Two weeks ago, I put up this post on Cedric Arnold's "Yantra: The Sacred Ink,"
which is, as I previously wrote, an exceptionally beautiful series of portraits and documentary
photography -- a product of four and a half years of travel throughout
Thailand to fully explore Yantra, or Sak Yant. Yantra are sacred marks performed
by monks in Thailand in which the wearers believe that the tattoos are
imbued with magic, offering protection and even bestowing certain
Showing the tattooing process and ceremonies attached to the tradition, Cedric Arnold recently posted this 4:34 minute documentary short (embedded above), which uses footage shot between 2008 and 2014, and includes incredibly powerful scenes of "Khong Khuen," states of trance that tattooed devotees enter when "possessed" by the spirit of their tattoos, as Arnold writes.
The full version of the film will be released online at a later date, and is currently being screened at the "Tatoueurs, tatoues" exhibit at the Museum du quai Branly in Paris until Oct 2015.
For more info, visit "Yantra: The Sacred Ink."
Rose HardyFilip Leu
Claudia De Sabe
Garnering rave reviews in London, "Time: Tattoo Art Today" presents the fine art of 70 some of our finest tattooers around the globe, including Filip Leu, Ed Hardy, Horiyoshi III, Paul Booth, Guy Aitchison, Kore Flatmo, Rose Hardy, Mister Cartoon, Chuey Quintanar, Volker Merschky and Simone Pfaff, among other artists. "Time" opened at Somerset House in London last week, and drew a great deal of media attention, highlighting just how skilled the artists in our community can be in mediums beyond skin. For a glimpse into the exhibit, the BBC offers this video.
Curated by tattoo artist Claudia De Sabe and publisher Miki Vialetto, the tattooers were asked to create a new work for the exhibition on the theme of time. Here's more from Somerset:
The resulting collection ranges from oil painting, watercolours and traditional Japanese silk painting to paint layering on real skulls, airbrush and bronze sculpture. Time and all it infers (such as life and death) is a classic, common motif in tattoo art, expressed through a vast variety of iconographic combinations. For example, the popular inkings of butterflies, blossoms and the handled cross signify life, while memento moris such as skulls or the goddess Kali denote death. Many of these symbols are also present in the original pieces displayed.See more works from the exhibit on the museum's site and on Miki's Tattoo Life site.
"Time: Tattoo Art Today" will be on view at Somerset House until October 5, 2014. All artworks on display, as well as the show's catalog, prints and other memorabilia, are available to purchase at the Rizzoli Bookshop.
Sydney Parkinson's illustration of a tattooed Maori from Cook's first voyage.
In case you missed it on the Needles & Sins Facebook group yesterday, Anna Felicity Friedman recently posted a large portion of her tattoo-history dissertation on her wonderful TattooHistorian.com blog about the "Cook myth," which, as she writes, is "the common assumption that modern Western tattooing somehow derived from contact with Polynesian peoples during Captain James Cook's voyages in the late 18th century."
Here's a bit from her writing:
In addition to demonstrating that tattoos were often seen in a positive, or at least neutral, light, a crucial subsidiary aim of this dissertation is to debunk what can be termed the "Cook myth": the perception in many scholarly and popular texts from at least the 1950s that the historical origins of modern tattooing among Westerners exclusively derived from Cook's first voyage to the Pacific and his and his crews' encounters with tattooed people in Tahiti--that Cook, et. al., somehow "discovered" or "reinvigorated" tattooing. But this is clearly not the case. A look at texts from before the mid-eighteenth century demonstrates that many authors, explorers, scientists, etc. were wellfamiliar with the practice of permanently marking the body with a substance embedded underneath the skin. For example, one of Cook's contemporaries, explorer Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, writing about the Marquesan tattooing he saw in 1791, noted the similarities to and contrasts with the European tattooing that he said was not only common but of great antiquity:Read more, and check the footnotes for additional reference, here.
French artist FUZI-UVTPK was interviewed by Complex Magazine in this video (shown below) while he was in Brooklyn, tattooing at Muddguts gallery.
