus Tattoo Trend." I swear I'm not making this up. Cameras at the 17th-annual South Florida Tattoo Expo caught a near-naked drunk girl getting her butt tattooed in the middle of the convention. It's NSFW and just gross on many levels. If you want to get angry, click it.

It thought it was pretty funny that I soon found this Sun Sentinel article touting the convention as a "family friendly event."

Check some photos (like the one above) from the convention by Adam Baron on

The Seattle Tattoo Expo also took place this past weekend. Ignore the "Tattoos are no longer just for bikers and sailors..." blah blah and check this video below which features an interesting Nordic-themed tattoo, in Japanese "munewara" style, on a molecular biologist. Much better than the butt tattoo.

02:48 PM
tattoo coloring book.jpg
On August 3rd, we posted on our latest contest where three readers would be chosen to receive Phil Padwe's "Tattoo Coloring Book #2." As promised, I just plugged in the names of those who hit me up @NeedlesandSins on Twitter and commented in Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook.

The winners are
Justin Duclos, Nathalie Williams, Lauren Doczi Granger. Congrats!

For those who didn't win this time, you can still pick up the book at numerous conventions for $10 and for $15 online. Also keep an eye out for Phil's upcoming "Daddy Has a Tattoo" book.

I got another contest coming up very soon. I like to give y'all free things to thank you for supporting the site. And, of course, many thanks to those who donate all items to give away.
11:09 AM
I think it's fairly safe to say that we'd have no bio-mechanical movement in tattooing if it weren't for the art of H.R. Giger, so it only seems fitting that he's paid homage to the art-form with his "Tattoo Mechanoid" sculpture and ring.

Both pieces are based on a 2001 drawing from his series "The Professionals" the 5"x6" sculpture features a hand clutching a 2.5" sterling silver tattoo machine, which it's ready to apply to its own leg (an time-old tradition of any apprentice or fledgling tattooist).  Cast in brass and finished with an acid bath for a unique finish, the sculpture sits atop a 6"x6"x1" base which features Giger's distinctive Alien Crest and an etching of his signature.  The pieces are available in a limited edition of 500.

For those who would rather wear this beautiful image, there's also a one-size-fits-all ring, cast in sterling silver.

TattooBiomechanoidRing.jpegBoth of these very cool pieces are available in the web-store at

09:36 AM
London Reese tattoo.jpgThe cameras are on Best Ink winner Brittan London Reese once again but, instead of a reality TV competition, the focus is more on he came to tattooing, what he loves about it and what keeps him going. The film is  beautifully directed and edited by Jon Ryan Films. Check it.

10:12 AM
tattoo coloring book.jpg
Got another contest for ya -- or rather, for a budding little artist in your life:  Phil Padwe's "Tattoo Coloring Book #2."

Phil, who created the classic "Mommy Has a Tattoo" and "Tattoo Coloring Book 1", is offering the new coloring book to three N+S readers. Phil describes the new coloring book as having "much more advanced illustrations and flash designs than the original coloring book, and therefore Tattoo Coloring Book #2 is suited for older children, adults, and even apprenticing tattooists who want to perfect their coloring techniques using colored pencils! These pages are bone-white, and no expense was spared to produce the crisp, sharp, designs on rugged, white pages."

We'll play it like we usually do:  Three winners will be selected randomly from those who comment -- any love note will do -- on this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook or hitting up @NeedlesandSins on Twitter. On August 13th, we'll put all the names of the commenters into will pick the winners.

You can also pick up the book at numerous conventions for $10 and for $15 online.

Phil is currently working on "Daddy Has a Tattoo." I'm hoping he follows that up "My Daughter Has a Tattoo and I Must Deal With It" -- sure to be a best seller in my Greek-American community.

tattoo coloring book padwe.jpg
10:55 AM
A couple of months ago, I received a message from Angelica Scott with the subject line:
"A Tattoo to Transcend a Breast Cancer Battle - Allison W. Gryphon's Story."  It stood out, especially in contrast to the tattoo supply promos and nude photos from strangers that usually flood my Inbox. I was put in touch with Allison, and indeed, she has an incredible story that is inspiring to all, even beyond those fighting cancer.

