September 2012 Archives

11:55 AM

The final installment of the Valerie Vargas feature in Vice's Tattoo Age video series is online, and like the previous episodes, it does not disappoint.

The particular focus in this one is her relationship with Stewart Robson who also works at Frith Street Tattoo in London. Their interactions are pretty adorable but without the cheeziness you find in reality TV programming. It's more about the "mutual respect," as Valerie says, for one another as artists as well as friends who later on became a couple. They also discuss how their tattoo careers have progressed alongside each other.  

In case you missed them, here's Part 1 and Part 2 of the Vargas feature.
11:17 AM
sanchez-no-pain-no-gain.jpgNo Pain, No Gain (Portrait of the artist Jeffrey Lutz), Sergio Sanchez, oil on linen, 2011.

For my West Coast homies, this Saturday, September 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m is the public opening reception of L.A. Skin & Ink at the The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. The show "explores the unique role of Los Angeles in the Tattoo Renaissance over the last 60 years. The exhibition will move through the transformation of tattooing from its traditional base of military and outlaw cultures into an art form of great distinction and adoption into contemporary culture."

It's a serious show displaying the work and artifacts of tattoo legends who have passed as well as today's art stars, including Bert Grimm, Bob Shaw, Don Ed Hardy, Cliff Raven, Jill Jordan, Leo Zulueta, Jack Rudy, Charlie Cartwright, Estevan Oriol, Mr. Cartoon, Edgar Hoill, Lucky Bastard, Zulu, Carlos Torres, Sergio Sanchez, Shawn Barber, Camila Rocha, Sean Cheetham, and more.

L.A. Skin & Ink runs from September 30, 2012 to January 6, 2013, and during this time there will be talks and special programs associated with the exhibit, including Zulu Lounge Night on November 10th. Check CAFAM's Facebook page for more info.   

For tomorrow's opening party, anyone who shows their tattoo at the admission desk gets in for free. The museum is also free on the first Wednesday of every month. Otherwise, it's regularly $7 for adults; $5 for students, seniors, and veterans; and free for CAFAM members. It's hours are Tuesday - Friday, 11am - 5pm; Saturday/Sunday, 12pm - 6 pm; and closed Mondays.

The Craft and Folk Art Museum is located at 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. You can't miss it with the new window display created for the show by Norm Will Rise.

LA Skin and Ink.jpg
10:00 AM
Thrown of Stone_Castiglia.jpgUPDATE:  We've added a Q&A with Vincent on the show and new photos, below.

Tattooer and fine artist Vincent Castiglia -- known for his surreal works painted in his own blood -- has shown in galleries and museums around the world, including a solo show at the famed H.R. Giger Museum Gallery in Switzerland. From Thursday, October 4th through the 31st, his biggest show will be on view at Sacred Gallery in NYC, entitled "Resurrection."

The new retrospective art exhibition includes around 30 works spanning the last decade, from the beginning of his career to today, and seeks to "examine the congruency of life and death." For example, in "Stings of the Lash" (88" x 59", Blood, 2005) shown below Vincent says the work addresses "the unique nature of the human will," adding: "The figure stands between two neurons attempting to communicate; only the message is diffused in the space between them by this willful phenomenon. Behind him are three dimensions, which the figure penetrates, physically as well as allegorically, the terrestrial, the celestial, and beyond this the collective unconscious."

Here's a Q&A I did with Vincent on the show:

This is an impressively large show, starting from the beginning of your career to today. How has your work evolved over the past ten years -- will the viewers be able to see any progression from the earlier works to the new paintings you are showing?
It's my biggest exhibition to date in terms of the amount of works. And yes, there's a very apparent progression in technique from the beginning through present. I initially began working in this medium very painterly, and somewhat suggestive, I'd say with the first 2-3 paintings in this medium. And from there just fell in love, and aimed to take it as far it as it would go in terms of technicality and polish. I'm not sure if I'd consider even the first few paintings experimental, but more a natural evolution of possibility.
Is there a common theme that runs through all of them?

