July 2013 Archives

07:27 AM
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One of the oldest, and certainly iconic, tattoo shops in NYC -- Fun City Tattoo -- has fresh new blood taking over: Big Steve Pedone and Maxx Starr. 

The legendary outlaw tattooist Jonathan Shaw opened up Fun City in 1987 in Manhattan's East Village, decades before tattooing was legalized in the city in 1997. A lot of great artists came up in Shaw's shop, but it was also particularly renowned for the celebrity clientele that would hang there, like Johnny Depp, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.  When Jonathan decided to retire from the industry, Michelle Myles & Brad Fink of Daredevil Tattoo  bought the shop around 2005 and reinvigorated it.  Now, with Michelle and Brad focusing on the new incarnation of Daredevil Tattoo by NYC's Bowery, the reigns have passed to Big Steve and Maxx. And it's a perfect fit.

Big Steve came up in Fun City, from his start as Shaw's "shop guy" to becoming a sought-after tattooer, and now boss man. Here's a quick Q&A I had with Steve, which sheds slight on that whole tattoo trajectory.

You have a long history with Fun City tattoo. When you first started working there for Jonathan Shaw and then Michelle & Brad, did you ever think you'd wind up owning the place?

Honestly, it has been a long road. I started working there as a shop guy and just kind of blindly got thrown into tattooing by Jonathan after he fired everyone and told me to sink or swim. It was on the table for me to take Fun City over from Jonathan, but I was a 20-year-old kid, who was completely awful at tattooing, so I brokered the deal between Jonathan and Michelle and Brad. I guess I was part of the deal because, regardless of my disappointing skills as a tattooer, I made up for it with the skill of making a ton of money.

What were some of the big changes you've seen at Fun City over the years? What changes do you have planned now that you're running the show?

Besides the obvious renovation that occurred about ten years ago, a lot has changed. The shop is more of a second home then ever. I mean everything, at some point, has to change for a business, especially a tattoo shop, to succeed in today's times. People are more educated, so we are planning to change a lot. A new website is going to happen soon. As we speak, the mural on the front of the shop is getting redone. And we are trying to cover the shop in our own paintings instead of just flash that you can buy anywhere. Somethings will change on the inside of the shop as well. You will have to check in, in a couple of months, and check it out.

How has your own tattoo work evolved over time?

Man, this is a crazy question. I mean, I didn't get a formal apprenticeship to be honest, so It took me a while to really figure things out. I learned mostly everything about the art of tattooing from various people, most importantly, Phil Luck. I learned how to hustle from the king of hustling, Jonathan Shaw. I went from a kid who was absolutely awful to someone who can do just about anything.

Big Steve tattoo 2.jpgYou can rock various styles of tattoos, but what types of tattoos do you really love doing?

I really enjoy tattooing, and for the most part, I don't have a distinct style because I do so many different things. But my mind really changes week to week:  one week, I'm really into doing clunky traditional stuff; the next week, some Chicano-looking black and grey or Japanese; and next week, I'm doing some Polynesian tribal. I just like being able to provide for my family and have fun at work.
Fun City has been a place where one can get large-scale custom work but also come in for a walk-in. Will that stay the same?

Yeah, walk-ins will always be welcome at Fun City. I think that, over the years, besides the foul mouth of yours truly, we have done a great job at making customers happy and providing a good positive environment for people to come get tattooed and have a great time.

Tell us about your crew and what you think differentiates Fun City from other studios in NYC.

My crew is great:  Maxx Starr, Mina Aoki, Claire Vuillemot, John Raftery and Benjamin Haft.  And through the years of traveling, I have made a great extended family of tattooers, who will be visiting the shop on a frequent basis. I think our goal of making our clients happy sets us apart from other shops for sure -- no ego, no attitude, just a good positive mental attitude with a hint of sarcasm I guess. [laughs]

Anything else you want to add?

I would just like to thank everyone who helped me get to this point: Jonathan Shaw, Phil Luck, and Michelle and Brad for believing and putting a lot of effort into getting me this far. It sounds like I'm winning a Oscar award or something! And thanks Marisa  for asking me to do this interview!

The new Funcitytattoo.com will be updated soon. Meanwhile, check Steve's work, as well as that of all the Fun City artists, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Fun City Tattoo.jpgBig Steve, Michelle Myles, and Maxx Starr outside of Fun City Tattoo.

09:36 AM
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It's been a while since I've done a shopping post, and I wanted to share my latest Etsy find: tattoo stylized cards, prints, and even apparel by Quyen Dinh of Parlor Tattoo Prints.

I had vowed to do more letter writing and was looking for some fun stationery. Rather than give my cash to Hallmark, I always prefer to support independent artists, and so I just typed in "tattoo greeting cards" into Etsy and was wonderfully surprised to find Quyen's work.

These Star Wars Themed Tattoo Flash Note Cards are my faves; they're a set of 8 blank greeting cards, measuring approximately 4.5" x 5.5", with white envelops for $28.

Also check out her flash sheets and prints. This 11"x14" ode to Sailor Jerry is a fantastic tribute to the tattoo master, also for $28.

See all of the Parlor Tattoo Prints artwork here.

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04:22 PM
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solstice mandala.jpgFor some positive and light inspiration, check the Solstice Mandala project by Orge of Sake Tattoo in Athens, Greece.  Since June 21st, the Summer Solstice, Orge has been creating one intricate and beautiful mandala a day, incorporating a variety of motifs including animals and elements of nature, skulls, and religious quotations, among others. Orge will continue to create these works until December 21st, the Winter Solstice, and they will culminate in a book of all his mandalas.

You can find more in Orge's Solstice Mandala Facebook Album and on Instagram.

Orge is the manager and a tattooist at Greece's renowned Sake Tattoo, and you'll find much of the sacred geometry that inspires his fine art in his tattoo work. Check him.

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09:47 AM
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Yesterday the NY Times profiled Smith Street Tattoo and offered a beautiful slideshow on the shop. The essence of the feature is how tattoo collectors from around the world will travel to the Brooklyn parlour to get "New York Style tattoos," or as co-owner Bert Krak says, "tattoos that look like tattoos."

Here's a taste from the article:

Mr. Krak opened the shop in 2008 with another artist, Steve Boltz, 42. Mr. Santoro and Eli Quinters, 35, completed their team. The four men, who all are impressively inked themselves, work with a brotherly camaraderie. They chat above the constant hum of the tattoo guns they operate, which drone on like summer locusts.

Smith Street Tattoo's international reputation might stem from its artists' frequent trips abroad. "We probably tattoo more Australians than Americans," Alex Kapsidelis, the shop's manager, said. "I booked an appointment for a guy from Singapore who flew here just to get tattooed."

And what did he get? Mr. Kapsidelis, 24, looked to Mr. Santoro.

"I don't remember," Mr. Santoro said. "Something cool."

Check more of their work at SmithStreetTattoo.com.
09:10 AM
Hernandez tattoo.jpgCover of the Boston Herald above.

The tattoo headlines this week have focused on these mythical beings called "Tattoo Scouts," men with special skills who will be able to weed out athletic thugs and protect the delicate sensibilities of America's bastion of good taste and propriety: the National Football League.

The newly coined "tattoo scout" term came about from a Tweet by Bruce Feldman, in which the CBS Sports columnist was commenting on the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, who was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. The Tweet stated:  "Spoke w longtime NFL personnel man who said in wake of Aaron Hernandez teams may use police experts to check prospects tattoos."

And from there, it all became about tattoo witch hunts -- exploring the morass of bad football player tattoos to uncover a secret past that myriads of background checks and 1,000+ hours of Google searches could not uncover.

