Results tagged “Inked (magazine)”

09:06 AM
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The latest issue of Inked magazine has one of the most favorite interviews I have ever done: a Q & A with the inimitable tattoo legend Spider Webb. I have interviewed Spider before, and every time, there's another fantastic story I have never heard before -- and I want our talks to go on for as long as he doesn't get bored with me, but then there's that limited magazine word count in which only the highlights get put into the article. With Spider, every word is a highlight.

So what I've done is taken an excerpt from the article and put it below. Following that, you can read more and get another crazy tale -- about grave robbing, porn star Annie Sprinkle and more -- which wasn't published.

Learn more about Spider at

spider webb tattoo 2.jpgFrom Inked magazine:

Spider Webb, born Joseph O'Sullivan, is considered one of the most important people in contemporary tattoo history. With more than 50 years in the industry, he has legitimized tattooing as an art form, helping to bring it into galleries, museums, and even Christie's auction house, where a tattoo by Spider Webb was deemed "priceless." He fought to legalize tattooing in New York City after it was banned in the '60s by tattooing on the steps of museums. He expanded what some viewed as the limitations of tattooing through his conceptual art pieces and tattoo performances. And he's done all this with humor, flair, and mischief. Spider Webb, who holds a master's degree in fine arts, continues to create art, tattoos, tattoo machines,and trouble at his tattoo museum in Charlotte, NC. You'll also find him at tattoo shows and galleries around the world.

You've been bringing tattoo art into fine art galleries since the '70s. You're particularly known for your conceptual art pieces. How did that get started?

How it all happened was a girl was interviewing me for a magazine, and she said, "Spider, what are the limitations of tattooing?" Being a big fucking know-it-all, I said that it's the size of the human body; that's the limitation. Then after I saw the interview in print, I thought, What kind of bullshit is this? What limitations? We have to get rid of limitations. So I thought to use a whole bunch of people in X 1000. I tattooed one X on 1,000 people, with a big X on the last person made up of 999 Xs to complete a conceptual piece. ... Then I started to do the Tattoo Vampire. It's a conceptual piece with just two simple dots on your neck. I've been doing that act for 30 years all over the world, from Studio 54 to the sewers of Paris, in Gracie Mansion, and in museums and galleries. It's a great show because there's sex, blood, kiss- ing, and you get to live forever. It's a very beautiful performance. Then I thought to myself that what would be real cool is if I become cupid and just tattoo one dot. So it's the same as the vampire act except I use an arrow and I make one dot for love, usually on a girl, but on men too-- and there'll be the fake blood and a breast exposed. That's what every- one wants, and I give it to them.

What other conceptual pieces have you done?

Do you remember Pulsating Paula? She was one of the photographers when they first started tattoo magazines. She's a biker girl. She's great. I tattooed her clitoris one time with a monkey tooth I pulled out of an alligator's skull. She was one of the first people I did the cupid tattoo on. Now I'm thinking to myself, What am I going to do next? I know what I'll do. I'll become the Invisible Man. And that's what I did. So I started to do the Unwanted Tattoo. I would be invisible. I wouldn't even be there. The first fucking thing I did was I took my doorbell apart, and I took out the black piece that you push to ring the bell, and I put in a piece of an ink an and a thumb tack. Then the mailman of all people rings my bell and he tattoos his thumb. I said, "Oh shit, that's fucking cool." Then I started to make other ones. I made the unwanted tattoo toilet seat. Then I did the greatest one of all: the gas pump. A guy tattoos his hand when he squeezes the thing. A lot of these things I had to rig up a video camera because I don't want to be there when the guy or girl freaks out. They think they can wash it off but they can't. There's a lot of humor in tattooing--people who don't want it, not wanting what I'm giving that day. Isn't that cool? [Laughs.] Children laugh about 2,000 times a day, and most adults laugh about 40 or 50. People are so afraid. I think tattoos take a little bit of fear away. Makes them a little stronger.

