Rose Hardy tattoo above.Todd Noble tattooing.
Joe Capobianco & co-organizer Justin Weatherholtz at the Kings Avenue Tattoo booth.Dream team Heather Bailey, Rose Hardy & Virginia Elwood judge the Saturday tattoo competition.
After back-to-back NYC tattoo shows, I was feeling a bit burnt out on conventions and figured I'd take a break this summer. I had a blast at those shows, of course, but big conventions can be intense with the crowds, cameras, competitions and general creative chaos. But after writing my post on the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest, I decided to drive down to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania this past weekend to check for myself what my friends had been talking up since last year's premier of the convention.
On the way there, I passed by billboards that promised damnation for abortion, special deals on rifles, and mega-mall retail therapy. And then there was the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest billboard--a good sign, literally, that all would be welcome to the party.
Just minutes after walking into the Crown Plaza lobby, filled with banners for the fest, I got hugs from friends who also traveled to be a part of it. At check-in, hotel employees were wearing the super-cool designed convention tees, just one of the many ways the hotel welcomed the tattoo take-over.
I dropped my bag off and headed to the convention area of the hotel, where I was warmly greeted by Joe Johns and, soon after, Justin Weatherholtz, co-organizers and well respected tattooers. This was a hands-on operation, not run by an outside convention company, but by tattoo artists for tattoo artists and collectors.
The Pagoda City Tattoo Fest is a small boutique show with very select tattoo artists of the world's best. As I walked up and down the aisles, I kept thinking as I passed by the shop booths, "Woah, she's here, he's here...in Wyomissing?" [The amount of talent is too much to name. You can check the artist list here.] And so many of them -- who have endless studio waiting lists -- were taking walk-ups. I wondered if those who just came in off the street knew how lucky they were.
While the focus was heavily on excellent tattooing, I also felt the strength of the show stemmed from the intimate community feel. I didn't just get to hang out with old friends; the way it was set up, with a great outdoor communal space by the pool and laid back vibe, I had the opportunity to meet new people, have a drink and share stories. It wasn't a bunch of posing tattoo models or reality TV tattooists holding court with fans. People were really connecting. It was ... lovely.
That's not to say there wasn't some hardcore partying and 3am splashing in the pool. Dirty jokes, dirty laughs, & dirty tattoo tales will always be my favorite part of shows. [I never get tired of hearing veteran tattooer Mike Skiver keep telling the story of how he mistook my butt for his wife's at a convention 14 years ago -- a grab that began our friendship.] Sex, whiskey and rock-n-roll will never leave conventions (even if I, myself, went to bed sober at a reasonable hour).
Because I was having too much fun, I didn't take many pics, but you can see a few on my Instagram and Flickr album. Find more on the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest Instagram.
Claudia De Sabe tattoo.
Zack Dunn painting.
Booty out with Mike Skiver.
Some of the most creative of expressions are those that reflect on love. Flash mob proposals. Bikers stopping traffic to get romantic. Having someone's name tattooed on your face. And naturally, many will say that you can never go wrong with diamonds.
Now, if you take tattoo art and diamonds...you have my attention.
David Cooper is heavily tattooed gemologist and designer at Jeff Cooper Designs -- a family business specializing in classic, handmade bridal jewelry. David teamed up with the renowned Mike Rubendall of Kings Avenue Tattoo (who's spent plenty of time with Brian), and together they created a beautiful collection that melds Mike's artistic eye with the jewelry designer's signature refinement.
The Heirloom Diamond Pendant, in gold and diamonds, is the first pendant design of their collaboration. To celebrate the launch of the collection, David is offering a Valentine's Day Giveaway. To enter, head to the Jeff Cooper Designs Facebook page, "Like" them, and fill out the contest entry form. The winner gets picked on February 14th.
There's a sweet backstory to this collaboration, which is noted on the Jeff Cooper blog. Here's a bit from it:
Anyone can network on the golf course, but our own David Cooper launched a new creative venture right from the tattoo chair.
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)
The final installment of Vice's "Tattoo Age" series focusing on Thom deVita has been launched (and it's quite a viewing, clocking in at over 24 minutes). Watch the installment above and don't forget to check out the entire series on the Vice website.
In conjunction with the end of this wonderful, five-part film, Kings Ave Tattoo and Vice will be hosting an art show/sale on January 11-13th.
(Via the @kingsavetattoo Instagram account):
Thom's one of a kind creative rubbings from tattoo stencils, art boxes, signed books, and more will be available for purchase. The legendary artist himself will also be present to talk about his art and Scott Harrison will be tattooing deVita inspired tattoos Saturday and Sunday [...] Chris O'Donnell, Timothy Hoyer and [Mike] Rubendall himself will be present and working in the city alongside the everyday crew.
Kings Ave Tattoo is located at 188 Bowery at the corner of Spring St. (on the second floor) in NYC. We'll see you there!
10 months. 55 and a half hours under the needle. Three giant tubs of Aquaphor. Numerous discussions with my credit card's fraud department. And countless attempts to bleach the blood and ink out of my sheets.
My backpiece by Mike Rubendall is finally complete... for now.
See pics (semi-NSFW) and read about the process at bodysuittofit.blogspot.com
Even though I'm scheduled to finish up my back-piece this week with Mike Rubendall of King's Ave Tattoo, it's now possible for the Average Joe/Josephine to own and wear some of his art without the blood, sweat and waiting-list...
Rubendall's most recent painting, Alpha/Omega, is now available in a limited-edition, signed/numbered print on an aluminum panel. Better yet, if you purchase the print, you also get a fitted New Era 59FIFTY cap in a custom package also designed by the artist.
On the outside, the black cap features a charcoal-grey embroidered snake and logo for Kings Ave, but the magic lies within: the red and black satin interior features a reproduction of the Alpha/Omega print. (Remember: it's what's on the inside that counts...)
Only available online, limited to a run of 100 and packaged in a custom-printed box, this offer won't be around forever... unlike your tattoo.
Click here to order!
While we all await the return of our editrix-in-chief - who has been at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering in Colorado, slinging books and lecturing on copyright - I thought I'd take the time to point you all once again to my blog documenting the progress of my backpiece by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo.
We just wrapped up sitting number 16 a few weeks ago (putting the total count at 51.5 hours of tattooing) and if you haven't had the chance yet to peruse the process, get clickin!
(WARNING: there are pictures of my booty up there, so you might want to consider the site NSFW)
In our home there are two large tattoo works in progress, which means it's fully stocked with creams, painkillers, vodka, chocolate, and "tattoo sheets" (not the 1,500 thread count kind). Yesterday, I talked about adding to my tattoo collection with more rib work.
Today, Brian writes about his 11th tattoo sitting on his Bodysuit to Fit blog. Brian's got 38 hours already racked up with Mike Rubendall of Kings Avenue Tattoo. Check his post on how the backpiece is evolving ... and what it's like to score appointments with one of the most sought-after tattoo artists.
[I'm gonna put the full-disclosure up front: there's full-exposure on the click-through link. If seeing a naked man's behind isn't appropriate for your workplace - or if it just plain skeeves you out - don't click, just enjoy the cropped photo above]
After another four-and-a-half hours last Thursday, Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo finally wrapped up all of the black-work/background for my dragon back-piece. I couldn't be happier, if only because it means that we're done tattooing my butt-crack which is - to say the least - an unpleasant experience.
Head on over to my blog, Bodysuit To Fit, to read about my latest sitting and see the uncropped version of the above photo.
Remember, it's NSFW.
While we're in the midst of some renovations here at the Needles and Sins Compound, I'd like to direct your attention to my other blog, Bodysuit To Fit, which I'm using to chronicle my backpiece by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo. We just wrapped up my sixth sitting last Friday (putting us at 22 hours of work to date) and my latest post touches on the pain, the process and the progress.
(WARNING: there are some pictures of my butt up there so, depending on where you work, some pics might be NSFW).
And, while I have your attention, I want to let you know about an event that I'll be taking a part in this coming Sunday at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn. A fellow musician and old friend of mine by the name of Alex Berman has been battling Hodgkin's lymphoma for 12 years now. He's a tough dude, not to mention a father of young, twin boys. He's about to begin an allogenic bone marrow transplant, which doctors say will save his life. Needless to say, it's an expensive process, so a bunch of us in the New York music-scene have come together to help out.
