February 2014 Archives

08:39 AM
lore morato tattoo .jpgOne of the reasons I love traveling to tattoo conventions is meeting artists and getting excited about all new kinds of work that I haven't seen before. At the last London Tattoo Convention, one artist whom I fell in love with is Lore Morato -- not just for her beautiful tattoo work but for her generosity of spirit. After many years tattooing outside her native Brazil, particularly in Germany, Lore has returned home and is opening her own tattoo atelier Golden Times Tattoo in Belo Horizonte. She took a break from building her shop to talk to us about her fascinating life and work.   
When did you first dream about becoming a tattooist?

Since I was 16, when I used to hang out with friends and sketch their tattoos on paper.

What were some of the most important moments in your path to fulfilling this dream?

When I went to Europe as a 20-year old, I was already dreaming of being a tattooer. I arrived with no money at all. I was a punk seeking adventure. I had no idea what would happen to me, but it was better not to think too much... hehehe. So in the beginning it was really hard because I had no home. I used to live in squats in Barcelona and eat recycled food out of the trash ("freegans" you know? Hehehe). I needed to work really hard in small jobs, like babysitting or handing out flyers on the streets, in order to get money to buy my first used machine. The path was long, but I knew that good moments would eventually come.

There were so many important moments for me, for example, when I finally found a cool lady: Petra Kempka, who helped me a lot and got me a job in my first good tattoo shop in Germany. Or when I finally started tattooing only what I really love; and also when people write me telling me they are so happy with their tattoos, and I see that I can help them with my machines... like when they go through an important moment or when they need to heal wounds from the past, and they want to transform this in tattoos and choose me for that! This is the best part.
lore morato tattoo 3.jpgYour distinct style of tattooing blends Neo-traditional with the spiritual. Could you explain your approach to this work?

My mother and grandmother back in Brazil raised me in a very spiritual way, teaching me about magic stones, plants, making wishes and believing in the universe. My mom always said we women are powerful witches. Their teachings are the greatest source of inspiration for my work. Since then, I started studying and celebrating the Divine Feminine, the magic and mystery about being a woman: worshiping different goddesses, seeking the balance between male and female. My work is part of me, is part of what I believe. It's all together, all in one.

You have very strong female archetypes represented in your work. What are your influences and inspiration behind them?

As I said before, all the goddesses that I worship are sources of inspiration, but mostly I draw on the archetype of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna, my favorite goddess and also my guide. She is the queen of heaven in the Sumerian mythology and goes down to the underworld to face her sister, who is also her own darkside at the same time. She learns to embrace her shadow in her journey, and when she does it, she goes back to heaven as the queen of both heaven and hell. I am fascinated with this story!

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What are your thoughts on being a woman tattooer -- do you believe there are still obstacles women in the industry must overcome today? What have been the more positive aspects of being a woman artist?

I believe there are still obstacles for we women in many places around the world, not only in the tattoo industry but in most other jobs as well. This is so sad and something we can't deny, even when we think it's 2014! There is still a lot of things to fight for. As one of my favorite singers, Melissa Auf Der Maur, says in one of her lyrics : "As we stumble together, we fall alone". So if we want to overcome sexism or any other "ism" that diminishes us, we need to stand together as artists, as workmates, as sisters.

The most positive aspect of being a woman artist is just the fact of being a woman! We were all born powerful, and when we start to realize it, the tattoos we make will become more than just tattoos, they will become tools for healing.

Tell us about the creation of your new studio. What are your goals for Golden Times Tattoo?

This a dream coming true for me, and in my own tropical country. Can you imagine a "tropical new-traditional tattoo shop"? Hahahaha! My boyfriend and I are the owners and we expect to bring some artists from Europe and the rest of the world to work with us as guest artists. The new-traditional scene in Brazil isn't that strong yet, but people are always curious and very excited about it, so interest in neo-traditional here is definitely growing. We are also an art gallery, and every month we will have space for artists to make exhibitions, not only tattooers but all kinds of artists we want to support. Our goal is to make this place a place for dreamers, for inspired people to give and receive inspiration, a place that people feel good and at home.

What conventions/guest spots do you have planned for the new year?