Read more from the article here. Keep reading for an unpublished Spider story.
12:08 PM
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I've been called a Harpy. A pariah. A vampire sucking the soul of tattoo culture.
There are probably many other reasons for them, but often the context of such compliments are my writings on tattoo copyright.

During the legal circus surrounding the Mike Tyson tattoo in "The Hangover" film, which later settled between the tattooist and Warner Bros., I wrote about copyright particularly in light of this law suit.

I revisited this case in the March issue of Inked magazine, but also discussed further issues in tattoo copyright. Now that full article is available online for free. [For some reason, Inked decided to illustrate the article with tattooed boobs and butts, perhaps because they thought no one would read it.]

Entitled "Who Owns Your Tattoo?", the title and opening are intended to spark a bit of controversy. It starts off like this:

If you think that you alone have the rights to your own skin, you may be wrong. The idea of another person, or even a corporation, claiming ownership over your body may seem absurd, but as recent lawsuits for copyright infringement of tattoo art have implied, the courts could very well decide who gets a piece of you tomorrow.
See what I mean? Harpy-like. 

But beyond being controversial, there's serious talk about Fair Use, Work for Hire, Rights of Publicity, and Licensing. [In fact, licensing the artwork of tattooists has been a big part of my own legal practice lately.]

Check out the article and feel free to offer your thoughts via our Needles & Sins Group on Facebook or Twitter.
05:07 PM
In the Dec./Jan. issue of Inked magazine, you'll find my Q&A with the inimitable Ed Hardy, a man who inspired fellow artists and tattoo collectors to move beyond the tattoo "menu" on shops walls and pursue custom, personalized art. For those outside the tattoo world, his name is associated with everything from trucker hats to condoms, and because of his Ed Hardy clothing line and merchandising deals, the Californian native was able to retire with a sizable nest egg and fully return to painting, ceramics, and other mediums after 40 years of tattooing. Of course, Hardy remains connected to tattooing, largely through his Tattoo City studio in San Francisco, Hardy Marks Publications, and the occasional tattoo souvenir for a lucky fan.

In this interview, Ed talks about the documentary "Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World" [recently released on DVD], the tattoo impulse, his fine art, and he briefly addresses the haters. Here's an excerpt:

Do you think the whole popularity of tattooing will dissipate?
No, I don't think it will ever go away. My standard points are: I don't know why people get tattooed. I don't think there's a good answer. It's like, Why do you like art? It's just something that's a total mystery. That's part of the attraction. I think that for whatever reason, it's an impulse for our species--not for everyone, but certain people are just Bam!

Almost like a tattoo gene?
That's exactly it. Knowing how science has advanced over the centuries, maybe they'll figure it out, and at some point go, Yes, this is what it is. But right now, the best we can do, and what we all have done, is emphasize the positive aspects and put it into a better social context. That's much more important than who is the best tattooer. We have to look at the bigger picture. Of course, that's important too-people striving to further the art and do stuff that's going to be more interesting.

It's interesting how the Ed Hardy brand and unexpected commodification of tattooing has freed you up to do fine art. It's seems at odds with commercialism in some way.
Before Christian Audigier, I was approached by two guys who had a cool business; their whole thing with clothing was introducing an Asian feeling to their casual garments. They actually responded to an article about a painting show that Bob Roberts and I had at Track 16 in Santa Monica. I don't remember if it was 2003 or 2004, but they had seen the paintings and dug the Asian references in them. So I got into it, and that's how it started. Then Christian saw it and just went ape shit. He said, "I must have this license!" He's really from a different world. [Laughs] He said that he'll make this huge thing, and of course I was like, Right, take me to the moon. And then it went. But he did have that genius eye to recognize that people would respond to it strongly. Really, all the stuff we were using was essentially classic flash. A lot of the images I originated and a lot were reused from old classics. It was just like that bold, beautiful, well painted, heavy shaded, Sailor Jerry aesthetic thing. Everything that makes classic tattoos cool or makes them appealing to a wide body of people. Then of course I started getting shit from all kinds of people. I loved hearing it.

What kind of shit?
Well, "Hardy's really sold out." I'm like, What do you think this is, the Sistine Chapel? Relax. Get some humor about it--as long as things are being presented right. We had some problems when my designs got screwed with for a while and some legal things about that. Essentially, it is just a facet of my art, and I'm proud of all the flash and all the classic tattoos I did.
Read more in Inked.

UPDATE: The full article can be found online here.
01:50 PM
I had the true pleasure of interviewing American tattoo icon Lyle Tuttle for the September issue of Inked magazine, on newsstands now and available as a digital download.

Tattooing since 1949, Lyle rose to fame in the late sixties tattooing a predominantly female clientele and celebrities like Janice Joplin, Peter Fonda and Cher at his San Francisco studio. Despite criticism for being the tattooed media darling of his time, he is credited with presenting tattooing as an art form to the mainstream and promoting safe and hygienic industry practices. Lyle officially retired around 1990, but continues to travel the tattoo convention circuit, often teaching seminars on machine building and lecturing on tattoo history. In the interview, he offers some history lessons, discusses fame, and muses on tattoo artists as contemporary witch doctors. Here's a clip from our talk:

With your long and exciting history in tattooing, what do you consider one of the most significant landmarks in the art during your long career?

Women's liberation. With more freedom, more women got tattooed. Back in the day, I was in more panties than a gynecologist-because women were getting their tattoos inside the bikini line, little rosebuds and butterflies.

What about female tattooists? In the documentary "Covered" on women in tattoo, you said that when women would come into your studio wanting to be tattooers, you'd say: "Look honey, you got the world's oldest profession tied up, now you want the second. Do me a favor and buzz off." How have your thoughts on women in tattooing changed since then?

Tattoo shops today are a lot kinder and gentler places than they used to be. In the past, tattoo artists worked in arcades, and it wasn't a good environment. Sometimes it was hard enough to protect yourself, let alone be the front man for some woman. Women who were involved in tattooing at that time were generally married to a tattoo artist, so they worked together-there were a few man and wife teams. There was a woman who tattooed before WWII in the 1930s (she died in 1946 by her own hand). Her name was Mildred Hull. She was on the Bowery in NYC and had a sign displaying that she was the only woman tattooist on the Bowery. She was very proud.

So you're saying that you were talking more about the environment of tattooing at the time?

Yes, the environment has changed. It's eco-friendly to women now! It's a pink world! And I think women in tattooing have been good for the industry.


[Final question:]

In your 80 years on this earth, what personal doctrine or ideology have you developed?

"No sweat." Don't ever sweat over anything and don't let anyone make you sweat. I have it tattooed on the back of my leg in Kanji, but they couldn't translate "No Sweat" exactly so it reads "Perspiration No." I've been at Chinese places and pulled my pant leg up and they stare at it, beyond their comprehension. I'm actually just seeking to find one truth. If I find one, then maybe I will find the second one. Man is always looking for the secret. I'd like to know one goddamned truth before I die.
Read the full article in Inked magazine
12:31 PM
In the August issue of Inked Magazine, on newsstands now, I interview the tattooer's tattooer, Mike Rubendall of Kings Avenue. In our Q&A, we discuss the new Kings Ave on the legendary Bowery in NYC (also posted here), his grueling apprenticeship when he was 17, and what it's like tattooing a dead body. Here's a taste:

What is the tattoo that you've done that sticks out most in your memory?

I had a crazy experience that I've never spoken of before. It happened about two years ago. Over the years, I've tattooed a funeral director. When I first started tattooing, I wanted to get good as fast as possible so, as an apprentice, I would do free tattoos on him. Since he worked at a funeral home, we always talked about tattooing dead people. "Was it possible" and this and that. We never did it but flirted with the idea. Then he calls me out of nowhere and says, "Listen to this: Unfortunately, this gentleman passed away. He's got four children and he's only got three tattooed on his arm, so his wife wants him to be buried with [the name of] the fourth child, who is only about 20-months old. Will you do it?" I said I'd do it. I felt it would be a good experience, and I'd be helping the family out and give the wife some closure.

It was creepy when I got into the funeral home. The guy was all prepped on the table, naked. It was a creepy, quiet feeling almost like the movie The Shining where everything is really silent. I was really freaked out at first. I didn't know how the skin would react and if the ink would take, but after a few minutes, it just felt like I was doing a regular tattoo. By the end, I was so comfortable that I helped with his other tattoos. He had gotten into an accident and had road rash where some of his tattoos had scraped off. They were putting make-up on the tattoos but they were doing it all wrong so I offered to help. It was an amazing experience. That's what stands out as one of the moments that, in a million years, you'd never imagine you'd be doing.

What was the skin like on a dead body?

It was super rubbery. He was half embalmed already, and I didn't know if fluid would come out since he didn't have any blood in him. I had no idea what was going to happen. I asked [the director] if I would tear this guy open and he just said, "I don't know." So I took the legal route and had releases signed. I guess I couldn't make him any worse than he already was, but it went in fine. The skin was tougher than normal, and you couldn't go over and over; you had to make one pass and that was it, and whatever was there, it had to be.

Read more in the "Icon" section of Inked.
You can also follow Brian's own experience getting tattooed by Mike here on N+S.

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mike rubendall tattoo.jpg
11:03 AM
Renowned tattooist Corey Miller (L.A. Ink) teamed up with veteran SoCal punkers Face To Face to design the album artwork for their latest release, Laugh Now, Laugh Later, which hits the shelves (and iTunes) today, May 17th.  To celebrate this collaboration - and the band's NYC appearance tomorrow night at the Best Buy Theater - Inked Magazine and the crew at Kings Ave NYC are sponsoring an in-shop meet-and-greet and record-signing.

If you're in the NYC metro-area (and a fan of solid punk rock and fine-line artwork), be sure to stop by Kings Ave NYC tomorrow afternoon to grab a copy of the album and have it signed by Corey and the band.  Attendees will also be eligible to win a pair of tickets for tomorrow night's concert!

Where: Kings Ave NYC, 188 Bowery (at Spring St), 2nd floor.

When: Wednesday, May 18th - 5pm

03:01 PM
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For the December/January issue of Inked magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing tattoo artist, painter, and now sculptor BUGS, whose blend of cubism and art deco inspired tattoos have earned him international acclaim as an innovator in the industry. You can pick up a copy at local news sellers in the US & Canada or download the digital mag via Zinio. Here's a taste of our Q&A:

Because there's such a demand for your work, how do you keep things fresh and find new ideas to answer this demand?
Well, it's been about fourteen or fifteen years since I started doing my own style. I've been improving my style over these years and now it's kind of strong and powerful. When people see my work on others, they recognize it right away. I reached what I was looking for. To keep it fresh is a lot of work. You take a lot of time to progress but to stay on top of your game is the hardest part. Every day I draw. I paint a lot. I practice, and the more I do it, I discover new things.

How do you find the balance between very angular design and the contours of the body?
That's hard to explain. It has become natural to me--it's the way I draw things. When it comes to designs like flowers or women (there are a lot of women in my work), I try to avoid too much detail and information. I try, in just one outline, to show the silhouette of the body, for example.

What do you think is one of the biggest challenges?
It is to be creative every single time. Consider that all my work is custom and original--that's where it becomes complicated. When you do flash, you can do the same design ten or a hundred times with little variation, but when it comes to my kind of work, people are expecting original art. It's a lot of work. How many cubic women or flowers can I do? They all have to be different--in my style--but different. I never do the same tattoo twice.

Read more in Inked. You can make an appointment with Bug's at The Tattoo Lounge in LA.

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11:14 AM
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The April issue of Inked Mag is just out and it features my Icon profile of one of the godmothers of our tattoo generation: Madame Vyvyn Lazonga.

I was a bit star struck during our phone interview because she's not only one of the first female tattooers of the modern tattoo movement--being a part of pushing tattoos as a fine art--but she's also one of the first women of our times to be heavily (and beautifully) tattooed. Vyvyn has had sleeves by Ed Hardy before many of y'all were born. She's been an inspiration to me and it was wonderful chatting with her. Here's a taste of our talk:

How would you describe your own tattoo style?

Most of my work is non-literal, organic. I'm intrigued by the idea of changing the skin so it looks more like fabric or wallpaper--a fusion of different things but more decorative than symbolic. Often people come in with so many different symbols and things that are meaningful to them but ruin the whole artistry of what they are trying to convey. So more often than not, I have to tell them not to include as many symbols, to keep it simple and bold. Tattoos don't need a great, grand story. I want to go the opposite: I don't want any of my tattoos to mean anything. I want people to see them as walking art, which is different than trying to convey many messages on your body.

For more, pick up the April issue on newsstands or read it online at Zinio.

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11:04 AM
As Marisa and I attempt to caffeinate ourselves into recovery from last night's bacchanal book release party at Tattoo Culture, I want to nudge you over to my homeboy Nate's photo gallery at Driven By Boredom for shots from last night (taken for Inked Magazine).

my-knee-hurts-79.JPGBig thanks to everyone in attendance for such an amazing evening - especially those of you who bought a copy of Black Tattoo Art.  Seriously.  We love your money.

(Photo courtesy of - duh)

03:36 PM
The Needles and Sins mantra of "keep your low-brow coverage held high" has been drilled into my earhole enough times that I think I've started chanting it in my sleep. It also would explain the pangs of guilt I experienced when I somehow found myself not only looking at, but actually laughing at it, to boot.

And while I was ready to see the run-of-the-mill "tattoos are for idiots" sentiment on their tattoo topic page, I mustered quite a few giggles at their "insights," especially this butcher's-chart for the tattooed human form.

[photo courtesy of]

After all, can I make judgements about a website that sounds just as misanthropic as my general view of humanity? Case in point:

Tattoos theoretically could be thoughtful additions to your appearance. Unfortunately there are thousands of tattoo parlors (many open 24 hours) and people just don't have that many thoughts. So most [tattoos] are stupid.

Some people love their stupid tattoos, in fact some people claim that everyone should have at least one. I can't argue with that sentiment, but I would like to point out that for a lot of people, its often its the first and final tattoo.

Cracked's stance on band logo tattoos ("I have no independent personality or understanding of the passage of time"), revolves around something which I've milled over and mulched in my brain for far longer than I probably should have.

While it's a pretty safe bet that your affinity for the bands you loved during puberty will never wane (in my case, groups like Pixies, Sonic Youth, Operation Ivy), I can safely assert that I don't personally need to immortalize that lifelong allegiance with a dermal decoration. Secondly, it's also almost entirely a safe bet that the band you love RIGHT NOW will either break-up or, worse, totally shift stylistic directions leaving you pining for their "first few albums" and a laser removal center.

Or in the words of the guys at and their funny (if hastily penned) piece on tattoos in the hardcore community

I know that Slipknot piece must've looked fresh when you were going sick in the pit for them at Ozzfest, but one day they will inevitably put out a record you'll be describing as a sellout, and you'll be looking to burn that shit off with a hot hanger.

ns_080409_2.jpgAnd speaking of "burning," I've loved Clutch since I first saw that Lay-Z-Boys vs. Monster-Trucks video way back when on Headbanger's Ball. I also loved the Burning Beard video. And hot diggity dagnabbit, Sean Young did a mean portrait inspired by it (pictured left).

But in the words of Ryan Dowd, the (tattooed) die-hard Clutch fan from Dogs of Winter, "I love the man, but I really don't think I need Neil Fallon's face on me."

Words made all the more prescient considering that the latest offering from Clutch, Strange Cousins From The West is good... it's just not, um... great.

Even Rob Zombie (no stranger to ink, himself) told Inked Magazine: "I have seen hundreds and hundreds of tattoos of my face on people.  Sometimes that is actually quite shocking - how large they are.  I'm like, 'Really?  You want someone else's face that's actually larger than your own face on your body?'  But it is what it is, I guess.  It's flattering, but it's pretty extreme."

Listen to Mr. Zombie, kids.  He knows what's good for you.

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