It's dangerous precedent to start deciphering the body art of countless NFL hopefuls and base draft decisions on unscientific and flawed beliefs of what constitutes criminal tattoos, especially as motifs that were once relegated to gangs have entered into mainstream tattoo culture.  For example, this Fox News article references the "Smile Now, Pay[Cry] Later" tattoo, which is a tattoo that one can now pick out from flash sheets at shops across the country and is not limited to those with prison records. And while the tear drop tattoo may represent the lives a person has taken, for many today, it also represents loss that did not come from one's own doing.

Beyond background checks, NFL scouts should look to those with greater academic performance, community service, and other positive indicators when picking players, and leave the tattoo reviews to snotty bloggers for art critique and not criminal assumptions.
09:28 AM
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Here's a spotlight on another artist featured in my upcoming Black Tattoo Art II book: blackwork legend Andreas Curly Moore, who works in Oxford at the Tattoo Club of Great Britain.

Curly was raised in the City of Oxford, close to the Pitt Rivers Museum -- a place that houses one of the most comprehensive ethnographic collections in the world, including Maori art, which has had a strong influence on Curly's tattoo work.  He began tattooing in 1993, after drawing several designs that he wanted tattooed upon himself, and soon, several of his friends were asking him to tattoo them as well. Curly then met Alex Binnie of Into You Tattoo in London, and for six years, was part of the most renowned contemporary blackwork specialist crews in the world.

According to Curly, "at the dawn of the New Millennium, it was time for a change," and so he returned to Oxford and is now working at the Tattoo Club of Great Britain's studio in the Cowley Road, Oxford. Curly says that the change has given him an opportunity to do more varied styles of work, including more traditional tattoos, but he's still rockin the NeoTribal and Abstract work for which he has been long admired.

Check more of Curly's work on Facebook, and in Black Tattoo Art II when it drops in September. 
09:32 AM
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One of my favorite art magazines, Hi Fructose, has a great feature on Paul Booth with a focus on his Last Rites Gallery, the fine art companion to Paul's inimitable Last Rites Tattoo Theater. The feature includes images from the gallery and some works from its recent shows, offering a feel for what you'll often find on view. And in the Q&A, Paul discusses what led him to the fine art scene, what "dark art" means to him, and the link between tattoos and fine art. Here's a bit from that:

How do you see the relationship between tattooing and fine art, Last Rites Gallery and Last Rites Tattoo Theatre?

It has come a long way, especially in the last 5 to 10 years. As tattoo art has grown in popularity, it has evolved towards a greater acceptance as an art form. It has been a personal battle for 25 years to open minds and tolerance in this regard, as the process is so different and sometimes intimidating for people. After all, it involves a human canvas that becomes more of a collaboration with the artist. Our aim is not to equate its worth as fine art per se, but to interest [people] in its artistic value. I've always made it my mission to engage and exhibit the best talent out there with the Last Rites Tattoo Theatre. The art of tattooing is a complex technique that requires certain expertise and strong ethics, as well as being an artist from the get-go. The mission of Last Rites is the convergence of these two art forms in one space to create a harmonized atmosphere of skill and aesthetic appreciation. This is not only be seen on a day-to-day basis through the exhibitions and open floor plan of the tattoo studio (allowing guests to experience the tattoo artists at work), but during our opening receptions as well. Every opening reception, we invite both tattoo artists and fine artists to collaboratively paint on stage during "Art Fusion," uniting their talents and creative vision for all to experience.

Both the tattoo studio and art gallery offer its visitors the opportunity to marinate in a stimulating environment that is constantly brimming with creativity and inspiration. Our approach exposes the audience to a different art experience where both worlds can be enjoyed and appreciated.

Read more here.

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09:35 AM
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It's been a while since a profiled a black & grey tattoo specialist, so here is some stunning work from Miguel Bohigues of Aldaia (Valencia), Spain. Miguel has won numerous international awards for his soulful realism, and it's easy to understand why.

For more, you can check this video interview with Miguel (in Spanish) and also find his work on Facebook.

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08:52 AM
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I'm super stoked to announce that Black Tattoo Art II, the second incarnation of my very first book, Black Tattoo Art, will be released September 15, 2013, and will have its convention debut at the London Tattoo Convention, September 27-29, 2013.  So, to give y'all a taste of what I'm been working on the past year and a half, I'll be doing spotlights on some of the artists featured in the book.

Today's feature is on the fabulous Amanda Ruby of The Jewel in the Lotus, her private studio in Folkestone, Kent, UK. Amanda has an unique style in combining realism with pattern work to a beautiful effect. It has earned her accolades including "Best Female UK Artist 2012" and various profiles in international magazines.

What I particularly love is how her florid, ornamental approach has the power of blackwork without needing big bold swaths of ink. She incorporates intricate detail and dotwork, but constructed in a way that's built to last.

Amanda works by appointment only. She recently opened up her diary for January - March 2014, and appointments book up quickly, but fine art tattoos are worth waiting for.

Check more of Amanda's work on Facebook.

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08:38 AM
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Yesterday, France 24 News had an interesting story on underground tattoo studios in Iran, and how artists operate to stay far from the reach of officials, who use Islamic law to arrest and prosecute those practicing the trade.

Outside of the law, Iranian tattooists face other challenges, such as finding decent tattoo machines, ink and other supplies -- much of which is brought in from abroad through friends and travelers willing to take the risk.

Sara, a tattooist who has been working in Tehran for several years, talks about the challenges he faces:

Sadly, the authorities are against this art form, for the same reason that they oppose things like men's ties - they think it is a sign of Westernisation. They shouldn't worry, because many customers actually request tattoos with Iranian elements, like images of Zarathustra, Akhemenid soldiers, Faravahar symbols, Nastaliq calligraphy, and even images of The Book of Kings.

About seven months ago, a policeman posed as a customer. However, when he saw I wore a scarf and a hijab, he changed his mind and said he would not report me. I was very lucky, and since then, I've become more careful in choosing my clients. Fortunately, my work is of high enough quality that when one of my customers is satisfied with their tattoo, they'll refer me to more clients.
In the article you'll also find images of tattoos, like the ones by Kambiz, shown here, as well as a video of Kambiz working (and copying another artist's tattoo from a printout). It's an interesting look at what people will risk for the art form.

kambiz tattoo 2.jpgFahavar, a symbol of Zoroastroanism by Kambiz.
07:40 AM
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When I first began to get more heavily tattooed a little over ten years ago, the one great heartbreak I had as a result was the reaction to the way I looked when I would go back to Greece once a year to see my family.  Despite so much of my designs being influenced by ancient Greek motifs, it was still quite taboo for a woman to be covered in ink, no matter what the artwork. I even wrote in 2009 here about outright hostility in Athens toward me in a number of tourist shops in which I was ready to plunk down a lot of coin for some crap; one shop owner directly informed me that I was a disgrace when I spoke to her in Greek. I didn't get a tourist pass on the tattoos.

A lot has changed in a short time.

The country's renowned beaches have become more beautiful with the greater number of tattooed bodies, and the artwork that is being created from Greek tattooists has become renowned as well. In my 2009 post, I noted just a few of my favorite studios here, but there are so much more.

In keeping up with tattooing in Greece, I check HEARTBEATINK:  an online tattoo magazine in English and Greek with excellent photography and videos; interesting interviews with tattooists, musicians, and collectors; and equal objectification of tattooed men and women (eye candy for all!).

I met the magazine's fabulous editor, Ino Mei, at the NYC Tattoo Convention, and she explained that the goals of the magazine are to showcase the explosive artistry that is coming out of Greece, but also bring to the country news and features of tattoo culture around the world.

For example, she offers some great coverage of the Athens Tattoo Convention and the NYC Tattoo Convention, including the images shown below.  For the latest issue, Ino also interviewed Paul Booth, rockers Red Fang, and the Medusa Tattoo crew, among others.

