Senior Medic Ron Riveira of the California Army National Guard's 184th Air Assault. (Courtesy of War Ink.)
There were a few tattoo headlines that have been making major news, so I figured I wouldn't wait until Monday to share.
The biggest headline is the US Army just announced that it will revise its tattoo policy. As I wrote about last May, the Army banned tattoos below the knee or elbow (although soldiers who already had those tattoos were "grandfathered" in). In explaining why the Army's appearance policy has been changed again, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey stated that the message he got from the soldiers he talks to is "Soldiers have tattoos, tattoos are acceptable now, and the tattoo policy might affect a decision to re-enlist." Another factor was that the discontent with the policy wasn't just coming from soldiers, but officers as well. So, with the new changes, "soldiers will no longer be limited to a particular size or number of tattoos permitted on the arms or legs, provided those tattoos are not extremist, indecent, sexist or racist." The policy will continue to prohibit tattoos above the t-shirt neckline, on the head, face, wrists and hands. But wait -- there will also be an exception allowing one ring tattoo on each hand. Who said the Army isn't romantic?!
Tattoos are so entwined with the armed forces -- and are also an outlet of expression for what servicemen and women have gone through. A perfect example of this is War Ink, a virtual exhibit that explores the experiences of 24 veterans (most of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan), as illustrated by their tattoos. I highly recommend spending time on the War Ink site is you haven't already.
In other news, there was a collective "Oh, damn!" online when links hit social media with this story: "Texas Tattoo Sham: Promoter Red Neilson Escorted Out Of Own Show For Nonpayment." As I wrote about in my last Tattoo News Review, there was some beef behind competing tattoo shows in San Antonio, Texas: The 12th Annual Slinging Ink Tattoo Expo and then the Texas Tattoo Jam, which was held the following week. Well, as the headline notes, the promoter of the Texas Tattoo Jam was escorted from San Antonio Event Center ("SAEC") by security. According to the San Antonio Current, she was asked to leave for failure to pay the venue -- but also for her own safety. Turns out that she is also accused of not paying her guest tattoo artists, performers and musicians, venue security, and a local event management company. "To stop a pending riot, she was basically evicted from the show," Michelle Coben , co-owner of SAEC, told the San Antonio Current. The article also reports:
Coben said Neilson initially paid her a $1,000 deposit to book the venue. SAEC usually asks renters to pay the remaining balance 5-15 days prior to the event, but Neilson did not. Coben said since she knew tattoo artists had travelled from California, Florida and even as far away as Italy to attend the show, she made the decision to open the doors for the expo anyway. Coben said they also had Neilson sign a new contract that stated she would pay the remaining balance hour by hour during the expo until the entire amount - $13,000 - was paid in full.I've been hearing a lot of tattoo convention drama recently, but that's the most dramatic. So far.
In more artful news ...
The Daily Mail featured legendary London tattooer Lal Hardy, focusing on how he's taken botched tattoos and made them beautiful. The article offers some Before & After pics like the one below.
Another renowned artist, Tim Hendricks, is featured in OC Weekly, in which he talks about "Tattooing's 'Glamorous' Misconception."
Finally, in less artful news ...
Some rapper got drunk with Tara Reid on a flight and got her name tattooed on him. Sigh. It's no "Marisa Love Me" tattoo for sure.
Cover up by Lal Hardy.
Interesting news stories this week include jail time for certain tattoos in Myanmar, the impact of US Army tattoo rules, tattoo-related infections in Japan, a Brooklyn tattoo studio profile, and a beautiful new tattoo for quarterback Colin Kaeprnick.If you find a cool tattoo news item, let me know via Facebook, Twitter, or hit me up at marisa at needlesandsins.com.