Yes, several I believe; the congruency of life and death, universal stations of the human condition (that most people don't care to face), polarity and the harmonizing of polarities, dissection, decay, rebirth, struggle and tragedy, perseverance and hope.
I'm sure you've answered tons of questions about working with your blood. But for those new to your work, perhaps you can describe the process of creating the paintings with your blood, and why it is an important medium for you.

Because my work is literally part of me. I'm being brutally honest with each painting, in many cases sharing harsh realities that I've struggled with, some even being an "exorcism" of sorts. There's a very literal transference of energy I feel in working this way. Some pray, I paint.

Anything else you'd like to add.
"Resurrection" is a unique opportunity to see this many originals of mine in one place, even for me. In addition, my first sculptural work (created this year) will be in the exhibit. I'm very happy to be showing this collection in my hometown of New York City, and at Sacred Gallery.

For more on "Resurrection," check Sacred's exhibit page.
Hope to see you at the opening reception on October 4th from 8PM - 11 PM. Sacred Gallery NYC is located at 424 Broadway (2nd Floor) between Canal and Howard in SoHo.
Stings of the Lash-55x83, 2005.jpg"Stings of The Lash", 88" x 59" (framed), 2006, blood on paper.

biomech sleeve.jpgTattoo by Vincent Castiglia.
10:57 AM
Andre Malcolm tattoo1.jpgWhile at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering, I ran into my friend and tattooist Andre Malcolm. It had been a while since we last saw each other as Dre had moved from NY out to California with his family in 2010, and over the past year he's been busy working as part of the esteemed Analog Tattoo crew in San Jose.

Watching him tattoo at the show, I was reminded how dynamic, bold work can also embody an elegance and a cool. Strength comes from the subtleties as well as the more intense elements. Dre's got that balance and flow down. He's been tattooing for twelve years and knows what he's doing. I asked him for a quick and dirty Q&A and here's how it went down:    

How do you approach projects -- esp large scale work -- and create something that  is customized to the client?

There's a lot of studying of the body, so I sketch on the main subject matter then I take a tracing of the body.

What references do you generally look to?
I look at a lot of nature, rocks, water, trees, flowers if need be. Japanese prints and paintings. I watch a lot of anime.

What has been the greatest lesson you've learned in your years tattooing?

Any conventions/guest spots coming up?
Whenever I'm in NYC, I guest spot at Saved Tattoo. In 2013, I'm planning to guest at RedLetter1-- I've been telling Phil [Holt] that for the last few years so that's going to happen real soon. Also at Artwork Rebels, and Bolder Ink -- Joel Long's shop. And I've been promising Brad Fink [Iron Age, Fun City and Daredevil] too, so I'm trying to work that schedule out having a family and all.

What's the best way to make an appointment with you?
The best way to get in contact with me is to email me at andretattoos [at] or call Analog tattoo 408-292-7766. It really isn't that hard to get in contact with me.

Ok, Shout out time ... Go!

Med, Ces, Yes2 at Tuff City tattoos BX NYC. José Soto, Eddie, Anderson Luna, Adrian Lee, Ron Earhart, Matt Shamah, Jim Miner, ATAK, Troy Denning, RG, Kiku, Marco Serio, Damian Rodriguez, Chis O'Donnell, Scott Campbell and everyone at Saved Tattoo. Michelle Myles, Brad Fink, Big Steve, Mina, Claire -- good folks at Daredevil Tattoo. Yoni Z, Brad Stevens, Horizakura, Kaz. Grimey for hooking me up with a book I lost moving out to the West with the family -- it really meant allot, thank you -- and all the guys at Skull & Sword. Jason Phillips and Sean Pertkinson at FTW Oakland, Phillip Millic at Old Crow in Oakland, Trevor Mcstay and everyone at Dynamic Tattoo in Australia -- super nice shop, super nice family, thank you for treating me so nice, can't wait to guest there again. Geordie Cole at Tattoo Magic in Australia, Owen Williams, Evan Griffith at Tama Tattoo in Australia. William Yoneyama also in Australia -- awesome people, good time. And everyone that has let me work on them: I give you thanks for the trust. If I've left anyone out, I'm sorry. Peace out.

Check more of Andre's work on the Analog site.

Andre Malcolm tattoo2.jpgAndre Malcolm tattoo3.jpg
11:43 AM
black skull tattoo.jpgWhen I released "Black Tattoo Art" in 2009, there were very few tattoo artists in the US specializing in dotwork and blackwork (not to be confused with black & gray tattooing). Strong, bold, all-black works and refined compositions created by stippling have been hugely popular in Europe for a while, but only recently have flourished stateside.

In California, 2Spirit Tattoo, is renowned for beautiful blackwork. Last year we profiled Roxx, studio owner and badass. But 2Spirit has an incredibly talented crew, and today, I want to spotlight another artist from the shop:  Michael E. Bennett.

I particularly wanted to talk to Michael when I learned that he'll be doing a guest spot on the East Coast next month at NY Adorned from October 30th to November 3rd. I shot him a few questions, and he graciously replied. Here's our quickie Q&A:     

Which dotwork artists have inspired you and how you do approach this style of work to make it your own?

The list of inpirations for my tattooing is endless, but off the top of my head, recently I've been influenced by the work of Gerhard Wiesbeck, Matt Black, and Kenji Alucky as well as Jondix, Hooper, and of course Xed le Head. Aything with power in it, though, it doesnt really matter what style. I suppose my approach is more based in 'traditional' tattooing. The Coleman kinda heavy lines and shading, that was the way I was taught to apply them.
Do you see a growing demand for this style in the US?

It seems so! I think that's exciting. I feel there's alot of energy in these types of tattoos. The actual act of recieving a tattoo definetly has its own power, demanding a calm composure of yourself while being put through pain is no easy feat, but I think when people see tattoos done in Blackwork/dotwork it effects them. It's just so ANCIENT. It's an art purely for application on the human body.

Is there a certain type of clientele that's attracted to this type of work?

Hmm. That's hard to say. It varies, certainly. More and more people are starting to see the beauty of it. Younger people are always the prominent collectors in tattooing, but this seems to attract all types of folks, which I love.

What types of tattoo projects are you most attracted to?

I like the spiritual aspect of tattooing, not necessarily religious, but something that speaks of a deeper meaning. That's the beauty of this kind of work, it seems so powerful even when there's no real subject matter apparent. It makes you think about form and structure, how things are put together.

Check Michael's work on his blog and the 2Spirit site. You can reach him at childthepeacemaker [at]

heart tattoo .jpgdotwork tattoo bennett.jpg
09:59 AM
Tomorrow, September 25th, is the US release of "Forever: The New Tattoo" published by Gestalten. The 240-page hardcover distinguishes itself from the many tattoo titles on shelves today with an finely curated group of international artists who are creating innovative works and pushing boundaries with new patterns, approaches and even new ways of thinking about what makes a strong, timeless tattoo.

Insightful profiles on these tattooists are written by Nick Schonberger, one of the writers behind the excellent "Homeward Bound: The Life and Times of Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry."
In an interview with Cool Hunting, Nick talks about some of the artists he interviewed for the new book and their stories:

[...] Curly from Oxford, he tattooed with Alex Binnie--a lot of the people have connections to Into You in London: Alex, Curly, Duncan X and Thomas Hooper. Curly talks about hating tattoos, hating mainstream tattoos, having hated tattoos before he met Alex Binnie and realized there could be something "art directed." Curly started moving into tribal tattoos and became one of the pioneers of what you could call "neo-tribal"--although his style is a little different than that. On a mainstream level, that's the easiest analogy. Amanda Wachob is a tattooer who approached tattooing as a way to begin to think about painting and how to combined those two things together. She paints after her consultations with clients and those consultations form the basis of the tattoos that she ends up doing. Robert Ryan is a musician and his music is all about pattern and his tattoos are all about pattern.
forever_new_tattoo.jpgAnother highlight of the book is the foreword by art historian Dr. Matt Lodder, who always offers an interesting perspective on tattoo culture, from ancient tribal rites to contemporary trends. This past weekend, Matt moderated a discussion on tattooing during the book release event in Berlin. There, Alex Binnie and Duncan X discussed their tattoo experiences and ideology.

