For a fantastic American tattoo history lesson, culled from dusty archives and numerous libraries, enjoy this guest post by Daredevil Tattoo co-owner Michelle Myles who laboriously researched the life of Martin Hildebrandt, renowned for establishing what is likely the first permanent place of business for tattooing in the United States -- steps away from Daredevil's NYC location. While tattooing has long been running since the new Daredevil studio opened, Michelle and her partner Brad Fink are still working on Daredevil's tattoo museum, housing Brad's collection of antique tattoo memorabilia. About half of the collection is on display, with more display cases to be built and further cosmetic construction, but it looks like the official launch of the museum will be in May.
In her writing below, Michelle chronicles the life of this tattoo legend and also shares how she went about discovering more on Hildebrandt's life.
By Michelle Myles, Daredevil Tattoo
One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, on January 16th, 1890, tattooer Martin Hildebrandt passed away in the New York City Asylum for the Insane on Wards Island. He was 65 years old. Hildebrandt started tattooing in 1846 as a sailor aboard the frigate United States. Through extensive archival research, I found records listing Hildebrandt as tattooing in New York City from as far back as 1859. During the Civil War, Hildebrandt served with the Army of the Potomac, and is quoted as saying of his time in the service:
During war times I never had a moment's idle time. I must have marked thousands of sailors and soldiers [...] I put the names of hundreds of soldiers on their arms or breasts, and many were recognized by these marks after being killed or wounded. (The New York Times: January 16, 1876).After the war, in 1875, Hildebrandt tattooed at 77 James Street at the corner of Oak, in Lower Manhattan. The New York Times describes it as "a tavern, with a well sanded floor, and on the walls hung pictures..." Beginning in 1880, Hildebrandt tattooed at 36 1/2 Oak Street, described this way in the Times: "Alongside the door of a house in Oak Street is a framed sign bearing an elaborately-executed and vividly-colored Goddess of Liberty, with the equally glaringly-tinted words underneath, 'Tattooing done here by Martin Hildebrandt.'"
Hildebrandt was married to Mary Hildebrandt, the union producing one son named Frank. In 1882, a woman tattooed by Hildebrandt exhibited in Bunnell's dime museum on the Bowery as the first "tattooed lady," and identified by the name Nora Hildebrandt. [Nora took his surname and was assumed to be Hildebrandt's daughter or wife, but was in fact born in England and was neither married nor related to Martin.] Martin is known to have tattooed a handful of other tattooed ladies who worked as attractions in dime museums in New York and worked in shows that traveled the world.
The last mention of Hildebrandt is on June 20th, 1885 in The New York Clipper, under "Circus and Sideshow News": "Martin Hildebrand (sic) the tattooer of this city, whose wife is with a circus, was on June 10 sent to jail for disorderly conduct. His son charges that he is insane and he is to be transferred to an asylum."
Last year our shop Daredevil moved to a larger space a few blocks from the Bowery and Chatham Square, the birthplace of modern tattooing. The new Daredevil includes a museum displaying Brad Fink's collection of antique tattoo memorabilia that he has collected over the last 20 years. Being surrounded by so much tattoo history and working so close to where it all started, I wanted to know more about who was working where, and when. "Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art" by Albert Parry (1933), was a useful historical resource for beginning my research. It was Parry who mentioned Hildebrandt as the first to open a permanent place of business for tattooing in the United States.
Beyond that, there was very little information about Hildebrandt to be found online, and much of what does appear is contradictory or flat-out inaccurate. Eventually I found articles dating as far back as 1876 in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe and other publications, but I couldn't immediately discern when he was born, or when he died. I couldn't even determine where Oak Street was, because there is no Oak Street in present-day lower Manhattan. Eventually though, after combing through historic city records, newspaper archives and out-dated maps, I discovered that Oak Street was in the Fourth Ward, a few blocks from the south side of Chatham Square. [Oak, James and other streets were razed in 1947 in order to make way for the construction of public housing.] It was at this point that I finally located Martin's death certificate in the Municipal Archives, which showed that he died in that Wards Island asylum five years after his arrest.
I hate to think of what life was like in New York's Asylum For the Insane back then. Martin might have ended up alone in a very bad place, but I'm honored to remember him now and bring his story back to life so that he can be commemorated as a pioneering figure in our tattoo history.
Emma Griffiths tattoo above.
NYC's The Villager recently published two features on veteran women tattooers, Michelle Myles and Emma Griffiths, who have been tattooing in the city since before the NYC tattoo ban was lifted in 1997.
In the article, (unfortunately) titled "Female tattoo artists are really making their mark," Michelle talks about her start in tattooing in 1991, working illegally on the Lower East Side in a studio on "the worst heroin block in the whole city." [She adds, "I tattooed all the drug dealers and never had problems."] The article also notes how, when the ban was lifted, Michelle wasn't too happy at the time:
Myles had moved to the second floor above the music venue Pianos at 158 Ludlow St., and had just spent money to renovate the loft -- she was living in the back and was tattooing in the front. "And then I was walking down the street and I saw Clayton Patterson and he was like, 'Did you hear, they're going to legalize tattooing?' And I was like, 'Noooo,' " she said with a laugh. "It wasn't really the sort of place you would want a legal shop because it was old-school L.E.S., where you threw the keys out the window when somebody yelled up.In the end, legalization turned out to be a great thing for Michelle, and her partner Brad Fink, with the success of their Daredevil Tattoo. The gentrification of the Lower East Side and outrageous rents pushed them out of the area, but they found a new home in Chinatown, with a tattoo museum being built into the studio.
When asked about being a woman tattooer starting out in a male dominated industry, she says:
I think, at first, people kind of don't take you seriously," she recalled. "I specifically remember somebody once saying, 'Oh, you tattoo, too. That's cute.' But in the long run, it's what set you apart. At first, it might be a drawback, but in the end, it's what makes you stand out. Although, these days there are so many girls in tattooing, it's not like it used to be."That feature also includes the experience of Linda Wulkan, a tattoo artist at Whatever Tattoo, who has been tattooing in NYC for 11 yrs. Read more of the article here.
In the article "A lifelong love of tattooing fuels her artistry," Emma talks about coming to NYC from the UK in 1990 and becoming a tattooer under the ban. Here's a taste of that talk:
Tattooing in the East Village in the early '90s was amazing and something I will honestly cherish till the day I die. Back then it was illegal, it was hidden. Tattooers to me were mythical, magical, scary people who you had to search out and get the bottle up to go into their shop.Emma's appointment-only Porcupine Tattoo is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she works in a variety of tattoo styles.
Check more of their work on Instagram: @daredevilmichelle and @emmagriffithstattoo.
Michelle Myles tattoo above.
In March, we wrote about the Personal Ink Project or P.INK, which is an incredible resource that offers tattoo inspiration, ideas and info for breast cancer survivors. It also is a place where these women can research and perhaps even connect with skilled artists who can transform mastectomy scars into beautiful works of art.I've had the pleasure of working with the P.INK team, in a small way, on this event. P.INK is a "nights-and-weekends passion project" of a handful of employees at the Boulder-based ad agency CP+B who had been affected by cancer. Their goal is to see this project expand, including more P.INK Days should this first event be a success.
On October 21, 2013, that connection will be made when 10 tattoo artists will tattoo scar-coverage or nipple-replacement tattoos on 10 breast cancer survivors at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, NY.
You can help make this event happen by being a part of the crowd-funded project for as little as $10. There are also tons of perks for those who can give more. For $50, there's digital swag and temp tattoos. For $500, you get an art print of one of the tattoos you helpedg fund.
And the art is guaranteed to be stellar considering the line-up:
If you can't contribute, spread the word by sharing this page and using #PinkTattooDay. You can follow P.INK on Twitter and on Facebook.
Learn more about the project from the video below.
The "birthplace of modern American tattooing" is often traced to The Bowery, and even more specifically, Chatham Square. It was home to Samuel O'Reilly and Charlie Wagner, both of whom patented the first modern tattoo machines. Mildred Hull tattooed in a barber shop on the Bowery. And naturally, it was home to the famed Bowery Boys: Stanley and Walter Moskowitz.
So it seems fitting that a long-time fixture in today's NYC tattoo scene, Daredevil Tattoo, would chose a spot just a few blocks from Chatham Square to make it their new home. Daredevil is a place where you could get a stellar custom backpiece or a small flash banger and be treated with equal courtesy and respect. The no-attitude tattoo studio is owned by Michelle Myles and Brad Fink, who you'll often find at international tattoo conventions when they're not at Daredevil or Brad's regular home base, Iron Age Tattoo in St. Louis, where they both hail from.
Daredevil's new home will officially be open for business by June 1st, as Michelle writes in her blog post on the move. Here's a bit from that post.