First up, tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman pointed out, in the Needles & Sins Facebook group, this article: "Below-the-Belt Burma Map Could Earn Jail Time for the Tattooed." It's an fascinating quick piece about how a provision of Myanmar's State Seal law, which prohibits anyone from "disgracefully using or destroying anything that represents the country's symbol (including the map outline of the country)," can be used to impose a 3-year prison term on anyone who gets a tattoo of the map of Burma on the lower part of their body. The article quotes one lawmaker citing a chief justice who declared:
"It is acceptable if they tattoo the map on the upper part of body to show their love for the country. But if it is in the lower part of the body, it's inappropriate." [...] Thein Lwin [a district representative] said he had noticed the growing popularity of tattoos among young people to express themselves, and felt the map should be protected from inappropriate use."Also interesting is the impact of the new revisions to the US Army's grooming & appearance standards, as noted in AZ Central's "300 prospective Phoenix Army recruits rejected over tattoos." [Note: The news video automatically loads when you click the link, including sound.] According to the article, "Nearly 30 prospective enlistees on average are being turned away each week from Army recruiting stations in Phoenix" because of the new regulations. It's also noted, "The Army is allowing soldiers to keep older tattoos as long as their content isn't forbidden and they were documented before the new rules took effect." Naturally, that means that a lot of enlisted men and women had hit the tattoo studios to finish up or get new work before the rules went into effect. For more on the regs, check our "Military Tattoo Battles" post.
Tattoo-linked infections sent a handful of American troops to the US Naval Hospital in Okinawa Japan, as noted in this Stars & Stripes piece last month. The follow-up to that story this week is the Military.com article, "Military Won't Name Tattoo Shops in Infection Case." It's reported that Naval Hospital officials stated that they would not identify the three possible studios where the servicemembers contracted infections (which were "easily treatable") for the following reason: "If we posted a list of tattoo parlors that were linked to infections, it would imply that establishments not on the list were safe and tacitly endorsed by the hospital." The article also notes that Japanese health officials weighed in:
"There is no license or permission for tattoo businesses in Japan," said Hiroaki Arakaki, spokesman for the Health Care Policy Division of the Medial Department of the Okinawa Prefectural Government. "If we can confirm that the subject shops engage in tattooing, the government will instruct the shops to stop the illegal conduct," he said.In more artful news, we can rejoice that the movement of sports stars getting really great tattoos (instead of the impulse-driven scratches we often see) continues! Here's quarterback Colin Kaeprnick's new work (shown above) tattooed by the excellent Carlos Torres. The tattoo design is reportedly based on the "money is the root of all evil" biblical reference. According to TMZ, Colin first reached out to Carlos through Instagram to ask about getting an appointment. Carlos told TMZ"
"[Colin] sent me a drawing of his idea ... There was a lot going on so I simplified it. Not every piece of art makes a great tattoo, so I refined it so it'd be a great tattoo. But Colin came up with the concept." He added, "We did three sittings. They were each eight, nine hours long. The side of the ribs are a painful area, but Colin laid there like a rock."Finally, I highly recommend checking this Complex Magazine profile on East River Tattoo in Brooklyn. Our friend Nick Schonberger, Complex Deputy Editor, offers his thoughts on what makes the studio a stand-out in a sea of stellar shops in Brooklyn, and there are also cool photos of East River that capture its vibe by Liz Barclay, such as this one below.
Fallen Soldier tattoo above on US Marine Sergeant Inman, done at Hart & Huntington, via Grunt.com.
This Memorial Day weekend in the US is a time to commemorate the men and women who died while in the military service. There are many tattoos created in tribute to those lost in war, many of which you can find on sites like Military.com or Grunt.com, from which the tattoo above was posted.
One common motif for military memorial tattoos is that of the Fallen Soldier or Battlefield Cross, as represented here in Sgt. Inman's tribute. As per Wikipedia (which is not a verified source, of course): "The practice started during the American Civil War or maybe earlier as a means of identifying the bodies on the battleground before they were removed. Today, it is an immediate means of showing respect for the fallen among the still living members of the troop." The Wiki page also led to more info found in the US Army's "Soldier's Guide," which offers more on the symbolism of the Battlefield Cross:
Most units prepare a visible reminder of the deceased soldier similar to that depicted in Figure C-1. The helmet and identification tags signify the fallen soldier. The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer, a break in the action to pay tribute to our comrade. The combat boots represent the final march of the last battle. The beret (in the case of soldiers from airborne units) reminds us that the soldier has taken part in his final jump.Naturally, there are variations in the interpretation of this iconic tribute, which leads to some interesting research behind the imagery found in so many memorial tattoos.
See more Fallen Soldier tattoos via Google image.
Also interesting is the history behind Memorial Day itself. In this NY Times article, David W. Blight, a professor of history at Yale University, states that the origins of Memorial Day derived from "a mostly forgotten--or possibly suppressed--event in Charleston, S.C., in 1865 at a racetrack turned war prison. Black workmen properly reburied the Union dead that were found there, and on May 1, a cemetery dedication was held, attended by thousands of freed blacks who marched in procession around the track."
And so, while we take time with family and friends, and for ourselves, this weekend, let's also reflect on the meaning of this day.
Tattoo above by Jerrett of Monarch Tattoo in Washington.
Tattoo by Tim Kern.
Stricter new rules governing tattoos and other appearance issues in the US Army have been approved, and once signed, will take effect in a matter of weeks. According to Stars & Stripes, the Army will soon ban tattoos visible below the elbows and knees, and above the neck; however, existing tattoos may be "grandfathered" in.
The new rules also continue the prohibition on racist, sexist or extremist tattoos, but go even further and make removal of such tattoos mandatory. Here's more from Stars & Stripes:
Once the rules are implemented, soldiers will sit down with their unit leaders and "self identify" each tattoo. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy, [Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond] Chandler said.I understand the ban against tattoos that are racist, sexist, and the like -- although, these tattoos do offer an upfront insight into the person you're dealing with (and whether he/she may have your back in combat). But does the prohibition on artful tattoos take things too far? There is such a historic tattoo tradition in the military; tattoos are used to express loyalty & commitment to one's division; to memorialize fellow soldiers who died; and to mark personal achievements and milestones.
I asked a friend who spent a long time serving in Iraq & Afghanistan what he thought about the rules, and he said that there are more important reasons than simply maintaining a "uniform look," and he shared instances where being tattooed actually affected a soldier's performance of his/her duties. Leaving aside that those in covert ops need to stay, well, covert, a big problem my friend witnessed was that tattooed soldiers faced issues when dealing with Iraqi military as well as civilians because of the negative stigma attached to tattoos. He said that he witnessed an Iraqi officer refuse to deal with a tattooed US military officer because he did not believe that someone with a tattoo could hold any rank. My friend added that it's hard to "win the hearts of minds of the people" when their minds are clearly occupied with cultural bias, and even fear, of tattoos.
However, you look at it, with this grandfather clause in effect, I'm guessing tattoo studios, especially those near military bases, are going to be pretty busy over the next few weeks as soldiers either get new work or finish sleeves and other major work in progress.
Over the weekend, the Army Times reported on potential new grooming regulations that govern tattoos as well as other appearance standards. And if soldiers don't comply, they could face some serious trouble.
According to the article, here are the new tattoo and piercing rules proposed:
Tattoos will not be visible above the neck line when the physical fitness uniform is worn. Tattoos will not extend below the wrist line and not be visible on the hands. Sleeve tattoos will be prohibited. (This rule may be grandfathered.)The regulations still have to be "tweaked" to make sure they are "feasible, affordable and reasonable." And legal. One of the big problems I have, in relation to these standards, is forced tattoo removal -- which was actually mentioned as a possibility by a Sergeant Major and other senior leaders. While I don't know anything about military law, it's not improbable that a removal requirement could face a legal challenge.
The removal discussion follows a note on "inappropriate tattoos," but it seems that, for those with existing tattoos not deemed inappropriate, the work could be "grandfathered" in and soldiers wouldn't be penalized.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Read more about the rules in the Army Times.
