November 2012 Archives

08:50 AM dropped Part 2 of their Tattoo Age feature on Thom deVita, continuing to honor a man who gave so much to tattooing for so long. 

It starts off heavy, focusing on Thom's tremors in his hands from Parkinson's disease, but as he speaks about the seriousness of aging, he laughs and continues to make art in the process. That humor is ever-present throughout the video, particularly in his interactions with Nick Bubash, his longtime friend, whom he taught to tattoo in the 70s, and they still create together today.  Artists of the new generation of tattooists pay reverence to Thom in the video as well, and it's an important reminder that we need to keep this respect for the craft and its history, and take care of our own.

If you haven't seen Part 1, check it here.
08:46 AM
daddy has a tattoo.jpgThere's a great feature in today's NY Daily News on our friend Phil Padwe and his latest children's book, which teaches tattoo acceptance, "Daddy Has a Tattoo."

After the success of his "Mommy Has a Tattoo," many tattooed fathers said, "Hey, what about me?" and so Phil obliged with this new release. As Phil tells the Daily News, the book isn't heavy handed or trying to push a moral lesson, and he's "certainly not preaching that a child should get tattooed!" Instead, it's a lighthearted story with bold and fun illustrations. Here's how it's described:

James is a toddler who loves his daddy's tattoo, and Polly is a little girl who loves parrots! Together they use their imaginations to try to solve a mystery! The story encourages imagination and teaches that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover... not when it comes to tattoos!
You can buy "Daddy Has a Tattoo" on Amazon, but before you do, Phil is giving away two copies to two lucky N+S readers, just as he did with his "Tattoo Coloring Book" this summer.

We'll play it like we usually do:  Two 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 December 5th, we'll put all the names of the commenters into will pick the winners.

Good luck!
08:25 PM
tattooed skins.jpg
Today, I came across Gemma Angel's blog post "The Tattoo Collectors: Film & Fiction," a fantastic piece on the macabre theme of flayed tattoo skin as collected art in literature and movies. Gemma is a tattooist and PhD student, who studies the preserved tattoo skins of the Wellcome Collection, a London museum that houses an array of medial artifacts. So she's my go-to source for the history and culture surrounding the post-mortem preservation of tattoos, which she explores throughout her fantastic blog Life and Six Months. [We've written about Gemma's work before here.]

In The Tattoo Collectors post, she particularly focuses on Roald Dahl's Skin and the German film Tattoo by Robert Schwentke.  She offers these thoughts on both works:

It is interesting to note that both Schwentke's film and Dahl's story locate the preserved tattoo within the sphere of the art world - both treat the tattooist as 'great artists' in their own right, whether he be a painter or Japanese tattoo master. The value of the work is considered to be far greater once the artist/tattooist is dead. And both narratives identify the collector of tattooed human skin as fine art collectors who possess a cultured appreciation of the tattoo. Despite this, Dahl and Schwentke's collectors look down upon the tattooed themselves, occupying a more privileged class position.
Gemma also discusses the very real practice of tattoo preservation, most notably the collection at the Medical Pathology Museum of Tokyo University, and she even offers an interesting anecdote about "the fetishistic tattoo collecting practices of Ilse Koch, the wife of commandant Karl-Otto Koch at the Buchenwald and Majdanek concentration camps."

The whole post is a great read. Check it.
08:11 AM

The much anticipated first installment of the five-part Tattoo Age episode featuring Thom DeVita is now online -- and it is a history lesson that you should not miss. Here's more from Vice on the segment:

Even though Thom has been tattooing and creating art for almost 50 years, there isn't much information out there about him. He started tattooing in New York City's Lower East Side in the mid 60s--when tattooing was illegal in the city--and quickly began to forge his own style.

Thom drew from a wide variety of infliuences for his tattoos, everything from Pueblo Indian designs to Lord and Taylor shopping bags. He also formed relationships with other American tattooers who were revolutionizing tattooing by bringing in influences that went far beyond the usual array of images found in most American tattoo parlors at the time.

We interviewed Ed Hardy, Nick Bubash, Clayton Patterson, Scott Harrison, Angelo Scotto, John Wyatt, Robert Ryan, and Bubba Reeves to help tell Thom's incredible story.
Part 2 drops this Wednesday. Will link as well when it's up.
11:59 AM
tattoo lady holiday card.jpg So, as anticipated, "Black Friday" was gross

Nevertheless, it hasn't put me off to gift giving, which I think can be fun and warm and fuzzy without crushing small children. A better alternative to the mall store melee is "Small Business Saturday," where shopping can be done to support your local business and independent sellers. My Small Business Saturday starts at Etsy, where awesome (and not so awesome) illustrators, crafters, and other badass people with glue guns offer creative wares you won't find at Walmart.

