On this Valentine's Day, I thought it fitting to share a story on Scott Campbell's view of tattooing lovers' names, which are considered "regrettable tattoos" by many. In this NY Mag interview, which includes a short film entitled "With Love" (directed by Steven Sebring), Scott talks about how he supports and applauds those willing to take a risk in expressing their love for another in a very permanent way, despite the odds of a lifelong relationship.
Here's a bit from that Q&A:
How do you think tattooing has affected your view on love as eternal?
Nothing's eternal. There's something in having tattoos that makes you realize that we are ephemeral. In having a bunch of tattoos, you end up taking your physical self much less seriously. It's not precious. We're not precious. And I've seen that since falling in love when I was a kid and getting girls' names tattooed on me, which are now faded and blurred and buried under others. We are a narrative that has a beginning and an end. If you try to hang on to anything forever, it's not going to work. What works is appreciating who you got.
Do you see a difference between a "love" tattoo, like the couple ones you see in the video, and a regular tattoo?
No, tattooing is just a way of communicating. It's like a language. The idea is where the power is. It's not in the type of ink you use. If you're tattooing a powerful idea, it will be powerful. If it's meaningless and just aesthetic, it will be meaningless.
And when I say meaningful, that doesn't necessarily mean I disagree with spontaneity and lightheartedness; there's an honesty in that. If you got a dolphin on your ankle during spring break, that's valid. It doesn't have to summarize your entire existence. It's the documentation of a moment. Some moments are heavy and some are light, and they're all valid.
There's often this thought that
getting someone's name as a tattoo is a poor decision. You mention in
the film that when you got Lake Bell's
name tattooed on you that people were surprised. Do you ever feel like
it's irresponsible to encourage someone to get a tattoo of someone's
name, to get something they might regret?
No, not at all. You're talking to someone who has tons of tattoos on them. I don't see anything hazardous in having a tattoo on you that might become irrelevant. Like if you have an ex's name, and you're not with them anymore, it doesn't make it any less significant.
I encourage people to get their lover's name, if they believe in it. Nothing bad can come from falling in love completely. Yes, you might get hurt. But in the long run, having an ex-girlfriend's name on you is much less tragic than being 70 and having never allowed yourself to never let go. Not getting a tattoo out of fear of regret is taking the skin on your legs, for example, and putting that on a higher pedestal than your emotional journey through life. That's an imbalance of priority.***
I highly recommend reading the interview, whether you agree with Scott's view or not.
I recently got my own "couple" tattoo (shown below, freshly tattooed): a small little fish to complement the detailed Porgy fish skeleton, tattooed by Tim Kern on my love. It's symbolic and not a name. With my day-to-day work being so precise and literal, I love expressing myself through tattoos in a way that is not. Yet, I see Scott's view on the beauty behind "potentially regrettable acts in passionate moments."
Tattoos above by Tim Kern.
Scott Campbell tattoo above on Sophia Amoruso.
Tattooer and fine artist Scott Campbell is co-owner of one of the most respected tattoo studios in NYC, Saved Tattoo; however, his popularity extends far beyond the tattoo community, particularly, for his A-List clientele. You can also see him on TV dancing with his actress/filmaker wife Lake Bell for an Apple Watch ad, and he was the best man at Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston's wedding.
It's the pop culture celebrity pedigree that often precedes discussion of Scott's artwork, as is the case in this NY Times piece on his latest work, Whole Glory, an exhibition and performance at Milk Gallery. The exhibition opens today and runs through Sunday, from 10 am-6pm. The closing reception on Sunday is from 6-8pm.
As Scott wrote on his Instagram, "At the center of the installation will be a hole. On the other side of that hole will be me. I will tattoo (for free) any arm that comes through. There is no communication. I tattoo whatever I am inspired to do, and recipient doesn't get to see until it's finished."
The Times interviews Scott on this performance aspect of Whole Glory. Here's some of that talk:
Read more here. To RSVP for the reception on Sunday, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Campbell tattooing Marc Jacobs.