Yesterday, Father Panik gave us his own (special brand of) review of the Star of Texas tattoo convention in Austin, but he wasn't the only one offering reportage of the event. Austin 360 gave a play-by-play (and a small lame sideshow), while TV stations KRQE and Fox Austin posted short videos online of the show. I dig these photos and quick videos because they offer a look at the scene, which helps decide what will be on my convention schedule next year.
The Bangkok International Tattoo Convention also got some nice coverage. Reuters took beautiful photos from the show including the one above, and CNN has a few nice shots as well. Sky News joined in with a video from the floor.
With thousands attending these conventions worldwide -- and the media chasing after us -- you'd think that the debate whether "tattoos have gone mainstream" was thoroughly squashed, but a new study says otherwise.
Texas Tech University's "Body Art Team" [real name] has found "The more body art you have, the more likely you are to be involved in deviance," according to the Chicago Tribune. The swat Body Art Team surveyed 1,753 students at four colleges and reported that the heavily tattooed and pierced drank more, did drugs more, had sex more and cheated in class more. [They add, "For low-level body art, these kids are not any different from anybody else."]
NBC news in Dallas also reported on the study and gave this reasoning behind the results:
To see what tattooed people think about the study, NBC went to a local studio and talked to artists and clients -- who, as expected, laughed at it. Watch their video report below:
The study is somewhat silly in its over-generalization and limited study group: How many of us drank, smoked and fucked more in college? A lot.
But yes, we've seen more young people heavily tattooed and modified in more extreme ways than just a decade ago. I wonder, though, if it's because of a need to rebel or simply because there is greater access to tattoos and mod procedures. Feel free to weigh in in the comments section.
If anyone is pissed off about the popularity of tattoos, it's Helen Mirren, who got her hand tattoo while drunk and lookin' to be baaaad.
Tattoos are not popular enough for Armani, however. They airbrushed those of Megan Fox in their latest undie ad.
Even less scientific than the deviant study: "How tattoos can reveal your lover's personality."
The Marine Corps are also concerned about heavily tattooed (deviant?) soldiers saying that "tattoos of an
excessive nature do not represent our traditional values." Values like Shock & Awe? A new Marine Corps reg tightens and clarifies tattoo policies for active-duty troops; most notably, it "prohibits enlisted Marines with sleeve tattoos from becoming
commissioned officers, even if the tattoos, which were banned in 2007,
had been grandfathered in according to protocol." I know this is wacky but I have no problem with our military lookin'
Real deviants will soon be less likely to get tattooed with new technology that matches tattoos to criminal records. The newest development called "Tattoo ID" helps law enforcement match up tattoos to suspects and victims. For example, the Boston Herald says that "a security camera image of a suspect's tattoo could be checked against an image databank to come up with a short list of suspects." Problem here is that we assume most criminals have artistic acumen for fine art custom tattoos. What about those who picked off some flash from a tattoo shop wall along with tons of other clients? Internet-industry journal IEEE Spectrum asks, "Is a tattoo ... enough of a unique identifier to put someone under suspicion?" A valid question to explore before innocent tattooed people are accused.
In more on the tattoo law front ...
A new tattoo bill in Florida will prohinit those 16 and under from getting tattooed even with parental permission. [Teenagers 16 or 17 years old would still need a parent to sign for them.] The bill also requires every tattoo artist in Panama City to register with the Florida Department of Health.
In South Carolina, however, tattoo rules are being eased. The state's tough tattoo law requires parental consent for tattoos on those aged under 20 years of age, but that restriction will be lifted if a state House bill passes and the Governor signs off on it. An impetus for the change is soldiers under 20 returning to South Carolina after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who want to get tattooed but can't -- they're allowed to be shot at but not tattooed.
On the pop culture tip ...
Check this black light Lost tattoo. The story behind it is pretty cool:
"In the late summer of '08, I took my Lost love to the next level by getting a Dharma tattoo inked onto my ankle. Since my good pal had recently started working at small parlor nearby, we decided to collaborate. I had been wanting to experiment with iridescent ink. My pal had never worked with the stuff, so we struck a deal: I would be his guinea pig if he would spring for the ink.
If you've never heard of it, iridescent ink is a dye that glows under a black light. The tough thing about tattooing with it is that you have to illuminate the surface of the skin just to see what you're doing.
Dharma logo seemed perfect for this technique, with a thick,
recognizable shape....We decided to use the Looking Glass Station's
logo -- a white rabbit inside of the Dharma shape -- a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and the (site) of my favorite Lost episode, the Season 3 finale."
In clear tattoo view, a Baton Rouge man tempts fate with a "Saints Superbowl Champion" tattoo even before this past Sunday's game. Thankfully, they at least made it to the Super Bowl.
Best Headline (and Jersey Shore reference): "This Is Why Cadillac Has an Image Problem.
Worst press release ever. "Tattoo body art is not only a kind of body art but a great way of advertising your business and products as tattoo advertising has many merits compared to other ways of advertising."
And More Quick & Dirty Links ...
Beyond Nazi tattoo cover-ups and and celebrity tattoo trifles, the headlines this week also featured stories that made us feel a little less soiled.
On Discovery's awesome Science Tattoo blog, I learned from this science teacher and her endangered species tattoo about the Ext Inked, a project from Ultimate Holding Company (a Machester art co-op) that celebrates Charles Darwin's 200th birthday by inviting 100 volunteers to become the ambassadors of 100 endangered UK species -- that is, by being tattooed with the image of their chosen mammal, invertebrate, bird, reptile, fish or plant. The tattoos, like the one above, were done by the artists of Ink vs. Steel in Leeds. See more photos on their Facebook group and Flickr pages.
On the other English coast, in Lincolnshire, tattooing the town mascot will cost ya. The Skegness Town Council is requiring tattooists pay a ten pound fee for tattooing the famous Jolly Fisherman, somewhat of a local logo since it was designed as a ad for the coastal resort town in 1908. Could this be the makings of a tattoo copyright fight?
And in Derbyshire, university forensic scientists are exploring how using an infrared digital camera can determine if a tattoo is an original or a cover-up. So criminals who have tattooed over or lazered distinct tattoos to evade identification may not have an easy pass after all.
In Nottinghamshire (if you're not sure on shires, see this map), one rock fan is trying for a world record by getting portrait tattoos of his favorite musicians and celebs, and then having them sign his bod (he then tattoos the autographs). Portraits range from Ozzy to Anastacia to The Corrs. And, surprisingly, he is being abused on message boards for his musical taste.
Back in the US ...
The American Statesman (A.S. photo above by Ralph Barrerra) looks at how soldiers deal with the stress of war and last month's shootings by finding comfort in places like tattoo studios. The owner of La Rude's Tattoo Studios explains:
"There's more counseling involved than artwork on a lot of weeks...We're like the bartender without the alcohol. Sometimes they need a nonmilitary ear to listen."
Army Sgt. Ryan Witko, a 27-year-old injured Iraq War vet comes to La Rude's regularly:
For more on tattooed soldiers and Fort Hood, see our post on the Tattooed Under Fire documentary.
The Stateman article also looked at how soldiers have turned to churches as well as tattoo studios. A church in Mill Creek, Washington offers both worlds. During their Permanent Ink series, sermons are accompanied by the buzz of live tattooing. Praise be.
The waning of the "tattoo taboo" isn't just in the US and UK. The Bangkok Post says that more women in Hong Kong are following the "trend" and getting tattooed.
But there are moments when I long for the "good old days" of underground tattooing, a time when you had to really do your homework and seek out masters of the craft to create your desired work, a tattoo of Lily Allen's nipples on your buttocks.
I'll end there.
Tattoo by Steve Boltz of Smith Street Tattoo.
As Americans head into our Memorial Day weekend, prepping to gorge on BBQ and cultivate sunburns, I figured I'd do a holier-than-thou, finger wagging post to remind us that it's a time to honor and reflect on those who died in service to our country. And I figured I'd do that via memorial and military tattoos, like this one above by Steve Boltz of Smith Street Tattoo in Brooklyn.
You can find an array of those designs on the following sites: