Tattoos by Becca Roach.
The recent tattoo headlines focused on the very good and the very bad of tattooing, tattoo history, tattoo symbols, and lots of Prince tattoo tributes.
First up, Vice UK's interview piece "Tattoo Artists Tell Us About the Worst Tattoos Everyone Wants." I thought it would be your average trend piece -- we know all about those infinity symbols and arrow tattoos that flood Pinterest accounts, in the US as well as the UK. And, like those in the article, tattooers across the globe have have lamented the impact of Pinterest and Instagram on client design requests. But they are admittedly fulfilling these requests, so it just seems a little tacky to me to be publicly mocking clients while taking their money. That said, I did like reading the stories of tattoos they were most proud of.
Vice US also had an interesting tattoo piece: "People with Face Tats Explain Their Ink." The portraits of the tattooed subjects were honest and didn't have that "look at the freaks" feel. But I would have preferred some diversity in their subject choices. Four out of five interviewed were tattooers. So, while, they can definitely speak to general societal reactions to their facial tattoos -- which is still a big thing -- their tattoos don't have the same impact on them making a living, and in fact, could have a positive effect. To me, it's easy to say "fuck you" to society when you can afford to. Very few professions encourage people to get an AK-47 tattooed on their faces. While people in more conservative fields with facial tattoos may be harder to find for an interview, their experiences in navigating between work and expression is likely more layered and interesting.
A more in-depth tattoo artist profile on Becca Roach was a good recent read. I first learned of Becca's work when she was an artist at Senaspace in Manhattan. She's since moved to Hawaii, where she works at Queen Street Tattoo. Here's a bit on how she got her start:
I wasn't sure the traditional route of becoming a commercial or editorial illustrator was for me, so I took a job as an artist's assistant in a huge loft in Chinatown. After [having loved the work of] making art every day for three weeks, I found out that I had been getting paid in fake checks.See more of Becca's work on Instagram.
The most talked about tattoo story was that of the paralympic swimmer disqualified over a tattoo. The 19-year-old paralympic swimming champion Josef Craig, who has cerebral palsy, was disqualified from a race at the IPC European Championships for failing to cover up his Olympic rings tattoo. An International Paralympic Committee spokesman said: "Body advertising is not allowed in any way whatsoever and that includes the Olympic rings. The athlete did not wear a cover and was therefore disqualified." Craig didn't protest. He just competed again with the tattoo covered up. Mathew in our Needles & Sins FB group rightfully called out the use of "body advertising," as it pertains to Olympic athletes -- as opposed to those who get casino names tattooed on their foreheads for cash. It does seem like a huge disconnect but Olympic trademarks are heavily protected, and that likely plays a role.
On the tattoo history tip, Buzzworthytattoo.com has a great article entitled, "The Case of an Obscure Tattooer: Prof. J.L. Hayes." In it, the life of tattoo artist James Leonard Hayes is explored. Haynes, who was tattooing as early as 1890 in Chicago, is not as well known as his contemporaries, such as Sam O'Reilly, Elmer Getchell, and Edwin Thomas, which makes this piece an especially good read. I enjoyed how writer Carmen Nyssen documents her research process, which is just as interesting.
Another fun story -- especially as I'm a fan of The Walking Dead (TWD) -- is this epic TWD backpiece. Tattoo artist Edgar Ivanov spent hundreds of hours recreating the US show's characters in this massive piece (on a client he does not name). Check more on his Facebook page.
And, of course, there were many stories on Prince tattoo tributes. My fave was the profile on one mega-fan's 20 Prince tattoos. That's a lot of purple love.
Tattoo by Edgar Ivanov.
There's been some buzz over a VICE Netherlands interview with the Belgian band Tat2NoisAct, who, for ten years, has been tattooing live on stage as they play. There is one professional tattooer among them: Kostek, a Brussels-based tattoo artist. Kostek's portfolio follows the Art Brut/minimalist style of tattooing, which seems well suited for this kind of chaos.