I will be in Europe from August to the middle of October:  I will be at the London Convention (26 to 28th September) and at the Stockholm Ink Bash (29 to 31th August) also making some guest spots in Zurich (Switzerland), Leeds (UK), Berlin and Cologne (Germany). Dates and shop names will be in my page very soon: Facebook.com/goldentimestattoo.

lore morato tattoo 1.jpgWhat is it you most want to accomplish in the new year?

I want to paint more oil and watercolors and do other projects besides tattooing, and dedicate this year to enjoy my shop here. I also hope to continue following my spiritual path since I am now back in Brazil, which is my home.

If there is one thing you'd like people to know about you, what is it?

That it doesn't matter where I am and what I am doing, I will always believe in dreams and magic; and that my tattoo equipment are healing tools for me, I do my job from the bottom of my heart. If you get a tattoo from me, it will not be "just a tattoo," we will be doing magic together!

What do you love most about your life?

The fact that I can travel a lot while doing my job, because I looooove traveling so much!

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Find more of Lore's work on Facebook and Instagram.
09:43 PM
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Is it wrong that I think these icons look infinitely better tattooed?

Check more photoshop tattoo goodness on Shopped Tattoos Tumblr and Cheyenne Randall's Instagram. [Also note the "Free Peltier" message.]
07:56 AM
Junco Peony Finished.jpgToday, we have fascinating guest blog post from Pamela Shaw, who shares her experience receiving traditional Japanese hand-tattooing -- tebori -- from renowned artist Shinji Horizakura. Here is Pamela's story in her own words:

By Pamela Shaw
Being very green to the tattoo world, having only one other tattoo, it seemed to me that getting this tattoo was a mix of a boon and not quite deserved; though I feel that way about my first tattoo experience, and expect to feel that way with each of the artists whose work I have the pleasure and honor to have on my body.  Still, Shinji Horizakura's work had been in that category of  "one day maybe I'll get lucky enough to have work from him."  This "one day" thought slowly turned into a lust of sorts.

I became more and more enthralled with tebori after reading the Munewari Minutes blog, the plethora of information and photos generously posted by tattoo artists and collectors online, and Takahiro Kitamura's "Tattoos of the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Motifs in the Japanese Tattoo" book, to name but a few sources. I love the dedication to maintaining tradition, the influence from all forms of art (literature, mythology, theatre, fine art, music, religious iconography) and keeping things handmade in this ever machine and technologically influenced world.  At this rate, how could I not not get a tattoo from Shinji Horizakura?  I adore his bold use of color, there is such solidity and strength within the aesthetic.

Knowing full well that I most likely was not going to get a tattoo from Shinji Horizakura any time soon, I called NY Adorned to put my name on his list. Shortly thereafter, I found myself happily, surprisingly, feeling like I won the lottery: making a consultation appointment.  I cannot find any other rational explanation given the "bird with plant
matter/branch/flower on my left thigh" subject matter description and Horizakura's long wait-list as to how this happened.  From what I imagine, this is not what Shinji usually does with his time, though I could be wrong since I picture him working tirelessly on much larger tattoos, day in and day out.  I feel very lucky and grateful to Shinji, the folks at NY Adorned, and to the tattoo gods who have been smiling on me for giving me this opportunity.

peony tattoo closeup 2.jpgI asked Shinji for a dark-eyed Oregon junco, a bird I first saw in Northern California on a trip with my herbalist school program and a bird I have seen since here in New York with slightly different coloring.  On the day of our consultation, I had a few color photos of the bird in question, and a couple of other examples of art prints with
birds as well.  We discussed placement, and plant material.  I had my heart set on a pine branch, but Shinji advised against it and said that he'd come up with something else.  I got a rough marker sketch on my leg, and booked my appointments.

When the first appointment finally rolled around, he had a beautiful stencil drawn for me. The peony was a lovely surprise, and I have to say, it is gorgeous. After giving the okay, we got our first session started.  I loathe having line-work done, and that last half hour of tebori felt like bliss by comparison.  I also am a rather huge wimp, and take an herbal tincture to get myself through measly two-hour sessions on my thigh so I could be relaxed and not twitchy and tensed up.  During my last session, I almost fell asleep; though that could have been the herbs talking. 

Tebori is obviously quieter than the machine, and to me, it is less jarring and painful -- dare I say, enjoyable. Now, my long-term tattoo plans are being reconsidered, so as to incorporate more of Shinji's fine tattooing.

I absolutely love my junco and peony and cannot thank Horizakura-san enough.  Every time I look at this tattoo, I am reminded that I am indeed a lucky woman!
04:39 PM
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Cover-up tattooed by Tim Kern at the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational.

This morning, my tattoo news alert was blowing up with mainstream media coverage of tattoo events across the US. This past weekend, three major conventions took place:  the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational in Springfield, Oregon; the Motor City Tattoo Expo in Detroit, Michigan; and the West Texas Tattoo Convention in San Angelo, Texas.

The Evergreen Tattoo Invitational received a lot of local press coverage, particularly for a first convention, which was organized by Joshua Carlton and Riley Smith. The more extensive coverage came from The Register-Guard, which posted this video (below), as well as some photos from the convention floor.  You can also find a slideshow from Evergreen at Komonews.com.

randy engelhard tattoo.jpgTattoo above by Randy Engelhard, winner at the Motor City Tattoo Expo.

The Motor City Tattoo Expo celebrated its 19th year as Michigan's most popular convention. The Detroit News covered the event, as did MLive, which also has a sizable slideshow of images from the show. As with other convention coverage, there was an emphasis on the tattoo TV reality stars in attendance.

For the West Texas Tattoo Convention, K-San news offered this video, featuring a quickie interview with Oliver Peck.

I'll be covering my hometown NYC Tattoo Convention, March 7-9

11:39 AM
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A couple weeks ago, while at a bar chatting with a friend, I felt a tug on my arm and then, without warning or even a word, my arm was being twisted and turned for inspection by guy who, not only felt it was his right to grab a stranger, but who was rather shocked when I took my arm back and told him that what he was doing wasn't cool. He became indignant that I wasn't flattered by his attention, saying, "What's wrong? I like your tattoos," as if his artistic approval of my work gave him a right to touch. I then took his arm, twisted it as he did to me, and asked him if he liked it. Then, completely accidentally, his own fist wound up in his own eye.

My non-tattooed friends were pretty shocked that some random stranger would grab me to look at my tattoos. I wasn't shocked at all. In fact, most of you reading this won't be shocked. It's something we talk about a lot -- how our skin becomes an interactive museum exhibit. This is particularly a common experience for tattooed women.

This discussion of our bodies as some kind of public space, as well as other issues experienced by tattooed women (and men as well), will be shared on March 6, 2014, on the panel discussion "Women's Ink: Tattooing in the New Millennium" at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn. I'm honored to be moderating the panel with Margot Mifflin author of one of my most favorite tattoo books, Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo.

The panel is inspired by the third edition of "Bodies of Subversion," released by powerHouse Books a year ago. [I interviewed Margot at that time about the new edition.] The book was the first history of women's tattoo art when it was originally released in 1997, exploring the stories of tattooed women from as far back as the nineteenth-century. So many years later, it remains the only book to chronicle the history of both tattooed women and women tattooists.

The experiences of women tattooists are particularly fascinating, and there are so many questions that arise:  Do women tattooers still feel any form of discrimination from colleagues and clients? How do they feel about their representation in the media? How do they see their role as business women as well as artists? ...

These questions, among many others, will be addressed by a phenomenal group of artists: Roxx of 2Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco, and NYC's own Virginia Elwood and Stephanie Tamez of Saved Tattoo

We'll also open up the discussion to all. The panel, which will take place from 7-9 PM, is the day before the NYC Tattoo Convention -- it'll be a fun way to kick off the tattoo weekend celebration.  I really hope to see you there.

More details on the event via the Facebook invite.
11:30 AM
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That the blog will be closed today due to the passing... OF ONE MORE YEAR AROUND THE SUN FOR MARISA!

(Don't worry. She's still only 21-years-old... again)

We shall resume with your tattoo-related goodness on Monday.

[painting of Marisa by Shawn Barber]

08:47 AM
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When two fantastic artists get together to chat about their work, and their lives in general, I have to share. Check this Life+Limb podcast with tattooer and painter David Allen, which can be streamed here and downloaded via iTunes.

Life+Limb is created and hosted by artist & designer Chuck Anderson (@NoPattern), and features interviews with "some of the world's most interesting, passionate, and creative people about their lives and work." David certainly is one such person.

Chuck interviews David on his transition from the graphic design world to the tattoo world, his apprenticeship and learning curve (including his tattoo practice leg), and his thoughts on tattoo culture overall. They also discuss David's wonderful work serving breast cancer survivors by transforming their mastectomy scars, as we've written about here.

When asked at the very outset of the podcast, "Who are you?", David responds, "An artist and a father." From there, an interersting discussion develops as to what that fully entails.

I hope you'll find inspiration in David's experience (and a push to hustle more) as I did.

See more tattoo work and paintings by David on his site, Facebook, and Instagram. Also check Chuck's art and design work here.

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08:15 AM
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As we first posted back in October, the original the NYC Tattoo Convention will be taking place March 7-9, 2014 at the the historic Roseland Ballroom -- before this legendary venue closes in April (hence, why the show won't be taking place as it usually does in May).

And as always, we're stoked for the show, particularly for its finely curated line-up of tattooers from around the world, including long-time legends, and also traditional hand-tattooing booths. There are some great sideshow performances, and tattoo competitions that really present some stellar work. Plus, the kickass vendors offer badass merch. [Literally, "badass."]

I have been attending the NYC Convention for 13 years, and it has consistently been one of the most electric shows I attend. I'll be doing a book signing there this year for my latest monster, "Black Tattoo Art II." Just follow the loud maniacal laugh when you get to the convention and you'll find me.

To get a glimpse into the show, check this video (below) from our friends at Heartbeat Ink, who captured the scene last year.

It'll be a fun time. I hope to you y'all there!

07:08 AM
Josh McAlear skull hand tattoo.jpgToday, I'm handing over the blogging reigns to a long-time friend of the site, Jesse Nelson. Jesse interviewed Josh McAlear of Redemption Tattoo Boston, one of his tattoo artists, about some interesting pieces that Josh has recently done.


Social media has had an obvious affect on the tattoo industry. Never has it been easier to look through an artist's portfolio and find the right person for the style you desire. Facebook, Twitter and, most of all, Instagram have created a virtual rabbit hole in which I regularly fall through by clicking through picture after picture, by artist after artist. It was on one such trip that I found Josh McAlear of Redemption Tattoo Boston and I had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a chat and some work (a Paul Williams Phantom of the Paradise tattoo!) during a recent guest spot at True Hand in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.

Looking through his work, its obvious to see that Josh has some love for the Macabre and these three pieces show what you are in for when you book some time with him.

Josh McAlear tattoo1.jpgJN: I know Rolling Thunder from back in my video store days and is also the name of Quentin Tarantino's production company because it is one of his favorite films.  Were you a fan before doing this piece?

JM:  Absolutely one of my all time favorites. So many awesome parts of this film. I had the pleasure of doing this one on my friend Coco who has a similar lust for revenge as I.

Josh McAlear tattoo 2.jpgJN: I love your monster / skull work. The coloring and style recalls the comics and movie posters I grew up on, I assume you grew up with a similar love of the ghoulish?

JM:  Damn straight. I've been a stone cold Horror maniac since I first saw Texas Chainsaw and Faces of Death in 8th grade. I really just want to make this style look like its actually from the 60's/70's, not just a copy of something from then. Also, 99% of the tattooers today all do the same crap. My goal is to do something everyone else isn't doing, but that people will actually get tattoos of. ha ha.

Josh McAlear tattoo.jpgJN: This is another colorful monster that drew me into your work. With a piece like this, does the client come with you with specific ideas, or do they generally trust you to wow them ?

JM:  It really is a mix of both. I tend to do more of the stuff like this when I travel. In those cases, people have been really trusting of me, which is great. It can be scary trying something that you haven't seen done before (coloring or style wise at least), but the more I do it the more I trust myself. I'm really happy people have been
responding well to my recent stuff, it definitely motivates me to keep going with it.

Josh can be reached at joshmac76@gmail.com and through Redemption Tattoo.
Jesse is the co-owner of the Philly based horror collective ExhumedFilms.com and DiabolikDVD.com.
02:40 PM
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A bunch of y'all have sent me links to the J&B tattooed bottles ad campaign, featuring the work of Sebastien Mathieu, owner of Le Sphinx in Paris. It seems the painstaking process of tattooing these limited edition bottles of booze is garnering a lot of attention; if you haven't seen it, the design studio Button Button explains the campaign:

As a celebration of [J&B's] origin, we decided to tattoo 25 bottles for real. First thing, we fully covered bottles with a latex skin, like the one used to practice tattoo, slim enough to respect bottle shape and strong enough to be hit many times my tattooer's needles... We decided to color skins with a human skin color to strengthen the tattoo perception and create something intriguing...Then we asked Sebastien Mathieu, owner of Le Sphinx a private tattoo room in Paris, to support us in this adventure. Excited by the challenge he immediately accepted... with only a partial idea of how complex it would be... Actually he spent around 20 hours to tattoo each bottle. Each of the 25 bottles is tattooed from a single design, but intrinsically, each bottle is unique.

In the end, these 25 bottles are [were] for sale this winter in Paris at Publicis Drugstore and at L'eclaireur rue Herold. They are presented in rough black silkscreened wooden box.
20 hours per bottle!

Vince Hemingson of The Vanishing Tattoo sent a link to the Creative Review article on the ad, which explained that the bottles (at 150 Euros each) sold out within a week. To this, the ever-wise Pat Fish made the following point: "Ok, they sold for 150 Euro each, that's $205. Takes the artist 20 hours to copy the same design on each one, plus he took time to design the pattern to J&B's approval before he began.  I get the kink factor but it doesn't make sense unless the 25 bottles were sold for 1500 euros, as limited edition collector's items. Or auctioned off to highest bidder."

Here's hoping that the artist was paid well by the design company, or at least banks on the press of this campaign.

See more of Sebastien Mathieu's tattoo work here. Check the video of his process below and find more pics at The Coolector.

J&B Tattoo by Sphinx from ButtonButton on Vimeo.

07:52 AM
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It's Valentine's Day. I know, I know...a Hallmark holiday designed to get people to spend money on cards, flowers, and candy at high mark-ups. But at the gooey center of it all, a day that celebrates love, whether it be romantic, friendship or familial, can't be all that bad, especially if we celebrate it on our own terms.
Here are a couple of links that share some love in our own tattoo way.

  • I had to re-post this 4-person love tattoo (shown above) created by Little Swastika. Read more on the work and check further links in our original post here. Also check his couples tattoos, which we featured last February.
  • Last month, Buzzfeed posted "13 Rad Ideas For A Tattoo-Inspired Wedding." It's Buzzfeed so there's the usual cheeziness (and they use the word "tats"), but there are some cute ideas, many of which support indie designers.
  • For beautiful brides and grooms, often with lovely stories and celebration inspiration, skip the lists and head to RocknRollBride.com or Offbeatbride.com.
  • Finally, in the news this week, I fell in love with the story headlined "'My Little Pony' tattoos support bullied boy," which features a Texas tattooer who rallied clients in support a young boy who attempted suicide after being bullied. Upon learning about how the 11-year-old boy was tormented for his love of the cartoon "My Little Pony," Tony Wayne of Imperial Tattoo in Sugarland, Texas, began offering $20 "My Little Pony" tattoos, with the profits going to the boy's family, and the anti-bullying organization StopBullying.org. There are images and some interesting discussion of how tattooed people rallied in support because of the judgment and ridicule many of us have faced ourselves. [For a wonderful look into the adult fans of "My Little Pony," check "Bronies," a fantastic documentary on the culture.]

