June 2014 Archives

02:34 PM
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This past weekend, tattoo artists from around the world traveled to Seoul for the Ink Bomb Tattoo Convention -- many at the expense of the organizers -- to work on excited collectors in the burgeoning South Korean tattoo community. However, that all came to a halt Saturday afternoon when the police raided the convention site and ordered that the show be shut down. Tattooing is illegal in Korea, and the government decided to enforce the ban this weekend.

I learned of the news from our friend Demetra Molina, who co-owns The Hand of Fate Tattoo Parlor in Ithaca, NY, with her tattooist husband Eddie Molina. Eddie was at the Ink Bomb convention to visit, and was giving Demetra a FaceTime play-by-play of what was going down. The police ordered the artists to clean up their booths and pack up. Many of the artists ended up taking booked clients (a number of them US military) back to their hotel rooms to work. In the end, the whole show ended up being cancelled, affecting vendors and performers as well as artists. Needless to say, a lot of money was lost.

Dave Hazzan from Groove Korea has a great post on the convention shutdown. Here's a bit from that:
Five police officers walked through the venue at WAV Bar and Bistro in Apgujeong, checking IDs, ordering artists to clear up their stands, and above all making sure no tattoo needles or ink were out, never mind being used. When asked to comment, a frustrated police officer only said, "Foreigners need to keep their passports on them. We need to take the ID numbers of Koreans and foreigners here, because tattooing is illegal." He refused to comment any further or give his name or badge number.

Moon Seun-dong is a lawyer who works for the tattoo convention, and who was following the police. "In Korea, tattoo artists giving tattoos is regulated by criminal law and medical law," he said, a fancy way of saying it's illegal. "People with bad emotions toward tattoos called the police." Moon was sympathetic to the cops, though, adding that they were only "doing their jobs."
This was not the first time the convention has been shut down. Andrew Chubb, 31, was three-quarters of the way through a leg tattoo two years ago at Ink Bomb, when the police shut that one down. He had to go to a hotel room with the artist to have it finished. Last year, the police showed up but left peacefully, and many tattoos were done. This year there was no such luck.
Considering that the convention had been shut down before, it shouldn't be a surprise that police were sent to enforce the ban. But if going through legal channels of trying the change the ban will not work, perhaps the tactic of organizers is to wear law enforcement down.  In any case, the take-away here for artists is to check up on the tattoo laws before booking the next tattoo show flight.

For more info, check the Ink Bomb Facebook page.
06:05 AM
doc forbes tattoo.pngA must-watch, absolute gem of tattoo history can be found in this 1964 profile on Doc Forbes entitled "The Diary of a Tattooist." CBC 20/20 host Harry Mannis visited Doc Forbes at his studio in Victoria, B.C. and interviewed the legendary tattooer, as well as his clients, who include a mother of four, an 82-year-old man, "Doc's lady friend Helen," and two sailors as they sit in Doc's chair. Doc even tattoos Mannis (without ink), so the host could understand the sensation.

There are just so many fascinating elements to the 32-minute video, including Doc's discussion on hygiene and safety in tattooing; how he mixes pigments and runs his machine a certain way for particular artistic effects; how his clientele is not limited to sailors but all kinds of people, and so much more. I also love the interviews with his clients, especially "his lady friend" who is heavily tattooed, but chose not to reveal her artwork, and so they measured her dresses so that she can always cover them.

There are some moments when the host is interviewing Doc while his machine is running and the sound quality isn't great, but stick with it and enjoy the program until the end. It's worth it. 

[Thanks to Thomas the Tall Tattooed Typographer for the link!]

12:26 PM
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Our friends from Urban Body Jewelry have another giveaway in which two lucky Needles & Sins readers will receive gift cards of $25 each for anything in their online store. Considering that so many of their items (which are sold in pairs) retail for much less than that -- like these Blue Honeycomb Glass Plugs above starting at $12.99 -- those prizes can buy a bunch of pretty shiny things.