Complex describes FUZI as the pioneer of the "Ignorant Style," which I have to admit, I'm pretty ignorant about myself; however, in the video, FUZI explains his tattoo philosophy, heavily influenced by his graffiti background, to shed some light on how he approaches his work. For example, he says that one of the most important things for him to "be free to create [his] art, to have no rules" -- how he's not looking for someone to tell him to do his tattooed lines better; he wants to do his lines, his own way.
Whether his lines are strong or not, FUZI was booked solid for his NYC trip. See more of his work here to see if you dig his style yourself.
If you ever hung out in an American independent record store in the 90s, there's probably no doubt that you've heard of Rocket From The Crypt - an awesome alt-punk band (with a horn section!!) who emerged from the San Diego scene in 1989. Well, they've recently reformed for a reunion tour - which some pals of mine just caught in Los Angeles, and they'll be in NYC for the next two nights - but there's some unfortunate news for those who have chosen to permanently adorn themselves.
Here's the backstory: around 1991, the band decided to take a logo from one of their singles and get it tattooed on themselves. Then, they decided that anyone who got the tattoo would gain free admission to their shows FOR LIFE.
But, as the Wall Street Journal reports - it simply isn't feasible anymore on their current set of dates.
Mr. Reis says the group heard from "hundreds" of tattooed fans asking about admission. When the band asked clubs to let them in free, they were told there was no room. The venues had sold out. "When we were around the first time, selling out shows was not our forte," he says. "There was usually plenty of room."
What was fun was to see how artists (and clients) reinterpreted the design to their own personal interests.
[Tattoo by Mike Stobbe]
Long before I ever decided to get tattooed, I always that this was a brilliant piece of marketing (as well as a way to truly connect with your fans). Sure, it's real easy to get your favorite band's logo tattooed on you, but it's rare to get something back from it; true artistic reciprocity.
While most of the work that I've found online isn't of the caliber we usually feature, I still think that they had an awesome idea.
Read the WSJ article here.
Featuring some of black & grey's finest, "Tattoo Stories" is a video series by Estevan Oriol and Mister Cartoon, with the goal of exploring the work, and personal lives, of esteemed tattooers from an insider's perspective -- and not just the usual "How long have you been tattooing?" Q & As.
The videos, which average around 6-7 minutes, take you into the studios of legends such a Jack Rudy and Rick Walter's, who offer tattoo history as well as philosophy lessons. There are also interviews with some of the most exceptional tattooers today, including Shawn Barber, Chuey Quintanar, Carlos Torres, Luke Wessman, Franco Vescovi, and many others.
The series launched last summer, and when I first checked their SanctionedTV YouTube page at that time, I thought it was largely focused on their "LA Woman" series. As we stay away from the "tattoo model" thing, I didn't share it. And so it was a happy surprise to go back and see that so much important tattoo footage, and not just T&A, had been amassed and offered in an engaging way.
Oh, and there's also this really moving Snoop Dog (yes, Snoop Dog) vid.
When I think of talented tattoo families -- and the warmest and kindest -- one of the top that comes to mind are the Chapelans of Studio Tattoo Mania in Montreal, Quebec. Second generation tattooer, Pierre Chapelan and his wife Valerie are not only renowned for their stellar studio, but also organizing the fantastic Art Tattoo Show Montreal.
Pierre is celebrating 20 years in tattooing, and there's a wonderful online (and offline) appreciation of his dedication to the craft. Here's more on this milestone:
"It's been more then 20 years since Pierre Chapelan first held a tattoo machine in his hand, but in 2013, he celebrated his 20th anniversary as a professional tattoo artist. He fell into the tattoo world early on while watching his dad Michel tattoo his way around France and accompanying him to various tattoo shops and conventions in Europe. He was only 17 in 1993 when he started tattooing full time in Bordeaux, France. A mere few months after starting, he came to Canada for his first tattoo convention as a professional artist.
The Montreal Tattoo Convention was filled with many well known artists including Tin-Tin, Bernie Luther, Eddy Deutsch -- all artists Pierre looked to as inspirations. A year later, he came back to Montreal, fell in love with his future wife,Val, and soon enough, decided that Montreal would be home. He worked at Tatouage Artistique along side Keith Stewart and Bill Baker for a few years until he opened his own shop.
Studio TattooMania opened in 1997, the same year his daughter Audrey Lune was born. What was a small one-person operation is now one of the most renowned tattoo parlors in Canada with 9 artists, as well as guest artists who have included Filip Leu, Horizakura, and Tin-Tin, among many others.
Pierre is fully dedicated to his work; he truly "eats,*•#s, sleeps tattoo," as one of his t-shirts states so well. He's been involved in the tattoo community as the host of the Art Tattoo Show Montreal, one of the most successful tattoo conventions worldwide.
He's a polyvalent artist who believes it's his duty to do great work, whether it's a full backpiece or a small walk-in. At only 37-years old,Pierre still thrives on learning and loves talking about his craft.
His next 20 years are looking bright and fun as ever with new projects but always bearing the same respect and love of tattooing."
Celebrity portraits are common tattoo odes that pay tribute (whether seriously or ironically) to someone whom the wearer may not have met, but feels a connection to. What if the person being memorialized on one's body is not on the A-List, but instead, has been marginalized and often ignored by society? Tattooist Matt C. Ellis uses his particular skills in tattoo realism and offers clients a chance to make a connection with those who are forgotten, shedding light on the issues of poverty and homeless.
Last Friday, November 22nd, would have been the 76th birthday of an iconic tattooer and a truly good man, Walter Moskowitz of the legendary "Bowery Boys."
Walter and his brother Stanley (who still tattoos today) learned the craft from their father Willie Moskowitz. Willie emigrated from Russia and opened up a barbershop on The Bowery in NYC, but soon learned that he could support his family better through tattoos than cutting hair, and so he had his friend Charlie Wagner, another legend, teach him the craft. Along with tattooing came the drunken shop brawls between (and with) rowdy clients, police harassment, and the general hustle to make a living during and after the Depression. Not an easy life, but it made for good stories.
Many of those stories are captured on the Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants, a wonderful two audio CD set (more than 2 1/2 hours of tattoo tales) accompanied by a 24-page color booklet with photos and articles. The audio documentary also includes guest commentators, and I'm honored to be one of them.
As I wrote on this blog in 2011 when the audio collection was released, Walter's son Doug recorded these stories in the last year of his father's life so that they may live on. The stories are funny, educational, sad and triumphant. As Doug says, "You will not only get to hear great tattoo stories but you will also get a nice perspective of who my dad was as a person; the era he, his father, and brother tattooed in; and how that related to what he did."
In commemoration of Walter's birthday, Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants will be discounted for the next few days, and can be purchased for just $15 on Amazon. It is the perfect gift for tattooists, collectors, history buffs, and, really, for yourself (you deserve it!).
By sharing his stories, Walter gave us a gift, one I'm grateful for.
Yesterday, the Miss America pageant crowned its first beauty queen of Indian descent, which led to an onslaught of racist tweets by those who take beauty pageants seriously. "America's Choice," as decided by an online vote, was not the winner, but instead, a pretty blonde from Kansas who represented "American Values": she's a sergeant in the National Guard, she's a hunter who can skin a deer herself, and she's tattooed.
Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail strutted across the stage with a large-scale rib tattoo of the serenity prayer, which she says she used to recite when bullied as a child. Her tattoos were a big part of her platform, which centered around "empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers." She told ABC News:
"What I really want is just to inspire people by showing my tattoos," she said. "That's a bold move! And it's risky, it could very well cost me the crown. And if it does, I just want people to see that you can step outside of the box, you can be yourself. And I can only hope that it inspires them to do the same."She didn't win the crown, but she won a lot media attention for being the first Miss America contestant to openly display her tattoos. Or at least that what the headlines touted.
But Teresa Vail was not the first tattooed beauty queen. It was Betty Broadbent, shown above on the cover of the first edition of Margo Mifflin's "Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women & Tattoo" (a must-have book). This cover photo captures the iconic circus attraction as she made history competing in the first televised beauty pageant at the 1937 World's Fair. As Margot Mifflin notes, "She knew that as a tattooed contestant she didn't stand a chance of winning, but she gladly reaped the free publicity." The same could be said for Miss Kansas.