This Sunday, starting at 1pm, we'll be having live performances (including an acoustic set from yours truly at 1:45pm) and a ton of CDs, vinyl and t-shirts for sale from local musicians - all of the proceeds from which will go towards Alex's care.
I sincerely hope you can come out to help us help Alex. You can read about his story and donate online here.
Marisa and I are in the annual, last-minute scramble here at the N&S Bunker in preparation for the holidays, so posting will probably be a little light over the next few days. That said, I will also refrain from spreading holiday cheer in the form of back-slaps, firm hugs and butt-squeezes because I go in for another session on my dragon backpiece tomorrow. Don't ask me why I scheduled it this way... I enjoy sitting at Christmas dinner.
Two weeks ago, I handed my back over to Mike Rubendall of King's Avenue Tattoo and, because we're a bunch of blogging dorks, I've decided to chronicle the experience at Bodysuit To Fit. I'll be doing my best to chronicle the sittings in words and photographs (read about Sitting 1 here and Sitting 2 here) and will try to refrain from twitteresque posts like "Oh god, all I wanna do is scratch my ass."
So, please - give it a read!
[FULL DISCLOSURE: Some of these pics are kinda NSFW. Nothing frontal, just my narrow little butt]
The third and final episode of the "Tattoo Age" profile on Mike Rubendall of Kings Avenue is now online, and like the rest of the Vice TV video series, it is an intimate and interesting look into the personal and professional life of this master tattooer.
The video begins with a discussion of his art collection, which includes never before published prints by Horiyoshi III, and is followed by footage of another passion of Mike's: boxing. Then, the Vice crew flies out to Denmark to interview Henning Jorgensen of Royal Tattoo, a good friend and also a big influence on Mike's work. But the most fun for me was watching the whole Rubendall family playing around in their backyard, presenting the softer, family man side of the intensely driven artist.
And of course, there are great tattoo and fine art images. It all perfectly rounds out a this must-see three-part series. Check Part 1 and Part 2 as well.
Vice is offering prints by Mike as well as other "Tattoo Age" merchandise. Just follow them on Twitter and look out for their contests.
Today we get another outstanding installment from the Vice TV "Tattoo Age" series on Mike Rubendall. There's a heavy focus on the car-washing, flash-tracing and hog-tying of Rubendall's apprenticeship under Frank Romano of DaVinci Tattoo - but we also get some interesting insight to the effect that Switzerland's Filip Leu had on Rubendall's design and technique.
No Steve Gutenberg this time around, but a great 12 minutes of your time, nonetheless.
Vice TV continues kicking ass with it's Tattoo Age series by profiling my main man, Mike Rubendall of Kings Avenue (and, yes, the first still they display is of my fu-moobs). We've sung Rubendall's praises before on this blog, but now we get a chance to hear from his peers and co-workers, including Grez, Chris O'Donnell, Frank Romano, Justin Weatherholtz and Matt Beckerich, et al.
Oh, yeah... Steve Guttenberg also makes an appearance. For serious. Steve. Friggen. Guttenberg.
Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3 and you can read my accounts of getting tattooed by Rube here and here.
It's no surprise there's tons of buzz surrounding the September 5th launch of Garage magazine. How does one not write about a Dasha Zhukova project that features Damien Hirst's art on a young model's vagina -- tattooed by Mo Coppoletta, no less?
Timed perfectly for NY Fashion Week, The NY Times describes the debut issue as "one of the most intriguing magazines to come along in years, it is not entirely clear whether this is a fashion magazine that takes more than a passing interest in art, or an art magazine that knows its stuff about fashion."
The magazine seems to know its stuff about tattoos as well, commissioning renowned tattooists Mike Rubendall in New York and Lindsey Carmichael in California to work with Coppoletta in London on the "Inked" spread of black and white portraits (photographed by Hedi Slimane) featuring "willing canvases" and their new tattoo work.
Such work includes Rubendall's execution of Jeff Koons art (shown below) and Carmichael's lettering of John Baldessari's "I will not wear any more boring tattoos." Coppoletta also tattooed a Dinos Chapman design on Dinos himself: a pointed hand etching with the words "I'm with this idiot" underneath. [The high art ironic tattoo will no doubt be big in Brooklyn in about five seconds.]
View the full tattoo spread in this Daily Beast gallery.
The genital ink, however, has kept Coppoletta most busy with the press. Even the New York Post hit him up for details in an article that also quotes the proud owner of the tattoo saying:
I would have been stupid not to be part of this project. I have a piece of art on my vagina. Not one single person can ever say they gave birth through a Damien Hirst piece of art. I can [if I ever give birth].The article further states that she threw a garden party in honor of her new vagina.
I too contacted Coppoletta for more info, and here's what he said:
The magazine informed me that Damien had handpicked me for this project and I agreed to take it on. I was curious about the design to be submitted, and on receiving it, we began to bounce the design backward and forwards until the final draft was agreed.When asked about the challenges of tattooing genitals, he said that there were no special techniques he used on that type of skin, and that the difficulty really lies in reach and body positioning.
On one of the Garage magazine covers, the actual tattoo is obscured with a peel-away butterfly sticker, a nod to the Warhol banana sticker on The Velvet Underground & Nico album. Nevertheless, it's already being banned by WHSmith booksellers. The two other covers are a sketch of Richard Prince's smiling tattoo design, and a Nick Knight photo of Dinos Chapman's dollhouse complete with Lily Donaldson puppet. See them on High Snobiety.
Looking forward to getting my hands on all three next week. Garden party to follow.
In the August issue of Inked Magazine, on newsstands now, I interview the tattooer's tattooer, Mike Rubendall of Kings Avenue. In our Q&A, we discuss the new Kings Ave on the legendary Bowery in NYC (also posted here), his grueling apprenticeship when he was 17, and what it's like tattooing a dead body. Here's a taste:
What is the tattoo that you've done that sticks out most in your memory?
Read more in the "Icon" section of Inked.
You can also follow Brian's own experience getting tattooed by Mike here on N+S.
Even though King's Ave NYC opened their doors to the public back on April 1st, it's now time for us to party!
On Thursday, May 12th, Mike Rubendall, Grez and the rest of the crew invite you to stop by the shop at 8pm for "drinks, friends and family" (and, at the very least, I can assure you firsthand that the shop is utterly gorgeous and well worth a visit). Barring a plague of locusts, I'll be there with our estemeed editrix in tow so come on out and say "hello."
What: Kings Ave NYC Grand Opening Party
When: Thursday, May 12th - 8pm
Where: 188 Bowery (at Spring St) - New York City
Why: Like you gotta ask...
[UPDATE: Over at Tattoosday, you can enter for the chance to win a Kings Ave T-shirt!]
[Logo by Ryan Begley]
As a loyal client of Mike Rubendall and an admirer of the superlative tattooing that occurs at his Massapequa, NY shop, Kings Avenue Tattoo, news like this comes as a blessing for all of us City-Rats: Kings Avenue will be opening a location in downtown Manhattan.
With his associate, Grez, Rubendall has decided to open a shop in New York City, "for the simple fact of wanting to be a part of the energy, life, and creativity that Manhattan possesses. We have always been tremendously motivated and inspired by the people and art in NYC, and felt it was time for Kings Ave to grow."
Personally, I look forward to seeing their new space (their Long Island location is a beautiful, relaxed and sanitary sight to behold), not to mention a much shorter train ride home as I'm wrapped in plastic and reeking of green soap.
Tattoo collectors and enthusiasts can look forward to work from Rubendall and Grez in addition to the very talented Matt Beckerich, Justin Weatherholtz, Brian Paul, Shaun Nel and Sarah Schor (see the Kings Ave Artists Page for their portfolios). Kings Ave NYC will also host gifted guest-artists, having previously opened their autoclave doors to the likes of Chris Nunez, Chris O'Donnell, Kat Von D, Henning Jorgenson, Juan Puente and Tim Hendricks.
Kings Ave NYC, located at 188 Bowery (at Spring St) will open this Friday, April 1st. The shop will be open from 12pm-9pm on Monday through Saturday and 12pm until 6pm on Sunday.
For more information please visit kingsavenuetattoo.com or friend them on facebook.
[Backpiece by Mike Rubendall]
To date, all of my tattoos have been born and raised in the chair - and sometimes the table - of Mike Rubendall at King's Ave Tattoo in Massapequa, Long Island. So, as I prepare my pectorals for a touch-up session at the end of the month (which i wrote about here and here), I was happy to see that the Long Island Press has done a massive, five-page profile on The Man, himself.
The article covers a wide spectrum of information, from his apprentice days under Frank Romano at Da Vinci Tattoo, to getting chaffeured to Manhattan to tattoo rapper Damon Dash (and an interesting exchange with Naomi Campbell), to Rubendall's global travels to get his own body-suit completed by Filip Leu, Chris Trevino and Horitomo.
I would highly recommend checking the article, but if you're pinched for time or are simply entertained by blinking lights and buzzing machines, you can check out the video below.
[Ed. note - Brian Grosz has been getting tattooed by Mike Rubendall of Kings Ave Tattoo for several years now. His previous reflections on the process can be found here.]
Outside of the fluorescent lighting and the lack of leg-room, the train ride out to Massapequa was fairly painless. Ordinarily, I drive out to my sessions at Kings Ave Tattoo, but given the miserable weather (and the fact that NYC trending topics on Twitter were "Snowpocalypse" and "SnowtoriousBIG"), I decided that mass transit was the way to go. After all, I find driving in Long Island to be fairly treacherous in the first place, but the moment the weather turns sour, my van pulls a Cinderella and morphs into a giant lunchbox/cinder-block with Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel after a long night at the club.
I ducked into the cab-stand at the train station, which was manned by a squat man with hair plugs watching horse racing on a flickering television set. When he asked where I was heading and I replied, "844 Broadway at North Kings," he keyed the button on his dispatch handset and growled, "Someone get down here - I got one for the tattoo shop!" I suppose it's a popular destination in them there parts...
The cab screeched up outside and as I closed the door behind me, my driver - an older guy in a satin "Vietnam Vet" baseball jacket and presumably a laryngectomy - turned around, raised a device to his throat and asked in a robotic montone, "Tattoo shop?"
I responded in the affirmative as casually as I could, thinking to myself, "Jesus, I've gotta quit smoking..." But, as he spun the wheels and swerved out onto Broadway, I was hit with the notion that I'd actually had this very same cab driver in Poughkeepsie, NY, over a decade ago. After all, both hacks had the same flagrant disregard for traffic laws and the passenger's bill of rights.
While Mike was setting up and choosing colors for the left side of my chest (I've tried to keep this piece entirely in his hands in terms of color choice, design elements, etc), I mentioned my experience with my cyborg cab driver and the long-shot possibility that he had driven me to the Poughkeepsie train station back in '98.
"He's been driving forever and he did disappear for a few years - it's totally a possibility."
"No shit," I mused. "But I figured it would be rude if I asked him, based solely on the cabby/voice-box connection."
"Well," Mike proposed with a smile, "You could've asked him, 'Do you have a brother in Poughkeepsie? Because I know a cabby up there who sounds just like you...'"
A couple of hours later, we had completed the color for the Fu dog on my left side: orange and golden mane, red spots and blue eyes (for my father; the dog on the right will have green eyes, like my mother and an inverted color scheme). As I carefully slid into my shirt and coat to venture back out into the cold, Eric at the front desk rang up the cab company for my return trip to the train station. Apparently someone on the other line picked up because he simply replied, "Yeah" and hung up the phone.
"That was easy," I said.
In his best impression of the dispatcher he said gruffly, "Tattoo shop - one goin to the rail, right?"
I could only imagine who would be my driver on the way back... Admittedly, I was kinda hoping for Handsome John Pruitt - that guy with the hook for a hand who drove the tow-truck in Adventures In Babysitting.
[Kings Avenue Tattoo is located in Massapequa, Long Island and is home to artists Mike Rubendall, Grez, Matt Beckerich, Justin Weatherholtz and Brian Paul. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 516-799-5464]