For a glimpse into that discussion, check this video (below) in which Alex & Duncan "talk about the current mass appeal of tattoos, its uniqueness as an art form and the "holy trinity" of tattooing styles."

You can pre-order "Forever: The New Tattoo" on Amazon.

12:57 PM
flatmo roses and leave.jpg kore fltamo roses and leaves.jpgroses and leaves.jpgOne of the key messages throughout last weekend's Paradise Tattoo Gathering was the need to constantly improve one's drawing skills to be a good tattoo artist. The workshops (and the Drink & Draw party) were great places to hone those skills, but naturally, this work isn't relegated to retreats. A strong artist's arsenal is filled with reference material, from sketches to fine art to tattoo inspiration.

Packed with all this goodness is "Roses and Leaves" by Kore Flatmo. The 120-page softcover is dedicated to one of the most iconic images in tattoo: the rose. And there are over 350 roses in these pages in various forms including black line drawings, charcoals, tattoos and paintings.

Kore's art in charcoal are also available for purchase as a postcard set. The set of seven 4x6 postcards features five cards that have original artwork from "Roses and Leaves" and two cards of his dressed skeletons. The set comes in a vellum envelope with 2 complimentary stickers.

You can purchase the book here and the cards here. Also check the fabulous posters and prints available here.

For more of Kore's tattoo work, hit his recently revamped website and Facebook.

flatmo postcards.jpg
04:19 PM
keystone lodge.jpgjohn 13 roses.jpgView from the Keystone Lodge, and Johnny of 13 Roses Tattoo, Atlanta.

My trip to the Paradise Tattoo Gathering began even before my bags were packed. The party kicked off in beautiful Keystone, Colorado last Thursday, and I followed along in real time on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Most posted their images with #paradisetattoogathering so it was easy to follow. Check them here.

The photos highlighted the tattoos being created on the convention floor but also what was going on behind the doors of the many seminars -- like 3D works from Chet Zar's sculpture workshop, and portraits in progress from those lucky enough to get into Shawn Barber's sold-out painting class. And naturally there were VIP party pix. Horns-high group photos in various Instagram filters.

I flew out of NYC Friday afternoon. With enough frequent flyer miles, I scored a roomy business class seat. Once settled in for the flight, the grey-haired grandfather sitting next to me smiled and said, "I love your sleeves." Turns out his kids have sleeves of their own. We spent a good portion of our flight making fun of the freaks:  the tattoo-free suits getting drunk off the free booze soon after take-off. But I guess I was the freak to some. Heavy tattoo work is not as common outside of coach, and I found myself having to answer (again) the question: What band are you in? Because, ya know, hot towelettes are only for tattooed hands with record deals.

But within hours, I was amongst our people at the Keystone Lodge, with tattoo's rock stars like Bob Tyrrell, Nick Baxter, Durb Morrison, Nikko, Noon, Jeff Gogue, Damon Conklin ... the list goes on. Check the full artist line-up.

Jeremiah Barba tattoo.jpg Jeremiah Barba tattoo on Mr. Scary.

nick pangburn.jpgThroat tattoo by Tim Pangburn on the wonderful tattoo journalist Mary D'Aloisio.

The big buzz Friday afternoon was Adrian Lee's "Bloodwork: Bodies" exhibit. It is a stunning collection of backpieces and bodysuits created by 53 tattooers around the world and documented in meticulous detail. Adrian gave a talk about the work with a slideshow presentation and also signed copies of his must-have book.

The evening closed with a Drink and Draw party, compliments of Graceland Tattoo. Considering how Keystone's high elevation [9,280 feet] was messing with us, I gave props to those who could manage more than a couple of drinks. Lack of oxygen makes for lower bar tabs. I did find myself surrounded by three tattooists taking full advantage of altitude inebriation, and they suckered me in to judging a napkin art contest. There were a lot of animated penis drawings -- all artfully done of course.

james kern tattoo2.jpg

james kern tattoo.jpgAshley's neck and backpiece by James Kern. Fantastic cover-up work.

Saturday was another full day of tattooing and seminars. One seminar that I found particularly interesting was "The not so secret secrets of the tattoo world" by Kris Richter of Beyond the Ink. The seminar (free to all with admission passes) focused on how to choose the right work and artist, and while beneficial to even long-time collectors, it was really a great primer for those new to the art and especially those trying to navigate the whole convention scene. One of the most popular seminars that day was James Kern's Advanced Cover-Ups For Tattooists. Artists completely packed the room to learn from and get critiqued by the cover-up guru himself. My Copyright, Trademark, and Licensing Seminar with John Kastelic followed James's class, and while far from packed, I had a blast talking tattoo law with a fabulous group of artists. [I was also honored to be included on the tattoo business panel Sunday night.]

Sunday rounded out with the completion of some large-scale tattoo works going on that weekend -- with so many fantastic artists from around the world, attendees took full advantage of the opportunity. But whether local or international, all tattoo artists working there had a reputation for excellence. This curating of tattoo talent is a key component of Gabe Ripley's events. You can't get a bad tattoo at Paradise.

Another component is community -- that friendly, laid-back vibe throughout the show where you feel you are a part of something, kinda like the Island of Misfit Toys except on a mountain and the dolls all look like Tim Burton creations.

We all closed down the lounge of the Keystone Lodge that Sunday night/Monday morning. It was filled with hugs and hook-ups, booming laughs (including my own notorious cackle), and wholehearted promises to connect before the next show. It was a tattoo Shangri-la. Paradise, even.      

Gabe's next event is the tattooer-only Paradise Artist Retreat in New Mexico, March 25-28.

vince villalvazo.jpgTara's sleeve by Vince Villalvazo.

thigh tattoo by gene coffey.jpg
Thigh tattoo by Gene Coffey.

gene coffey.jpgGene Coffey himself.
01:59 PM
valerie_vargas_tattoo.jpgOnline today is Part 2 of the fabulous Tattoo Age video series featuring Valerie Vargas of Frith Street Tattoo.  In this episode, a great deal of the footage discusses the studio itself and its owner, Dante DiMassa. Dante talks about encouraging the young artists who work there, including Valerie whose own "pretty lady head" style developed at Frith.

Valerie became known for her particular twist on Traditional and Neotraditional work
early on in her career. You'll see, when she goes through her portfolio on camera, that her earlier book isn't filled with a lot of the other genres. This focus has allowed her to hone her style and further her reputation. Currently, she has about a three-month waiting list. As in all the Tattoo Age episodes, there are lots of photos of art, the shop, and those personal shots that tell a lot of the tattooist.

As mentioned in our post on Part 1 on Valerie, she'll also be working the London Tattoo Convention, Sept. 28-30, and then in California at the 8th Annual Bay Area Convention of the Tattoo Arts, Oct. 26-28.

For more Tattoo Age goodness, check the bonus short film Vice posted over the weekend.
02:09 PM
While we all await the return of our editrix-in-chief - who has been at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering in Colorado, slinging books and lecturing on copyright - I thought I'd take the time to point you all once again to my blog documenting the progress of my backpiece by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo.

We just wrapped up sitting number 16 a few weeks ago (putting the total count at 51.5 hours of tattooing) and if you haven't had the chance yet to peruse the process, get clickin!

(WARNING: there are pictures of my booty up there, so you might want to consider the site NSFW)

09:21 AM
ben siebert tattoo 5.pngben siebert tattoo 3.jpgAustin, Texas is a hotbed of tattoo talent, from veteran artists to those new and killing it in the craft. One stellar studio in the city is Jason Brooks' Great Wave Tattoo. The work coming out of the shop, which is largely Americana and Japanese influenced, is strong and exciting. But it's not just from Jason's portfolio alone. 

Great Wave is also home to Ben Siebert, a younger artist but one who has been honing his skills for years. Ben came up at Hell Bomb in Wichita with Steve Turner, then made his way to Jason, whom Ben says inspires him "to strive to make better work every day."

I asked Ben what it is to make better work, to create a strong tattoo. He said, "Strong tattoos to me are tattoos that stand out from across the street, but at the same time have enough interesting detail and movement applied to it so the whole tattoo is not all taken in in one glance."  

There is also a timeless quality to his work, following the old school and Japanese traditions. On this he says, "I think that Americana and Japanese imagery have stood the test of time because they are deeply rooted in history pertaining to both Western and Eastern cultures. Something that has been passed down in some form or another." 

Those in the NY area need not travel to Austin to get work from Ben. He'll be a guest artist at NY Adorned from September 16th - 22nd.

ben siebert tattoo2.jpgben siebert tattoo.jpg
09:41 AM
groupshotBat.jpgToday, we have Paul Roe of Britishink taking the blog reigns to offer a history lesson and share his own experience becoming part of The Bristol Tattoo Club. A fantastic story.

By Paul Roe:

There has been a tie between British and American tattooing since the very beginning. Techniques, machines and designs have been exchanged and traded for more than a century. One of the oldest international bonds between tattoo artists is still running strong -- The Bristol Tattoo Club -- established in 1953 by the legendary Les Skuse.

Les Skuse started tattooing under the guidance of Joseph Hartley in Bristol,1928, and tattooed tens of thousands of people around the world until his death in 1973. In 1956, he was invited to Sandusky, Ohio by Al Schiefley. Invitations were sent out to the Sandusky Tattoo Club Members all over America and the first American tattoo convention took place on September 8th and 9th, 1956. In attendance were Paul Rogers, DC Paul, Milton Zeis, Huck Spaulding and many more.

LesSkuseShop.jpgThe list of Bristol Tattoo Club members reads like a list of who's who in the world of tattooing: Norman Collins, Paul Rogers, Milton Zeis, Leslie Burchett, Ron Ackers, Cash Cooper, Jessie Knight, Lone Wolf, Jack Zeek, Jock Liddle, Doc. Forbes, Doc. Webb, Lyle Tuttle ... on and on and on. The purpose of the club was to bring together the artists. In the words of Les:

I have always been ready and willing to learn, never thinking I knew it all and continually searching for ways in which to improve my work and equipment. It is my firm belief that the more tattooists meet, correspond and exchange ideas, the better it will be both for the individual and the profession.
Danny Skuse took over the presidency of the club after Les passed and the mantle has now fallen to Jimmie Skuse, the third-generation Skuse to tattoo in Bristol.

So in August this year, I made the pilgrimage from Washington DC where I run Britishink Tattoos back to my home country, back to Bristol to receive the BTC "bat" tattoo. It is customary to bring gifts of vintage tattoo related items to add to Jimmie's collection and I came prepared even donating a custom made machine, which will be included in the BTC tattoo machine poster available later this year.

BTC-batsmall.jpgThe logo of the club is a bat with the letters BTC around it. This tattoo is on about twenty people alive today and was on the arms of all those legends before me. I was honored to be included in such a group, to be tattooed by a Skuse family member, to spend the afternoon sitting on the floor with Jimmie bringing out historic machine after historic machine from his museum collection: Hartley machines -- I have only seen a photo of one once and here are seven in my lap. George Burchett machines, Paul Rogers, Sailor Jerry, Percy Waters ... I was the proverbial kid in the candy store. The best was saved till last, the Edison Autographic Printing Device -- the device on which Samuel O'Reilly based the first electric tattoo machine in 1891. [The Smithsonian doesn't even have one of these.] It was tiny, perfect and exquisitely made.

Edison.jpgAnd so to the tattoo, with the question:  "Do you want me to make a new stencil or do you want me to use one from Les?"  The sentence wasn't finished and I cut him off -- of course the original stencil. How many arms had this been used on? How many of my heroes had this touched? Now the faint impression was on my arm and Jimmies machine buzzed. It was quick, painless and suddenly I was a fully fledged member.

We chatted and made dinner arrangements for that night; after a slap-up meal, champagne and toasts we walked Jimmie and his lovely wife Jackie to the car to say goodbye, he handed me an envelope. "Don't look at it until you get back to your room. You was looking at it today, and I think you should have it." We said our goodbyes.

Back in the hotel room I found an acetate from Christian Warlich (the only tattooist in Third Reich Germany) tucked in the envelope. Jimmie is a true gentleman and I can now say a good friend.

