February 2015 Archives

07:16 AM
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Tattooers donating their art for sale to help feed hungry children. That's The Warriors Fund: an exhibit & silent auction to support the students of the Wounded Knee District School (WKDS) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The opening of the show and auction takes place on Friday, March 6th at 8 of Swords in Brooklyn, and will be on view through the month. It's an event in which a very targeted benefit can be placed in the hands of kids, all through the efforts of our own tattoo community.

The Warriors Fund is being organized by our friend Patrick Sullivan, who, along with tattooers Dave Wallin and Betty Rose, invited over 75 tattooers across the country to donate an original drawing or painting that will be sold to raise money for the food pantry at WKDS, which was created to help feed the 134 Kindergarten to 8th graders on the reservation.

In his Inked mag interview, Pat explained what inspired the charity:

It all really started with one word: food. After donating online, I'd gotten in touch with the principal of the Wounded Knee District School, Alice Phelps. I wanted to do more, so I asked Alice, "What can I do? What do you need?" And she said, "Food." That was kind of a gut-punch. All of the students qualify for meals in school during the day, but most, if not at all, need assistance at home. Feeding America comes out to do a food distribution once a month but the need is a lot greater than that, so Alice started her own food pantry that she runs out of the school. When I talked to her I discovered the nearest grocery store is 80 miles away and these Kindergarten-through-eighth graders often go home to empty cupboards. I felt like I needed to do something about it and kind of took Alice's example. Kids aren't getting enough food? Start a food pantry. You need food for the food pantry? Do a show and raise money to get that food.
The show features work from respected artists including Timothy Hoyer, Mike Aul, David Sena, and Scott Sylvia, among others, and also includes work from Cheyenne Randall, known for his "Shopped Tattoos" on iconic images (including the one below). In addition, Matt Arriola designed the benefit t-shirt, which will be available for purchase as well.

For more, check The Warriors Fund site, Instagram, and Facebook

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11:32 AM
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Photo above of Master Barber "Teddy Boy Greg."

tattoo by Fernie Andrade_becca.jpgTattoo above on "Teddy Boy Greg" by Fernie Andrade.

brent mccown tattooing_becca.JPGTraditional hand tattooing by Brent McCown.

Brighton Tattoo_becca.jpgAll photos above by Rebecca Holmes.

I'm back in NYC after the non-stop party that was the Brighton Tattoo Convention. With the miserable winter weather, one would think I'd spend my vacation days flying south to Caribbean beaches and not the cold English seaside, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend my birthday with friends who were traveling from around the world to be a part of this show. I most definitely made the right choice.

The convention took place at the Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel, located directly on the seafront in the center of the city. It was a massive labyrinth of booths throughout the hotel's convention center, with over 350 artists from over 16 countries working. 

You turn one corner and there was the traditional tattooing platform, with Copenhagen's Colin Dale hand poking Nordic dragons while, next to him, Brent McCown was tapping Polynesian tatau.

In sharp contrast, down the aisle, rap music blared from the booth that housed Norm, Big Sleeps, & Big Meas doing their sought-after script. Crowds also formed around other big names from the US such as Thomas Hooper, Bugs, Bong, and BJ Betts, among many others. 

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Tattoo above by BJ Betts.

UK legends George Bone, Lal Hardy, and Alex Binnie drew plenty of fans as well. [As a side note: Alex had a gathering on Thursday night before the show for the release of Charles Boday's Handpoke Tattoo book, and it was great to check out his Brighton shop, which has that same cool vibe as his iconic London studio.]

One particular thing I found interesting in the lead-up to the show was that many artists -- who normally book their convention appointments months in advance -- were advertising that they would be doing almost all walk-ups, so lucky convention goers who got in early could get prized time without being on a waiting list. I wonder if they knew how lucky they really were.

The tattoo competitions were limited to Best of Day entries with Guen Douglas winning Friday for a neo-traditional lady hand tattoo; Ryan Evans winning Saturday for his black and grey portrait of Marlane Dietrich; and Alex Gotza of Dirty Roses Tattoo in Greece winning Sunday for a full thigh gypsy tattoo (shown below).

alex gotzas tattoo.pngAs for me, I spent much of my time helping the convention organizer Woody manage the press, as there was a lot of interest in this eighth year of the show. But when I wasn't doing that, you'd most likely find me at the opulently decked out booth -- complete with gold drapery and Moroccan lanterns -- of tattoo witches Alicia Cardenas, Goldilox, Delphine Noiztoy, and Lorena Morato. Other stunners at that booth were model Moniasse, Frank Doody, and Drew Becket. [All of whom are shown in the pic below.] I shared a rented house with these beautiful people, kind of like a Real World Brighton, and ... I think I'll leave the exploits (and damaging photos) off this blog. Moving on ...

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More seriously, there was also a lot of tattoo history shared at the show. Our friend Dr. Matt Lodder gave a wonderful talk on Sutherland MacDonald, "the first tattoo artist." And just outside his roundtable discussion, you could view the artifacts and archival photos from the famed Bristol Tattoo Club. I also particularly loved the fine art exhibition of Ramon Maiden (a post on him is coming soon). 

Most of the hard partying took place at the Sailor Jerry cocktail lounge and by the main stage where crowds of psychobilly babes gathered on Friday to see The Meteors, who still can bring a mosh pit to action after 35 years (with an older shirtless crowd). Other bands through the weekend included The Sex Pistols Experience, as well as King Salami and the Cumberland 3. 

Prettying up the Rockabilly set pre-concerts were barbers flown in from California, although lumberjack beards and skull caps dominated over pompadours. Really, I could barely recognize friends underneath all the hirsute hotness.

It's all these different offerings, in addition to top tattooing, that make a great convention. Most important to me, these gatherings are an opportunity to share love with friends from across the globe and reaffirm that we are one community of beautiful freaks. And that's better than any beach vacation.

For more on what went down at the convention, check the Brighton Tattoo blog, and these news items:

* Lifeforce Magazine photos by Damien Bird.
* The Argus coverage
* Bring the Noise article and photos

alicia and matt.jpgAlicia Cardenas and Dr. Matt Lodder chilling out at the Sailor Jerry Lounge.
09:16 AM
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Brighton Tattoo Convention.JPGThe Brighton Tattoo Convention is well underway in its second fabulous day, with booths buzzing and some beautiful works of art walking the conventions floors at the historic Hilton Metropole. I'll be running around (celebrating my birthday today) but I wanted to share some shots by photographers Krysten Marlette (shown above) and Rebecca Holmes (photos below).

I'll be posting more here and on Instagram through the weekend. Also check #brightontattoocon.

Cherry Blosoom tattoo.jpgTattoos by Cherry Blossom Tattoo.
06:34 AM

Ember Presents - FADE from EmberFilms on Vimeo.

As today is the start of the Brighton Tattoo Convention, it's fitting to highlight a local Brighton artist: Fade FX, a tattooer with a particular specialty in geometric dotwork -- who also does traditional Borneo hand tapped tattoos -- is the subject of this short film (above) by Ember Films (produced by Jonathan Jones, and the direction & post production by Justin Hunt and Andy Steggall).

The film looks at the experiences that shaped Fade and how they have influenced her artwork. She further discusses her connection with precise geometry and technical drawing in her tattooing. And there are also some great scenes with other local artists.

See more of Fade FX's work on her site and Facebook.

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06:00 AM
CATSCAMEL2 copy.jpgWe know that not every tattoo needs a grand story behind it. And yet, the stories behind many can be so inspiring that the artwork takes on multiple roles: to beautify, but also allow us to see things differently. One such story for me is a tattoo that Roxx of 2Spirit Tattoo shared, which was done by 2Spirit artist Cats on her client Rebecca, who wanted a tattoo that spoke to her experience living with scoliosis, her surgeries, and the active life she now lives.

Here's more on the tattoo and Rebecca's story in Cats' own words:

I received an email about a year ago from a girl who wanted a tattoo of a camel skeleton and some pattern work. I liked her idea, but had no idea where this concept had originated. In the consult, Rebecca explained that she had lived with Scoliosis since 2007, when it kind of came out of nowhere".  She had tried a number of different treatments and therapies in the hopes of preventing it from getting worse, but to no avail. The next step was spinal fusion surgery. She says that this was a voluntary choice she made, and it was the best choice she has ever made. Her surgery took place in 2011, and about 6 months later she got back to sports, kickboxing, working out, jogging, yoga, etc.

The imagery of the camel made scenes in the this context, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of this concept was that she want to preserve the integrity of her surgery scar. She didn't want a tattoo to "disguise" her scar, to help eradicate her memories of living with scoliosis. Instead she wanted to highlight and memorialize the physical manifestation of something that had literally shaped her life.

Working with Rebecca was a truly eye opening experience. She'd taken up marathon running, and was just excited to commemorate her scoliosis, the surgery, and her aspirations of a future of well-being.
See more of Cats' work on the 2Spirit site and on her Instagram.

05:32 PM

All weekend, my social media feeds were blowing up with photos from the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention. My favorite images were those of tattoo legends (many of the Bristol Tattoo Club) gathering together for a great group shot (shown below). I particularly loved finding, in that photo, Charlene Anne Gibbons, daughter of famed tattooed lady "Artoria" and master tattooer Charles "Red" Gibbons. [As I wrote here last March, Charlene is in the process of writing a book on her parents. Read an excerpt in the post.]

The staggering lines to get into the convention could largely be attributed to renowned veteran tattooers in attendance (although there were lots of newer artists) or maybe the extremely inflated fake boobs with questionable tattoos on display. A #phillytattooconvention search may bring up more half naked bathroom selfies than artwork, but a lot of the tattoo photos were of strong work.

The press seemed to focus on one main thing: a performer catching fire in a fire-breathing act, which you can view above. It's worth waiting for the ridiculous ad to run before seeing the footage, taken by convention-goer Jeff Hurd, just to watch how cool the performer and those running the entertainment handle the flames. Nuts!

See more photos from the show on the convention's Facebook page and via Instagram and Twitter convention hashtags. 

02:19 PM
blackwork tattoo sway.pngsway traditional tattoo.pngKnown for strong, traditional tattooing, especially the bold-will-hold black variety, Sway of Sacred Electric in Leeds, UK, was recently interviewed for the Brighton Tattoo blog. In that Q&A, Sway talks about Sacred Electric, his crew, and how they find inspiration for their work. Here's a taste:

Firstly how did you get into tattooing? How long have you been tattooing?

I can't remember not being into tattoos. I always drew on my arms when I was a kid. I started getting tattooed when I was way too young with designs I had done- stupid idea. I just  took my drawings to the shops I got tattooed in, asking for a job. I started tattooing maybe 10-11 years ago. I can't remember now my memory is so bad. I did my apprenticeship with Chris Wright of Viking Tattoo in Jarrow. I never see him anymore, but I'm always grateful for the time he gave me and his help getting me started in tattooing.
Read more on the blog.

For those in the US wanting to get work, Sway will be traveling to the East and West Coast this summer. And in addition to the Brighton Tattoo Convention next weekend, Sway will be at the Nepal convention in April.

See more of Sway's work on Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr.

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10:07 PM
Luna Cobra eyeball tattoo.jpgEyeball tattooing above by Luna Cobra.

Many, too many, news headlines recently had a "point-n-laugh look at the freaks" quality, which seems to be inspired by images from the Venezuela Tattoo Expo, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. As this HuffPo piece shows, a lot of the body modification photographed by the press were "extreme," with the greatest attention given to eyeball tattooing and especially to Henry Damon, the Venezuelan man who had undergone surgery to look like the comic character Red Skull (shown below).

While I don't endorse high-risk bod mod procedures, I also don't agree with the way mainstream media vilifies those who undergo such procedures. And more often than not, they get the facts wrong.

For example, despite the headlines from the BBC to AsiaOne to Cosmo to the Washington Post, eyeball tattooing is not a trend or "a thing" today, as described by WaPo. It is true that, since BMEzine's Modblog first documented eyeball tattooing in the body modification community in 2007, more people around the world have gotten the procedure done. However, in reading the headlines, you'd think that the tattoo community en masse has run out to stick syringes in our sclera.

It seems that these outlets have picked up on statements made to the BBC by body modification artist Luna Cobra, who was one of those who performed the cosmetic eyeball tattooing in 2007, noted above. The BBC writes:

Luna Cobra says that what started as an experiment between friends, and fans of Dune, has run out of control. He's also heard that it's fashionable among Brazilian teenagers and in some Russian sub-cultures - and worries that people could be being harmed.

"It's shocking. We had no idea anyone else would do it. And now everyone's obsessed with it," he says.

"We often felt like we released a beast into the world and now all these people will be damaged," he says referring to the many ways the tattooing process can go wrong - from using the wrong ink and needle to injecting too much pigment or going too deep.

"It's a shame because I think it's something really beautiful, but it's taken an odd course."

I fully agree that there is cause for alarm when people engage in dangerous practices as fashion, but an odd course does not make an epidemic. And if we did all run out to color our eyeballs, does that deserve that the mocking and vitriol of the media and society at large?

Many of these articles also question the mental state of people who undergo "extreme body modification," but we don't see that same level of discussion when some Real Housewife character blows up her lips and breasts to unnatural and unsafe proportions.

So will it take a real eyeball tattoo or nose-nipping "trend" to quiet the point-n-laughs? After all, it wasn't that long ago when people with just tattooed sleeves were the big "freaks."

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07:59 AM
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marco manzo tattoo3.jpgPresenting tattooing in the context of fine art and fashion, Marco Manzo of Tribal Tattoo Studio in Rome, presented his elegant ornamental backpieces and leg work at Museum Maxxi in an exhibit entitled "Tattoo D'Haute Couture."

Sponsored by BMW to present its latest motorcycle, Marco's most stunning clients, clothed in dresses by Maison Gattinoni, posed on the bikes and elevated platforms as works of art themselves before a crowd of onlookers and media.

There was plenty of media coverage (which you can see from Marco's Facebook page here), including this video from the show embedded below.

One article in Ansa, written in Italian (which I put through Google Translate), quotes Marco explaining how one of the most important features of his ornamental tattoo work is the emphasis on the curves of the silhouette, highlighting the beauty of the body, just like a custom-made suit from a top couturier.

Marco has been tattooing since 1992, and is recognized for his blackwork, whether it be strong bolder motifs or the more intricate embroidery-styled tattoos as presented in this exhibit.  See more of Marco's work on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.

04:27 PM
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It's been a while since I posted work from my own tattoo artist, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Liege, Belgium. And since it's Dan's birthday today, I figured it would be a good time to share his latest dotwork!

Find more of Dan's work on his site, Instagram, and Facebook.

Happy birthday, Dan!

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07:33 AM
kristen blinne nov 2014.jpgfloral tattoo wortman.jpgIt used to be that saying someone "tattooed like a girl" was an intended insult, but the feminine motifs that populate a lot of portfolios today (of both men and women tattooers) have garnered a lot of attention and respect.

Of particular attention recently is Michele Wortman's Bloom Project featured in Tattoo Magazine, and in a new video (shown below).

The Bloom Project encompasses Michele's body sets, with a distinct overall harmonious feminine esthetic. As Michele notes on her blog, 15 years ago, she set out to "redefine more options for women wanting a lighter softer, balanced look within their tattoo collection." She explains that many of these sets began with shoulder cap tattoos and then grew into full sleeves and more. She then began documenting this process, which became the Bloom Project. Here's more:

Michele identified with the word Bloom as many of her clients requested floral motifs from her, and she likened this process of unfolding through layers of ink, adding on over time and personal transformation to the similarities of a bloom opening to flower.
Michele has inked several body sets and is currently working on an art book showcasing the lovely ladies she has been honored to tattoo and their process of collecting work through the years. The book will feature in-depth photos of her work as well as many of her clients who have come to be known as The Bloom Sisters. She is currently taking on new clients with this project in mind as well.

The Bloom Sisters will be featured in a series of articles in Tattoo Magazine, starting with a feature on Kristen Blinne (shown in the top photo above) in Issue #304, which is on newsstands now.

See more of Michele's body sets on her site, Instagram and Facebook.

07:06 AM

laugh now cry later negrete.jpgOne of the godfathers of American black-and-gray Chicano style tattooing, Freddy Negrete, is renowned for taking the single-needle technique, common in prisons and gang culture, and raising it to a level of fine art. Having been in prison himself and overcoming addiction and other adversities, Freddy is giving back by partnering with Project Save Art to produce limited edition temporary tattoos of his famous "Smile Now, Cry Later" design -- the proceeds of which will be donated to the William James Association, which provides art workshops for inmates that "teach self-discipline, problem-solving, and concentration through absorption in a specific creative endeavor."

In the video above, Freddy talks about the evolution of black & grey, the meanings behind "Smile Now, Cry Later," and a bit of his own personal story.

The temporary tattoos are not just a way to collect art from an iconic tattooer, but also funds opportunities for even more inmates' lives to be changed through art. The tattoos are available for purchase now on SaveArt.com.

To see more of Freddy's tattoos (like the ones below), hit up his Instagram, and check Project Save Art on Instagram as well.

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