I'm not a fan of beauty contests. Despite the fact that Miss Kansas has a degree in chemistry and speaks Chinese, she still had to put on stilettos and a bikini to put forth her "empowerment" platform. But I am a fan of those working in some way to stir a little trouble, to change up beauty ideals. So good on Miss Kansas for following in Betty Broadbent's high heels.
Tattoo above by Amanda Wachob.
My morning has gotten off to a great start thanks to BBC Radio 4's "A Mortal Work of Art" -- a wonderfully produced program that explores the intersection of the tattoo and fine art worlds. With the program 28 minutes long, I figured I'd just let in play on my laptop while I busied myself with other tasks; however, the really insightful discussion on the artistry of tattooing stopped me from doing anything else, so I just sat down and learned something.
What makes the program so compelling is that Mary Anne Hobbs, who hosted the piece, talks to the very people who have changed tattooing in the fine art context and who have shared very different ways of viewing tattoo art:
The legendary Spider Webb brought tattooing into galleries, museums, and even Christie's auction house, particularly for his conceptual tattoo projects, which he still continues to innovate today. He also talks to the BBC about fighting NYC's tattoo ban (which wasn't overturned until 1997).
London's Alex Binnie, owner of the famed Into You Tattoo, shares his thoughts on tattooing's impact on pop culture -- an impact greater than any the fine art world has had. The program ends on a strong note with his assertions on why tattooing doesn't need validation from anyone other than those wearing it.
Amanda Wachob discusses what motivated her to experiment with nontraditional tattoo imagery, to offer something different to clients beyond the standard menu, which has made her one of the most sought-after tattooers in New York.
Of course, our good friend Dr. Matt Lodder, art historian, is brilliant when he discusses what tattooing can gain by being accepted as an art form; that is, real critique of what is good, bad, derivative, ethical, new ... rather than looking at tattoos as one homogenous thing. He's currently writing a book on tattooing in the UK from an art historian perspective, which will be an important contribution to our community.
Also in the BBC program are Shelley Jackson, renowned for her "Skin" project, where a story she has written is conveyed through words tattooed on people around the world; artist Sandra Ann Vita Minchin discusses how mortality & legacy inform her own use of tattooing in her performance art -- and how she plans to grow skin through her DNA and tattoo it as an extension of her body project; and Sion Smith, editor of Skin Deep, and Trent Aitken-Smith, editor of Tattoo Master, weigh in on tattoo culture today.
Again, this is a fantastic listen and worth the time. Check it here.
My friends at the Greek tattoo magazine Heartbeat Ink have a fantastic in-depth Q&A with Mike The Athens, in English and in Greek. Tattooing for 24 years, Mike The Athens is not only one of Greece's preeminent tattooers, but has garnered international acclaim for his work, which is largely inspired by Tibetan and Himalayan Art, Sak Yant, and mantras, but also moving towards Japanese-influenced tattooing.
Today, Mike The Athens splits his time between Athens, Greece, and Goa, India. In the Heartbeat Ink interview, he explains what living and tattooing on two continents is like, how tattooers must have a conscience, and even the fun way he got his name. Here's a taste:
Where are you now in 2013?Read more, and view some wonderful photos, here. Also check Mike The Athens' site and blog.
Mike is also one of the featured artists in Black Tattoo Art 2, which is currently available for pre-order.
Nike's limited edition "Pro Tattoo Tech Tights" had a limited run, as the company pulled the line after rightful outrage over its appropriating the ancestral art of the Samoan pe-a -- the traditional tatau of the Samoan men. Receiving the pe'a is a sacred right of passage, and so naturally, Nike's exploitation of the patterns for women's exercise gear was seen, at the very least, as insensitive to Samoans.
But this isn't the first time Nike and other companies have been accused of being "culturally exploitative." Check this video for more.
Yesterday, FirstWeFeast.com reported that Jayceon Terrell Taylor, the rapper known as The Game (or just Game), was refused service at Houston's Restaurant in Pasadena, CA on Sunday because the manager allegedly said that his tattoos were threatening to customers.
The tattoos in question were on his arms and not the LA Dodgers logo on his face or the President Obama portrait on his torso. His sleeves include portraits of 2Pac as an angel and G-Unot -- which I find threatening to good taste -- but it's not like they are gang tattoos (or ones that could be identified as such). And so it appears that it was the manager's personal fears and prejudices that led to the total sh*tstorm that one with over a million Twitter followers could easily unleash. The hashtag "#DontEatAtHoustonsPasadena" began trending, leaving the restaurant to extinguish Game's flame by asserting, according to Grub Street, that the manager was only "enforcing its strict dress code that requires sleeves" (not the tattooed kind).
The problem is that these dress codes are often subjectively enforced. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a bunch of non-tattooed arms have been bared at Houston's before. Also, the manager supposedly told Game that his tattoos were "threatening," and did not simply say that tank tops were not allowed in the restaurant.
While the Game was able to mobilize his Twitter masses to get Houston's attention about the problem, many of us don't have that kind of clout.
Last week, Jeffrey posted in our N+S Facebook Group that he was with friends who wanted to celebrate a birthday at San Antonio's The Riverwalk; however, a number of places along the strip had a "No Neck or Facial Tattoo" policy. Jeffrey said that he's had his hands tattooed for ten years now and his neck tattooed for four and this was the first time he's had such a problem. His post led to an interesting discussion with differing opinions: Shouldn't private establishments be allowed to set their own dress standards? Are tattoos considered "dress"? Are the policies there to protect against having gangs in these establishments? Or as Elaine stated, "And/or does it also function as de facto discrimination against certain ethnic groups?"
Feel free to share your opinion in the group under this post or hit me up on Twitter.
The postscript to Game's story is that he ended up taking his business to California Pizza Kitchen, tweeting: "Went 2 #CPK & they were happy to let me, my tank top & tattoos in 4 lunch. The mgr Kong even gave me a FREE desert." Manager Kong is a smart man.
And really, that's how I plan to play it myself -- take my money to places that will appreciate this "Handsome Ass Redhead" ... and maybe even give me free dessert.
[Thanks, Nick Schonberger, for the link.]
Walter White tattoo by Mark Bester of Marked for Life Tattoo Studio.
Tonight is the US premier of the final season of one of the most badass television shows Breaking Bad. The life a sympathetic chemistry teacher with cancer turned meth cook turned diabolical drug king pin has enthralled viewers around the world. That degeneration of a man (or evolution to some) is a compelling concept -- what would we do in similar circumstances?
And so it's no surprise that fans -- a number of them -- have tattooed permanent odes to the show's themes and its protagonist.
Flavorwire recently posted "14 Totally Creepy Breaking Bad Tattoos," which includes the Walter White portrait above by Mark Bester of Marked for Life Tattoo Studio in Stockton-on-Tees, UK. But Flavorwire missed another cool BB tattoo: this Walter White portrait below by Jamie Parker of MD Tattoo Studio in Northridge, CA.
Now I'm on the hunt to commandeer someone's cable TV and enjoy some Blue Sky.
UPDATE: In the Needles & Sins FB group page, Kimberly posted links to great Breaking Bad portraits by Benjamin Laukus. Check them here and here.
Walter White portrait above by Jamie Parker of MD Tattoo Studio.
Tattoo by Patrick Hüttlinger. Photo by Sven Walliser.
As promised, I'm sharing the work of another fantastic artist featured in my upcoming Black Tattoo Art II, which will be released in September. I'm thrilled to have Patrick Hüttlinger be a part of this project. Here's how Patrick describes his work:
When I started tattooing just before the turn of the millennium, I solely concentrated on the color black and I am still fascinated with the limitation which using this one colour offers, opening doors for new graphical challenges and at the same time giving justice to the medium of skin, through it's bold simplicity. Nevertheless, to be able to satisfy my inner-drive, the desire to create and change, I need to make use of a variety of artistic media. In the world of art, with its unlimited variety and infinite possibilities, I feel most at home.Another art form Patrick has engaged in is the creation of exceptionally beautiful rotary machines, which you can learn about here.
Check more of Patrick's tattoo portfolio on his site, Facebook, and Instagram.
Cover of the Boston Herald above.
The tattoo headlines this week have focused on these mythical beings called "Tattoo Scouts," men with special skills who will be able to weed out athletic thugs and protect the delicate sensibilities of America's bastion of good taste and propriety: the National Football League.
The newly coined "tattoo scout" term came about from a Tweet by Bruce Feldman, in which the CBS Sports columnist was commenting on the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, who was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. The Tweet stated: "Spoke w longtime NFL personnel man who said in wake of Aaron Hernandez teams may use police experts to check prospects tattoos."
And from there, it all became about tattoo witch hunts -- exploring the morass of bad football player tattoos to uncover a secret past that myriads of background checks and 1,000+ hours of Google searches could not uncover.
It's dangerous precedent to start deciphering the body art of countless NFL hopefuls and base draft decisions on unscientific and flawed beliefs of what constitutes criminal tattoos, especially as motifs that were once relegated to gangs have entered into mainstream tattoo culture. For example, this Fox News article references the "Smile Now, Pay[Cry] Later" tattoo, which is a tattoo that one can now pick out from flash sheets at shops across the country and is not limited to those with prison records. And while the tear drop tattoo may represent the lives a person has taken, for many today, it also represents loss that did not come from one's own doing.
Beyond background checks, NFL scouts should look to those with greater academic performance, community service, and other positive indicators when picking players, and leave the tattoo reviews to snotty bloggers for art critique and not criminal assumptions.
I'm super stoked to announce that Black Tattoo Art II, the second incarnation of my very first book, Black Tattoo Art, will be released September 15, 2013, and will have its convention debut at the London Tattoo Convention, September 27-29, 2013. So, to give y'all a taste of what I'm been working on the past year and a half, I'll be doing spotlights on some of the artists featured in the book.
Today's feature is on the fabulous Amanda Ruby of The Jewel in the Lotus, her private studio in Folkestone, Kent, UK. Amanda has an unique style in combining realism with pattern work to a beautiful effect. It has earned her accolades including "Best Female UK Artist 2012" and various profiles in international magazines.
What I particularly love is how her florid, ornamental approach has the power of blackwork without needing big bold swaths of ink. She incorporates intricate detail and dotwork, but constructed in a way that's built to last.
Amanda works by appointment only. She recently opened up her diary for January - March 2014, and appointments book up quickly, but fine art tattoos are worth waiting for.
Check more of Amanda's work on Facebook.
Yesterday, France 24 News had an interesting story on underground tattoo studios in Iran, and how artists operate to stay far from the reach of officials, who use Islamic law to arrest and prosecute those practicing the trade.
Outside of the law, Iranian tattooists face other challenges, such as finding decent tattoo machines, ink and other supplies -- much of which is brought in from abroad through friends and travelers willing to take the risk.
Sara, a tattooist who has been working in Tehran for several years, talks about the challenges he faces:
Sadly, the authorities are against this art form, for the same reason that they oppose things like men's ties - they think it is a sign of Westernisation. They shouldn't worry, because many customers actually request tattoos with Iranian elements, like images of Zarathustra, Akhemenid soldiers, Faravahar symbols, Nastaliq calligraphy, and even images of The Book of Kings.In the article you'll also find images of tattoos, like the ones by Kambiz, shown here, as well as a video of Kambiz working (and copying another artist's tattoo from a printout). It's an interesting look at what people will risk for the art form.
Fahavar, a symbol of Zoroastroanism by Kambiz.
One of my favorite tattooists to follow on Instagram is Chad Koeplinger, but not simply because he puts on some of the boldest and strongest tattoos around, but also because, in between his tattoo pix, are mouth watering meals, often from the swankest of restaurants. His refined taste buds have become just as known as his tattoo skills, and so FirstWeFeast.com featured Chad Koeplinger's 10 Best Meals of 2013 (So Far).
Here's a taste from the article intro:
Consider Chad the ink-slinging Anthony Bourdain. Fellow tattooer BJ Betts calls him "the king of $500 solo meals." His quest for the best dining experiences is matched by only a few, and worthy of envy by all. Crushing all pedestrian foodie dreams, here are the best meals Koeplinger's consumed thus far in 2013, from Nepal to his new home of Napa.It's a great read and already has me trying to make reservations at Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse. Check all ten favorites here.
And for more on Chad's tattoo work, such as these pieces below, find him on Facebook as well as on Instagram (@chadkoeplinger).
[Thanks to Nick Schonberger for the link.]