And with that trend comes fancy highrises, boutique hotels, and very high rents. While Michelle adds that it felt like she was "punched in the stomach" when her landlord said he'll be raising the rent by 50%, it prompted a move to a bigger and better space--a place where they can properly pay tribute to tattooing's roots. She adds:
The most exciting news for the new shop is that Brad will be bringing his historical tattoo collection to be on display at Daredevil. Brad's collection is massive. It includes a Thomas Edison engraving pen that the original electric tattoo machine patent by Samuel O'Reilly was based on. He also has an original O'Reilly sheet of tattoo flash. We love that the new space is only a few blocks from Chatham Square, which is the birthplace of modern tattooing. New York City is so important to tattooing historically we are honored to pay tribute to that history and to create a destination to share that history with others.With an expanded shop, comes the need for an expanded crew, and so they are looking for a new artist to join their tattoo family. More info on Devil City Press.
The new space is at 141 Division Street, and their hours continue to be noon until 10 pm seven days a week.
Check the work of Michelle (see below), Brad (see above), and their tattoo crew here.
Tattoos are sexy. Tattooed people are sexy. Sexy sells.
And so, naturally, many brands jump onto tattoo cool to market their products with an edge -- a little bit crazy, a little bit bad. But hey, don't us girls just love that?
Thankfully, some ad campaigns get it right by doing it in a way that involves the tattoo community and puts a spotlight on the artistry along with the branding. One such campaign is Diesel's Only The Brave Tattoo Gallery for their fragrance Only the Brave Tattoo. [And yup, I'm a part of it.]
For this fragrance, Diesel founder Renzo Rosso -- whose hands are tattooed-- approached renowned black & gray artist Mister Cartoon to design a tattooed clenched fist bottle and packaging. Rosso discusses this collaboration with Cartoon in an interview with Cool Hunting. When asked about how he thought to translate a tattoo into a perfume he says:
I'm going to tell you the story. It all started with the bottle. It was my 55th birthday, which is a special anniversary for I was born in 1955. Fifty-five is my magic number. I wanted to give my friends a gift, so I had my hand sculpted into a bottle that was all black and customized with Only the Brave. It was such a success and everybody liked it so much that we decided this bottle should be distributed worldwide. I have these tattoos on my hand as well. So I thought I could do something out of this. Then I met Mr Cartoon who I found to be very much like me--he has a sense of honor and creativity, and he's crazy. He designed the bottle and the logotype. After that, I asked L'Oréal to make a new perfume and translate my new rock 'n' roll attitude, my mentality, my passion, my positive energy into a perfume.[...]Beyond the bottle design and logo, Cartoon's work is also featured in promotions for Only the Brave Tattoo, like this video below, directed by Estevan Oriol. It follows the tattooist around LA, from the streets where he grew up to the studio where he tattoos celebrities today, and in the film, he talks about melding his street art aesthetic with a luxury product.
A host of other creatives, including NY tattooist Michelle Myles, form Diesel's tattoo gallery collage, highlighting the diversity among tattoo lovers and their stories. Even more tattoo stories can be found on an accompanying blog by Anna Mazas, who wrote and curated the awesome "Life Under My Skin."
Indeed, there are many layers to this campaign. It reflects, in some way, how tattooing and our community are being considered seriously by luxury brands -- artistically but also as a market for their goods. It wasn't that long ago when I was being followed around Fifth Avenue stores because I fit the shoplifter profile. Today, I'm one of the faces for a fancy fragrance. And that does feel pretty sexy.
Photo taken from the real London Tattoo Convention by EPA, posted on The Telegraph.
I often use the term "tattoo community," and just as often, I get called on it. Is there a true community today when the explosive popularity of the art form has brought in so many who come to it, not out of passion, but for cashing in?
In the past few days, I've seen action that answers this question, and that answer is resoundingly Yes. It's action with the stated goal to protect this community from companies wanting to take a piece of the profits from those who have dedicated their personal and professional lives to tattooing before the onslaught of pop culture "tattoo cool."
We last saw this movement in July with the efforts to boycott TLC's "Tattoo School" program, a show that made it seem that anyone can be a tattooist within two short weeks.
This weekend, the focus has been on boycotting tattoo convention companies seeking to ride the coat tails of well established and successful events; specifically, it's a movement against the planned The Great British Tattoo Show, which would take place months before one of the world's best conventions, Miki Vialetto's The International London Tattoo Convention.
Michelle Myles of DareDevil & Fun City Tattoo studios has the details on her wonderful Devil City Press Blog. Here's an excerpt:
Michelle's post -- as well as others from tattooists -- are making the rounds, urging other artists not to participate in these shows. I believe collectors should also take a stand by not attending. Let's keep our support in the family.
UPDATE: Here is Stuart Mears' response.
Tonight, from 6 to about 7:30PM, I'll be speaking on a panel entitled "Tattoos: Fleshing out Copyright Law" at NY Law School along with tattooist Michelle Myles and attorney Michael Kahn (who represented Victor Whitmill, the artist who inked Mike Tyson's facial tattoo and sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement.)
We'll be having fun discussing the intellectual property issues as they apply or may apply to tattooing, and I'm sure creating some controversy over who owns your tattoos.
For a glimpse into our talk, check my previous posts on tattoo copyright. I'll also be doing a follow up on any new issues we discuss that haven't been brought up here.
The panel is open to the public, so feel free to come by and share your thoughts.
In the November issue of Inked mag, on newsstands now, editor Rocky Rakovic interviews Michelle Myles, boss lady of NYC's Daredevil and Fun City tattoo studios (which she co-owns with Brad Fink).
In this refreshingly frank Q&A, Michelle talks about tattooing in NYC when it was still illegal and underground (the tattoo ban was lifted in 1997), the popularity of Americana tattoos among hipsters and how NY Ink is "cast like the Jersey Shore." Here's a taste of that talk:
Speaking of competition, how do you feel about NY Ink?
It's embarrassing. I mean, I really like Tim Hendricks -- nothing but respect for him and I actually don't know much about the other people or whoever it is on the show. But I think it is unrealistic and gross the way it is portrayed. It's so heavily scripted. They're not even New Yorkers. Chris Torres is the only one from New York; they cast NY Ink like its the Jersey Shore. But it's not even reality TV -- just bad acting. They think there's some kind of truth in it, and there isn't. I think I wrote on my blog DevilCitPpress.com, that to me, their tattoo shop is equivalent of Monica's apartment on Friends because it's so unrealistic. And to hear Ami [James] whine, "I'm not going to be able to pay the rent"... I heard he made two million dollars.
You seem pretty offended by it.
It's just absurd and gross to anyone trying to pay their rent in NYC for any amount of time to hear them say, "Oh, I hope to get business" when they have ads on the sides of buses. I mean, my neighborhood used to be a shit hole and now it's super trendy, but we somehow managed to hang on. So if anybody takes away from that and saunters in with a TV show, yes, I resent that.
But don't you want to riffraff tourists to fill up that shop and not yours?
We want the riffraff! We want anyone's money! Anyone who comes into my shop is going to be treated well. I mean, as long as they're in line. We don't tolerate someone who comes in and acts like a jerk. But we welcome anybody in our shop. It doesn't matter if you don't have tattoos or never have been to a tattoo shop. There are no stupid questions, and we're happy to take anybody. We're not going to make anybody feel bad because they're not cool enough.
In the rest of the interview, Michelle discusses how she came to the art, her influences, and why she loves being a New York tattooer. A fun read.
See more of Michelle's work here and check her musings on tattooing here.
The fine folks over at Zeitgeist Magazine have recently launched part two of their "Behind The Needle" video series from the 2011 London Tattoo Convention (you can view part one here). While part one centered mainly on artists' attitudes toward this monster expo, part 2 focuses on four tattooists (Chad Koeplinger, Michelle Myles, Uncle Allan and Claudia De Sabe) discussing their respective styles and how they got started in the business.
(Thanks to Alice Th'ink for the tip!)
Photo by Dale May, All Rights Reserved
I'm a long time fan of photographer Dale May, whose portfolio includes many lush and sexy tattoo portraits. On his new Tumblr blog, Dale posted this image under the headline: Mama's Boy - Tattoos For Children! Here's what he says of it:
The other day I took some pictures of my Godson, Owen. He's quite the little actor, especially when he's promised Ice Cream and all he gets is the cone. Whoops. Well, as soon as I captured this shot of Owen on the verge of tears, I knew I had to call my good friend Michelle Myles at Daredevil Tattoo, and ask her to draw me a "Mama's Boy" tattoo.Dale adds he's planning on tattooing more kids. Follow him on Tumblr and Twitter for updates.
I'm wishing I was at the Singapore Tattoo Show, which was such a success last year and sure to be this weekend. [See a video preview of the show here on YouTube.] But we can enjoy some live action on Twitter. Here are my faves to follow:
People are also now posting photos from the convention on its Facebook Wall. I'm really loving how tattoo conventions and social media are coming together so we can get a glimpse of shows around the world and also the views of those attending. Check'em.
Yesterday, I mentioned Michelle Myles and how she has posted clips of the Tattoo Wars Old School episode on her Daredevil Tattoo site. I just saw the video she took and edited (shown above) on the London Tattoo Convention (which I blogged about here and here). The female tattooed Fellini did a great job capturing the show, and I'm diggin the tune by Mike Mok and the Em Tones.
Contraband Candy, who specialize in metal and alt culture videos, has this fantastic video below from last year's show, which includes interviews and the best part -- the tattoos shown in the video have the artist credits!! A rarity, and an appreciated one. The video is accompanied with a sweet Rockabilly sound as well.
It's a good day when a hot tattooed blond -- who knows how to wield a tattoo machine -- hands you a check and says, "Sweet. I'm your first advertiser." Sweet, indeed.
Le blonde is the fabulous Michelle Myles of NYC's Dare Devil and Fun City Tattoo who has put together a site called Devil City Press, where you can not only learn of all the behind-the-scenes action from those two inconic studios, but also see the latest tattoo work from their roster of top artists, and read the artists' musings on tattoo culture, like Michelle's take on the Jeff Johnson book or why it's not cool to suck on your boyfriend's fingers when he's getting tattooed. That kinda stuff.
The latest post was on Dare Devil and Le Roi shackin up, which I'm excited about because I'm looking for a surface piercing to cover up a scar and Le Roi is renowned for top piercers and quality jewelry [will blog on that myself when I make my appointment].
One of my fave online features of the Dare Devil sites is the videos -- especially the Tattoo Wars show where Michelle won for best Americana tattoo.
Check the tattoo goodness!
To also advertise on Needles + Sins, hit me up through the contact link. The news is up next.
A lot has been going on at DareDevil Tattoo in NYC's Lower East Side: an in-studio marriage proposal (read the fun story here), bosslady Michelle Myles tattooed the hotness of Dean Winters (who will always be my badboy crush, Ryan O'Reily, of OZ fame), and the amazing Terry Ribera is now a regular guest artist (read his Prick Q&A here).
One of the bigger deals in the studio is the addition of well respected piercing boutique Le Roi.
And to celebrate, this Friday at 7pm, they'll be having a gallery show featuring artwork inspired by, naturally, devils and lions.
Hope to see y'all there!
Photos by Jolie Ruben & Roxana Marroquin for Time Out NY
With the NYC Tattoo Convention kicking off it's 12th year today at 4pm, Time Out NY has gotten behind the show, giving out free tickets and publishing a 3-part article in tribute to tattooed New Yorkers.
Part 1 showcases six locals and their New York-themed tattoos, like Joshua Newberg above and his backpiece by Ray Jerez of Inborn Tattoo. I also love the Coney Island tribute sleeve by Michelle Myles of Daredevil tattoo on Brooklyn lawyer Suzanne Bivins.
Part 2 is Three Must-Dos at the Convention, a short and sweet list of this weekend's highlights including Sunday's Best Overall competition, and tebori, traditional hand Japanese tattooing, taking place on the second floor.
And Part 3 is TONY's own tattooed employees and their stories.
Catch Brian, and I at the show Saturday and Sunday giving away free Needles and Sins stickers. I also plan to give y'all a live breakdown of the art and events via Twitter.
Can't make it tonight, though, because we'll be at the opening night for Rooftop Films, and while this eve is sold out, check the rest of the schedule for some of the best indie shorts and full length features screened outdoors this summer.
What started out as a sweet home movie on Daredevil Tattoo's Friday the 13th special ended with co-owner Michelle 'Tarantino' Myles tattooing swine fornicating.
See the video here.
Michelle may appear like the sweet den mother type, but if you request a dumb-ass tattoo, she will not only oblige but will throw in the words "pig fucker" for free -- and even tattoo with her left hand (she's a rightie) for that extra Special Olympics look. And if he's in town, co-owner Brad Fink will cheer you on. Enablers!
The horny hogs were just one of the designs that the Daredevil crew had fun with this past Friday the 13th. See the '13' flash sheet here for other tattoos you should not get.
I loved the Daredevil flash sheet, offered as well, but as Michelle explained on her blog, the designs were too involved and detailed, slowing the artists; so towards the end of the night, they took that sheet down -- they told confused clients that they ran out (!) -- leaving the pigs, flying penises (or is it penii?), and a few safe "13"s to take home.
As always, it was a blast, but the crew is looking forward to some rest until the next 13th special (in November) after these past two months of back-to-back insanity.