    So those are my quick and dirty love links. And naturally, on this day I have to express my love for all of y'all who have been such an amazing support for this labor of love site. I kiss you!
07:59 AM
pierre tattoo mania tattoo.jpgpierre tattoo mania.jpgWhen I think of talented tattoo families -- and the warmest and kindest -- one of the top that comes to mind are the Chapelans of Studio Tattoo Mania in Montreal, Quebec. Second generation tattooer, Pierre Chapelan and his wife Valerie are not only renowned for their stellar studio, but also organizing the fantastic Art Tattoo Show Montreal.
Pierre is celebrating 20 years in tattooing, and there's a wonderful online (and offline) appreciation of his dedication to the craft. Here's more on this milestone:
"It's been more then 20 years since Pierre Chapelan first held a tattoo machine in his hand, but in 2013, he celebrated his 20th anniversary as a professional tattoo artist. He fell into the tattoo world early on while watching his dad Michel tattoo his way around France and accompanying him to various tattoo shops and conventions in Europe. He was only 17 in 1993 when he started tattooing full time in Bordeaux, France. A mere few months after starting, he came to Canada for his first tattoo convention as a professional artist.

The Montreal Tattoo Convention was filled with many well known artists including Tin-Tin, Bernie Luther, Eddy Deutsch -- all artists Pierre looked to as inspirations. A year later, he came back to Montreal, fell in love with his future wife,Val, and soon enough, decided that Montreal would be home. He worked at Tatouage Artistique along side Keith Stewart and Bill Baker for a few years until he opened his own shop.

Studio TattooMania opened in 1997, the same year his daughter Audrey Lune was born. What was a small one-person operation is now one of the most renowned tattoo parlors in Canada with 9 artists, as well as guest artists who have included Filip Leu, Horizakura, and Tin-Tin, among many others.

Pierre is fully dedicated to his work; he truly "eats,*•#s, sleeps tattoo," as one of his t-shirts states so well. He's been involved in the tattoo community as the host of the Art Tattoo Show Montreal, one of the most successful tattoo conventions worldwide.

He's a polyvalent artist who believes it's his duty to do great work, whether it's a full backpiece or a small walk-in. At only 37-years old,Pierre still thrives on learning and loves talking about his craft.

His next 20 years are looking bright and fun as ever with new projects but always bearing the same respect and love of tattooing."

Congratulations, Pierre!
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08:07 AM
Lyle_Tuttle_Antartica2.jpgLyle_Tuttle_Antarctica.jpg It started off as something whispered at tattoo convention. Lyle Tuttle had something big to cross off his "bucket list": to tattoo in Antarctica, the only continent on this earth left where he hadn't plied his craft.  When tattoo historian Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman learned of this, she cornered Lyle in the hotel bar of the convention one night and told him that it was her dream as well to visit Antarctica.  After she "casually mentioned" that she could make this trip happen, Lyle took her up on her offer to organize the trip and be his personal assistant on that journey.  

On January 21, 2014, the 82-year-old legend, who has been tattooing since 1949, became the first person to tattoo on all 7 continents. Anna offers more on that trip here, an excerpt of which is below:

After a long trip to the tip of South America, [Lyle Tuttle] and project assistant/tattoo historian Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman, flew across the Drake Passage on a 6-seat charter flight. Still plagued by after-effects from a bout of frostbite acquired while serving in the Marines in the Korean War, the trip posed a particular challenge for Mr. Tuttle. The two travelers spent a full day touring, seeing--among the many wonders of the icy southern world--glaciers, icebergs, penguins, seals, and whales--and experiencing what life is like for those who live in Antarctica for extended periods of time. Then, late at night, Mr. Tuttle set up his tattoo station in a scientist's guesthouse at the Russian Bellingshausen Station and tattooed his signature tattoo--his autograph--on Dr. Friedman's leg, later adding "ANTARCTICA 2014" when back in Punta Arenas, Chile.
During the trip, Lyle also got two new tattoos himself, and as Anna writes, he delighted local tattooists with his unexpected visits to their studios.

When I asked Anna about the amazing stories she must have heard from Lyle on that trip, she said, "Stories....man, I'm still processing it all. 10 days of the two of us pretty much constantly together, combined with his loquaciousness, is A LOT of stories. To be honest, the stories I particularly loved were the non-tattoo ones--of his family and growing up, fighting in Korea, sailing on his Chinese junk."