The contest is part of promotion featuring UrbanBodyJewelry.com's latest products, such as the Aqua Liquid Glitter Saddle Plugs and Galaxy Diamond Plugs, among others. Plugs range from 16G up to 2 Inches. They also have lip, belly, nipple, eyebrow and tongue rings; industrial barbells; spirals; tapers and stretchers, and more. There's also free shipping on orders over $20.

Here's how we're gonna play this:
  • Either link to this N+S giveaway post on your Twitter or Facebook page and tag #needlesandsins #urbanbodyjewelry
  • Link your favorite Urban Body Jewelry product on Facebook or Twitter with those tags.
Then, from all those who link and tag, I'll put the names through Random.org to pick the two winners. Contest ends a week from today, July 3rd.

If you can't wait to see if you win and you want to shop right away, Needles & Sinners can use the code "SIN15" for 15% off over the next 3 months. 

For more on Urban Body Jewelry, check them on Facebook and Instagram.

Good luck!
01:52 PM
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In what seems like a film trailer to a blockbuster superhero film, this slowmotion tattoo video (embedded below), featuring Michael Taguet of Yama Tattoo, goes deep into the tattooer's process with a tight close-up view, which introverts may find a little too intimate. I really liked it and thought it was a fun way to see how an artist works, from sketch to stencil to tattooing to wipedown, and more important, to view a great finish to all the build-up.

The video was created by Stephane Couchoud of Millenium-Studio, and filmed at Yama Tattoo, which is in Saint-Chamond, Loire, of the Rhone-Alpes region in France. The work created in the video has that very graphic Neotraditional bent to it, but Michael works in a variety of tattoo styles. Check more of his tattoos here.

In May, we featured another slowmotion tattoo video, also of a French artist, Parisian tattooer GueT.

It should be interesting to see what other ways filmmakers present tattoo art to the public.

Thanks, Julien, for the link!
07:51 AM
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gas mask tattoo.jpgAlmost three years ago, we posted an artist spotlight on Russia-born tattooer George Bardadim at the time when he was doing his very first guest spot in the US at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn.  Today, George has made NYC his home, working as a guest artist at Tattoo Culture, along with residents Gene Coffey and Brian Wren, and also tattooing in Pennsylvania at Sink the Ink in Doylestown. A great reason to toast with some vodka!

What I particularly love about George's portfolio is the incredible versatility he has in rocking a hyper-realistic black & grey piece one day and then creating a vibrant and harmonious Japanese-inspired work the next. It's not easy to find an artist who truly excels in so many different tattoo genres.

I just saw on the Tattoo Culture Facebook page that George is now taking new consultations, so this post isn't just a tease for an artist whose work you can't get for another few years.

See more of George's tattoos on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.

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08:21 AM
De Jong tattoo.jpgUPDATE:  Our Instagram friends tell us that Nigel de Jong's tattoos, as shown above, are by Ade Itameda.
I swore to myself that I wasn't going to do a World Cup tattoo post, but after being inundated with news articles on player and fan tattoo tributes, I'm falling for the hype -- and doing so because there's actually good work out there on the field. [Less so in the stands and in front of TVs.] So I culled through the many, many news articles and came up with some worth checking:

Let's first ignore the tired cliche "Once sported only by biker gangs, outlaws, and sailors, tattoos are now ..." that begins the IBN article "11 players in FIFA World Cup 2014 with the coolest tattoos ever!" Yup, quite a statement. But there are some decent picks from the mass of tattooed soccer/futball players. For one, the traditional Samoan sleeve (shown below) of Australia's Tim Cahill (as discussed in these videos). According to IBN, "The sleeve on his left arm has his Samoan roots from his maternal family with a symbolic lifeline of his grandmother after she died, linking it with that of his own and his parents." Then there's that photo of USA's Tim Howard, who also stripped down for PETA's Ink Not Mink campaign -- as a personal favor to me.

The Telegraphs' "The 10 best tattooed footballers" is more about the best players and not the best tattoos, but the list includes Nigel de Jong (photo above) who has some interesting blackwork. Check more of Nigel's tattoos on his Instagram. And even if all the tattoos on this list are not that artful, some of the stories behind them are worth a read.

The Daily Fail's photo piece on players wasn't as bad as their usual tattoo coverage. I particularly liked the focus on the footballers with full sleeves, with discussion on some of the details. Naturally, they referenced David Beckham as the inspiration. And speaking of Beckham inspiration: thank you, H & M.

What discussion of soccer tattoos would be complete without those "wacky fans"? Following the tradition that sports tributes make for the most questionable of decisions, this Dutch fan did not disappoint with these portraits of Louis van Gaal and Robin van Persie, just after 2 World Cup games. I guess it's called FIFA fever for a reason. 

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07:43 AM
Jay Freestyle tattoo.jpgJay Freestyle tattoo 2.jpgThere's a certain level of trust in an artist one must have to simply walk into a shop and say, "Do whatever you want?" and not even see a sketch beforehand. Yet, that's what so many of doing when they come to Dermadonna Custom Tattoo in Amsterdam to get work by Jay Freestyle, a 29-year-old South Africa-born tattoo artist who creates his designs while in the process of tattooing.

According to the Daily Mail, "the final artwork is a great surprise to the client," but his style of tattooing is what is normally expected. Jay describes his style as follows:  

Most describe my style as watercolor, and it definitely holds elements of such, but personally it is more. [...] I prefer to combine various styles, such as geometrical shapes and pointillism, while at the same time mixing realism with abstract, but at the end it all depends on the client.
I found the article on Jay's work through Demetra Molina and Eddie Molina of Hand of Fate Tattoo. Eddie worked as a guest artist at Dermadonna and watched Jay work firsthand. Here's what he said:

He's a young guy, very cool and laid back. Some of the stuff I saw him doing while I was there were some blue roses on a guys chest that looked like they were leaking watercolor splatters all over the place kinda abstract but visual enough that there's no doubt about what your looking at. He also does some crazy Graff stuff that looks like a bunch of parallel lines overlapping and twisting in 3D. Worked with him at Rosana DermaDonna's shop in Amsterdam -- a great shop and a great guest artist shop for international talent to visit.
See more of Jay's work on his site and on Facebook.

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08:46 AM

Awww jeeezzz...

Tattoo collector Joshua recorded his father's reaction every time he got a new tattoo. And the face of disappointment is priceless.
09:04 AM
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On the heels of Father's Day yesterday, I just learned that our friend Phil Padwe, creator of
"Mommy Has a Tattoo" and "Daddy Has a Tattoo," has recently posted the entire "Daddy Has A Tattoo" book on YouTube (embedded below).

Phil's children's books, which are wonderfully illustrated, set out to teach, in a light and fun way, tattoo appreciation, and talk about why some moms and dads may look a little more colorful than others. If you've ever been asked by kids why you have drawings on your arms, these books offer some ideas when you want to avoid talking about that drunken night in Thailand.

You can buy "Daddy Has a Tattoo" on Amazon, as well as the "Tattoo Coloring Book." Or just put the kiddies in front of your computer screen and have them watch the story unfold online.

08:14 AM
David-Cata-Overexposed-Emotion.pngThe age-old art of skin sewing is explored in Spanish artist David Cata's performative work "A flor de piel (Overexposed Emotions)," in which David uses needle and thread to create portraits of people stitched into his body. You can see a video of the process here.