As in years past, I'm highlighting tattoo-themed holiday cards early on to give you enough time to order the greetings, write sweet nothings, and mail them (by post!). A couple were highlighted last year but are worth a re-order.

One of my consistent favorites is Sugar Beet Press's "Tattoo Lady Holiday Cards," with the words "Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men" illustrated within the backpiece (shown above). Each card is $3.50 and a ten pack is $22.50 plus shipping. They are A2 size (4 1/4" x 5 1/2"), printed on heavyweight watercolor paper, and are blank inside. Red envelopes are included.

tattoo holiday cards.jpgYou really can't get more adorable than the "Tattoo Carnival People Holiday Cards" by Crankbunny.  You can purchase the set of ten "Miss Suzy" and "Sir Craig" cards for $20 plus shipping, or get 3-packs of each character for $12.50. The extra cool thing is that you can personalize the cards and choose what cut-out paper object each character holds -- a huge candy cane, a gift present, a dreidel, or gold star that is each detailed with festive glitter!  Also check out Crankbunny's wonderful tattooed paper puppets.

sugar skull card.jpgIn the UK, Vickilicious Designs is offering these "Tattooed Sugar Skull" cards for 2.60 GBP (approximately $4.15) plus shipping in the UK & internationally. The snow-flaked skull is "printed onto a silver mist card, pale blue/white dusted with silver finished with ice blue jewel."  It's blank inside and comes with the envelope. Customized cards are also available.

TattooLady1.jpgIf you're feeling crafty, get the "Tattoo It Yourself" cards by Canadian illustrator Andrew Kolb. Take the tattoo-free minx or gent, and draw your own greeting on their animated bods and inside on the blank banner. The cards are $18 Canadian dollars for a pack of five plus shipping in Canada and worldwide.

It's all much sweeter than a Facebook post.
02:11 PM
We kick off our N+S Holiday Gift Guide with our friends at Sullen Clothing, who have been giving us free swag for you to win all year.  Today, they have a special 40% off sale, where you can get serious deals on apparel designed by some of your favorite tattooists, including Jack Rudy, Nikko Hurtado, and Bob Tyrrell, among many others. Also check their tattoo travel bags and cases.

And remember, their contest to win a free tattoo from Bob Tyrrell is still on.

Cheap and free ... we like these offers.
01:52 PM
gift guide.jpg
It's "Black Friday" -- a day where people camp out at malls and beat each other for flat screen TVs and the last run of Elmo dolls.

I can't let you do that.

So, once again, we've put together our own gift guide where purchases can be made with just a click and will go to support indie artisans. Our advertisers also have special deals for N+S readers coming up as well. We kick it off today and will have a bunch of posts for you peppered throughout the weeks up until January 1st.
02:26 PM
amsterdam_tattoo_museum.jpgUPDATE:  Here's more on what happened that led to the threats against the museum.

In just one year, the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum has become one of the most important tattoo institutions, with its collection of artifacts and contemporary art, guest tattooists, art and educational events, and its overall aura that pays true homage to the craft. The museum is the labor of love of Henk & Louise Schiffmacher, who have worked tirelessly for years to see this tattoo destination go from dream to reality.

Yesterday, Henk announced that the museum is being threatened. In a letter that became a widely disseminated image, Henk explained that their partnership deal behind the museum has gone sour and they found themselves locked out and the entire collection was taken hostage. A lawsuit have been filed and money and support are needed to keep this home to tattoo history and culture alive.

Details on what you can do to help have been posted today on Henk's museum blog. Here it is reprinted below:

Comrades at arms!

It is been overwhelming, we're blown away by the enormous support we've had the last 24 hours. Never before in my whole history as a tattoo artist I've come across such an enormous exposition of positive energy. Reactions worldwide, tweets and retweets, pictures on Instagram, posts on Facebook, etc. It's a tough fight, but we're in to win this.

Again today we were denied access to our museum. Locks have been changed, negotiations with the police to get personal matters like tattoo machines were necessary. A tidal wave of local and national press were served all day. Negotiations with landlords, lawyers and businessmen took place. Do not despair my friend. We will fight this with success. Stay tuned!

P.S. Lawsuit is about 1.5 million Euros and has no ground at all. Come see us on December 8th. Help us fight for our art, fight for our history, fight for our future, fight for our museum!

How can you help us?
- First of all, keep spreading the word!
- Make a donation on PayPal, big or small at
- Make a tattoo for the museum, donate, take a picture and participate in the 1000 tattoos for the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum competition
- Sing a song on YouTube
- Make a "Save The ATM" t-shirt
- Bake cookies
- Throw a party
- Become a member of the Blue Bone Society
- Put us in your will
- Sell your body
- Throw us a gig
- Rob a bank
- Organize an auction
- Participate in the December 2nd worldwide Tattoos for History day in participation with

Keep up the fight!

Yours truly, Hanky Panky, Louise, Annemarie & Tessa...


Dutch speakers can find more info in Henk's interview with

And here's our post on the museum last year, which gives more info on its collection.

02:13 PM
Tattoo above by Electric Linda.

turkerL.jpgTattoo by Christopher Allen.

I know many of y'all aren't big on this big fat American holiday for many political, social and even dysfunctional family reasons, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to give thanks to all of you who have been such a support and inspiration to keep sharing all the beautiful and just freakin cool things we love about tattoo.
I'm grateful.

Much love,

Vengeful-Vegan-(Large)2.jpgVengeful Vegan tattoo above by Jesse Smith.
07:55 AM
bob roberts tattooing.jpg
I'm a big fan of blogs that chronicle the evolution of large scale work -- watching someone's transformation from what mama gave them to their own artful individuation (like Brian's Bodysuit to Fit).  One that I'm following now with great interest is David Bragger's The Battle Royale Tattoo by Bob Roberts blog.

Bob Roberts and his Spotlight Tattoo are legendary. I know the word "legend" gets thrown around a lot but in this case it's incredibly apt to describe an artist who came up in the craft at The Pike in Long Beach from 1973, was taught by Bob Shaw and Col. Bill Todd, worked with Cliff Raven and Ed Hardy, and pushed tattooing to an even greater level of artistry. Spotlight remains a vigorous shop as well as a tattoo landmark.

backpice bob roberts.jpgDavid has been spending a lot of time this year at Spotlight. Bob finished up his leg work, which you can check on Flickr. It's a fantastic piece with some great art by Robert Ryan mixed in as well.

And with the leg done, it was time to move on to this back. In September, David began the blog with the sketches Bob had done for the backpiece. The posts then follow to stencil placement, lining, passing a kidney stone (!!), and the latest post shows the start of shading (and notes the soundtrack to that session). I'm loving the comments David adds along with the images. I highly recommend you give the blog a click.

Beyond being a tattoo connoisseur, David is also a player and instructor of old-time fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar. Watch some of his lessons on YouTube.

For more on Bob Roberts, you gotta pick up the definitive book on the artist: "Bob Roberts: In a World of Compromise...I Don't" published by State of Grace.

08:12 AM
FELIX BARRIENTOS tattoo.jpgFELIX BARRIENTOS 3.jpgThe crew from RealTape sent me a link to their video profile of Colombia's Felix Barrientos of Sailors & Mermaids in Medellin. The production is great, but more important, it introduced me to a talented artist, who has an infectious excitement and passion for the craft. Check the video below.

You can find more of Felix's work on Facebook and Flickr.

UPDATE:  And here are some fun pics from the tattoo convention in Medellin!

08:39 AM
tattoo anatomy.jpg
There's a new tattoo blog out that I'm loving: Tattoo History Daily, which is on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.  The daily dose of tattoo history goodness is brought to you by interdisciplinary scholar Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman.

The images are from archival research and/or her personal collection, and are fantastically curated, like this one above: "Tattoos as part of the US Army's 1889 plan to help id deserters, from Alden's 1896 article in The American Anthropologist."  Or the image below, a cover to a 1957 pulp fiction/science fiction novella from her archive.

While the blog is just getting started, there's plenty to browse and enjoy. Check it!

the tattooed man comic.jpg
06:29 PM
I learned from Colin Dale this afternoon that ManWoman passed away peacefully this morning after a bout with terminal cancer.  Manny was an artist and poet but best known for his work reclaiming the "gentle swastika."  Manny was such a bright light, and while I'm saddened by the news, I also had to smile thinking of our brief time together and all the experiences he shared and giggles we had over them. He will be deeply missed by so many.

Shannon of posted his tribute to ManWoman today and included this video below, in which Manny offers his "final thoughts" less than ten days ago. The whole video is beautiful but ends powerfully on these words:

Find the gift that is in you. You're in this world as a gift of god to this world, so get busy doing it!
I'm on it, Manny!

For more on his thoughts about art, spirituality and the swastika, I'm posting my Q&A with ManWoman, which took place at the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival in Ireland in 2010, and was published in the October 2010 issue of the UK's Total Tattoo magazine. Find it below the video (after the jump).

RIP ManWoman.

Interview with ManWoman ...
09:38 AM
BobTyrrellTattooGiveaway_Body.pngOur friends at Sullen Clothing have yet another tattoo giveaway, and this time you can enter to win a free tattoo from ... Bob Tyrrell [exclamation points].

The winner of the contest will be flown to Detroit Rock City to be tattooed by Bob at the Motor City Tattoo Convention. The Motor City show is one of the stops on the Inked Up World Tour, which is a kickass partnership between Sullen and Rockstar Energy Drink.  The tour kicks off early 2013 and will have 12 of some the best artists in the world -- no really, the best -- hit up 12 international tattoo conventions. 

Check the video below with a South Park-ized Bob throwing out the details -- the best part of the video is that Jack Rudy is doing the voice of Bob. Gotta see it.

Also check out the new Bob Tyrrell tee for Sullen.
09:48 PM
lal hardy tattoo.jpg
While we're waiting for the premiere of Tattoo Age's highly anticipated Thom DeVita episode, check the wonderful Valerie Vargas Bonus Footage on VICE YouTube.

In this video, Valerie visits the legendary Lal Hardy, who has been tattooing since 1975, and is definitively one of the people who elevated tattooing in the UK in the 1980s. Lal is deserving of a 10-part episode because he's got stories ... lots of them. I've hung out with him until the morning hours laughing hysterically as he shared them like the perfect showman -- and as Lal says in the video, back in the day, old time tattooists had to be showmen because "you had to fight for your work, but wanted people to come for the experience as well."

Check the video and get a taste of what it was like tattooing in London's punk scene in the eighties and how Lal keeps his passion for tattooing decades later today.

07:00 AM

Tattoo artist and painter Chris Dingwell is no stranger to Needles & Sins. I'm a long-time fan of his painterly tattooing and abstract approach to his fine art, and so I always keep an eye out for him on my Facebook news feed. [You can follow him yourself on FB here.]

Last night, he shared this video above, "Tattoo Cover-Up Stories: Mark," in which he goes through the steps of how he turned Mark's "disorganized collage of heavy, dark random tattoos down his right arm" and transformed it into a really beautiful, cohesive piece that takes the existing work and wraps it all into a trippy dreamscape with a dragon as its unifying element, which works its way down and around the arm. It's particularly interesting to hear Chris's technique on how he dealt with the crude, overworked black tattoos through the use of color layering and contrast. Over half the work he does has some sort of cover-up in it, so he comes to this type of work with great experience.

So, if you have a tattoo you're not happy with but think that nothing can be done, this video proves that you should never say never. But do get an artist who is excited to take on a challenging project and do his or her best to make you happy.
06:06 AM
Painting by Billy Morrow Jackson.

Today is Election Day in the US, and while it may not sound punk rock, I do believe in being part of the democratic process and that voting does make a difference. If it didn't, why is so much money being poured into campaigns to court us?  As my friend Steph tweeted, "It's punk as f*ck to stick to your beliefs." And so I hope that you will head to the polls and honor those women, Native Americans, African Americans, the poor and so many others who struggled so we can have some say in our democracy.

For more on the Uncle Sam painting by Billy Morrow Jackson, check out this N+S post.
07:11 AM
I strongly believe that the "tattoo community" is still a community for many reasons despite what people say about its dilution and people coming to the craft without the love & respect it deserve. There's still plenty of love that goes around, and it is most prevalent when shops from across the globe band together to do good for the tattooed and for anyone in need regardless of the colors in their skin.

One world-wide effort to help those in need is Food Tattoos for Hunger. It's particularly important in light of how many people are after suffering Hurricane Sandy (but not limited to this disaster relief). In addition to local food banks, Food Tattoos for Hunger hopes to help organizations like Kids Cafe and the Backpack Program.

Gabe from TattooNOW, who is spearheading the benefit, has more on the project and shops and artist can help -- and collectors naturally contribute by supporting these shops:

TattooNOW, along with an international collection of shops, will be hosting the Food Tattoos For Hunger benefit. This benefit will focus on raising money with shops doing "Food Flash" tattoos and artists donating their earnings on November 18th.Together with the public's support, Food Tattoos For Hunger is going to do its part to help the millions struggling with hunger.
Many internationally acclaimed studios and artists are rising to the call such as Off The Map Tattoo, Seppuku Tattoo, Timothy Boor's Bohemian Tattoo Club, Studio Evolve, Ram Lee, Nikko Hurtado, and Bob Tyrell. Dozens of other studios are joining in and donating their time, efforts, and money.
The goal is to have 100 shops participate and be able to raise at least $1,500 each so they can possibly donate up to $150,000 to food shelters across the world.

To find out more, click here. Also check their Facebook event page.
01:33 PM

Breaking from their usual (but excellent) short-form, Vice's "Tattoo Age" series will be doing a five-part series on Thom deVita, who began tattooing during the "illegal era" of NYC ink in the 1960s.

The series of "inter-visits" (Thom doesn't do "interviews") debuts on November 21st on the Tattoo Age website.
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