She also said that the most memorable part of the trip was "traveling to these storied places that I have read about so often in the pages of explorer's narratives and journals. Staying in a hotel room overlooking the freaking Strait of Magellan, touring Tierra del Fuego, flying over Cape Horn and recognizing the shapes of the islands at the ends of South America from so many years as a map geek, and, of course, landing on Antarctica. The hike down a cliff face on the Drake Passage side of King George Island through permafrost, fields of weird lichens and mosses, and crazy awesome ice and craggy rocks to see elephant seals also ranks among the top three hikes I've ever taken and lingers in my memory."

Read more of Lyle and Anna's historic journey on her blog, where she'll also be posting more photos and video soon.
09:59 AM
If you don't live in the US (or don't have cable), you may be unaware of the cultural faux-nomenon that is Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo - a reality show based upon a slovenly, if charming, family that drags their overly-caffeinated child around to beauty pageants.

My pal Josh Ruben at College Humor [full disclosure: he's cast me in several short films for the brand] makes an amazing fat woman, and in this episode of Precious Plum - a parody of Honey Boo-Boo - he takes his daughter to a tattoo/piercing shop. It's brilliant; and the language is totally NSFW, so stream this with your headphones on.

06:23 PM
Southern tattoo.jpgKnuckle tattoos by Chris Compton of Broken Lantern Tattoo, Charleston, SC.

It hasn't been that long since state-wide tattoo bans in the US were lifted. Oklahoma was the last state to legalize tattooing in 2006. And I was just reminded that South Carolina is reaching its 10th year of legal tattooing since 2004. It's amazing to think just how much has changed in such a short period of time.

According to SC Now's Morning News, more than 100 licensed tattoo studios are operating around the state, and despite the fear that legalizing "would invite drug use, pornography and assorted other evils," that hasn't happened. In fact, there has hardly been any real action against tattoo studios in South Carolina. As the article explains:

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control [DHEC], which regulates tattoo parlors, has taken action against only 12 shops since 2006, according to records obtained by The Post and Courier through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Those actions involved permitting issues, such as failing to renew a license on time or attempting to open a shop within 1,000 feet of a church, a no-no under the law. None involved parlors in the greater Charleston area.

"Generally speaking, these facilities maintain satisfactory compliance and adherence to state regulations," DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said.

DHEC did, however, pinpoint a bacteria outbreak at one Lowcountry tattoo parlor in 2000 after eight cases of infection were traced to the shop, Beasley said. He said he didn't know and couldn't access the name of the shop late last week. But he said that is the only such outbreak recorded in DHEC's files.

South Carolina has some of the strictest tattoo laws on the books, including a prohibition on neck, face, and head tattoos, and the above-mentioned rule against opening a shop 1,000 feet from a church, school or playground. The DHEC has two health inspectors who make their rounds around the state every three years to ensure that each studio is complying with the regulations. And so, in light of such oversight, it's interesting that so few violations of the regs have been found.

It was the concern over health risks, particularly hepatitis, that led to South Carolina's tattoo ban (among other states). The problem was that a blanket ban violated the rights to free expression of artists and collectors.  [I've written about tattoos and First Amendment issues here.]

It was this right to free expression that formed the basis of White v. South Carolina, a case challenging South Carolina's tattoo ban, which was appealed to the US Supreme Court; however, the highest court in the country chose not to hear it.

In White v. South Carolina, Ronald P. White was arrested and convicted in 1999 for violating the tattoo ban in South Carolina after video of him tattooing was broadcast to a local TV audience. White admitted to violating the law, but argued that the law violated his First Amendment rights. This case was argued up to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which found that "the state's legitimate concern about any health risks associated with tattooing outweighed whatever expressive concerns White and other tattoo artists may have." More on that case here and see the S.C. appellate case here.

Despite the court rulings, in June 2004, tattoo artists could practice their craft. And so, with over ten years of proving tattoo opponents wrong, we can celebrate tattoo expression in South Carolina and across the country.

09:32 AM
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In honor of my tattooist's birthday today, I'm posting some of his latest dotwork pieces.

Happy birthday, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo!