In a profile on Brooklyn Based, David discusses his work and the source of his inspiration, his mother:

Since I was small I have seen my mother sewing orders for people, so this might [have] influenced me in some way. [...] When I started investigating about the act of sewing in relation with my body, I realized that with this a physical link was created in which an external factor became a part of my body. By sewing the images of my loved ones, this action turned [into] a symbolic act on how these people leave their mark on us.
The article describes more of his technique and has links to other works in which David uses his body as a canvas.
When I read his interview, I immediately thought of a post we did a while back: "Colin Dale's skin sewing," (a photo and video of which is below). The wonderful Colin Dale of Skin & Bone in Copenhagen was inspired by the practices of "skin seamstresses," such as the St. Lawrence Island women, as described in Dr. Lars Krutak's article called Tattoos of the Hunter-Gatherers of the Arctic. A bit from that article deserves a re-post:

"As a general rule, expert tattoo artists were respected elderly women. Their extensive training as skin seamstresses (parkas, pants, boots, hide boat covers, etc.) facilitated the need for precision when 'stitching the human skin' with tattoos. Tattoo designs were usually made freehand but in some instances a rough outline was first sketched upon the area of application."
We saw Colin's skin sewing first hand at the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest in 2010. In the video below, Colin is being interview by Bizarre Magazine and we got to capture some of his discussion on the history behind the practice (the video starts with Colin making fun of my NY accent).

I find it fascinating when ancient practices are revived and re-explored today, and both Colin and David's works are worth a look.

skin stitching colin dale.jpgSkin stitching by Colin Dale. Photo by Claire Artemyz.

08:42 AM

David Sena fire art.jpg The exceptional tattooing of David Sena of SenaSpace in NYC has appeared on this blog before, most recently, with the photos below of his clients at the NYC Tattoo Convention. David's fine art work, however, demands more attention.

This Cool Hunting video does just that. In the footage, David demonstrates his work with fire, as he employs firecrackers and smoke bombs to burn paper, making art that is as powerful as the methods he uses to create it.  David discusses how experimentation in unique ways of mark making led this body of fine art work. I particularly enjoyed how he explained his love for the uncertainty and randomness of the process and making an uncontrollable substance like fire do what he wants to do.   

Tattooing since 1994, David has drawn parallels between his tattoo and fire art, stating that the two forms of creative expression have coexisted well because they both entail physical and ritualistic processes while transforming matter and people.

Check more of David's tattoos and artwork on his site as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

Cool Hunting Video: David Sena from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

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David Sena's tattoo clients, above, including close-up.
04:36 PM
Lady Viola tattoo.jpgThere were some interesting tattoo news items published the past few days -- in addition to those on nipple tattoos and tattoo copyright issues -- so I figured I'd highlight them:

And also I'm grateful for all the cool links that readers shared in the Needles & Sins Facebook group page, including Paul's post Retronaut's 1970s Tattoo Parlour photos and Linda's flea market find of vintage postcards featuring tattooed and painted ladies, including one of Lady Viola above.
04:24 PM
When I started writing about tattoos and copyright law over a decade ago, I never really imagined just how seriously the rights of tattoo artists would be taken in the legal world and by big business. The issue of "Who owns your tattoo?" seemed to me, in the beginning, to be more like a cool question on one of my old law school exams and not one that has teams of lawyers making policy decisions based on tattoos.  But it now has.

Last August, in my "Tattoo Copyright & Celebrities" post, I wrote about how the issue of copyright ownership concerning tattoos on football players was "a pressing issue" within the NFL Players Association. As this Forbes article notes, "[...] the association advised agents to tell their players that, when they get tattoos going forward, they should get a release from the tattoo artist, and if they can track down their former artists, they should get a release."

That's just what famed tattooed quarterback Colin Kaepernick did. According to the ESPN article "New 'Madden': Deal done in ink," Kaepernick is the first player in the history of Electronic Arts Sports' Madden video game franchise who will have his tattoos featured in a game because he took care of the tattoo copyright issues -- he got written permission to use the tattoo artwork from his tattoo artists.