Allison, who is a novelist and award-winning screenwriter, was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in April 2011. She says her "immediate instinct was to pick up a camera and start asking questions." The big question -- "What The F-@# Is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?" -- is the title of her film, which is due to hit the film festival circuit in 2013. The documentary tells the stories of cancer fighters and also explores why it is so prevalent -- why 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. She has interviewed experts on Western medicine, Eastern medicine, alternative therapies and related fields. Alison also delves into the psychological aspect of fighting cancer. She says, "[...] everyone needs to find their own way to make peace with it. That's not something the doctors can do for you. They can help guide you, but you need to find your answer. Mine was the tattoo. I don't think I would have ever felt complete without it."

WTF_ZULU_143.jpgHer tattoo of angel and butterfly wings placed around her breast was done by Zulu of Zulu Tattoo in Los Angeles. Zulu takes a spiritual approach to tattooing and has worked with a number of breast cancer fighters. [Miguel interviewed Zulu in 2009.] Allison says that Zulu, Khani (his wife, who runs shop) and Lauren Miyake (her friend & photographer) had become part of her family through the experience, adding: "Just as the doctors had, together these three amazing people all saved my life by giving it back to me through both Zulu's amazing work and the experience of bringing it out of me."

I naturally had a million questions and Allison has been incredibly gracious answering them. My profile on her will appear in an upcoming issue of Skin & Ink magazine. Here's a taste:

In December 2011, 38-year-old Allison W. Gryphon walked through the door of Zulu Tattoo in Los Angeles, CA for the first time. It was only a few months after her six rounds of chemotherapy for Stage III breast cancer and mere weeks after her second surgery. Her hair was gone and, even in LA, bald women still draw stares. While Zulu came highly recommended by a close friend, she didn't really know what to expect. Tattoo studios are not generally known to be sanctuaries of comfort and accommodation. But she was greeted with smiles, calmness, and she says, a sense that "can only compare to the sincere embrace of an old friend." Allison knew she chose the right place for her inaugural tattoo.

Technically, Allison had already been tattooed: eight tiny blue dots done old school style with a sharp needle and ink to line up the radiation lasers. Those radiation tattoos are the butt of many jokes among cancer fighters - real tattooed badasses. Some keep them as marks of a battle won. Others ignore them like freckles. Allison has decided to remove hers. To her, being tattooed is "to celebrate all of the amazing and wonderful changes that cancer brought into [her] life."

For more on Allison and her film, head to the "What The F-@# Is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?" Facebook page, "Like" it and even share your own related stories. Also check her online cancer research center

[Photos by Lauren Miyake courtesy of WTF is Cancer Movie.]

zulu tattoo and alison.jpg
09:41 AM

Yesterday, Complex Art + Design blog posted this video of Polish rapper and mixed martial arts fighter Popek getting his eyeballs tattooed. The video, beautifully produced by Will Robson-Scott, is graphic. There are close-ups of the needle going into the eye. But if you can get beyond that, it's fascinating to watch Popek explain why he's doing it ["I will be complete"], how he handles the process [smoking], the result [lots of hugs] and the healing process [pain "like putting cigarettes in your eyes"].

Howie/LunaCobra is the one tattooing Popek as he has done many times before. Howie first experimented with eyeball tattooing in 2007 on BMEzine founder Shannon Larratt, Pauly Unstoppable, and Josh. It was all documented on Modblog starting at this post.

In BME's Wiki page on "eyeball tattooing," it is noted that corneal tattooing is "known and done now for over 2,000 years -- it became almost commonplace in the late 19th century and into the 20th century to correct defects such as corneal scarring and leucomas." The procedures on Shannon, Pauly and Josh were not to correct any defects, but as an experiment in body modification. For Popek, he says he felt compelled to do it but cannot really articulate why (beyond any language barrier).

It's easy to point and jeer, "Look at the freaks!" And it's easy to cheer "Bod Mod FTW!" Neither helps any discourse on the seriousness of this procedure. There's little argument that eyeball tattooing could leave people blind, among other complications, and it's difficult to understand why one would take that risk at all. I'd love to see a full length documentary that explores this in some depth.
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