Corset tattoo by Keely Tackett and sleeve by Scott Campbell.
I'm a fan of the portrait photography of Eric Jukelevics, whose artistic style has been described as "moody" (although, that's far from his positive personality). Eric has begun a photography project inspired by his "love of awesome tattoos," entitled Illuminated Ink. He offers this description of the project:
My work showcases skin as a surface with texture, shape, and movement. The final images highlight the intricate details of the tattoos and the texture of the skin. I ask each person I photograph about the origin and significance of their tattoos. Like most fine art, there is meaning and history behind each piece. When completed, the project will include a coffee table book and gallery show.You can see more of Eric's Illuminated Ink images on his Facebook page, which also includes some of the models' stories, including that of Tamale Sepp and her corset tattoo by Keely Tackett, among others. The tattoo artists are credited, so the project has allowed me to discover tattooers whom I hadn't known of before.
Eric is looking for more models for the project, particularly those with larger pieces, although he also welcomes those with smaller intricate work as well. Eric will be shooting in his NYC photography studio on weekends. If you're interested in becoming part of the project, you can find Eric's contact info here.
Photos above from the Montreal Tattoo Convention by David Wong.
Tattoo stories in the news this past week included a number of profiles on great artists as well as some interesting features on the intersection of tattoos and economics. Here's the run down:
So, all my social media feeds were blowing up with photos and dispatches from this weekend's Montreal Tattoo Convention. In fact, as I'm typing this, photos are still streaming from the after party. [These days, "after party" for me is a cheeseburger post Zumba class.] For a look into the success behind the show, the Montreal Gazette profiled power couple Pierre Chapelan and Valerie Emond, who fully took over the reigns this year in organizing the show on their own. [They had co-organized it with others for the past 11 years.] I particularly liked that they discussed Pierre's experience learning to tattoo from his father Michel, also a highly respected artist.
For some great shots from the Montreal convention, check David Wong's Flickr photostream, which include the images above of Mikel Tattoo Sangha and tattooing.
In addition to Pierre, another top artist making mainstream headlines is Pietro Sedda, featured in the Daily Star. Granted, his work is shown under the unfortunate headline, "Freaky faceless tattoos! Is this the world's weirdest ink?" but if that's what it takes to get people's attention to exciting and innovative work, well ... it could be worse. We posted on Pietro last October. You can find his latest work, including the tattoo below, on his site, Instagram, and Facebook.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find in The New Yorker a profile on Scott Campbell, tattooer/artist/designer and more recently wine maker. It's a quick read, but an interesting one. Here's a taste:
At sixteen, he got his first real tattoo (after a small starter skull): a huge purple scarab on his left shoulder. His beloved mother had recently died of cancer, and he'd run away from home to Houston, and "the cultural value of anything was how much it irritated my father"--an oil-company executive. "He'd never get a tattoo, so if I got a tattoo it was a promise to myself to never become like him." Texas yawned at his feet. "Now that I'm about the age he was then--well, if I had to deal with my wife dying, and having two kids to raise, I don't know if I could do it without crawling into the bottom of a bottle, either." (Charlie Campbell says that he quit drinking before his wife died.)Beyond artist profiles, The Economist wrote about tattoos and recidivism, that is, how visibly tattooed prisoners tend to find themselves back in jail. Kaitlyn Harger, a PhD student at West Virginia University, states that employers are less likely to hire those with facial/neck/hand and other visible tattoos, which can lead to recidivism. According to Harger, it can cost $30,000 a year to house one prisoner, and so she argues, "free removal for every prisoner would be sensible economics."
Finally, in our Needles & Sins Facebook group, Anna Felicity Friedman pointed to the SF Gate article on the safety risks of tattoo kits, particularly the "Stick & Poke kits," which I wrote about in January. The article also reminds readers that the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks (or these kits). It's my hope that, with all the great features on top tattooers in the news, people will skip the stick & pokes, and go for something safer and artful.
Tattoos above by Andreas "Curly" Moore.
Tons of tattoo news hit the headlines while we were out on vacation, so I figured I'd give y'all a run-down of some of the ones I found most interesting:
First off, I had to giggle over how the fantastic Andreas "Curly" Moore offered his own version of "Palm Sunday" (shown above) last weekend at Lionel's Tattoo Studio in Oxford. The Oxford Mail quoted Curly saying: "It was Palm Sunday, so we thought for amusement we would do three free palms. The tattoos had no religious meaning, it was just for the sake of beautiful art." Check more of Curly's beautiful art here. [He's also featured in Black Tattoo Art 2.]
Then, specifically designed to kill my post-vacation buzz, The NY Times published yet another tattoo essay. It wasn't because the word "asymptote" was used twice in an article that was not about geometry. It wasn't because the writer used the word "tat." Ok, maybe it was that, but it was used in this context: "I felt how much I needed, from him and everyone, a certain kind of response: to feel inspired by the tat, and tell me so." The "tat" in question was a Latin phrase homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, translated, "I am human; nothing human is alien to me." I can see how it would be interesting if the tattoo was just a hook in the article to have a discussion on what that means...but then the writer brings in all the same stale discussions about getting tattooed post-breakup as some form of reclaiming her body, a declaration of selfhood, and the tattooed body as public space in some form -- all very true, but nothing new. It also neglects another real truism: no one has to break up with you for you to get a tattoo.
Thankfully, The Wall Street Journal came through with an article focusing on the art: "In Brooklyn Mentoring Program, Arts Volunteers Get Tattoos Designed by Teens." The piece discusses tattooer Scott Campbell's work for the arts education non-profit Free Arts NYC, specifically, a project in which he tattooed, for free, the artwork of 10 teenagers from the mentoring program on 10 volunteers -- thereby, connecting them in a powerful way. As noted in the WSJ, Scott wrote of the project:
"The volunteer promises, from that day onward, even if they never see or speak to each other again, to always look at that tattoo and believe in that kid [...] So that no matter where they are or what they're facing, they know there is someone walking around with his or her name on them, believing in them."There's more heart warming discussion in the article. A great read. Scott's art will also be auctioned off April 30th to further benefit Free Arts NYC (with this great promo shown above).
Here are some other links to tattoo news this past week:
I'll keep an eye out for more tattoo news worth sharing! Feel free to post links you like in the Needles & Sins Facebook group, as many of you already do (which I love!).
Homemade tattoo machines made in Mexican prisons are the subjects of Scott Campbell's solo exhibition Things Get Better at OHWOW, in Los Angeles, on view now through June 22, 2013. The exhibition comprises "a series of ink wash paintings on paper that realistically illustrate novel objects and improvised tools." OHWOW offers more on the story behind this work.
The NY Times featured the exhibit last week as well. Here's a bit from the article:
"I was looking for a way to fall in love with tattooing again," said Campbell, the Southern-born, Brooklyn-based founder of Saved Tattoo, who is renowned for both his artwork and for having inked the likes of Marc Jacobs and Terry Richardson. "Prison tattoo culture holds a certain amount of gravity. There's a population given orange suits and known by numbers -- it's homogenized -- tattoos claim the little personality that these guys can have." [...] The pictures depict his "Frankenguns," jury-rigged contraptions he built inside Mexican prisons to administer tattoos to inmates -- a personal project he pursued two years ago as an antidote to the superficiality of the contemporary tattoo world.
The article further runs down a list of what Scott had to do for this project, from bribing prison wardens to experimenting with different materials. Definitely worth a click through.
The Times article also has more images from the show as does Arrested Motion.
While the series of paintings is new, this isn't the first time Scott's homemade guns have been featured in the press. In 2011, we posted on this video in which Scott takes viewers along as he rummages through trash to build a machine and then tattoos someone in Thompkins Square Park. I wasn't a big fan of this how-to video, for safety reasons really. But the series of paintings I can get behind.