As ESPN writes:
"We want to be as authentic as possible, so we were pleased that Colin was able to secure the rights to the tattoos," said Seann Graddy, senior producer of "Madden 15," which will hit the shelves on Aug. 26. "There's a ton of buzz around this. In this game, we only have Colin's tattoos, but we'd love to secure the rights to the tattoos of other players in the future."
As the article notes, Kaepernick didn't have too much of a hurdle getting permissions because his extensive tattoo work was done by just two artists, Nes Andrion of Endless Ink in Reno, Nevada, and Orly Locquiao of Humble Beginnings in San Jose, California. However, so many sports figures are scratchpads for a multitude of artists they may not even remember, and so securing rights could be more difficult in those cases.

The issue of tattoo copyright really got people's attention with the infamous Mike Tyson Tattoo Copyright case, which I wrote extensively about here, here, and here.  In that case, the tattooist who tattooed Tyson's facial tattoo, Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement in prominently featuring his tattoo design in The Hangover 2 and its advertising. When the court started taking the tattooist's claims seriously, the case settled, and big businesses and entitles like the NFL also started to take tattoo art seriously.

Yet, as this case with Kaepernick shows, respecting the rights of tattooists doesn't have to be problem; it can be a partnership.
09:24 PM
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We've shown some truly artful transformations of mastectomy scars on this blog -- more recently highlighting the work done on P-Ink Day, in which breast cancer asskickers hooked up with stellar tattooers to create beautiful works that made the women fall in love with their bodies again.

What we haven't done, however, is explore 3-D nipple tattooing for those women who want breast reconstruction to have a more natural look. Unfortunately, the doctors who often tattoo these faux nipples don't often hit the mark on realistic tattooing.

Little Vinnie Myers, long-respected for his illustrative tattoo portfolio, has found himself as the premier artist for nipple areola tattoos that offer exceptional realism -- so much so that women travel from all over the world to his studio in Finksburg, Maryland. In fact, according to his site, he is now only accepting appointments for nipple areola tattoos.

In the NY Times feature "A Tattoo That Completes a New Breast", writer Caitlin Kiernan, who, after two years of breast cancer treatment, "wanted to have breasts that at least appeared normal," sought out Little Vinnie and made a wonderful video documentary of her experience, which is part of the article. I highly suggest watching it.

In the article, Caitlin also offers some interesting info on how Little Vinnie became the go-to guy for breast cancer survivors. Here's a bit from that:

Mr. Myers originally specialized in colorful, one-of-a-kind tattoos. But at a party in 2001, he struck up a conversation with a woman who worked with a plastic surgeon.

"She told me they were having problems tattooing their breast cancer patients and asked me if I would come in and help correct some of them," Mr. Myers said.

After doing a few jobs, he quickly recognized the need for trained tattoo artists to be involved in breast reconstructions.

"I would never advise anybody to come to me for surgery, but in the same vein nobody should go to a surgeon for a tattoo," he said.

As Mr. Myers developed his technique, word spread and his business grew, giving him little time for other tattoos. Mr. Myers said that in 2010 he decided to stop doing nipple tattoos.

"The morning that I planned on telling the guys to stop taking appointments for them, my sister called to tell me she had breast cancer," he recalled.

He took it as a sign. Today, he is busier than ever, with a waiting list of four to six months.
Read more on Little Vinnie and Caitlin's experience here.

And for more on illustrative tattoos on mastectomy scars, check these earlier posts:
09:58 PM
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I'm very fortunate to have shelves of beautiful tattoo and art books from artists across the globe -- books I've learned a great deal from and books that inspire posts for this blog. But it is not often that a book inspires how I envision further work on my own tattoos and has me excited about different possibilities of expression when designing the next steps of my body suit.

One such book is "Solstice Mandala" by George "Orge" Kalodimas of Sake Tattoo in Athens, Greece.

Last July, I first wrote about the Solstice Mandala project in which Orge set out to create
a mandala a day, from June 21st, the Summer Solstice, to December 21st, the Winter Solstice. And he did so. Here's more:

In the morning of 21st of June, Orge was listening to the radio and was reminded that this is the biggest day of the year. This reminder pushed him to later spend hours online learning about the Solstice circle and the unstoppable circle of life every year since the beginning of time. That's when inspiration stroke. He would design one mandala per day for the next 184 days, paying tribute to the solstice. He spent every day for 6 months designing a new mandala inspired by religion, nature and sacred geometry.
Those 184 mandalas are beautifully presented in a lush, limited edition 128-page hardcover with embossed sleeve. Even more wonderful is that the book is accompanied by a signed & numbered limited print.

And the most wonderful part:  the book is available for purchase at only 75 Euros (about $102 US).

Personally, I love how Orge has created mandalas that are incredibly detailed with various patterns and imagery, but would not overwhelm the body and would translate beautifully when the art is put on skin.

For more on how Solstice Mandala came to be, check this great video below.

And for more on Orge's tattoo and fine art work, check his Facebook and Instagram pages.

06:24 AM
Briana Sargent Tattoo 2.jpgBriana Sargent Tattoo .jpgIn today's artist profile, we check the work of Briana Sargent, owner of the woman-operated Buju Tattoo in San Diego, California. In our Q&A, we talk about transcending tattoo styles, gender stereotypes in tattooing, and being a descendent of Salem Witches, among lots of other goodness:

Being a descendant of the Salem Massachusetts Witches, how has that legacy manifested itself personally and professionally?

If being an independent, creative, and strong woman back then was considered dark magic, it could be argued that myself and the other artists at my shop, Buju Tattoo, are guilty as charged. Contemporarily speaking, I feel as though there is still a bit of a resistance and that freethinking female artists have to swim upstream. But this challenge has just polished the copper vibrantly.

In light of the mass consumption of tattoo culture today, do you think tattooing still holds a kind of magic?

Definitely. There is still a subculture that exists and it's amazing to see it be both universal yet magical at the same time. The heavily tattooed one might always hold a certain mystique about them. It's the magic of adornment.

Your artists at Buju tattoo are predominantly women. Do you think there is a different vibe and dynamic to studios run by and housing a female tattoo crew?

Yes, I think there is a unique vibe at Buju Tattoo because of the female artist crew. We still exist in a culture that learns, then hopefully unlearns, gender stereotypes. By housing a pack of forward thinking women, the shop is a very open space that welcomes, without intimidating, anyone who comes through our door.

Are there still obstacles for women in the industry?

I think there might always be obstacles for women stepping in and taking strong roles in a trade that has been historically run by men. But the clientele has changed as well, there are more people who want a different sort of interaction and environment.

Briana Sargent Tattoo 4.jpgThere's the old school saying, "Bold will hold," referring to thick outlines and bold color, and a lot of your work doesn't necessarily follow that adage. How do you approach your tattoos so that they have that staying power?

A heavy handed tattoo will look heavy handed day one and decade two. New styles have transcended, things have opened up, and people have more options. When tattooing without outlines, I make sure to use a high contrast, full range of color--from dark to light. I hope that my tattoos hold because the tattooed love them and care for them.

How do you stay fresh and motivated in creating new works -- what references do you look to, or activities you engage in to keep coming up with new ideas?

I stay fresh and excited about tattooing by making everyday at work an opportunity to meet new people and exchange new thoughts and ideas on how to further push the medium. I feel lucky to be an artist in the 21st century. Access to a diversity of thinkers, the never ending ream of images that is the internet, classic visual materials, and world travel is how I stay engaged.

What are you currently ...

Reading?   The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho.
Listening?   Drunk in Love by Beyonce
Watching?   First Winter
Following?  My friends and all the amazing things they're up to.
Finding?     New ways to keep things interesting.

Check more of Briana's work on her site, Instagram and Facebook.

Briana Sargent Tattoo 3.jpg
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