09:58 PM

Tattooist and fine-artist (or should I say "fire-artist"?) David Sena will be opening a new showing of his work tomorrow night in NYC. According to the press release:

Pyriscence is an exhibition featuring a selection of dynamic sculptures and large-scale drawings on paper by gallery founder, David Sena.


The exhibition is a series of silhouette self-portraits, each created through shadow projection, one of the many ways Sena attempts to avert authorship and to examine himself with the detachment of a scientist.

Pyriscence will be on display from February 6th to March 2nd at Senaspace - 229 Centre St - NY, NY - 10013

1533926_356384481170637_514080347_n.jpg[tattoo by David Sena]

10:02 PM
Headline above from Milwaukee Sentinel, 1933.

When I first started blogging about tattoos in 2003, I was amazed how so many media outlets around the world were rehashing the same line (often the first line) in their articles on tattoos:

"Tattoos are no longer for sailors, bikers, inmates ..."
When I complained about these constant tattoo cliches, my friend Dr. Matt Lodder, art historian (with a particular specialty in tattoo art), schooled me on how they have been recycled for over a hundred years -- with the first "tattoos...are not confined to seamen only," appearing in the NY Times in 1908.

Matt got to address the media directly about these tired tropes when he spoke to the BBC for their article "People always say the same thing about tattoos," which was published yesterday. As with most articles that feature Matt's tattoo expertise, it is a wonderful read, not just for the history lesson, but also for his discussion on the relationship between tattoo culture and the media. Here's a taste from the article:.

Lodder compares media representations of tattooing with the film Groundhog Day where Bill Murray's weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.

"Sure, tattoos are not confined to sailors, bikers or convicts. My point is that they never have been. And strictly speaking, when the media says tattoos were 'once associated with bikers and sailors', that's true - they have been associated, but by the media.

"It is like same old, same old," says Lodder. "It is like, 'Wow tattooing is the new big thing, it used to be like this but now it is like this.'

"But what I can't quite work out is why that is the case, and why these myths persist. My working hypothesis is simply that if people can't empathise with somebody who has a desire to mark their body then it comes as a surprise and they go, 'Wow, that's weird and strange and people are actually doing that.'

In addition to more of Matt's thoughts on the media's tattoo fascination, there are also interesting examples of tattoo news articles over the past century.

Read more here.

1926 article on tattoos.jpg

08:06 AM
Thom Devita.jpgYesterday, the NY Times published a feature on legendary tattooer and fine artist Thom deVita entitled "For Restless Pioneer of Modern Tattoo Art, a Life Beyond Ink."  As the title reflects, the focus is on how the 81-year-old deVita continues to make art -- from rubbings and stencils on wooden crates, cutting boards, old ledgers...

Chris Grosso described deVita's work as a "compulsion."  Grosso is the producer of Vice's Tattoo Age, the wonderfully produced documentary series profiling artists in a way that honors the craft. One such profile was a five-part series on deVita (the first of which is embedded below). Here are our posts on all episodes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

Thom deVita began tattooing on NYC's Lower East Side in 1961, over 50 years ago, just as the city instituted its ban on the art form - a ban that was lifted in 1997. His approach to tattooing, even back then, was as a fine artist. The NY Times explains:

"He is one of the founders of modern tattooing," said Mr. Grosso, who befriended Mr. DeVita two years ago while filming a documentary about him. "It's not what you see on reality television, but something that only he and seven other people in the 1960s started, from purely a love for the art form. He wasn't from a sailor or biker background, where tattooing comes with the territory. They appreciated the great Japanese masters, the people from Samoa. Thom was at the forefront of that."
His own entree into the art world was improvised, when a potential girlfriend asked him what he did. "I had to be something, so I told her I was an artist," he said. "So I became an artist. I had to show her I was an artist, so I started doing some artwork."

Read more here

As the article further notes, Grosso has set up a website to sell deVita's work. The work has a certain power to it, as if each piece carries with it decades of tattoo tradition. Grosso brings the proceeds from the sales to Newburgh in Upstate NY, where deVita has lived since leaving NYC in the nineties.

At a time where the media focuses its lens on Justin Bieber's tattoos and the countless reality shows, it's heartening to see an artist, who has given so much to tattooing, get the recognition he deserves.

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