There's a lot of tattoo goodness in HEARTBEAT INK, so check it for yourself. You can also find the mag on Facebook and Instagram.

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09:06 AM
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There's a lot of love going around Facebook for this wonderful love tattoo by Little Swastika, but in case you didn't see it, I wanted to share it here.  In February, we featured his couples tattoos, but this massive 4-person tattoo has gone even further and is an amazing feat of tattooing, and I believe, a first.

On his Facebook page, he explains the story behind the work (words are reprinted exactly):

somewhere in middle of italy in a private living room. 4 peoples and a total of around 32 hours of tatuing over 4 days on two working spaces. this was in a way killing me, but in another way shows me what is posibly. when i started a few years ago with my first double piece i was just dreaming of making a tatu in a size like this. without much compromises at all. mille gracias gazzooosss. many thanks to all you 4 and to all other pieces who made me walk more than once over my boarders of dreams and reality.
Staying true to the original meaning of the swastika, which was about luck and creation and not hate as appropriated by the Nazis, Little Swastika crafts tattoos as talismans, imbuing his massive pieces with a special magic. With this tattoo, the magic of love and friendship could not be more powerful.

Check the individual works below, followed by Little Swastika's "Japanese Tattoo Master" photo, where he is surrounded by his living artwork.

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08:21 AM
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ESPN Magazine has released a preview of their fifth annual The Body Issue, which lands on newsstands this Friday, July 12th. And women and men around the world shall weep and rejoice in viewing tattoos on finely sculpted bodies -- bodies that are works of art in themselves even if the tattoos are not.

The tattooed athletes featured in this issue include football stars Colin Kaepernick (shown above) and Vernon Davis; basketball player John Wall; Sydney Leroux of the US national women's soccer team; and golfer Carly Booth.

In fact, The Body Issue pays particular homage to Colin Kaepernick's extensive tattoo work in the stunning images as well as in this video shown below. Colin also discusses his tattoos in this ESPN interview, in which he answers the question, "Why are your tattoos so important to you?":

It's what I believe in. They're part of me. They relate to my faith or things that shaped who I am. My favorite right now is "My gift is my curse," written on the inside of my arm. That's applicable right now. There are great things I can do in this position, great opportunities, but there are also things I have to sacrifice. For instance, time with my family. And privacy, being able to go to the grocery store or mall and just hang out -- that's not something I can do. It's unbelievable how different it is right now compared to last year. A lot of camera phones, a lot of pictures, a lot of signatures.

I didn't just walk into a tattoo shop and say, Hey, I want that thing on the wall. All my tattoos were planned more than a year before I got them. I think if people knew what tattoos mean to people, they wouldn't feel the same way about them. Kissing my biceps started from the whole tattoo controversy. I'd kiss "Faith" on my right biceps. That was my way of showing that I love my tattoos, and regardless of what anyone else thinks, they mean something to me. They're more than just ink on my body.
The controversy Colin is talking about stems from this ridiculous column, which was a cliched diatribe against tattooed NFL players, particularly Colin. But the 49ers quarterback got the last laugh because, according the Bleacher Report, the controversy was "precisely why it made so much sense for ESPN The Magazine to turn to Kaepernick for the Body Issue--not only because of his magnetism as a player but also for his unabashed advocacy for tattoo art."

So, while some may not love all of his artwork, Colin is an thlete who appears to truly love tattooing, and it's great seeing that conveyed on the pages of The Body Issue, beyond the naked pics. [Ok, the quasi-NSFW pics are a great draw.]

09:12 AM
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Tattoos and food. If you add Beyonce into the mix, then you have my perfect trifecta of awesome. And it seems I'm not alone (except the Beyonce part), considering the response to our post on Chad Koeplinger's 10 Best Meals of 2013; so I wanted to share another great blog for those who hunger for the culinary and tattoo arts in one lovely bite.

Knives & Needles is the online home where "Where Chefs can talk tattoos and Tattooers can talk food." Written by Molly Kitamura (speaking of lovely!), the blog includes interviews with tattooed chefs (including photos of their artwork), favorite recipes of tattoo artists, and food tattoos featured on "Tattoo Tuesday." There are also cooking tips from Molly, who's background is in holistic nutrition.

Molly offered more on what inspired the blog on Tattoo Artist Magazine:

This is a blog that I started because I have a passion for food and a love for tattoos. I am a professional sushi chef of over 13 years and have worked all over the world for more than a decade. Over my travels working in various kitchens, I always noticed how many chefs are tattooed. Not only tattooed, but many heavily tattooed. I myself am pretty heavily tattooed. Not to get too deep but this has always interested me and I think that chefs and tattooers have similar personality types; artistic, transient punks who are traditionally the lowlifes of society working in a thankless profession. Tattooing and the chef profession have both seen a 180 to their popularity and reputation in recent years with TV shows and celebrity stars being formed in this modern-day atmosphere. I want to give all those tattooed chefs the chance talk about something other than food and give foodie tattooers a chance to talk about something other than their work with this blog!
Molly's husband is renowned tattooer Takahiro Kitamura of State of Grace, so you'll see Taki making appearances on the blog and on its yummy Instagram page.

Check it for food as well as tattoo inspiration.

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08:27 AM

Ok, even I, with all my tattoo law nerdiness, am getting tired of all the "tattoo discrimination" news articles, but I wanted to briefly highlight yet another recent case of dress code policies and discrimination. On August 1st, New Orleans police must cover all visible tattoos or face discipline -- or even termination.

Cops covering up is nothing new. I wrote about police officer tattoo policies in Arizona, and also dress codes for certain Canadian police departments. Now, private employers may have a general right to institute dress code policies and make appearance-based hiring decisions, as long as the discrimination is not based on a protected class. However, public employees have a greater deal of protection when it comes to discrimination in hiring and dress policies, and in the case of cops, the practicalities of the job should trump outdated ideas of who gets tattooed.

Raymond Burkart III, attorney and spokesman for the NOLA Fraternal Order of Police, said it best:  "As we reach temperatures close to 100 degrees on some days, [the new policy] just seems like cruel and unusual punishment, just because you are proud that you served in the U.S. Navy or you put the name of your child on your arm." He added:  "Does the person calling 911 in an emergency situation really care whether a police officer's tattoo is visible? They just want a police response and a timely one. Does it matter that an officer who catches an armed robber has a tattoo? You took a dangerous criminal off the street. We have to ask ourselves: Are we prioritizing our reforms?"

The argument of the New Orleans Police Department is that they wish to give a more "professional appearance to law enforcement officers."  I may have agreed with this ten years ago, when I first started writing about tattoo discrimination; however, as I mentioned, my views are changing -- and it's because society is changing.

The latest tattoo statistics in the US are the following:  one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo; 38% of adults aged 30-39 are most likely to have a tattoo; and women are slightly more likely than men to have a tattoo.

So, considering just how many tattooed Americans exist today -- and now add the non-tattooed people who love us -- what is the current reality that people will negatively react to the tattooed cops, lawyers, teachers, and baristas they are coming across at this very moment?  I'll tell ya:  waaaay less than they did ten years ago.
10:51 AM
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On this day in 1776, Americans won their freedom so that future generations can get tattoos without fear of retribution. This is actually stated in the Declaration of Independence -- right under the freedom to take photos of yourself making a kissy face in the bathroom mirror. All true.

Tattoo above by Americana maestro Nick Colella, whose new studio, Great Lakes Tattoo, will be opening its doors on July 15th in Chicago. More on Nick and the Great Lakes crew to come.
09:01 AM
Today is the opening of the Milwaukee Art Museum's first-ever tattoo art exhibition:
"Tattoo: Flash Art of Amund Dietzel." The exhibit, which runs to the Fall, celebrates one of tattooing's most remarkable forefathers, particularly the one hundred years since the Norwegian artist arrived in Milwaukee in 1913 and made it his home.

Dietzel's studios attracted tattoo collectors far beyond Milwaukee. As the Museum notes, he "helped define the look of the traditional or old school tattoo," and his tattoo flash remains just as powerful today as it was during the two world wars he tattooed through and the many years afterward until his death in 1974.

I'd venture a guess that, if Dietzel were alive today, he'd be having a laugh at the city's museum featuring his work, especially as he put up a good fight against the Milwaukee City Council, along with Gib "Tatts" Thomas, when the city banned tattooing in 1967. 

There are so many great stories of Amund Dietzel's life, and they are wonderfully shared in tattooist
Jon Reiter's book These Old Blue Arms: The Life & Work of Amund Dietzel, which I reviewed here in 2010. 

This exhibit is drawn exclusively from the book and Jon's collection of Dietzel flash, photos and "peripheral Dietzel Studio material." It should be an excellent show for all tattoo lovers and Americana art buffs.

Here's more on Dietzel from the museum:

Born in Kristiania, Norway, Dietzel (1891-1974) learned the art of hand-tattooing on a Norway merchant ship. When the ship was wrecked off the coast of Quebec, Dietzel and a few others decided to stay. Dietzel traveled with his close friend William Grimshaw, working carnivals as tattooed men and tattooing between shows.

Passing through Milwaukee at twenty-three, Dietzel decided to make the city his home. He opened a tattoo parlor and soon had a reputation as the region's premier tattoo artist--and the one to whom World War I and II sailors and Marines went before leaving for battle. In 1964 at the age of seventy-three, Dietzel sold his shop to his friend Gib "Tatts" Thomas. The two worked together in the studio until the city banned tattooing, effective July 1, 1967. "At least it took the city fifty-one years to find out that it doesn't want me," said Dietzel.

08:53 AM
tattoo discrimination claim.jpg Photo via Wate.com

On more than one occasion, my tattoos have gotten in the way of getting food and drink. A seaside restaurant in Greece made it clear they didn't like my tattooed kind and ignored me until I left.  A bouncer at an upscale rooftop bar in Manhattan informed me that "this wouldn't be my type of place."  In the end, I was happy not to give my money to such places, but it did put a damper on my good time. I don't do well with people getting in between me and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

That said, private establishments do have a general right to have dress codes and to deny those that don't fit their "type of place" as long as the discrimination is not based on a protected class, like religion, race, and sex, among others. 

Last week, Bubba Brews, a restaurant on Norris Lake in Maynardville, Tennessee, told a tattooed patron, Mike, to cover up his tattoos, and so he did what many people do today ... he called the media claiming tattoo discrimination. Check the video below. 

But something about this incident didn't have me waving the tattooed freak flag and instantly supporting claims of injustice. The owner of the restaurant was tattooed, and the news cameras showed that there were plenty of tattooed patrons. It was the content of the tattoos that were the problem. Aside from his classy, "I <3 Strippers" throat tattoo, he also had work that said, "Don't be a dick," and a rib piece that was blurred out, which was a youthful mistake. Considering there were kids at the restaurant who were trying to read his tattoos, they asked him to keep his shirt on. He didn't like that.

I don't think it's unreasonable for a restaurant owner to worry about losing family clientele, and as such, ask a patron to cover up that youthful mistake, but still offer service. If I was the restaurant owner, I would have offered Mike a free drink in exchange for him putting on a shirt and being cool.

It's a slippery slope argument, though. What really is an offensive tattoo?  Is it one of those "I know it when I see it" standards? How does one balance the rights of a private business owner to keep a certain reputation with the rights of tattooed people not to be denied the right to be served?

I don't think these are easy questions. But in this particular instance, I think someone who has tattoos that have to be blurred out on TV should take some responsibility, put on a shirt, and follow his tattooed mantra, "Don't be a dick."

What do ya think? Share your thoughts on our N+S Facebook page or Tweet at me
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