The radio station WNYC -- which I stream online here -- is on almost all the time in our place, if only so I can feel like I'm getting smarter. Well, I just learned that I have a chance to actually get smarter about something I particularly love: the history of tattoos and body decoration as discussed by the ultra-awesome tattoo anthropoligist Lars Krutak, who has been featured here before.
Lars will be on in a half-hour on The Leonard Lopate Show, along with tattooist Scott Campbell, who will be talking about the mechanics, art and removal of contemporary tattoos.
Listen to it live or catch it in the archives after it airs.
I'm having my morning coffee when my email dings and it's Refinery29.com telling me to check out the "Scott Campbell Makes a Prison Tattoo" video with the description below:
The vid follows Campbell around NYC while he searches for supplies to make a homemade "prison tattoo" gun, which consists of a nine-volt battery, a toothbrush, and masking tape, among other random things. Of course, Neistat [viral video virtuoso] wants a piece of the action, drug-deal-ishly meeting up with Scott in Tompkins Square Park to bare his forearm for his own "prison tattoo."[Actually, Scott tattoos another guy, not Neistat.]
And there's Scott buying batteries and a toothbrush and digging through garbage for the rest of the parts but all the while he's discussing tattoo art and his own experiences in a thoughtful and compelling way. I want to hate this. He just dug through a garbage can and will now open up someone's skin. Then there's the little voice inside of me saying, This is kinda cool, as a watch him talk and nonchalantly put the "gun" together. But then we get to the end and some dude shows up and sits down on a bench next to Scott in Tompkins Square Park--a bench upon which I've seen too many junkies having sex--and then I'm just thinking, Eww. I understand the hipster irony of getting a (rather well done) "Bless this Mess" tattoo in a place the homeless use as a toilet, but ... no, actually, I don't understand it.
Your thoughts? Share them on Facebook in the Needles & Sins group page under this post.
Tattooer, designer, and fine artist Scott Campbell -- who owns Saved Tattoo with Chris O'Donnell in Brooklyn -- designed a ready-to-wear capsule collection and leather bag line for Louis Vuitton, Spring/Summer 2011. This isn't the first time Campbell has worked with the luxe brand; he's the tattoo artist and good friend of Vuitton Creative Director Marc Jacobs. It is, however, a first working with LV Men's studio director Paul Helbers on a collection with a distinct tattoo aesthetic. He tells NY Mag in an interview about the collaboration:
Now when people hear tattoo prints, a lot of them think bad Ed Hardy T-shirts.To promote the collection, Vuitton has created a "video diptyque" that "invites you to follow Scott Campbell in his New York creative universe before leaving to a mysterious destination to be revealed very soon..." The first video, shown above, shows Scott running around NYC, designing in his studio, more running around and then, zooom, he's off with passport in hand and fancy LV bag to the airport. In the second video, he arrives in Paris [no mystery there], jumps in a limo and is driven to the LV magic kingdom, where they eventually put him to work.
See the end result of that work, including the bag below, on High Snobiety as well as other design & fashion blogs.
Thanks to the fabulous Badur of Punk Medics for the video links.
On Friday, Marisa posted a bit of an introduction on tattooer John Reardon, which let's us skip the foreplay and get straight to the Q&A.
I met up with John at Brooklyn's venerable Saved Tattoo in Williamsburg and headed around the corner to Roebling Tea Room to talk about tattoos, his book (the Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting a Tattoo) and cheeseburgers. Here's how it went.
PS: I think I'm just gonna get the oatmeal. I actually ate before I came over here...
JR: I'm doin' the pork roll. I was actually here for breakfast, this morning. I had the granola then... Ah, fuck it, I'm getting a cheeseburger. I kind of eat like an asshole.
(Laughs) All right. Wanna start?
Where're you from originally?
