May 2014 Archives

02:44 AM

UPDATE:  You can watch the full program online here.

In a much needed respite to the onslaught of terrible tattoo TV, the PBS Arts in Context series offers "A Moving Canvas" in which the history as well as the artistry and spirit of tattoo culture is explored through discussions with prominent tattooers. One such tattooer is the legendary Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand who does a good bit of the voiceover for the film as well.

If you check the video clip above, there are already some juicy nuggets of wisdom. I love when Kate says (I'm paraphrasing here) that a tattoo awakens a primal global impulse, the same impulse to sing and to dance, and that it is an innate part of us. She also discusses how tattooing was once the province of women. Should be a great watch.

"A Moving Canvas" airs tonight on PBS CHANNEL KRLU, Austin, 7:30 PM Central time, and then will be available for all to watch online tomorrow, May 30th, on PBS online.
10:24 AM
wetherholtz tattoo.jpgTattoos by Justin Weatherholtz

Recently, on the SwallowsnDaggers blog, Justin Weatherholtz announced that he and co-founder Joe Johns are putting on the first annual Pagoda City Tattoo Fest (PCTF) in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. It's a planned East Coast extravaganza with a ton of talent and what Weatherholtz has already called a "no bullshit lineup." Slated for the second weekend in August, Weatherholtz already has top tattooers on board like Scott Sylvia, Steve Byrne, BJ Betts, Chad Koeplinger, and is showcasing talent from shops like Three Kings, Olde City and, of course, King's Avenue. We've got a few months until kick-off but we caught up with Justin to get a little more info.

You've stressed the East Coast a lot in getting the word out about PCTF. Is that a big deal for you?

It is, actually, I'm from Reading, and Wyomissing is basically the town right next door. Berks county is where I grew up, where my family and many friends still are, and it's where I served my tattoo apprenticeship under Joe Johns, who I'm organizing the show with.

So has this part of Pennsylvania had a convention before?

It has. When I was doing my apprenticeship under Joe at Wizard's World, there was a show put on every year but they stopped doing it a while ago. After I moved to New York to work at King's Ave., I'd come back for the convention and it always felt like a homecoming of sorts. Since then I'd always hoped it would return but it just never did. Joe approached me a few times about having one again but the time never seemed right.

Until now?

Until now, yeah. I've always had a strong connection to home, like so many of us do, and I've always thought that Reading was a great centrally-located part of the northeast with New York, Philly, Jersey, DC, and Baltimore all being so close. It's a good size venue and the caliber of artists that are coming and the seminars we're putting on is definitely reason enough to attend. We've already got seminars lined up with Bob Tyrrell, Joe Capobianco, Jime Litwalk. You know, it's funny because I never set out to be a convention organizer... but [PCTF] came about because we just wanted to bring a show back to my hometown. That was my motivation. 

The response has been great so far. What kind of feedback are you getting?

The feedback from tattooers has been really great. I've been hearing from tattooers that its refreshing to see that tattooers are putting on the show, not just promoters who are trying to take a bite out of tattooing's popularity and make a profit. The industry people who are involved seem really excited to be part of the show, too, and I feel like we can organize a show that will be a great weekend for all concerned -- the tattooers, the people attending the seminars, getting tattooed or just coming to hang out and be a part of it.  Pagoda City is just about bringing a positive show to the area that caters to the artists and puts the focus on where it should be.

Raven Poe Tattoo.jpg You've been at King's Avenue for the better part of a decade now. You've obviously evolved from Wizard's World but also evolved with King's Ave...

Serving my apprenticeship under Joe was great. I was fortunate enough to accompany him on a lot of convention trips, where I was exposed to so much in the tattoo world and met so many talented people just by being associated with Joe. So when I was looking to leave PA, it was based solely on the idea of being in a new town and new environment. Getting that call from Mike made the decision easy.

[Working at King's Avenue] has been such a game changer for me in so many ways. My tattooing and drawing has matured exponentially working around Mike, Grez, and the crew and the guest artists we have coming through. I've made friendships with so many solid people from the industry I otherwise might not have ever met. And I work among some of the most dignified, funny, and creative people on the planet that I have oceans of respect for.

If you want to learn how to handle yourself as a man, spend some time at Kings Avenue. Seeing the shop grow and being a part of something that you can actually feel the magic in, is pretty awesome. Especially since the Bowery location opened. Being a part of the energy of the city has been great for Kings Avenue and myself.

What do you find yourself tattooing these days? Traditional has become super popular but you seem pretty comfortable across the board.

One thing that I've always made a point of is not going too far in one direction. Versatility is a priority. If I see my schedule going too hard in one direction, I'll lean the other way and post different styles online or on Instagram just to change it up. I would hope that my drawing style is the one constant that comes through no matter what I'm tattooing... and that's what makes it mine.

Where is there left for tattooing to go?

It's like music. For example, take rock and roll. There will be genres and sub-genres and styles that grab the general public's attention for that moment in time. But a solid, well-drawn tattoo or well-written rock song always holds up. If there's sincerity in it, it comes through.

Travel plans coming up for folks not on the East Coast?

I've pumped the brakes a bit on traveling since we started organizing Pagoda City. After Pagoda City, I'll be attending the London convention in September.

And, of course, I just want to say a huge thank you to my business partner and the guy that brought me into tattooing, Joe Johns. Also a big thank you for all the support from tattooers that are a part of this, and to the many hands we have helping through this whole process. It's gonna be a great weekend!

More info available at See more of Justin's tattoo work on the King's Ave site and Instagram.

Justin Weatherholtz tattoo.jpg
11:57 AM
military tattoos.jpg
Tattoos of Staff Sgt. Adam Thorogood above.

On Friday, I wrote about one of the most popular tattoo images on those who serve and have served in the military:  the Fallen Soldier / Battlefield Cross tattoo, a tribute to those lost to war. In fact, most of my friends in the military have some form of memorial tattoo -- some citing their tattoos as personally cathartic or a way to share stories about those honored in their artwork. Considering the ancient practice of marking warriors with tattoos, it is hard to break that act of expression.

On April 30th, the newest revision to the US Army's regulation on grooming and appearance standards, AR 670-1, took effect, and it has provisions that are causing some controversy -- and even prompted a law suit.  As noted in Army Times, the rules ban tattoos below the knee or elbow, although soldiers who already have such tattoos are "grandfathered" in. A big issue, however, is that the new regulations bar any soldier with tattoos from seeking a promotion to warrant officer or commissioning as an officer.

One guardsman who served 10 years on active duty, Staff Sgt. Adam Thorogood, has filed a $100 million lawsuit in response to the ban, which has stopped him from "fulfilling a dream of joining 'The Nightstalkers,' the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky." 

According to this Army Times article:

The lawsuit acknowledges that troops have an abridged right to free speech, but only insofar as it hinders their mission, discipline morale or loyalty. The lawsuit argues in effect that the ban itself is hindering the Army's mission, since it is preventing the most qualified candidates from applying to become officers or warrant officers because they have certain tattoos.

The suit also argues 670-1 is an ex post facto "law" because it applies retroactively to a subsection of soldiers, acting as, "an absolute bar to an otherwise qualified group of soldiers."

Finally, though the regulation does not say so outright, according to the lawsuit's interpretation, Thorogood could be subjected to punishment under military law if he were to attempt to submit his accession packet.

Thorogood said the hefty size of the claim is not about getting rich. Rather, it is intended to get the Army's attention.

The lawsuit has gotten a lot of media attention, and it should be interesting to see how this plays out in federal court.

Also, at issue with the new revisions to AR 670-1 is whether the new grooming standards discriminate against African-American women serving in the Army, as regards to a section called "female twists and dreadlocks," which bans "any unkempt or matted braids or cornrows."

While the military has a long-standing tradition of conservative appearance regulations, many argue that they must be brought up to today's norms of appearance and reflect the diversity of its soldiers. Thorogood's lawsuit should have an impact on this debate.

Beyond the rules and regs, today is a day to reflect on those who have given their lives in service and to honor them in our own ways.
10:28 AM
battlefield cross tattoo.jpg
Fallen Soldier tattoo above on US Marine Sergeant Inman, done at Hart & Huntington, via

This Memorial Day weekend in the US is a time to commemorate the men and women who died while in the military service. There are many tattoos created in tribute to those lost in war, many of which you can find on sites like or, from which the tattoo above was posted.

One common motif for military memorial tattoos is that of the Fallen Soldier or Battlefield Cross, as represented here in Sgt. Inman's tribute. As per Wikipedia (which is not a verified source, of course): "The practice started during the American Civil War or maybe earlier as a means of identifying the bodies on the battleground before they were removed. Today, it is an immediate means of showing respect for the fallen among the still living members of the troop." The Wiki page also led to more info found in the US Army's "Soldier's Guide," which offers more on the symbolism of the Battlefield Cross:

Most units prepare a visible reminder of the deceased soldier similar to that depicted in Figure C-1. The helmet and identification tags signify the fallen soldier. The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer, a break in the action to pay tribute to our comrade. The combat boots represent the final march of the last battle. The beret (in the case of soldiers from airborne units) reminds us that the soldier has taken part in his final jump.
Naturally, there are variations in the interpretation of this iconic tribute, which leads to some interesting research behind the imagery found in so many memorial tattoos.

See more Fallen Soldier tattoos via Google image.

Also interesting is the history behind Memorial Day itself. In this NY Times article, David W. Blight, a professor of history at Yale University, states that the origins of Memorial Day derived from "a mostly forgotten--or possibly suppressed--event in Charleston, S.C., in 1865 at a racetrack turned war prison. Black workmen properly reburied the Union dead that were found there, and on May 1, a cemetery dedication was held, attended by thousands of freed blacks who marched in procession around the track."

And so, while we take time with family and friends, and for ourselves, this weekend, let's also reflect on the meaning of this day.
 flag tattoo by monarch tattoo.jpg
Tattoo above by Jerrett of Monarch Tattoo in Washington.
08:28 AM
faith tattoo.jpgItalian tattooer and painter Lara Scotton has made NYC her permanent home since 2011, and as part of the East Side Ink crew, she's catered to the tattoo needs of the city -- and to many cities in her extensive travels. She graciously took time from busy schedule to chat about her work, life, and share what's currently on her bookshelf, in her headphones, and on her computer (and much more). Here's how our Q&A went:  

What do you think has been your greatest experience as a tattooer -- and what has been the most difficult?

Not too long ago, a took a day to tattoo an entire family of 6 cousins. They were my clients already and it was great having people all around that want to commemorate their union and you are the chosen one to do it! I'm the family tattooer. I find the bond between tattooer and clients beautiful, when they keep coming back and they ended up being your friend. Same thing when you have to tattoo another artist, especially if it's a friend. I can keep going on is such a pleasure doing what I'm doing.

The most difficult experience for sure was the beginning, struggling to try to work everyday, and show people that you are really serious about it. Working in 4 different shops, sometimes far from each other, carrying all the equipment around -- that was really hard and confusing at the same time.

lara scotton tattoo.jpg When did you join East Side Ink?

I used to guest spot at East Side Ink when I was traveling between Europe an US. I was in the States spending three months in the summer and three months in the winter; that was in 2010/2011. Then one day, I was working in London and the East Side Ink manager called me to ask me if I wanted to come to New York; they needed an artist at the time. The very next day I bought my flight ticket, and a month after, I moved to New York. Now are 3 years I'm there as a permanent tattooer.
What have been the biggest differences in tattoo culture between NYC and your hometown of Milan?
NYC was a good school for me. I feel like I really started tattooing in here. People can be easy: they go from having no tattoos, to starting a full sleeve. I feel Milan and Italy didn't reach that point yet. People think a little more about having a sleeve done. They start with little things and eventually they getting bigger work done.
You have a diverse portfolio, with some particularly beautiful lettering work. What style of tattooing do you particularly love to do?

I like to do lettering. I love drawing the tattoo for my clients, and I try to put flowers in everything that I do. I love doing black and gray and colors with patterns and Asian influences.

What would be your dream project?
Dream project? Well, having an entire body to tattoo would be great!
Do you find a lot of tattoo influences in your painting, and vice versa?
Yes, lately I found it really hard to paint something that doesn't look like a tattoo design. It gets all mixed up. But that doesn't happen the same way when I have to tattoo. When I'm working on skin,I'm always trying to think about how it is going to stay after few years.

lara scotton tattoo 2.jpg
What guest spots and conventions do you have coming up?
I'll be at Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco at the end of July (I'm doing guest spot there every three months); at The Family Business in London at the end of August; and in the beginning of September I'll be in Italy -- Adrenaline in Follonica, Tik tak Tattoo in Cantu' e and probably in another shop in Milan, but I didn't decide yet. Next year I would love to do more European conventions but I didn't go that far yet with planning.
What is something that people would find most unexpected about you?
I play tennis every Wednesday and I have a lot of plants!

What are you currently ...

Reading?   "Sacred Bleu" by Christopher Moore
  I'm going backward with music; yesterday I was listening to Mad Season.
Watching?  I just watched How to be a Man on Netflix. Really funny!
Following?  I follow More Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan
Finding?   I was at a concert and I saw Jimmy Page.

Find more of Lara's work on her site, Instragram, and Facebook.

lara scotton tattoo 3.jpg
10:13 PM
Nikko Hurtado Biggie Smalls.jpg
Biggie portrait tattoo above by Nikko Hurtado

As I Brooklyn girl, I'd be remiss in not posting a few of the multitudinous odes to Christopher George Latore Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls / Biggie / Notorious B.I.G, on the iconic rapper's birthday. [Of course, I'd prefer if more people got portraits of Brooklyn's own Shirley Chisholm -- the first African-American woman elected to Congress AND the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States -- but I have hopes that those tattoos will come.]

Biggie's music had a profound impact beyond Brooklyn, especially evidenced on skin of fans around the world. Here are just a few pics of those tattoo tributes.

Biggie by Mitch13.jpgBiggie tattoo above on JJDTD by Australia's Mitch13.

biggie by George Muecke .jpgTattoo above by George Muecke of Ontario, Canada.

biggie smalls oddity tattoo.jpgAnd Biggie as a zombie by Matt Helmer of Oddity Tattoo in Sarasota Florida.
07:56 AM
tattoo machine.jpgAt the prestigious Museum du quai Branly in Paris, the "Tatoueurs, tatoues" opened on May 6th to great acclaim, with renowned tattoo artists in attendance for the opening, as well as international media (including the New York Times). Reviewing the exhibit for Needles & Sins, our friend Serinde in Paris offers her thoughts in this guest post as well as photos of exhibit pieces here on Flickr.

By Serinde

A tattoo exhibition? You mean, not in the corner of a tattoo convention? In a real museum? Well, it's for real, and it's happening now in Paris, at the Museum du quai Branly, which is quite famous for showing high quality exhibitions, usually specialized in anthropology and ethnology. And it is now showing "Tatoueurs, tatoues" (or "tattooists, tattooed").

Of course, having a few tattoos myself, and being both interested and a bit educated in tattoo history and techniques, I had to rush there, and report back on what this exhibit has to offer:

The exhibition was curated by Anne & Julien (who've been involved in the modern art scene for many years now), and advised and directed by famed French tattoo artist Tin-Tin. The goal of the exhibit, as explained by Anne & Julien, is to show how tattoo, which has existed since ancient times, has changed, developed, disappeared, and been reborn to the art we know today.

tattooed arm mummy.jpgIn the first part, named "from the global to the marginal," the exhibition tells the story of tattoo throughout history, and society.  You can view a mummified tattooed arm from Peru, antique tools, and amazing portraits of Algerian tattooed women. This part also explores the role of tattoos in the navy, and in prisons with, among other things, a short movie that I highly recommend: "La peau du milieu" (1957), showing the "underground" side of tattoo, at a time when the meaning was much more important than the style, which was, well, rather poor.

Then, you enter the marginal and colorful world of sideshow, circus, freaks, and...traveling tattoo artists. As a transition, there's a very interesting "Wall of Fame," displaying a timeline of tattoo culture, including laws, techniques, famous tattoo artists, and famous tattooed people.

tattooed skin.jpgThe exhibition goes on with a focus on tattoo in Japan, North America, and Europe. The Japanese selection shows some stunning paintings, tattoo projects, photos of tattooed people, videos, a photo of a tattooed skin taken from a dead man (gulp! I first didn't notice it was only a photo); other incredible artifacts include a kabuki costume painted so that it looked like a tattoo when worn by the actor. In the North America and European selections, there were more photos and prints of tattooed people, and interestingly, a copy of Samuel O'Reilly's patent for his tattooing machine (and some modern day machines as well).

Moving through the exhibit, at this stage, museum goers now view works made by tattoo artists exclusively for this exhibition: 19 artists worked on "tattoo project" paintings, and 13 artists tattooed silicon body parts to great effect.

There's also an exploration into the revival of traditional tattoo in Oceania and South-East Asia, displaying some impressive masks and head sculptures (I was especially impressed by those), traditional tools, as well as modern tattoo projects. There's further cultural discussion of tattoo in China, the Latino and Chicano cultures in the US, among others.

At last, the exhibition ends with the "new generation" of artists, such as Yann Black and the "Art Brut" movement in tattooing, as a nod to the future of the art.

Tin Tin tattoo silicon.jpgSo, did I like this exhibition? Hell yeah! The collection is extensive, covering the story of tattooing from prehistoric practice to modern tattoo art. And many items are absolutely unexpected, such as the antique tools and books, the preserved tattooed skins, and also the modern tattoos made on the silicon props (this was a great idea!).

For me, what would have made it even better is to view examples of the dotwork style which is, in my opinion, as important among the developing styles and techniques, such as "Art Brut." I would have also liked the exhibition to go even further, and have one more section in which we could have seen more examples of how tattoo is now a fine art, and how it can be linked to existing artworks and classic painters; for example, I would have loved to see some Wim Delvoye's tattooed pigs, or how the dotwork technique can be compared to some pointillism classic painting, or how some tattoo styles are inspired from the street art.

Overall, I strongly recommend that you plan a trip to Paris to see it. "Tatoueurs, tatoues" is on view until October 15th, 2015 at Museum du quai Branly. Plan a good 2-hour visit if you want to see everything, and if you can, book your ticket in advance. Also, the main titles in each section are in French and English; the details about each displayed item are mainly in French, though it's easily understandable (name /year/...). There are also audioguides available, likely in several languages.

maori sculpture.jpg

Serinde is a (uber-lovely) French woman who got into tattoo 10 years ago. Interested in all styles and techniques of tattoos, she prefers blackwork for her own tattoos, and she's the proud wearer of 3 neo-tribal ornaments made by G-Rom (Artribal, Lyon), and 2 dotwork beauties inflicted by Colin Dale (Skin&Bone, Copenhagen).
08:21 AM
skin-cancer-check_tattoo.jpgSometimes marketing campaigns that use tattoos to sell their products can actually work to help our community. As Ad Week wrote this week, in Brazil, sunscreen brand Sol de Janeiro had oncologists train 450 tattoo artists throughout the country to check their customers for signs of skin cancer.

The video (embedded below) features the training, however, the most interesting part is the footage of tattooers advising their clients about skin cancer. As noted in the video, the 450 tattooers checked an average of about 6 clients per day, so that about 18,900 people a week were screened. In fact, a number of the artists actually identified problematic moles, and the clients were seen by doctors who were able to remove them at early stages.

The ad campaign also has a site where artists can get a "diploma" for skin cancer screening:

The video is captioned in English and worth a look.

Also check our previous post "Skin cancer and tattoos."

07:58 AM

little swastika love tattoo.jpgInk Blood and Spirit.jpgOne of the most innovative, and controversial, tattooers today -- a result of his multi-body works and the avant garde style in which they are rendered -- is Little Swastika (his name being a reclamation of the peaceful ancient symbol and not one of hate). In a private atelier deep in the countryside of South Germany, tattoo collectors from around the world offer up large swaths of their skin (he only does big work) for Little Swastika to realize their visions in a feverish, audacious style that is both brutal and sophisticated at the same time.  

Exploring Little Swastika's work and life is Ink, Blood, and Spirit, a 15-minute documentary short directed and produced by Claudio Marino and shot and co-produced by Maciej Ustarbowski. A quick teaser of the film is below.

There are a number of screening dates worldwide. In NYC next Thursday, May 22, the film will be shown at Sacred Gallery in SoHo at 8:30pm. It should be an eye opening and inspiring evening, which I'm looking forward to. You'll also get a chance to view the works currently showing at the Sacred Gallery.

See the Facebook event listing and also the film's page on Facebook.

For more on Little Swastika, check his site and Facebook fan page. He will also be showing fine art works, as well as screening the film, in an exhibit in Cologne, June 13-15, and celebrating ten years of tattooing in Tengen, Germany, July 11-13.

For even more, read about Little Swastika's work on previous blog posts here and here.

Ink, Blood and Spirit - Teaser 2 from Claudio Marino on Vimeo.

07:40 PM
Paul Booth Giger tattoo.jpgH.R. Giger inspired tattoo by Paul Booth.

The tattoo world has lost one of its greatest artistic influences: surrealist H.R. Giger. As Rolling Stone reported, the 74-year-old art icon died Monday, following hospitalization for falling down the stairs in his Zurich home.

Many news outlets discuss his legacy as the designer of the Alien creature; however, for the tattoo community, he is much more. He inspired a whole genre of tattoos: biomechanical art -- art that conveys man and machine fused in surrealist dreamscapes to stunning effect.

The world's most renowned tattooers, such as Guy Aitchison and Paul Booth (whose work is shown above), cite Giger as one of their greatest artistic influences. There are, indeed, countless Giger-inspired tattoos worldwide, including an entire bodysuit project

Giger's impact on tattooing has been so profound that a number of collectors have dedicated their skin to portraits of the artist, as show below.

H.R. Giger will be missed, but on the bodies of his fans, his legacy lives on. 

For more on the artist, visit HRGIGER.COM [currently unavailable] and HRGIGERMUSEUM.COM.

Benjamin Laukis Giger tattoo.jpgTattoo above by Benjamin Laukis.

Dmitriy Samohin giger tattoo.JPGTattoo above by Dmitriy Samohin.

Bob Tyrrell Giger Tattoo.jpgTattoo above by Bob Tyrrell.
08:59 PM
the tattoo project .jpgDan Kozma The Tattoo Project.jpgCover photo of The Tattoo Project by Vince Hemingson. Portrait above by Dan Kozma.

Four years ago this month, 100 hundred heavily tattooed people and 11 of Vancouver's best photographers came together for The Tattoo Project:  Body. Art. Image:  a three-day event at the Vancouver Photo Workshops described as "a synthesis of portraiture and tattoo art that poses the eternal question, Who am I?"  The body of work born from the project explores tattooed bodies via diverse photographic philosophies. Vince Hemingson, creator of The Tattoo Project (as well as many other wonderful projects), has said that the images not only reflect who the subjects are but also the photographers, from their differing approaches to lighting, mood, and color to different methods for engaging the subjects. The subjects were quite diverse themselves and not just today's standard "tattoo model" fare. 

Vince explains his inspiration behind The Tattoo Project: body. art. image.:
This project was an idea that I had simmering on the back burner for nearly fifteen years.  I have always wanted to to see how fine art photographers would interpret individuals who were tattooed. When I first saw Albert Watson's seminal work from the Louisiana Prisons in his book CYCLOPS it was an idea that wouldn't go away.   In my writing and filmmaking, I have always thought that the purpose of training your pen or your camera on a subject was illumination.  Literally to shine a light on something. 

In fifteen years of researching the history and social significance of tattooing - in dozens of different cultures around the world - I was struck by the extraordinary power that tattoos can have to reveal a person's inner self.  Rarely is the choice of a tattoo or a tattoo symbol an accident.  People choose tattoos that resonate with their sense of perceived identity of a deep level.  I was quoted in an interview nearly ten years ago, saying that, "Beauty is skin deep, but a tattoo goes all the way to the bone". And by that I meant that a tattoo can have profound meaning, far beyond mere decoration for many people.  A tattoo reveals character.  I wanted my photographs to be portraits, but I also wanted them to be about illuminating identity.  I can focus my camera on an individual and capture some aspect of the external self.  But I think their tattoo illuminates an aspect of their internal self, often times far more than they realize.  The idea that you could capture parts of both the external self and the inner self fascinates me. 

I wanted to exhibit my images as transparencies on light-boxes because I wanted the tattoos I photographed to be illuminated from within.  If the body is a temple, then the tattoos are stain-glass windows. Tattoos tell stories.  I want my images to record those stories.
From that long weekend, almost 200 images were selected for The Tattoo Project exhibition in November 2010, curated by Pennylane Shen, and shown at Performance Works on Granville Island. More than 750 people attended the opening night. With such incredible success, naturally, the next step was a book.

The 240-page hardcover The Tattoo Project: body. art. image., published by Schiffer Books, takes the very best works from the project and highlights them in a large-format, beautifully designed coffee table book. This book isn't just about pretty tattoos -- although there are a number of exceptional ones. What makes it engaging is the storytelling of these portraits, the way the personalities of these tattooed people shine through. And also, as Vince mentioned, it's interesting to see how these stories are told in so many ways, whether it be through the black & white long exposure photos by Marc Koegel or the "housewife cheescake" images by Melanie Jane. The other photographers include Wayne A. Hoecherl , Dan Kozma , Spencer Kovats, Syx Langemann, Aura McKayRosamond Norbury, Johnathon Vaughn, Jeff Weddell as well as Vince.   

Spencer_Kovats_The_Tattoo_Project.jpgImages above by Spencer Kovats.

The next step for Tattoo Project: body. art. image. is a documentary film. Throughout the project, two film crews captured the process -- as Vince says, they "prowled the crowded hallways, eves-dropped on photographers  as they shot in the studios, and interviewed dozens of models and all of the photographers."  This summer, Vince and his team will be launching a crowd funding campaign to help finish the post-production on the film.

Check The Vanishing Tattoo blog for updates on the film (and the perks for contributing) and other tattoo goodness.
Syx_Langemann_The_Tattoo_Project.jpgPortrait above by Syx Langemann.
08:44 AM

Slowmotion Tattoo from GueT Deep on Vimeo.

This video has been making the rounds across the internet this week, but in case you haven't seen it, the footage is an up-close look at Parisian tattooer GueT working on his client Fabrice. The slowmotion effect allows for a greater understanding of how ink is put into skin. 

[Many thanks to Mr.Bruno for posting the link in the Needles & Sins Facebook page.]
08:41 AM
Ran tattoo 1.jpgran 2.jpgran 3.jpg I'm excited about the new work coming from Australia's own Ran Maclurkin, who is renowned for his "Art Brut" style, although he rather prefers the term he coined: "Abstract Noir." Tattooing since 2006, Ran describes his predominant body of work as "childlike and primal" -- the way he began drawing as a child.

To see more tattoos and fine art by Ran, check his site, and Facebook page.

Ran is also a featured artist in Black Tattoo Art 2 (copies are still available for purchase).
08:35 AM
nancy pelosi tattoo.jpg
Last week, there was some buzz in Washington, DC over House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hanging at Tattoo Paradise. Turns out it was for a quick cameo in this video (below) filmed for the White House Correspondents' Dinner in which Vice President Joe Biden takes faux-VP Julia Louis-Dreyfus out for a wild night, including a trip to Tattoo Paradise.

The tattoo scene starts at 4:35 in this 7-minute vid but it's a cute watch overall if you haven't seen it yet.

08:31 AM
ladies ladies art show.jpgLara Scotton art.jpgArtwork by Rose Hardy (top) and Lara Scotton.

At a time where women tattooers are so often featured for their bodies, rather their their body of work, it is exciting to share news of events and projects in which talent prevails.

Celebrating the fine art of female tattooers, the wonderful Ladies, Ladies Art Show [site has sound] will kick off its third year, next week, Thursday, May 15th, from 7-11PM at the Eights of Swords Art Gallery in Brooklyn, NYC.

Curated by Staten Island-based tattooers, Elvia Iannaccone-Gezlev (Miss Elvia) who works at Masterpiece Tattoo, and Magie Serpica, co-owner of Milk & Honey Tattoo, Ladies, Ladies showcases the work of established and emerging female tattooers from around the world. Here's more from Elvia and Magie on the show: 

With all the interest on television about tattooing these days, Ladies, Ladies, is an exhibition of the serious, albeit sometimes playful, side of what it takes to be a talented artist in the industry. Each of the over 60 artists who are participating have created original pieces of art to display for the event. While some of the artists may be familiar names in the world of tattooing, other participants are just breaking onto the scene. Ladies, Ladies is a means of representing the progress made by female artists in the male dominated field of tattooing, and paying respect to those who have paved the way.
Included in this year's international line-up are: Rose Hardy, Stephanie Tamez, Pat Sinatra, Holly Ellis, Miss Arianna, Kit King, Drew Linden, Betty Rose, Karen Glass, Emma Griffths, Anna Melo, Debra Yarian, Lara Scotton, Miss Marshall, Dana Melissa Dixon, and so many more.

All of the pieces on view will be available for purchase the night of the event, and the duration of the exhibition. The show will be on view through July 6, 2014.

Eight of Swords is located at 115 Grand Street, Brooklyn NY 11249. For more info, you can contact Miss Elvia or Magie at, or visit their site and Facebook event page.

Hope to see ya there!

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05:07 PM
cattoos Betty Rose.jpgbetty rose tattoos 2.jpgThe Sidekick video series, by Emily Sheskin and Suzanna Schumacher, which focuses on adopted and rescued pets, has a sweet video profile (shown below) of Brooklyn's Betty Rose and her "Cattoos."

The video takes a look at Betty's feline art -- something she is particularly known for, although she has a strong and diverse portfolio. As Betty says in the film, people love to memorialize their pets, as she has done herself, and so honoring this bond seems natural for her.

Betty says that the "cattoo" rep began with her kitty in a tea cup tattoo on her husband's leg, and from there, she has done numerous "cattoos," in different styles on pet lovers. And she says that she never gets tired of doing them.  

Check more of Betty's art on her site, Instagram, and Facebook.

08:54 AM
Kiriakos sake tattoo crew 1.jpgKiriakos sake tattoo crew 2.jpgIn Athens, Greece, the Sake Tattoo Crew is an incubator for top tattoo talent -- not just respected in the country, but worldwide. One artist from this collective is Kiriakos Balaskas. Tattooing for 8 years after a tough apprenticeship with Sake, Kiriakos developed a style combining abstract expressionism watercolors and graphic art. But I wanted to learn from him how he views his work, and tattoo culture as a whole, so I took him away from organizing the Athens Tattoo Convention, which is May 23-25, for a quick Q&A.

If forced to define your style, how would you describe it? What are the strongest influences on your work?

My tattoo style in general has always been a combination of heavy themes/ lines/ shapes, and naive -- almost childish -- color details. I've always found this invasion of joy into strictness (two sides that equally attract me) very interesting and exciting. As soon as I started experimenting with the watercolor technique, I felt I had finally found the absolute way of expressing this ultimate combination. My pieces mainly include these distinctive elements: a black graphic stencil or sketch, and either a brush or wide, "clean," kid-style watercolors -- usually two colors only. It is hard for me to define it in a sole, strict term as there is no one else in Greece who practises this style, but if forced to define it, I'd use the term my costumers use when they ask for it, "Kiddo."

Some old school artists believe that "only bold will hold," and that every tattoo needs a heavy outline to stay strong longer. What is your response to this?

I agree and I myself use total black outlines in the stencil/sketch part. But as far as the watercolors outline is concerned, I feel the lines should create an ephemeral impression -- if you take the loose element out of the watercolor, the very substance of it is gone.

Because you are doing something new and innovative with your work, what kind of reactions do you get to it?

The reactions are positive, if not overwhelming. People are interested in trying this new technique or inflowing the style into their tattoos, and their eagerness to experiment with unconventional styles sincerely moves me.

What are some of the greatest lessons you learned in tattooing?

I've learned the greatest lessons and values of tattooing from the person who initiated me to this art, Sake. It was a tough apprenticeship by his side that I had to go through in order to become a respected tattoo artist, and one of the greatest lessons he gave me was to pay this respect back to the customers. They will have that piece on them forever, and that is something we always have to keep in mind.

What do you think makes a good tattoo -- and what do you think makes a good tattoo artist?

A good tattoo is a tattoo that remains the same over the years, as if it was only done two weeks ago. I consider good artists to be the artists who won't rest or let themselves go as far as their technique, style and inspiration are concerned.

How have you seen tattoo culture in Greece evolve? How has mainstream culture in Greece adapted to the art's popularity?

It's growing stronger and stronger, meaning that it is not considered a taboo anymore. It took a long time for tattooed people not be thought of as being gang members or criminal figures! I think this progress was a combination of famous, successful people flaunting their pieces and the evolution of the Greek tattoo scene that managed to establish itself as art.

As the organizer of the Athens Tattoo Convention, what do you think are the highlights of your convention?

Except for a good sum of about 180 artists (30 of them from around the globe), the Athens Tattoo Convention combines all kinds of inspiring subcultures through BMX and skate ramps, graffiti and custom bike shows to live music and little surprises every year, from aerial dance to Fuel Girls performances. Last but not least, the venue is located by the sea side.

Personally, what do you love to do when not tattooing?


If you had to sum up your personal life philosophy, what would it be?
"Be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. In that case, you should always be a unicorn". I love that quote.

Check more of Kiriakos' work on Facebook and Instagram.

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