November 2013 Archives

01:48 PM
We're giant fans of Atlanta metal-outfit Mastodon here at the Needles and Sins Compound - or, at the very least, Marisa is very patient and attends all of their local concerts with me - so I was quite a bit tickled when I saw guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds as a mayoral candidate in this advertisement for Liberty Tattoo.

It's also great to see that he doesn't mind mocking his tribal facial-tattoo (which, I've just learned has it's own facebook page!).

[H/T to Metal Sucks]
09:19 AM
mr-x-poster.jpgIn this intense and beautiful short film on Duncan X, of Into You Tattoo in London, director Alex Nicholson could have just let Duncan talk of his struggles, his drug use, his son, his beliefs and approach to tattooing, and his fascination with it all. Duncan's words alone are moving; however, this film is made even more powerful by Nicholson's collaboration with MPC's Motion Design Studio, in which Duncan's own tattoos come to life on his body as he shares his personal stories. The animation is also used to punctuate dark moments -- black tears for a tragic memory, and dark smoke floating from his mouth as he speaks of heroin. Despite the heaviness, there's also something very heartening, as is often the case when one speaks of the love for tattoos.

The process of how those tattoos materialize in the film is interesting in itself.  As described by MPC, Duncan's body was covered in make-up and tracker markers to determine their placement.  "The tattoos were animated and then tracked onto his body using Mocha. RealFlow was also utilized to create the flowing effects, and the snakes were animated in Cinema 4D." For all the techie details, read VFX Supervisor John Sunter's explanation of his process on MPC's site.

For more on Duncan X's work, check his online portfolio, and also Into You's site. Also, my most favorite tattoo flash sheets in my possession have been created by Duncan. Check them here.
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03:43 PM
Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 3.45.39 PM.png[photo via Imgur and UsVsTh3m]

The portrait tattoo will always hold a contested place in my heart. How will they age, I often wonder, when the lines have spread and the shading has faded? After all, when done well they can be a thing of beauty. But when executed poorly... they can be pure nightmare fuel.

The yuksters over at UsVsTh3m have decided to collect a series of questionable portrait tattoos and then super-impose the tattoo over the original photographic source-material. And while I've spoken out about online tattoo-shaming before, let this be a reminder to everyone of the old adage: "good tattoos ain't cheap and cheap tattoos ain't good."

Click here for the gallery.

07:48 AM
walter moskowitz bowery boy.jpgLast Friday, November 22nd, would have been the 76th birthday of an iconic tattooer and a truly good man, Walter Moskowitz of the legendary "Bowery Boys."

Walter and his brother Stanley (who still tattoos today) learned the craft from their father Willie Moskowitz.  Willie emigrated from Russia and opened up a barbershop on The Bowery in NYC, but soon learned that he could support his family better through tattoos than cutting hair, and so he had his friend Charlie Wagner, another legend, teach him the craft. Along with tattooing came the drunken shop brawls between (and with) rowdy clients, police harassment, and the general hustle to make a living during and after the Depression. Not an easy life, but it made for good stories.

Many of those stories are captured on the 
Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants, a wonderful two audio CD set (more than 2 1/2 hours of tattoo tales) accompanied by a 24-page color booklet with photos and articles. The audio documentary also includes guest commentators, and I'm honored to be one of them.

As I wrote on this blog in 2011 when the audio collection was released,
Walter's son Doug recorded these stories in the last year of his father's life so that they may live on. The stories are funny, educational, sad and triumphant. As Doug says, "You will not only get to hear great tattoo stories but you will also get a nice perspective of who my dad was as a person; the era he, his father, and brother tattooed in; and how that related to what he did."

In commemoration of Walter's birthday,
Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants will be discounted for the next few days, and can be purchased for just $15 on Amazon.  It is the perfect gift for tattooists, collectors, history buffs, and, really, for yourself (you deserve it!).

By sharing his stories, Walter gave us a gift, one I'm grateful for. 

09:03 AM
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One hundred years ago, Amund Dietzel (1891-1974), of Kristiania, Norway, arrived in Milwaukee with a knowledge of tattooing he picked up on a merchant shop. Deciding to make the city his home, he opened up a tattoo parlor that attracted tattoo collectors far beyond Milwaukee. Sailors and marines during two world wars came to see Dietzel before leaving for battle, choosing powerful designs from his handpainted flash that hung on the shop's walls. 

"helped define the look of the traditional or old school tattoo," the Milwaukee Art Museum wrote of their "Tattoo: Flash Art of Amund Dietzel" exhibition, which ran from July to October.

That wonderful archive of Dietzel's painted flash, stencils and drawings,
from the collection of Jon Reiter, will be exhibited at Great Lakes Tattoo in Chicago, from November 29th to January 5th.

During the November 29th opening, not only can you view Americana tattoo history, but also have a piece of it tattooed on you, as artists will be offering tattoos from Dietzel's flash sheets from 12 to 10 PM that day. The opening party, with food & drink, runs from 5 to 8 PM.

Proceeds from the tattoos, as well as beautiful limited edition prints (shown below) and shirts, will go towards the hefty medical expenses Jon incurred from an ICU stay.

For more on
Amund Dietzel's life, pick up Jon's fantastic books, These Old Blue Arms: The Life & Work of Amund Dietzel, Volumes 1 & 2.

Dietzel Print.jpg
08:30 AM
tattoo for the philippines.jpg
Last week, I wrote, with a heavy heart, about how the tattoo community lost one of our own, Agit Sustento, in the devastating typhoon in the Philippines. And, as a true community, artists and collectors from around the world are joining Tattoo for the Philippines, and raising funds to be donated to the Red Cross relief efforts in the country. Find a list of participating artists here -- and more are artists are welcome to be a part of it.

Elle Festin of Spiritual Journey Tattoo & Tribal Gallery (shown tattooing by hand below) offers more on the design he created for this fundraiser:

The inspiration for the tattoo design comes from an artifact known as the Manunggul Jar. The artifact was discovered in a burial site Manunggal Cave in Lipuun Point, Quezon, Palawan. It was chosen as the inspiration for the design because the figures represent guides taking the deceased to the next life, in essence guiding the souls of those who died. The artist's interpretation of the design is in the style of a petroglyph. This style was chosen as a nod to the indigenous cultures of the Philippines. The design also incorporates a dedication to Jonas Agit Sustento, a tattoo artist and musician from Tacloban, who perished in the typhoon along with several members of his family.
The cost of the tattoo is $30.00 U.S. or $20.00 Euros. The costs of supplies will be borne by the tattoo artists who are also dedicating their time.

Find more info on Facebook.

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05:32 PM
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I know. I've been remiss in not featuring more Traditional and Neotraditional tattoos lately, so what better way to get back on track than to showcase new work from Americana maestro Myke Chambers.  Myke is a prolific tattooer and painter, making his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, which he regularly updates, incredibly dynamic online art galleries.

While Myke's home base is Northern Liberty Tattoo in Philadelphia, PA, he frequently works conventions and guest spots around the world.  You can check his 2013-2014 schedule here, and as noted on his site, appointments book up fast.

For reality TV lovers, Myke appeared as an expert advisor on the show Tattoo Rescue. You can watch the full episode in which Myke appears here

Also check him on his live tattooing webcam.

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08:33 AM
Maika Tattoo.jpgmaika tattoo 2.jpgFor organic-meets-industrial-geometric tattoos, check out the portfolio of Maika Houde, of Tattoos by Maika, in Montreal, Canada.

This self-taught tattooist, who began painting when she was 9 years old thanks to her artist mother, picked up the tattoo machine in 2005, and has since developed a signature style that plays with various forms outside of traditional tattooing. She says of her influences: 

I am inspired a lot by abandoned industrial sites in decay, rusted pieces of machinery, destroyed cities landscapes, architectural landscapes and also of course geometry. And I am fascinated with contrast such as organic shapes versus extremely technical geometric pattern, shape or design.
My tattoo influences are artists such as Little Swastika, Gerhard Wiesbeck, Rob Hoskins, Cory Ferguson, Xed Lehead, Jondix, Vincent Hocquet.
I also asked Maika about her tattoo process:

As for my Organic/Industrial Geometry work, I usually work first on paper, of course, after having consulted once with the client. But, to make it fit nicely on the body, I usually draw parts of the design on the clients and build it on them in the first session. [...]