JimmieSkuseTattooingPaulRoe.jpgJimmie Skuse Tattooing Paul Roe.

The next day we traveled back to my home town of Norwich for the Body Art Festival and had a very successful convention with close friends and made many, many more. In eight days in England, hanging out with hundreds of artists and thousands of tattoo enthusiasts, I did not hear the term "tattooer" once. The British term "tattooist" is suitable and dignified, applicable to all.

When I returned to Washington DC, there was an announcement on the BTC Facebook group stating that, for the first time in the club's history, a British Ambassador was appointed to the United States, an Englishman who could apply the official BTC bat tattoo to those members on this side of the Atlantic:  Mr. Paul Roe of Washington DC. I am humbled and elated to receive such a great honor.

JimmieSkuseTattooingBTC.jpgThe membership continues to grow. Tattooists are applying and our ranks swell. Current members include John Black, Dana Brunson, Scott Sterling, Shane Enholm, Todd Hlavaty, Seth Ciferri and many more. Jimmie Skuse will be producing some collectibles for purchase including the a fore mentioned tattoo machine poster and a series of flash books of the current members' artwork.

It is important to me to know and understand the history of this craft. It is even more important that the history of tattooing is in the hands of a group of dedicated professionals who will tend it, grow it and pass it on to generations to come --The Bristol Tattoo Club.

Information, history and a great set of pictures are available at
Jimmie can be reached on Facebook as well.
Paul Roe -- Anglo-Romany, tattoo historian and artist -- has been tattooing since 1998 in Washington DC. For more from Paul, check and
12:15 PM
rock of ages tattoo.jpg
Last week, we posted the trailer to the highly anticipated second season of Tattoo Age,'s video series profiling stellar tattooists around the globe.

The premier episode of season 2 is now online and features Valerie Vargas of Frith Street Tattoo in London. Valerie is renowned for doing "the prettiest lady heads in the world" -- strong pieces in which each tattooed lady has her own mood, expression and personality but are nevertheless distinct as a Valerie Vargas tattoo. In this episode, Valerie discusses how she came to tattooing and then Frith Street; how drawing with her mother as a child left a lasting impression; and how she and her boyfriend Stewart Robson are able to tattoo side-by-side at the studio without killing each other.

Tattoo Age keeps to the winning formulas of its first season: let the work speak for itself and reveal the artists the way they are in their daily lives without scripts or drama. Because the artists are so good at what they do and have their own interesting stories, there's no need to create them.

I'm looking forward to seeing the next two installments on Valerie. Vice rolls out a new episode every Wednesday.

As noted on her website, Valerie is not taking any new clients but if she has any cancellations, she lets her followers know on Twitter and then it's first come first serve for appointments. Valerie will be at the London Tattoo Convention, Sept. 28-30, and then in California at the 8th Annual Bay Area Convention of the Tattoo Arts, Oct. 26-28.

12:10 PM
Backpiece by Tim Kern.

Tattooing got another huge legal boost on Friday when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that tattooing is free speech in the zoning case of Coleman v. City of Mesa (link to decision). This is the first time in the United States that a state supreme court has extended First Amendment protections to tattooing.

A federal court, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in 2010 that "tattooing is purely expressive activity fully protected by the First Amendment" in the case of Johnny Anderson v. City of Hermosa Beach, which was also a case where tattooists were denied the right to open up shop due to zoning restrictions. [My giddy discussion of that case can be found here.]

The Arizona Supreme Court noted that courts have been divided on the issue of tattooing being constitutionally protected expression (and gave example of different cases) but found that "the approach adopted in Anderson is most consistent with First Amendment case law and the free speech protections under Arizona's Constitution."

In both the Coleman and Andersen cases, the courts found that, not only tattoos but the process of tattooing, and therefore, the business of tattooing are protected speech. The Arizona Supreme Court also noted that this protection applies even if an artist is using "standard designs or patterns" like flash, just as cable TV companies are "engaged in protected speech activities even when they only select programming originally produced by others" (citing Turner Broad. Sys., Inc. v. FCC).