And how'd you get into tattooing?
My dad had tattoos. I don't know, we were kinda white trash.
How long you been tattooing?
It's thirteen years this summer.
And how'd you learn?
Just started hacking away at my friends. A guy up in New Hampshire helped me out, showed me what to do, but if I ever had any questions, I could usually call him up and he'd help me out over the phone.
Did he give you a machine?
Ah... I ordered some shitty machine from the back of a magazine. I was 18, just graduated high school, my friends chipped in. It was illegal in Massachusetts and we were tired of going to Rhode Island or New Hampshire to get tattooed. I was going to art school and they were like, 'You're gonna learn how to tattoo.'
And you went to Pratt, right?
I heard something about you teaching Eli Quinters how to tattoo?
Um, no, not really. I mean we just kind of hung out. We were like the only Straight Edge kids on campus for the most part. The first time we hung out was at a Hatebreed/Bloodlet show. And he's like, 'Hey, uh, you do tattoos, right?' and I said yeah and he had this big fucked up tattoo on his back and he asked me to fix it so I said all right. We just ended up hanging out after that. And he asked me to teach him how to tattoo. I was like, 'I can show you all the shit that I know,' but I didn't really know shit at the time. And then he ended up getting an apprenticeship at the shop I worked at.
Where was that?
Medusa on St. Marks. It's not there anymore. I started there in '98 and he started there in '99, I think.
So how'd you end up at Saved?
I knew Scott Campbell for a while and we always used to drink together...
This was after the straight edge phase.
Oh yeah, yeah (laughs) that kinda fell off around 2000. But Eric Jones was quitting so I filled in for him.
Photo via Supertouch.
While my mom has asked specifially NOT to honor her with blood and ink ("A nice brunch is fine, dear."), that doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the $100 Mom tattoos Scott Campbell will be doing at The Smile, his Manhattan home away from Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn. Quite a deal considering he charges a grand for his first hour of tattooing.
Scott created the special flash above for Sunday's event, a sheet he'll throw out once he's done that day. Tattoos will be given on a first come first serve basis from 8am-6pm.
THEN, once you're inked, you can submit your Mom tattoo here to win free chicken for a year at KFC. But if you don't find a coronary appealing, there's also the chance to win a motorcycle or family vacation (they offer no more details on these prizes except you have to register by tomorrow).
Also, the first 200 who upload a picture of a real or temporary mom-themed tattoo by 4PM Sunday will get $10 in KFC gift checks. Just please don't get their own KFC heart tattoo. Please.
Now go kiss your mom.
Thanks to Scott and Vince for the KFC links!
Scott Campbell of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn is consistently in the news for tattooing celeb clientelle, but it's his first major solo art show this weekend that's making headlines today.
Opening tomorrow at the O.H.W.O.W. Gallery in Miami, Make it Rain takes the visual language of tattooing and moves it from skin to sculptures, paintings, drawings and photography.
For more images from the show and other works, check out Cool Hunting's review.
Scott Campbell can make a mean tattoo, as shown above, and now he'll be doing it amongst designer cheeses and fancy footwear in the latest Bond Street storefront called The Smile.
Yesterday, Urban Daddy profiled the new cafe/general store/tattoo shop, and by this morning, my Inbox was flooded with forwards of it with a range of critiques, from the positive (tattooing getting couture cred) to the bleak (another nail in the tattoo cool coffin).
What I found most interesting is this Observer article where Scott notes that tattooing at The Smile accommodates his high-end Manhattan clients who don't want to venture to his Williasmburg shop, Saved Tattoo: "Them walking into a tattoo shop is them leaving their turf, their comfort zone, so there's a little bit of hesitancy." [Yeah, I know. The skinny jeans wearing hipsters of BK pose a menacing threat to East Side socilaites.]
Scott is known for being the NY tattooist to celebs but it's his work on us regular schlubs where his A-list work is best demonstrated. Check his portfolio here.