You can check a live performance in this video (below). And as you'll see in the comments to the video, among other social media, there are those who question whether the tattooing is just a gimmick to garner attention or another artistic level to the performance.
In the Vice article, Kostek and fellow band members Ffl and Joakim state that it all started off as a joke back in 2005, thinking it would be a one-time thing, but then it grew into something more over time. Here's a bit from the Q&A:
Do you start the tattoos with a specific idea in mind or is it mostly just random patterns?They also explain that they do not tattoo audience members because of cross contamination concerns, and anyway, even after ten years, they still have plenty of skin left to tattoo these performance pieces.
Read more and see photos from the performance here. From there, you can decide where you fall on that gimmick versus art spectrum.
Last week, Vice published "The History of Tattooed Ladies from Freakshows to Reality TV," in which writer Zach Sokol interviewed Anni Irish, who had just given a talk at The Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn entitled "The American Tattooed Ladies: 1840-2015." This article, which followed up on the talk, has been getting a lot of traction on social media and caught the attention of academics, who uncovered a number of myths and misstatements in the piece.
On her Tattoo History Daily Facebook page, Anna Felicity Friedman posted a link to the article and invited other tattoo scholars to point out errors in Anni's interview. Experts flooded the comment thread. I highly recommend reading them all.
Instead of just writing a critical blog post on the article, Anna wrote a post offering guidance to journalists: "Questions to Ask When Writing About Tattoo History and Culture." Other contributors to the list include Matt Lodder and Amelia Klem Osterud, author of the book "The Tattooed Lady: A History."
Questions include the following:
Are you reiterating or perpetuating any broad popular assumptions that might be myth? Two classic myth examples are that modern Western tattooing derived from Cook's voyages to Polynesia and that Western tattooing was previously only the purview of sailors, bikers, criminals, gangs, the lower class, etc. etc.I hope that this list of questions, and the discussions behind them, get just as much attention as the Vice article.
Here are some more N+S posts on tattoo myths:
* Tattoo History Myths Exposed
* The Cook Myth & Western Tattooing
* Setting the Tattoo History Record Straight
* Tattoo Cliches Through the Ages
Yesterday, the NY Times published a feature on legendary tattooer and fine artist Thom deVita entitled "For Restless Pioneer of Modern Tattoo Art, a Life Beyond Ink." As the title reflects, the focus is on how the 81-year-old deVita continues to make art -- from rubbings and stencils on wooden crates, cutting boards, old ledgers...
Chris Grosso described deVita's work as a "compulsion." Grosso is the producer of Vice's Tattoo Age, the wonderfully produced documentary series profiling artists in a way that honors the craft. One such profile was a five-part series on deVita (the first of which is embedded below). Here are our posts on all episodes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
Thom deVita began tattooing on NYC's Lower East Side in 1961, over 50 years ago, just as the city instituted its ban on the art form - a ban that was lifted in 1997. His approach to tattooing, even back then, was as a fine artist. The NY Times explains:
"He is one of the founders of modern tattooing," said Mr. Grosso, who befriended Mr. DeVita two years ago while filming a documentary about him. "It's not what you see on reality television, but something that only he and seven other people in the 1960s started, from purely a love for the art form. He wasn't from a sailor or biker background, where tattooing comes with the territory. They appreciated the great Japanese masters, the people from Samoa. Thom was at the forefront of that."Read more here.
As the article further notes, Grosso has set up a website to sell deVita's work. The work has a certain power to it, as if each piece carries with it decades of tattoo tradition. Grosso brings the proceeds from the sales to Newburgh in Upstate NY, where deVita has lived since leaving NYC in the nineties.
Legendary NYC artist/tattooist Thom deVita (featured in a five-part series from Tattoo Age) will be a part of a major event at Kings Ave Tattoo NYC in conjunction with VICE all this weekend. There will be an art sale of Thom's work featuring books, art boxes and stencil-rubbings - plus, Thom himself will be there all weekend!
If that weren't enough, a crew of heavyweight artists will be tattooing on location all weekend. Scott Harrison will be there will be tattooing deVita-inspired tattoos on Saturday and Sunday and we'll witness the work process of Chris O'Donnell as well as the stellar King's Ave crew: Mike Rubendall, Grez, Brian Paul, Justin Weatherholtz, Jason Tyler Grace and Frankie Caraccioli (check out the whole Kings Ave team's portfolio here).
PLUS, should you want to get tattooed, some of the guys will be taking walk-ins all weekend and Grez will be taking walk-ins all day Sunday.
What: Thom deVita Pop Up Gallery with VICE's Tattoo Age
When: January 11th-13th
Where: King's Ave | 188 Bowery (at Spring St), NYC - 2nd floor
Time: 12-9pm daily Friday and Saturday, 1-7pm on Sunday
(Full Disclosure: Marisa and I will be there on Friday around 6pm should you want to stop in and say hello to two blogger-dorks)
More Thom deVita goodness from Vice's Tattoo Age series.
In the fourth installment of this five-part feature, Thom talks about living and working in NYC's Lower East Side, with its grit, guns and junkies, before the luxury hotels and couture boutiques of today. An added bonus is artist and documentarian Clayton Patterson offering some history of the tattoo and art scene of LES, including stories and photos of Mike Mallone and Kate Hellenbrand's time with Thom, which changed their lives. Ed Hardy, Nick Bubash and other tattoo legends also share some of their own personal stories about Thom's innovation and influence.
For me, the highlight is right at the beginning: Thom removing his shirt to show his Huck Spaulding dragon backpiece done in the sixties, a massive work tattooed at a time when people just didn't get big work. And you know, it still looks fantastic -- true to the adage, "Bold will hold."
Check all the Thom deVita episodes:
Vice.com dropped Part 2 of their Tattoo Age feature on Thom deVita, continuing to honor a man who gave so much to tattooing for so long.
It starts off heavy, focusing on Thom's tremors in his hands from Parkinson's disease, but as he speaks about the seriousness of aging, he laughs and continues to make art in the process. That humor is ever-present throughout the video, particularly in his interactions with Nick Bubash, his longtime friend, whom he taught to tattoo in the 70s, and they still create together today. Artists of the new generation of tattooists pay reverence to Thom in the video as well, and it's an important reminder that we need to keep this respect for the craft and its history, and take care of our own.
If you haven't seen Part 1, check it here.
The much anticipated first installment of the five-part Tattoo Age episode featuring Thom DeVita is now online -- and it is a history lesson that you should not miss. Here's more from Vice on the segment:
Even though Thom has been tattooing and creating art for almost 50 years, there isn't much information out there about him. He started tattooing in New York City's Lower East Side in the mid 60s--when tattooing was illegal in the city--and quickly began to forge his own style.Part 2 drops this Wednesday. Will link as well when it's up.
While we're waiting for the premiere of Tattoo Age's highly anticipated Thom DeVita episode, check the wonderful Valerie Vargas Bonus Footage on VICE YouTube.
In this video, Valerie visits the legendary Lal Hardy, who has been tattooing since 1975, and is definitively one of the people who elevated tattooing in the UK in the 1980s. Lal is deserving of a 10-part episode because he's got stories ... lots of them. I've hung out with him until the morning hours laughing hysterically as he shared them like the perfect showman -- and as Lal says in the video, back in the day, old time tattooists had to be showmen because "you had to fight for your work, but wanted people to come for the experience as well."
Check the video and get a taste of what it was like tattooing in London's punk scene in the eighties and how Lal keeps his passion for tattooing decades later today.
The final episode of Mutsuo's Tattoo Age 3-part feature is now online, and it's a fascinating -- and very personal -- look into the Osaka-based artist. He takes us on a tour of local temples and shares his feelings on spirituality, happiness, and family -- and we are introduced to his loved ones in the video as well.
Another interesting aspect is the issue of prejudice against the tattooed, which still lingers today in Japanese society (and many other cultures), as evidenced by prohibitions on showing tattoos in some bathhouses and beaches, among other public spaces. The legalities of the art are muddied as well.
Once again, it's a must-see production.
Check Part 1 and Part 2 as well.
Today, Part 1 of the Tattoo Age feature on Mutsuo of Three Tides Tattoo was released on Vice.com, and as anticipated from the trailer we posted last week, it provides viewers with a very real portrayal of one of Osaka's finest tattooers, artistically and on a personal level.
It opens with a great quote from Chris Garver (which was also in the trailer), about Mutsuo receiving a "90s style tattoo education" -- that is, taking every request that walked in the door and learning the skills to master the different tattoo styles requested by clients. The fact that he was mentored by all the shop's artists and guest artists played a big role in developing these skills as well. As Garver says, "He's a maverick." The footage is also a great peak into the daily life at Three Tides Tattoo.
To see more of Mutsuo's work, also check his Facebook page and Tumblr.
The second season of Vice's Tattoo Age video series began with the fabulous 3-part profile on Valerie Vargas of Frith Street Tattoo in London. Now, it takes us to Osaka, Japan for a peak into the life of Mutsuo of the Three Tides Tattoo. Part 1 of Mutsuo's profile drops October 10th, but the trailer below promises that it will be another great watch.
What's particularly interesting about Mutsuo, as discussed in the trailer, is that he's skilled in a variety of genres -- black & grey, old school, new school, traditional Japanese... Chris Garver remarks that his tattoo dexterity is rooted in the "90's style tattoo education" in which Mutsuo learned from all the artists, including guest tattooers, at the renowned Three Tides Tattoo studio. Vice notes that he "went from being one of the shop's first customers, to the shop's first apprentice, to the most senior artist there." Looking forward to learning more about this progression.
While we wait for Part 1 next Wednesday, we can check Mutsuo's tattoo work on the Three Tides site, his Facebook page and Tumblr.
The final installment of the Valerie Vargas feature in Vice's Tattoo Age video series is online, and like the previous episodes, it does not disappoint.
The particular focus in this one is her relationship with Stewart Robson who also works at Frith Street Tattoo in London. Their interactions are pretty adorable but without the cheeziness you find in reality TV programming. It's more about the "mutual respect," as Valerie says, for one another as artists as well as friends who later on became a couple. They also discuss how their tattoo careers have progressed alongside each other.
In case you missed them, here's Part 1 and Part 2 of the Vargas feature.
Vice.com -- who has brought us the wonderful "Tattoo Age" video series (but also does stuff like this) -- recently posted "I Had a Face Tattoo for a Week" in which Brad Casey sets out to learn if "people with face tattoos want to be treated like garbage" by walking around with his "mug decorated like a homeless anarchist who keeps a dog on a rope." Here are some of the highlights:
* Brad discusses the types of stares and vitriol tattooed people enjoy by strangers on the street ["You ruined your life"] as well as how often we're fetishized ["A couple of women in their late thirties fawned over me and one of them said, "It makes me wonder what kind of fucked up things must be going through your head."].
* He experienced the feel-up by drunk people. We all know that one.
* A guy came up to him and with a high five said: "Welcome. Your life is now theater."I think it's a great quote and made me think that the stares, comments, and touching can stem from the idea that, by being visibly tattooed especially with facial work, you become public property.
* His great conclusion: "the most difficult part of having a face tattoo is spending your day explaining your shitty life decision to every single person you meet."
While he drops some possible reasons why people would tattoo their faces, he can't really understand it -- and maybe that's because he engaged in the whole thing as a hipster experiment (and wow, Canadian hipsters seem just as ridiculous as those here in Brooklyn).
Reasons why people get tattooed are so individual and vast. Having a faux tattoo may inspire witty one-liners, but also inspires an unironic punch to the face.
Vice's VBS.TV will soon be airing a new series called Tattoo Age focusing on tattooers and their personal histories, and based on the trailer above, it looks like reality programming that is actually based on reality.
Tattoo Age profiles renowned tattooists and has them tell their own stories -- not the sob tales of clients that make up so much of tattoo TV today. It also includes the artists commenting on one another, which I think adds another interesting dimension.
The show premiers July 13th. Here's the line up: