Today's spotlight on tattoo talent in the LGBT community is the kick-ass Sara Martin of Sacred Images Tattoo & Piercing in Bozeman, Montana. Sara has been tattooing a little over eight years and has an expansive portfolio that includes sacred symbols and super-soakers. I chose a couple of tattoos from her portfolio to present below, including an interesting Mehndi-inspired work done with white ink.
Sara describes herself as an out lesbian who "prefers a medium roast over dark roast and loves cameras, the West Coast, animals and adventure." She also wishes she could grow an instant mustache. [Sara is obviously not part of my Greek tribe. Otherwise, her wishes would come true daily.]
Sacred Images Tattoo & Piercing
821 W. Mendenhall
Bozeman, MT 59715
I'm loving this wonderful tattoo documentary, Travelling Ink, by anthropologist Cyril Siorat, directors Dr. Udi Butler and Alan Mandel and the crew from the Pitt-Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. Here's the official description:
Through conversations with leading tattooists [and historians] from around the world, this film explores the artistry, philosophy, meaning and history of tattooing at the site of the 2010 London Tattoo Convention. The film conveys the importance of travelling and the tattoo convention, the commitment of members of the tattoo community to their art, and the challenges they face in reconciling tradition with modernity, and spirituality with mass-appeal.The film is 25 minutes long and worth every second. I've watched it a number of times to pull my favorite quotes but I couldn't narrow it down to just a few perfect sound bits. It's just all good -- from conversations on tattoo's ancient history to its sensuality to philosophies held by the tattooists interviewed. I can't recommend it enough.
Also check out the Museum's full collection of video and audio on body art.
Special thanks to Colin Dale and Dr. Lars Krutak (who are featured in the film) for the link.
We survived yet another holiday, rather unscathed albeit with lighter wallets. Sucked into the consumer industrial complex, we have fulfilled our shopping list for friends and family. Now it's time to treat ourselves. Our Holiday Gift Guide has been filled with goodness from largely indie designers and artisans, and for this last Guide posting, we want to give a shout out to these tradespeople who help keep Needles+Sins running.
An advertiser who has been getting a lot of media attention is MIR Russian Criminal Tattoo Apparel, not just for their sexy clothing but for the info they offer on all the tattoo designs featured on their shirts, dresses, jackets and accessories. Check out their newest ShtrafBat military line.
Offering an extensive selection of plugs and ear stretching jewelry at a low cost is Ear Gauges, run by a group of people who are a part of our community looking to promote safe and beautiful body adornment. [I'm wearing their organic spotted wood plugs right now.] Also check their forums on healing and aftercare.
And of course we love our trouble makers Father Panik Industries, who have been kicked out and banned from a number of indie markets for their blasphemy, particularly in the form of their brass knuckle rosaries. Their latest rosary piece is the hand-carved, sterling silver tattoo machine charm on semi-precious stones shown above.
So hit them up and show some self-love for making it through another Festivus.
Wing tattoos by Vincent Hocquet (featured in Black Tattoo Art).
Last Friday, the US Air Force rescinded a new ban on tattoos visible on a recruit's right "saluting arm." The ban had come into effect November 25th and met with a great deal of scrutiny in the press as 26 recruits were soon turned away from basic training because of their tattoos, tattoos that were acceptable under the original standard.
According to the Air Force Times, that old standard is the following: "Official Air Force policy bans only tattoos that are obscene or do not fit a 'military image,' that cover more than one-fourth of a body part, or are above the collarbone."
This Air Force policy has renewed interest in the debate over tattoo policies -- not just in the military -- but in the workplace. I wrote a great deal about it for Needled.com but those posts did not survive its demise so I'll break down some big issues for ya here.
The first time I wrote about discrimination and body art was for BMEzine in 2004 called "Employment Discrimination: Be Careful What You Sue For" [yes, my bio info for the article has surely changed!] Since that article, there have been new developments, but start there for a more detailed primer on federal job discrimination laws.
Here are some basic points on tattoos and workplace appearance policies:
Companies have a great deal of discretion in enforcing their workplace appearance policies as long as they don't discriminate on the basis of religion, sex, race, color, or national origin under Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act.
Even if you claim your tattoos are protected for reasons such as religion or national origin, that doesn't mean you can wear a swastika on your neck and serve customers with abandon. Courts will often look to see if an employer offered you "reasonable accommodation" -- that is, whether they found a way to eliminate the conflict between your tattoo and their work requirements without undue hardship to the business.
Perfect example is in Cloutier v Costco [mentioned in my 2004 article but had not yet been decided]. In this case, a cashier at the mega-wholesale chain sued because she was not allowed to have visible facial piercings. She claimed that her eyebrow piercing was part of her religion as a member of the "Church of Body Modification" (CoBM). After a lengthy court battle, the US Court of Appeals in Boston did not rule on whether CoBM is a bona fide religion but found that Costco met its burden of showing that it had offered Cloutier a reasonable accommodation of her religious practice: a clear plastic retainer that took the place of the eyebrow jewelry. Therefore, no conflict.
When an employee has been outright fired for visible religious tattoos and offered no accommodation, it has not gone so well. The Red Robin restaurant chain paid out $150,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when it dismissed a waiter for not covering up a verse from an Egyptian scripture tattooed on his wrists, a noted practice of his Kermetic faith. As part of the settlement, Red Robin also had to change its policies to accommodate religious beliefs.
Workplace dress codes should be clear and reasonable, but again, employers can often mandate cover-ups or not hire someone because they are tattooed. Granted, in the US where over a third of the population is tattooed, it doesn't make much business sense to keep a large portion of the work pool away, but companies are allowed to make bad decisions and get away with them. Hell, if they can plunge nations into mass recessions, they can certainly tell you to hide your tattoos (most of the time).
But also think of the flip side: Should businesses like tattoo studios or punk clubs be forced to hire chino-wearing preppies without an ounce of ink? Shouldn't businesses who cater to a certain group be able to freely create an image to attract that group (if they do so within the law)?
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Photo of Rockin Rollers Derby by Natalie Ujuk via Londonist.
I know you've been starved of your tattoo news updates from the old Needled.com times, but please, no Top Model mob behavior please. I appreciate your patience, the way you smile with your eyes, and how you let me talk incessantly about myself ala Tyra, and for this you will be rewarded with an extra-yummy news update. But first, go eat a cookie.
I, for one, prefer beautiful women brawling on skates, like The Broads of London's Rockin Rollers. Check out the fabulous photos of them by Natalie Ujuk on Londonist.
Ok, onto the headlines ...
The biggest news: TATTOO KILLS MAN! Sadly, a UK man died 10 days after his calf tattoo, which had gotten infected, but the cause was actually deep vein thrombosis, when a blood clot traveled to his lung. Granted thrombosis could have arisen from his inactivity in healing the tattoo but that is one of many potential causes. Still, the story will motivate me to get off the couch after my next session.
[Death may be an extreme fear but infections are not uncommon. Read about it here.]
Even the mere fear of infection has sparked a $20-million class action lawsuit in Canada. Lesson here: no matter how clean your studio, make sure that all your inspections, autoclave spore tests, and associated hygiene practices are in order, not just to protect clients but your studio from suits.
The biggest non-news: Suicide Girls get bacon bro tattoos at SXSW! My girls at SG are trendsetters as the bacon tattoo is lookin like the new tribal armband.
The biggest dirtbag news: Roxbury tattooist Jeffrey Dekmar is charged -- for the second time -- with sexually assaulting clients. Read the disgusting details from the arrest report:
"The patron wanting the prayer inked on her skin has alleged that she refused Dekmar's request that she remove her underpants, but that he yanked them down, digitally penetrated her, and then said, 'My bad,' according to an arrest affidavit."
In case you missed my last Needled entry on tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak, I'm posting info on his new, wonderful show Tattoo Hunter, which airs on the Discovery Channel.
Check this week's episode, Saturday at 1PM, where Lars "treks deep into the jungles of Indonesia in search of the spirit tattoo of the Mentawai tribe."
Read about his fascinating experience online. Here's a taste:
[...] another way the Mentawaians keep their souls "close" is by beautifying the body. Individuals, be they male or female, who neglect their bodies by not keeping them beautiful with beads, flowers, sharpened teeth, and especially tattoos will cease to be attractive to their souls. In such cases, the soul may decide to leave its human host and roam about the body free. But if the soul does not return to its home, it may decide to withdraw to the ancestral world at which point that person must die.The following episode airs March 21st at 1PM and finds Lars in the remote mountains of the Philippines in search of the tattoo of the Kalinga head hunters. A must see!
Tattoo Hunter is not the only tattoo travel show. Coming this Spring ... Tattoo Highway.
Ok, I know it's unfair to juxtapose a show that has a tattoo scholar offering culture, history and adventure against one where a "reality tv star" travels across America in his mobile tattoo parlor called "Ministry of Ink." But it has potential to be the fruity dessert to a meaty dish. Here's a taste of what you'll find there:
The tattoos viewers will see Pendelton create this season include a memorial portrait created from the ashes of a man's wife mixed with ink; a tattoo that can only be seen under a black light; a giant gorilla riding a scooter, and a pair of matching eggplants.
They had me at the memorial done with ashes but, yeah, lost me at the gorilla and eggplants. Really?
I was looking to download new photo apps for my iPhone yesterday and there was this tattooed baby staring me down, taunting me like a tattooed Barbie doll. So, like I did with Babs, I bought it. I will fork over $1.99 for you, dear reader, so you don't have to should the app suck. The problem is that I'm totally on the fence as to the suckage of this app, so let me list the pros and cons and you can decide.
First, Sonic Boom created the Tattoo Shop app for all phones supported by AT&T, Alltel, Sprint, and Verizon. This is a plus in itself. My review, however, is based on how it worked on my iPhone. Here goes:
For almost two bucks, it's not bad for tons of ironic fun. You decide.
I was gonna wait till the fabulous Brian Grosz finished coding the new Needles and Sins site before I posted (he came outta web design retirement for this!), but I was so excited with the extensive and excellent photos of the Philadelphia Tattoo show by Sean Toussaint that I just couldn't wait!
Sean, Brian and I battled hangovers Sunday morning and made our way to Philly to catch the last day of the convention there, which boasted some great artists in attendance, informative seminars and a fine art component. Yes, we were feelin pretty fancy despite our recession-necessary bus ride over. Ok, maybe we did wanna see a little sexy hair pulling between Suicide Girls, God's Girls and Gypsy Queens but I assure you it was largely about the "highbrow" and "tattoo couture."
Upon arrival, impressed with the multi-level set-up at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center, we decided to make our way through the show, floor by floor, starting with Bloody Marys in the lobby bar. But -- as has been the case in the past -- some asshole pulled the fire alarm. The convention was evacuated and hoards of tattoorati crowded outside shivering. There, Sean began his photographic quest with so much charm and flare that people stripped down further in the cold for the Haitian Sensation.
[In the interest of full disclosure, Sean and I have lunch dates where we practice the choreography of Beyonce videos, so yeah, I have a fag hag crush on him.]
Moving on ...
When we were finally allowed back into the building, we were shortly treated to a biker brawl, which was almost immediately quashed by an army of cops.
And where did said army come from?
Well, they were already there to keep things safe as Vice President Joe Biden shmoozed around Philly and found himself at the Sheraton. The VP did not get tattooed; however, rumor has it that he was jumped into the Pagans.
The two-minute gang war took place outside the tattooing areas, so the buzzing went largely unbothered. When the cops finally cleared, I was able to watch some stellar tattoo work being done, like tattooist Dave Wallin taking a break to get traditional Japanese hand poke tattooing by Bunshin Horitoshi; or North Star's David Sena working non-stop on his signature "angry black" tattooing; or even my Brooklyn buddy Jaz doing black and grey portraiture.
My favorite part of conventions is being introduced to great artists whose work I havent come across before like Christian Masot of Silk City Tattoo in New Jersey. What was most impressive about Christian was how his clients sang his praises repeatedly, not just for the artistry but for the man he is, and I think that's so important, especially when spending hours on end with someone poking ya. You should at least like the person right? Or are we all just snobby tattoo sluts?
In fact, there were A LOT of new artists doing amazing work with just a few years under their belts. Such is the state of fine art tattooing these days, and while many need to lose a bit of the immature rock star divaness, I'm not gonna complain after seeing many beautiful works of art walking around the show.