Photo by Edgar Hoill.
The most interesting recent tattoo headlines centered around the law, and you know how much I love this stuff -- from victories over dumb legislation, wrongful death suits, and protecting artists' rights in their work. Here are the headlines:
The best news was that the fight over NY's ridiculous tattoo rules led to a victory for tattoo artists who worked so hard to change it. Last year, NY Governor Cuomo signed Bill S1421-2015, which required tattoo studios and body piercing studios "to use single-use needles and inks, to obtain consent forms from customers and to maintain customer consent forms for a period of not less than seven years." As I wrote in the earlier post, the definition of single-use ink in the bill is "a sealed and pre-filled package of ink that is only intended for a single use," and based on this definition, tattoo artists would be limited to expensive pre-packaged "ink shot" products with limited color palettes, and arguably lesser quality, rather than maintaining the industry standard of using disposable ink caps, in which bottled inks of any brand are poured into small containers and thrown away after the tattoo is done.
Tattoo artists mobilized to change the law -- those like Michael O'Herien, who held meetings with artists and legislators at his Revolution Tattoo Co. to seek a better drafting of the law, and Bridget Punsalang,whose petition entitled "Change NYS Bill S1421-2015 to allow the use of disposable ink caps in tattooing," circulated across the globe and received the media attention to get lawmakers' attention. Last month, a legal compromise was reached and the law was revised and signed into law. Under the amended law, the single-use ink packets were scrapped and tattooists can continue to pour ink into disposable ink caps. The other mandates, such as single-use sterile needles, essentially put into law what professional studios already practice. Congrats to all those who fought the law and won.
More good news: Virginia Beach loosens its grip on tattoo parlors. According to the The Virginian-Pilot, "In January, the City Council got rid of the rule that tattoo parlors have to be at least 600 feet from a residential district, apartment district or school. But they still must be 600 feet apart from each other and apply for a conditional use permit in the B-2 community business district." The article continues, "Staff initially recommended getting rid of both restrictions - on where they are allowed to be and how close they can be to each other. But planning commissioners had concerns about 'the potential for a proliferation of tattoo parlors/body piercing establishments in any single location.'" Of course, this makes it tougher for those already operating because of increased competition, but generally, getting rid of arbitrary provisions that restrict businesses is a good thing.
Looking at a wrongful death law suit, the sister of an inmate at Georgia State Prison sued Georgia Correctional Health, a contractor that provides health care at the prison, for failing to treat the inmate who died from a severely infected tattoo. Randall Davidson died in February 2015 after he went into severe septic shock and multi-system organ failure due to a tattoo he received from a fellow inmate. The lawsuit states that Davidson sought medical help but was given only anti-inflammatory drugs, not antibiotics needed to treat the infection. The suit also states that, while that Georgia state prisons prohibit inmates from tattooing each other, they commonly tattoo each other in unsterile conditions with improvised needles and ink, leading to high risks of infection. Sadly, it's this type of tragedy and the financial penalties that often follow, that lead to reform. Prison tattooing is common practice around the world. Rather than ignore it, steps could be taken to ensure safer tattooing. Perhaps we can look to models, like this one in Canada, that have tattoo facilities in the prison itself.
On the copyright front, famed tattooer Norm (Eric Rosenbaum) filed a federal lawsuit against McDonald's, stating in the suit that McDonald's "sought to capitalize, and did capitalize, on Norm's artwork and celebrity without his consent or permission, and consciously decided to paper the walls of its restaurants around the world with Norm's name, artwork, signature, trade name, trademark and persona." As a result, the suit claims that "the unlicensed use of that work has cost him several lucrative contracts with other companies and estimates the value of McDonald's unlicensed use and the lost contracts at more than $10 million." My guess is that this case will settle, although I would love to see how the court would handle the appropriation of graffiti and tattoo art. In any case, it's a reminder to companies that its best to work with artists and legally license works than think those artists won't won't assert their rights when companies don't.
Speaking about appropriation among tattoo artists. Colin Dale of Skin & Bone has an interesting essay entitled, "Copycats, Fanboys and Identity Theft: part 1" in which he brings to light his experience of having his work copied -- but by an artist who is more adept at social media than creating original works -- so much so that "it starts to look like he has the original while [Colin is] a fanboy with a copy." I found myself nodding in agreement when reading further on his reaction to the theft:
It is sort of cool when people start thinking that my work is traditional...but it is also personal. When people start posting it as their own or promoting themselves with it that things get messy. The problem is that many people just use google and search "Viking or Polynesian Tattoos" instead of searching "Viking or Polynesian Art" to find the original sources. So their inspiration is already from another contemporary artists work rather than historical sources.The most annoying phrase I hear about this laziness is "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." That statement itself is lazy. All art is derivative, but the full appropriation and the social media grab for "Likes" of work that is not your own is sad and also actionable. While it doesn't seem that Colin will be filing a lawsuit, I think it's great that he used his platform to bring these issues to light.
I've been a long time fan of tattooer-Viking Colin Dale of Skin & Bone in Copenhagen, not just for his dotwork/blackwork creations -- many handpoked -- but also for his Jedi wisdom on tattoos and life in general.
Colin's tattoo work and words are wonderfully presented in Hampus Samuelsson's short film "Colin Dale Roots," which is embedded below. The film just made its debut at the Tattoo Arts Film Festival in Saskatoon, Canada -- Colin's hometown -- and has been spreading across social media.
The footage includes Colin freehand drawing a Nordic-inspired tattoo, his tattooing by hand and machine, and also an up-close look at his performing native Inuit skin sewing. But what I really love about this film is his musings on tattooing as a rite of passage and how, at a time where there is so much lack of permanence in our lives (whether it be marriages, jobs, or homes), tattooing is something that can't be taken away from us. There's also a great discussion on how his work developed over the 18-19 years he's been tattooing, and his interest in the roots of it all.
I highly recommend watching the film.
Find more of Colin's work on his site, Facebook and Instagram.
Photo above of Master Barber "Teddy Boy Greg."
Tattoo above on "Teddy Boy Greg" by Fernie Andrade.
Traditional hand tattooing by Brent McCown.
All 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.
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.
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).
As 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 ...
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:
The gag-inducing Style.com piece entitled "Enter 2015: Stick and Poke Tattoos Are the New Septum Piercings," could turn anyone off to hand worked tattoos, or even tattoos in general, as it talks about the "coolest style" on models and makes tattoos seem like the newest "It" handbag.
The piece references the Stick & Poke Tattoo Kit, which I wrote about here last January (that photo editor of Style with her poked tattoo is not at the forefront of trend as they say). In that post, I talked about how I felt really uncomfortable having stick & poke kits available in a neat little box with a price tag for the mass trendsetters, despite loving hand work (and having giving one -- a bad one) myself.
Thankfully, I can now articulate the difference between the consumer kits and real artists using this technique by pointing to Charles Boday's recently released Handpoke Tattoo: 23 Artists' Words and Ink. Charles informed me of his project last March at the NYC Tattoo Convention, and when I found that he met his goal of creating a book that features the work -- and words -- of artists who excel in handpoked tattooing, I followed up to find out more.
When I asked Charles to explain further about his interest in this type of tattooing, he explained:
A few years ago I wanted to learn how to tattoo [...] A friend suggested I start by hand for the expedient reason that if I made a mistake, it would be easier to correct. I started working on myself, and also looking online to see who was doing similar work. Two things happened: I discovered how much I loved the sensuous nature of the needle entering the skin, without the distraction of the noise and the blood inherent in machine work, resulting in work that was just as black as with a machine (and a quicker healing process), and also that there was a community out there, some of whom worked exclusively by hand, and others who mixed it in with their more remunerative machine work, especially at conventions.Charles also noted that women tattooers are more represented than in the traditional machine tattoo world. Considering how, in certain indigenous cultures, tattooing was traditionally done only by women, it's interesting to see how that has carried over.
I also asked Charles what he thought about the renewed interest in handwork, and he said:
There clearly is a resurgence in hand tattooing, on a number of levels. I think in the '70s and '80s, when the west was discovering the power of tribal design, epitomized by the work of Leo Zuluetta, there was a related decline in the cultures of their origin. I remember reading stories of Borneo tribesmen just wanting an American eagle tattoo. In a way, all this is fine-- there always will be an ebb and flow in cultural expression. But there is a real resurgence in tribal artforms in their place of origin. In the Philippines, in Borneo, in New Zealand. Furthermore, people like Colin Dale are exploring their long lost cultural art identity in Scandinavia, and also promoting Inuit traditional tattooing. Not to mention the burgeoning flower that is England and chopsticks, following on from the granddad of them all, George Burchett!But what about stick & poke tattoos in popular culture? Charles adds:
Perhaps there is a less vaunted resurgence, which is that of the DIY tattoo...I belong to a few sites on Tumblr myself. What can I say? There's an interest in the non-professional. It's rough. It's punk. Mostly, it's crap...scratching, really. But out of this can be borne a true artist. I really believe this. I also believe you can do it yourself. In this medium. Without a Master (which is not to say without a mentor...We all need help!).I agree with Charles' view of seeing art in all forms (although we did not discuss the commercialization aspect with the stick & poke kits). And what he has accomplished with Handpoke Tattoo: 23 Artists' Words and Ink is highlighting exceptional art by exceptional artists. I highly recommend picking up the book.
[Many thanks to Colin Dale for the Style.com link. Colin is also a featured artist in Handpoke Tattoo: 23 Artists' Words and Ink.]
Celtic tattoos above by Colin Dale.
UPDATE: Just added a new tattoo above by Colin Dale, and some more words from Pat.
Yesterday, NPR posted a radio piece and article entitled, "The American Origins Of The Not-So-Traditional Celtic Knot Tattoo" -- a rather obnoxious discussion led by Ari Shapiro, who seemingly knows nothing about tattoos, but finds himself funny to mock them. Ari focuses his snarky lens on tattoos inspired by Celtic art, which he describes as a "sort of the 'lite rock' radio station of tattoos: pretty, bland and inoffensive."
In the article, Ari interviews Kevin McNamara at the Dublin Ink tattoo parlor, who states that he tattoos, although "not a literal number," about 40 of Celtic knots and shamrocks, a week, mostly on Americans with fanny packs and baseball hats. He explains that, for the first couple of years, that's how he made his money. Putting aside the bad taste of publicly mocking clients who contribute to one's retirement fund, what is left out of that interview is really why Americans of Irish heritage seek that type of artwork, how many want to celebrate their roots and feel a connection to something they hold important.
The only redeeming feature of this piece is tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman, who runs the blog TattooHistorian, and has been a guest blogger here a number of times. Anna explains that there's no evidence of Celtic tattooing in antiquity, but that the practice only came to Ireland in the last century. She also offers some thoughts on the American origins of Celtic tattoo work. With her expertise, Anna should have been asked more substantive questions to make this a less superficial piece.
A more interesting conversation should also have included Pat Fish in Santa Barbara, CA, who has been tattooing Celtic designs for three decades, and says that she finds it "endlessly fascinating and challenging to bring the intricate art of the ancient illuminated manuscripts and standing stones to life in skin."
When I discussed the NPR piece with Pat, via email, here's what she said:
Well, isn't THAT a bit rude. Except for the fact that, if it "started" on the West Coast in the 1980s, that was solely down to me. No one I met at the time in the USA was doing any Celtic designs, too busy with kanji and Harley wings! As for tribal/blackwork Cliff Raven was doing what he called "Pre-Technological Black Graphic" tattooing in the 1980's but what we now call "Tribal" didn't start becoming wildly popular until that 1991 flash by Leo Zulueta...But I always saw the inspirational Celtic tattoo work by Europeans at the conventions, from the very beginning in 1984, I was watching Micky Sharpz, Lal Hardy, John Sargerson, and Tattoo Eus. They were all ahead of me by years.On Pat's site LuckyFish.com, she shares more of her work and thoughts on Celtic tattooing. I also highly recommend you check her process of creating the designs on this page of her site.
Another artist who I would have loved to see included is Colin Dale of Skin & Bone in Copenhagen, who is renowned for his Nordic & Celtic tattoo work, particularly his hand tattoo work. Colin curated and wrote the introduction to the chapter on Celtic and Nordic tattoos in my latest book, Black Tattoo Art 2, showing the power and beauty of these designs.
But to present something weighty like that would take more work, and it's much easier to point & laugh.
Art work above by Alex Binnie.
On September 18th, the highly anticipated "Body Electric" exhibit at the Ricco Maresca gallery in NYC will open, featuring the fine art work of a stellar roster of tattooists, who include Saira Hunjan, Jef Palumbo, Duke Riley, Noon, Nazareno Tubaro, Amanda Wachob, Jacqueline Spoerle, Colin Dale, Scott Campbell, Peter Aurisch, Chuey Quintanar, Horiren First, Alex Binnie, Minka Sicklinger, David Hale, Stephanie Tamez, Virginia Elwood, and Yann Black.
The show is guest curated by the wonderful Margot Mifflin, author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo (and my co-conspirator in recent lectures, including Women's Ink). In her essay, "Visionary Tattoo," Margot writes that "tattooing has sprung free in the new millennium, liberated by artists who combine fresh concepts, holistic design, and masterful technique in thrillingly original styles." It is this "new generation of conceptual trailblazers" whose work Margot and the Ricco Maresca gallery have chosen to display in "Body Electric." Margot further writes:
The visual art featured here reflects their tattoo sensibility--the next best thing to showcasing the living canvases that bear their designs. They hail from around the globe: In Lucerne, for example, Jacqueline Spoerle uses Swiss folk motifs in lyrical silhouettes perfectly suited to tattoo's inherently graphical nature. In Los Angeles, Chuey Quintanar takes fine line black and grey portraiture to a new level of grace and power. New Yorker Duke Riley's maritime narratives betray a blush of nostalgia through strong line work and meticulous cross-hatching. In Argentina, Nazareno Tubaro blends tribal, Op Art, and geometric patterns in flowing compositions that embrace and complement human musculature. And in Athens, Georgia, David Hale, a relative newcomer, folds the curvilinear lines of Haida art into his folk-inflected nature drawings.I'm incredibly excited to attend on the 18th, not simply to view the works, but also to spend time with a number of the artists who will be arriving specifically for this exhibit. For one, Nazareno Tubaro of Argentina, one of my most favorite blackwork artists, will be at the show (and he'll also be a guest at Kings Avenue Tattoo NYC from 9-12 to 9-15). In addition to those artists whose work is on display, I hear many more will come to celebrate the opening. I hope you'll join us as well.
Art work above by Horiren First.
Art work above by Colin Dale.
The 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 by Colin Dale. Photo by Claire Artemyz.
Tattoo above by Gao Bin of Lion King Tattoo in Taiwan.
On Friday, the first day of the London Tattoo Convention, before I even finished setting up my book stand, I accosted a friend, who is getting a Filip Leu backpiece, and demanded that he drop his pants (for a look at the tattoo, of course). He immediately obliged. Soon after, others joined in and on display were derrieres decorated by Tin Tin & Xed Le Head. There are many reasons to attend tattoo conventions. Pants dropping is one.
What makes the London convention such a draw for the thousands -- who queued up in a line that snaked all around the Tobacco Dock -- was the roster of over 300 hundred artists, who represent the best in the world. Any type of tattoo art you can image was available. Hand tattooing occupied a central arena on the upper level, where artists like Pili Mo'o tapped traditional Samoan tatau, and tattoo viking Colin Dale of Denmark created Nordic inspired dotwork (among others). Colin even offered a few small Inuit stitch tattoos, which you can view here on his Facebook page.
Crowds formed around the booths of reality TV stars like Ami James and Tatu Baby, leaving room for serious collectors to watch artists like Japan's Shige (shown above) create masterful works on those lucky enough to get an appointment.
Aside from watching long-renowned legends of tattooing, I particularly love discovering artists whose work I wasn't familiar with (it's hard to keep track of the incredible talent out there today). Two artists in particular who blew my mind were Pietro Sedda, with his trippy surrealism, and Lore Morato, who does incredibly soulful neotraditional, like the work below done at the convention.
The main reason of all for my attendance at these shows is that I get to meet up with my beautiful freak friends from around the world and make new friends. I'm grateful to all of you who came to my booth and shared your stories (and took your clothes off for me). Despite being such a massive gathering, the London convention always feels like an intimate family reunion.
I brought my "Marisa Loves Me" temp tattoos, and throughout the weekend, I stamped all sorts of body parts with my tokens of affection. The greatest love, however, was shown when two wonderful friends and artists, Goldilox and Garcia Leonam, got the temps permanently tattooed on them after the convention by Lore Morato. And they were sober when they decided to do it! [See below.]
It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
I posted a few of my usual bad phone camera pics on Flickr. You can also find some great images and mass media coverage of the London Tattoo Convention via the links below.
I'll soon be off to Belgium to get tattooed, but I do have posts lined up for y'all this week ... because I love you.
Last year, we wrote about the Pazyryk Mummy with 2,500 Year Old Tattoos, aka the "Altai Princess," who was being returned to her home in the Altai Republic to be on display for public view.
The "princess" was discovered in 1993 by Dr. Natalia Polosmak, and largely kept at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, preserved by the same scientists who who preserve the body of Lenin. The mummified woman was buried among others, including two tattooed men who also had intricate tattoos. Dr. Polosmak was quoted in The Siberian Times stating, "Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful. More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps - but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks." [See the tattoos and drawings below.]
The artistry and beauty of these tattoos have naturally inspired today's tattooists.
Colin Dale, of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently tattooed this Pazyryk-inspired work (with his own twist) -- and he did so by hand, not machine. The work won second place for Female Ornamental at the St. Petersburg Convention. The collector is a Russian anthropology student in St. Petersburg, which is also home to the Hermitage Museum, where other Pazyryk Mummies are on display. [You can also see photos and drawings of the tattoos on the Hermitage site.]
Colin told me that another Pazyryk/Scythian piece was beautifully done at last year's Copenhagen Ink Fest by Kai Uwe Faust at Kunsten pa Kroppen. Photos (some of which are not safe for work) can be found here.
I think these contemporary interpretations of ancient tattoos are a testament to the everlasting power of the art form. And they just look amazingly cool.
The other day, I received an interesting email from our friend and one of our favorite tattooers, Colin Dale of Skin & Bone tattoo studio in Copenhagen, Denmark. Colin particularly specializes in hand-poked dotwork, creating gorgeous pieces, large and small, with a particular bent towards Nordic art and mythology (although he works in a variety of genres).
In the message, Colin sent these photos, shot by his partner Nana, of him tattooing their friend Eric Frederikson with soot mixed with the ashes of Eric's deceased father to make the ink. As Colin said, "It doesn't get more tribal than that."
Considering my fascination with memorial tattoos using cremation ashes, I asked for more to the story, and Colin obliged. Here's what he wrote:
Leviticus talked about cutting and marking the body in reverence to the dead. The Hawaiians used to cut themselves with shells (scalp) and smear the funeral pyre ashes on themselves. And I know several people have done this in modern times before me...I seem to remember Bill Tinney (Photographer for Outlaw Biker, Tattoo Review, etc.) got a portrait of his mother (or grandmother) done by Brian Everett, I believe, with some ash mixed in the ink. However, I actually wanted to make ink out of the ash!For more on the tattoo, and to see other great photos by Nana, read Colin's blog here.
And for other N+S posts on tattooing with cremation ashes check these previous posts:
I learned from Colin Dale this afternoon that ManWoman passed away peacefully this morning after a bout with terminal cancer. Manny was an artist and poet but best known for his work reclaiming the "gentle swastika." Manny was such a bright light, and while I'm saddened by the news, I also had to smile thinking of our brief time together and all the experiences he shared and giggles we had over them. He will be deeply missed by so many.
Shannon of BMEzine.com posted his tribute to ManWoman today and included this video below, in which Manny offers his "final thoughts" less than ten days ago. The whole video is beautiful but ends powerfully on these words:
Find the gift that is in you. You're in this world as a gift of god to this world, so get busy doing it!I'm on it, Manny!
For more on his thoughts about art, spirituality and the swastika, I'm posting my Q&A with ManWoman, which took place at the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival in Ireland in 2010, and was published in the October 2010 issue of the UK's Total Tattoo magazine. Find it below the video (after the jump).
Interview with ManWoman ...
Tattoo by Colin Dale.
Last week, the HuffPo's Religion section had an interesting article by Jacob D. Myers entitled, "Holy Ink: The Spirituality of Tattoos." In it, Myers, who is tattooed, explores the spiritual impact of body art and breaks it down into three observations:
* Tattooing can change one's identity, having an affect on how the tattooed person is viewed by others and how she views herself.
* Tattoos are "roadsigns," that is, when tattoos mark a significant life moment, they can "be powerful enough to return one to that state of spirituality."
* And tattoos can make one feel a part of a community.
This may not be big news to all who are tattooed, but it's great to have a well written piece read by those who simply see tattooing as a "fad," or even worse, the realm of "the lowest elements of the human race."
Not every tattoo need be imbued with great spiritual significance, of course, but I agree with Myers in many ways -- most important, that I do feel I am part of a community. It's why I'm sitting here writing this blah blah.
The added bonus of this piece is finding out that Myers is tattooed by one of my favorites Colin Dale of Skin & Bone in Denmark, and that his wife is tattooed by my own artist, Daniel DiMattia of Belgium. There's a great passage in the article where he describes how his wife views her tattoos:
When I asked what she thought about herself on the other side of the needle, she explained that her tattoo did not change her, but was an indelible expression of her journey toward her authentic self. She sees her tattoo as an outward mark of an inward journey, accessing a part of her self that had always been there. I asked her how this step along her journey made her feel and she replied, to my surprise, "Fierce!"Fierce, indeed. More tattoo images in the article's photo slideshow.
Tattoo by Daniel DiMattia.
[Many thanks to David G. for the link!]
In the last 120 years, have you ever seen a tattoo machine tattooed by hand?
This Paul Roger's Mad Bee machine tribute is hand-poked by Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Colin is no stranger to this blog. We've filmed him skin stitching at the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest. We wrote about him tattooing a 103-year-old woman. And featured his own 3D Celtic Tattoo, a collaboration with Pat Fish & Cory Ferguson. Colin is not just one of our favorite artists, but a pal and confidant. We thank him for being a friend.
For more of the tattoo viking's work, check his online gallery.
This post is a love letter to my Copenhagen homies, with links to videos, photos and books on Denmark's rich tattoo history and its most recent international convention, the Copenhagen Ink Festival.
First up is this wonderful Cool Hunting video (below) in which Jon Nordstron, photographer and author of Nordic Tattooing and Danish Tattooing, takes us back to a time when tattooists would ride their bikes to the Port of Copenhagen to drum up business among the sailors. In the video, you'll see the oldest tattoo shop in the city, which is still buzzing today. And he offers background on prominent artists who shaped tattooing in the country and beyond. Lots of goodness in 3 1/2 minutes.
In more recent history, photographer Hampus Samuelsson captured this video (below) and some gorgeous stills from the Copenhagen convention [April 1-3]. The video offers wide shots from the floor to give you a feel for the show but also intimate close-ups of tattoos, including traditional hand-tapped work. In addition to tattooists working and clients wincing, you'll see clips of the Lizardman's performance, Viking sword fighting, and at the very end, there's a bonus clip of California's Rory Keating and Borneo's Jeremy Lo doing a drinking dance, which I plan on reenacting myself at the next convention. Fun stuff. [See more of Hampus's photos on his Facebook page.]
Special thanks to Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo for the video link.
Tattooing ultimately began to fade when missionaries and modernity arrived at the beginning of the 20th century. Furthermore, as new medical advances became known, tattoos of the medicinal kind were no longer believed to "hold power" or to cure. Chris Koonooka (Petuwaq), a local teacher at the Gambell School stated, "It seems like those folks who were born after 1915 stopped getting tattoos. Some were actually feeling fortunate for not being tattooed and some were feeling ashamed for being tattooed. Perhaps some were embarrassed about their tattoos, as some may have been influenced by the Christianity of those times."
But Lars was also hopeful that the younger generations of Yupik women would revitalize their tattoo traditions. It seems that this hope is being realized.
Last week, the Anchorage Daily News featured Yaari Kingeekuk (shown above), an artist and educator who wears the tattoos of her ancestors and also teaches native Alaskan songs and dances. While her tattoos were done by machine, not sewn, they still hold their original meanings:
Yaari credits her grandparents Jimmy and Mable Toolie for her interest in reviving St. Lawrence Island arts. Mable was one of the women Lars interviewed for his research into Yupik tattooing, and the first photo in his article.
Also reviving the skin sewing practices is Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen. We got to see Colin stitching first hand at the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest this past summer, and Brian posted a video of it here. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you check it out to watch the intricate (and painful) process.
Even more on skin sewing can be found in "Tattoos of the Hunter-Gatherers of the Arctic."
Photo by Will Vragovic for the St. Petersberg Times
I know I should be offline during my vacation but I wanted to quickly share with you a sweet story that Colin Dale of Skin & Bone sent me.
Mimi Rosenthal celebrated her 101st birthday getting her third tattoo at Requiem Body Art in Spring Hill, Florida. According to TampaBay.com, Mimi got her first tattoo at age 99, a dime-size blue butterfly on her leg. She thought it was too small and vowed to go bigger next time. At 100, she got a larger tattoo--a flower--on her other leg. The problem was that she had to lift her pants up to show it off, so this latest one is now on her arm for easy exhibition.
Tattoo artist Michelle Gallo-Kohla, a long-time family friend of the Rosenthals, said that working Mimi's thin and fragile skin was "uncharted territory" but she took it slow and Mimi was pleased with her new sun flower tattoo.
When asked "Why a tattoo? Why now?" she replied "Why not?"
Right on, Mimi! She also jokes that the next tattoo will be on her butt.
You'd think with this kind of zest for life and humor, people would be positive about the article but, alas, "good Christians" infiltrated the comment forums as they usually do in mainstream tattoo stories and started calling the great-grandma a sinner. Then there are those who asked if Mimi remembered the Holocaust. And of course there were dumb jokes. [But there were a couple of good ones like "When she gets old the tat won't look the same." hehe]
It's not the first time, however, that we've written about a centenarian getting tattooed. In April 2009, Colin Dale tattooed 103-year old Karen Fredso Larsen on her hand (despite Danish law prohibiting hand and facial tattoos).
The smiles in the photos of both women show how much joy they've gotten from their tattoos. There's no sin in that.
Skin stitching by Colin Dale. Photo by Claire Artemyz.
There's been some buzz over the break-up between Skin & Ink magazine and its long-time editor Bob Baxter--who now has his own tattoo blog. Ignoring the gossip and focusing on the content, it seems Bob has rallied his old team of writers and photographers to contribute to his new site. Yesterday, he featured a profile of one of my favorite artists by one of my favorite writers:
Check out Lars Krutak's Colin Dale and the "Forbidden Tattoo."
The article discusses Colin's signature Neo-Nordic tattoo style and intricate dotwork, his hand-poked techniques and skin-stitching (as seen above), and his new studio Skin & Bone in Copenhagen, Denmark. [The article was written before the studio officially opened. Today it is thriving with art exhibits and guests artists as well as Colin's own stellar tattooing.]
The central focus of the article, however, is how Colin fulfilled the wish of Julia Machindano by giving her the facial tattoo worn by her Makonde ancestors called the dinembo. Lars offers more on the history behind these tattoos:
Traditionally, Makonde men and women received facial tattoos at puberty and before marriage. Often times these designs consisted of a series of stacked chevrons called lichumba or "deep angles." Incisions were made with a knife-like iron instrument called a chipopo and vegetable carbon from the castor bean plant was rubbed into the incisions, producing a dark blue color. When the extremely painful facial tattooing was executed, boys and girls were sometimes buried up to their necks in the earth so that they would not flinch as the tattooist cut open their living flesh. For the Makonde, facial tattoos were not only symbols of great courage; they were also the truest expressions of Makonde tribal identity itself.
Read more of this fascinating story here.
As a side note: Lars will soon be releasing his new book, Kalinga Tattoo, published by Edition Reuss--the publishers of my Black Tattoo Art book (in which Colin Dale's work is featured--it's all very incestuous).
Lars, Colin and I will be working at the London Tattoo Convention in September. Colin will be hand-tattooing. Lars will be presenting his book and exhibiting photos of the vanishing tattoos of this Filipino tribe. And I will be releasing my new Black & Grey Tattoo book with my co-author Edgar Hoill. And drinking cider.
But in a few weeks, July 10th and 11th, Brian and I will be meeting up with Colin for the Traditional Tattoo and World Festival, an intimate gathering of tattoo artists and collectors in Cork, Ireland. Join us for a fun tattoo vacation.
I'm starting a new section on N+S on interesting tattoo projects, and the stories behind them. Not stories of the dog that died and that's why I got this Kanji on my shoulder, but stories meant to inspire and inform on the creative tattoo process. I'm snotty like that.
Here's the first in the series: Colin Dale's 3d Celtic Tattoo.
Colin's tattoo was a culmination of a project started on his own leg last February in California and involved various artists in the process. The original idea was to design a piece of Celtic knotwork that wrapped in an unbroken piece around the entire leg -- not just a band but also running from top to bottom in a three-dimensional tattoo encompassing the entire calf.
The design came from Pat Fish, aka The Queen of Celtic, a master at knotwork. The design was then given to her technical assistant and webmaster Colin Fraser Purcell who then made a 3D template that could be wrapped around Colin's leg in a cone shape. Pat then applied the design ... and got it right the first time! Not an easy task, even for someone as experienced as she is. Pat then spent 3 hours adjusting and freehand drawing it to fit before she even started to tattoo. The original outlining ran into the early hours of the morning.
Colin returned home and began to thicken up all the lines himself. This was actually more painful on the hip joint and lower back than the actual tattoo. [Imagine tattooing while touching your own toes for 2 hours at a time!] This was followed by Colin dot-shading all the negative spaces on the instep and shin. Unfortunately the tattoo wasn't finished in time for the Northern Ink Xposure convention in Toronto, but Colin took the opportunity to have Cory Ferguson to fill in the negative spaces in the left side and back where he couldn't reach. Cory is another talented award winning artist and friend who specializes in the pointillism technique combined with mandalas and tribal patterns.
After this was completed Colin took it down to Alex at Rites of Passage who did all of the greyshading of the knotwork. Alex specializes in Black&Grey and Portraits work, so this was sort of like asking da Vinci to paint a ceiling...with a roller. But it was decided that a simpler more graphic approach was the best way to compliment the Celtic style and complete Pat's original vision.
After this collaboration of three great artists, plus to artist/collector himself, the Three Dimensional Celtic was completed.
And that's just one way to get a kickass tattoo.
I'm been quiet here because I'm on deadline for my book on blackwork tattoos, but the boys have been blogging wonders, albeit cranky ones.
Blackwork is everything from traditional tribal tattooing, like the timeless Polynesian tatau ...
to neo-tribal made famous by Leo Zulueta and Trevor Marshall ...
to the dotwork technique mastered by artists including Xed Lehead, Dan DiMattia, Erik Reime and Colin Dale, among many others ...
to modern interpretations of non-traditional tattoo motifs like this henna-inspired work above by the fabulous Jacqueline Spoerlee ...
to the all-black graphic art of Yann Black, Jeff, Boucherie Moderne, Noon, and other French avant garde tattooists.
So that's what's keeping me busy these days, but I'll be back tomorrow with your news review.
Photos by Martin Foldgast for NU Magazine April 2009
Tattooing someone's hands and face may be illegal in Denmark but that didn't stop my friend, tattooist Colin Dale from satisfying the birthday wish of a 103-year-old rockin grandma bent on getting inked.
Colin went to the nursing home in Copenhagen where Karen Fredso Larsen lives and hand-poked a ring on her finger that symbolizes natural force and energy. Karen loved the Nordic mythology and petroglyph tattoos on Colin's beautiful wife Nanna and chose a design along those lines instead of a peace symbol, her original idea. [If you scroll down, you can see Nanna showing her tattoos to the curious centenarian who even asked for a peek of her body art below the belt line.]
When commenting on whether the tattoo hurt, she said, "I have experienced so much in my life that this is nothing."