This is a win for the Colemans but the fight isn't over. The case now goes back to the superior court, which originally dismissed the tattooists' claims as a matter of law saying that the Mesa City Council decision in 2009 to deny the Colemans a permit to open their tattoo shop was "a reasonable and rational regulation of land use." The Colemans appealed and the Arizona Appeals Court overturned the Superior Court's dismissal finding that they should have had the opportunity to make their case. The City of Mesa appealed that, which is how the case found its way to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Superior Court will now look at whether the decision to deny the permit served a compelling governmental interest and was reasonably related to furthering that interest. Local government does have an interest in regulating tattooing by protecting the health and safety of the public. The issue is whether the rules further that purpose.

In this case, the Mesa planning board had recommended that the Colemans be given a permit subject to certain conditions, like limiting the hours of operation, loitering, refusing to do racist and gang tattoos, and also working with police to identify known gang tattoos. They agreed to those conditions. But the Mesa City Council denied the permit, according to the Yuma Sun, "after hearing concerns from neighbors about the shop possibly drawing crime and reducing property values. Only Mayor Scott Smith was in support." Now Mesa needs to show that this decision was not arbitrary and irrational and did not go against the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution.

I'm guessing, or at least hope, that this case will settle. The tax payers of Mesa have already spent enough money on trying to stop a business from opening, when all a long they could have taxed them and gained revenue for the city -- and also made Mesa more artful.
12:28 PM

There's another tattoo web series I wanted to highlight, which features the experience of artists at City of Ink in Atlanta -- from those new to tattooing to their more experienced artists.

"Under the Needle" is produced by tattooist Miya Bailey (owner of City of Ink) and filmmaker Artemus Jenkins -- the same people who brought us the wonderful documentary "Color Outside the Lines," which we wrote about here. Here's what they say about this new project:
Under the Needle will provide viewers with insight into what you as a consumer, should look for when you make the decision to get a tattoo. You will learn about the different styles of body art, techniques used, how artists come up with their ideas and actually see them apply these works of art to skin.
I posted the first installment here on Paper Frank, who started off as an apprentice at City of Ink, and has now been tattooing for two years. In it, he discusses his approach to tattooing, especially techniques tattooing black skin.

Also check the other 3 videos already posted.
11:23 AM

Vice TV's fantastic video series, "Tattoo Age," is coming back for a second season with promises of more kickass artist profiles. The line-up includes the legendary Thom Devita, Japan's Mutsuo of Three Tides Tattoo, and London's Valerie Vargas, the first woman tattooist profiled on the series.

The first episode goes online next week. Here's more info from Vice:

First up, on September 12, we have Valerie Vargas, who lives and works in London and is widely know for doing the most beautiful "lady head" tattoos around. Then on October 10 we have Mutsuo, a tattooer from Osaka, Japan, who learned from the great American artists who traveled to the shop where he worked in the early 00s. Mutsuo is known for his ability to flawlessly tattoo in just about any style. The season finale, on November 10, will feature Thom deVita, who started tattooing in New York City in the 60s, when tattooing was illegal in all five boroughs. Thom synthesized his environment into his tattoos and created quite possibly the most unique style of all time.

We'll be posting the videos as they go live so you don't miss an episode.
10:15 AM
horror calendar2.jpg
It's never too early to start planning your 2013 convention schedule and tattoo appointments -- and keeping track of them all on a calendar befitting such important dates.

I'm digging the recently released 2013 Horror Calendar, designed and produced by Dan Henk, who contributes his own signature dark art along with Nick Baxter, Adrian Dominic, Scott Trerrotola, Paul Acker, Steve Morris, Joseph Ortega, Buzz Hasson, Rodd Diaz, Jeff Esminger, and Ron Russo. It's a fantastic collection of fine art by top tattooers. A glimpse into each month is below. 

You can purchase the calendar for just $15 plus shipping online here. Look out for them at conventions as well.

horror calendar.jpg
11:24 AM
Rosie the Riveter Tattoo by Cecil Porter.

We're taking advantage of Labor Day today and not laboring. Lots of tattoo goodness coming up this week.
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