Some clients give me more details and are more specific on what they want, but in the end, I do what my creative mind tells me to do. So there are times where I don't include everything they ask for simply because, esthetically, technically, or for whatever other reason, it wouldn't fit nicely. Once I explain that to them, they are pretty ok with it, or we adjust depending on if there's something I previously took out and that they really wanted in there.

I also try to keep them away from cliches, or if I keep the cliched idea, I make sure I totally destroy it by making it something new and beautiful -- and other times a cliched [design] can be pretty beautiful -- maybe I should call these ideas "classics"; it is all really a feeling based on who's in front of me and how I feel in the moment, so it's a very "organic" way to work and it changes with each client and project.

When asked about her particular clientele, Maika explains:

A fascinating thing I have noticed is that a lot of my clientele are engineers, biologists, scientists of some sort, architects, doctors, mathematicians ... they come from the left side of the brain and I've found it an interesting mix: their left side of the brain encounters my right side of the brain! Ha! It feels like it's an opening, a welcome sign, for the left-sided brain people into the world of tattoo. There's a lot more "geeky" & "nerdy" tattoos in the world now, where before there wasn't! I think it's exciting!
Maika often does guest spots out of Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec City, and will be expanding her travel into Europe. She'll be working the Frankfurt Convention in 2014, among other shows.

You can find most of Maika's work on her Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram [@Tattoobymaika]. 

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08:35 AM
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From  "Europeans and indigenous Americans being judged at the court of Nature for modifying their bodies, from the frontispiece to John Bulwer's Anthropometamorphosis (London, 1656). Wikimedia Commons."

A perfect follow-up to yesterday's post of a 1902 newspaper feature on tattoos is another wonderful history article, published yesterday in The Appendix, entitled: Indelible Ink: The Deep History of Tattoo Removal. Mairin Odle, a PhD candidate in Atlantic History at NYU, cites texts, from as old as a sixth-century encyclopedia of medicine, that discuss ancient tattoo removal procedures; she also offers stories of frustration over the difficulty in removing permanent markings -- the same frustration people talk of today.

Here's a bit from Odle's text:

By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, documentation of tattoo removal was often found in accounts of Europeans in contact with cultures overseas--particularly, although not exclusively, societies in the New World. The failed effort to remove the English pirate's facial tattoo was not the only attempt at such a procedure in the early modern Atlantic world. A number of French, Spanish, English, and Native American sources suggest that people of the period could regret their permanent body modifications just as much as modern people do.
Tattoo removal in the past, however, reflected something more powerful than transient personal taste. Attempts to undo seemingly permanent body modification remind us how much the cultural aspects of physical appearance mattered, particularly in determining personal and collective identities. Inks and dyes, fixed under the skin, told stories about one's past: who one knew, where one had been, even who one had been. One might wish, or others might insist, that such stories be ignored, forgotten, erased. This is the underexplored side to the history of body modification: regret, resentment, and painful policing of aesthetic and social boundaries.
As much as I am a cheerleader for the tattoo community, I think Odle is absolutely correct that the "regret" issue has not really been explored fully when discussing tattoo culture -- beyond the silly tabloid articles. I think this history of tattoo removal article is a great start.

Read more of the article here.

[Thank you, Lindy Hazel LaDue, for the link!]
08:49 AM
For near-daily gems of tattoo history, The Vanishing Tattoo's Facebook Page is a great source. Two days ago, they posted this incredible gem: a 1902 NY Tribune article entitled A Tattooing"Artist." A must-read piece.

The article discusses tattooing as an art form, how "real silk-stocking society women" were tattooed, tattoo trends at the time, and even how tattooers practiced on children. Here's a taste from the article:

When schools on the East Side opened a few weeks ago, the teachers were astonished at the number of tattooed youngsters who appeared for beginning their schooling. Some of them were as variously decorated as the saltiest of seaman, and the boys who had escaped the needle were so envious that they only wanted an opportunity to join the ranks of the "skin pictures" as the tattooed boys were called.

The designs were not unlike those one sees on the arms of grown men. Youthful taste had not been allowed to assert itself, for the reason that the tattooers were simply practicing on the boys that they might do better work on the men who came to them. So there was the usual round of anchors, eagles, stars, butterflies, frogs, snakes, hearts entwined and bleeding hearts.

Then, in a careless moment, one of the tattooers made a mistake. He wanted to try some religious emblems, and was not particular as to the faith of the victim. In everlasting ink he put a picture of the crucifixion, popular with Roman Catholics, upon the chest of a Jewish boy. The father naturally objected and complained to the boy's teacher.
There are also salty scenes from inside the shop of Elmer E. Glitchell aka "Electric" Elmer, the "Wonder Tattooer," of Chatham Square:

The young man bared his arm and the operation began. The "professor" washed the skin with antiseptic and shaved away the hairs. He rubbed a little cocaine into the skin and then stenciled the design. He turned the current into his electric outline machine, and at the rate of a thousand punctures a minute traced the outline. The patient winced once or twice at first, but soon got used to the pricking sensation, and made no complaint. There was little or no sign of blood. The "professor" held out his arm that the patient might select the colors he desired, and the arm made a perfect color sheet. Blue, red and green were the colors that appealed to the merchant and the outline was soon completed with a brush...
Read more from the American Newspaper Repository.
09:29 AM
Agit Sustento  .jpg
The tattoo community lost one of its own in the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines last week. Agit Susteno of Kanapuy Neo Tribal Tattooing in the City of Tacloban was a self-taught tattooist who studied the ancient tattoo arts of his ancestors to revive the practices of the Bisayan people. The young artist and musician was part of the Filipino traditional tattoo revival movement. Members of Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe (Mark of the Four Waves), the US-based group who have focused their work on this revival, have been mourning the loss of Agit on social media and offering personal stories of their beloved friend.

Our thoughts are with all affected by the tragedy. If you'd like to help the victims of the typhoon, here's more info.
04:49 PM
motorola _tattoo_throat.jpg

Last week, Motorola filed a patent application for an "electronic skin tattoo" that "provides auxiliary voice input to a mobile communication device."  As put it, "Sweet microphone transceiver and power supply neck tat, man."

What the electronic tattoo does is transmits audio to a controller, which then sends it along to the accompanying mobile device, like your smartphone or tablet. Essentially it can be the ultimate in hands-free telephone calls or just voice commands for a device. Oh, and it could also act as a lie detector in monitoring voice patterns.

The patent application naturally came onto my radar because the use of the word "tattoo." As notes, "the company has a habit of being loose with their definition of 'tattoo'." And one would naturally think that we're talking about stick-on tech tattoos; however, when I quickly looked over the patent, I didn't find it specified. Even Engadget highlighted that the patent reads likes it's a permanent throat tattoo.

Should it be conceived as a permanent electronic tattoo, it won't be the first marriage of tattoos and tech. Here's a list of some posts that have also filled our cyborg tattoo fantasies:
07:33 AM
loic lavenu xoil tattoo 1.jpgloic lavenu xoil tattoo 3.jpgOne of the most renowned tattooers of the graphic mash-up tattoo movement, Loic Lavenu, aka Xoil, was recently listed in "The 13 Coolest Tattoo Artists In The World" -- which is actually a pretty decent list.

Loic, who is based in Thonon les Bains in France, has been doing numerous guest spots, and here are some recent Wow works he's done on his tattoo tour.  For more on his travel dates and booking appointments, check his Facebook page. FYI: there's already a waiting list for his 2014/15 NYC dates.

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02:54 PM
In the recent issue of the National Tattoo Association newsletter, there's a feature on the "Queen of the Knots," Pat Fish, which includes new Celtic tattoos as well as a really fun and interesting bio. I had to steal a bit from it. Here's Pat in her own words:

When I was a child, I had no ethnic identity, and I yearned for a connection to a bloodline and history. As an orphan I felt so alone, denied my place and race. I'd go to sleep at night praying "God, when I find out who I really am, please can I be Irish?"

When I was finally able to meet my true relatives I was delighted to learn that I am a Pict, a Scot, Clan Campbell on both sides of my heritage. My ancestors the Picts were the famous tattooed warriors of Scotland, known worldwide as mercenaries easily visible in battles with their tattooed faces. It was in an attempt to hold them back in the Highlands that Hadrian's wall was built.

Many histories will say that Europe woke up to tattooing when Captain Cook brought back "tattooed savages" from his explorations, and also his sailors who had been marked on their voyages. But in truth the Picts were written about by Caesar and other ancient historians, who said they were "pricked with diverse marks."

It happened that I met many of my true relatives and learned this heritage at the same time I began tattooing. It seemed a lattice of coincidence, that I was meant to do Celtic tattoos. I took it as my special goal to work to bring the intricate art of the ancient illuminated manuscripts and the Pictish standing stones to life in skin.
Read more here, and find more of Pat's work on Facebook.

Pat will also be tattooing at the 35th Annual (yes, 35 years!!) National Tattoo Association Convention, April 29 - May 4, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Garden Grove, CA. NTA is the oldest tattoo organization in the country. More on them can be found on Facebook as well.
11:29 AM
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Today's Wall Street Journal Asia features an article by Manami Okazaki entitled Japanese Tattoos: From Yakuza to Artisans, Aesthetes.  It's an interesting read, particularly for its focus on traditional Japanese bodysuit tattoos -- Wabori -- and how their popularity has increased among young people who are interested in them on an artistic level, and how they are losing favor among the Japan's criminal underworld, the Yakuza, for whom Wabori was an integral part of their culture.

As Manami writes:

[...] Tattoos are on the decline among yakuza. Master tattooists including Horihiro and Horinami attribute the decline to the economic downturn, while others point to arrests and authorities clamping down on organized crime. Some also suggest yakuza today want to be less conspicuous, whereas in the past, tattoos were a means of distinguishing themselves from the rest of society.

"Regular people are walking around showing their tattoos off, so it isn't obvious who is who," Horitoku, an influential Tokyo-based tattooist, said. "There is no notion that doing something like that is scary anymore."

As for tattoos being part of yakuza initiation rites, that seems to be less common as well. "There aren't things like that anymore," master tattooist Horihito, based in Yokohama, told me.

Manami does point out in the article that, despite tattooing's popularity beyond the Yakuza,"the country is as strict as ever when it comes to accepting them as part of mainstream society." She also notes that this strict regard of the art form may have to change as the country will welcome visitors (including those who are tattooed) for the 2020 Olympics. [We noted this in our post on a Maori woman banned from a bathhouse for her Moko.]

The WSJ article is just a glimpse into masterful works of Japanese bodysuits, which is explored in detail in Manami's upcoming book, "Wabori, Traditional Japanese Tattoo" released by Kingyo this month. Once I get my hands on a copy, I'll post my review. Meanwhile, the article, and its accompanying slideshow, are worth a look.
07:54 AM
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Tattooing's transformative magic is none more evident than on the fierce women whose battle scars with cancer are morphed into beautiful works of art.  We've gotten many messages since our P.Ink Day post, in which we wrote about how the P.Ink or Personal Ink Project brought ten tattooists and ten cancer survivors together to create exceptional tattoos over mastectomy scars.  So grateful to all of you for your inspirational stories.

One kickass woman, Sheri, has allowed us to share her exceptional story. Her "bra" tattoo, shown above, is by Shane Wallin of Twilight Tattoo in Minneapolis, MN. Alli from Twilight wrote:

We saw your blog and it's great. We reposted it to our Facebook page along with some photos of one of Shane Wallin's recently finished tattoos on a wonderful woman name Sheri. Two weeks after getting her tattoo finished, she found out her cancer returned after years of being breast cancer free and it is terminal. She told me she was so excited to "bring her sexy back" with her new tattoo and those two weeks were the happiest she has been in years since being diagnosed and her mastectomy.  It was both heart warming and breaking all at the same time. Reading your blog and seeing those other images of work that other women have gotten reminded us of Sheri and I just wanted to share the images with you. Sheri asked that we put her photos out there and raise awareness, however we can, so I want to honor her in that.
Thank you, Sheri and the Twilight Tattoo crew, for the inspiration.
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