Photos above from the Montreal Tattoo Convention by David Wong.
Tattoo stories in the news this past week included a number of profiles on great artists as well as some interesting features on the intersection of tattoos and economics. Here's the run down:
So, all my social media feeds were blowing up with photos and dispatches from this weekend's Montreal Tattoo Convention. In fact, as I'm typing this, photos are still streaming from the after party. [These days, "after party" for me is a cheeseburger post Zumba class.] For a look into the success behind the show, the Montreal Gazette profiled power couple Pierre Chapelan and Valerie Emond, who fully took over the reigns this year in organizing the show on their own. [They had co-organized it with others for the past 11 years.] I particularly liked that they discussed Pierre's experience learning to tattoo from his father Michel, also a highly respected artist.
For some great shots from the Montreal convention, check David Wong's Flickr photostream, which include the images above of Mikel Tattoo Sangha and tattooing.
In addition to Pierre, another top artist making mainstream headlines is Pietro Sedda, featured in the Daily Star. Granted, his work is shown under the unfortunate headline, "Freaky faceless tattoos! Is this the world's weirdest ink?" but if that's what it takes to get people's attention to exciting and innovative work, well ... it could be worse. We posted on Pietro last October. You can find his latest work, including the tattoo below, on his site, Instagram, and Facebook.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find in The New Yorker a profile on Scott Campbell, tattooer/artist/designer and more recently wine maker. It's a quick read, but an interesting one. Here's a taste:
At sixteen, he got his first real tattoo (after a small starter skull): a huge purple scarab on his left shoulder. His beloved mother had recently died of cancer, and he'd run away from home to Houston, and "the cultural value of anything was how much it irritated my father"--an oil-company executive. "He'd never get a tattoo, so if I got a tattoo it was a promise to myself to never become like him." Texas yawned at his feet. "Now that I'm about the age he was then--well, if I had to deal with my wife dying, and having two kids to raise, I don't know if I could do it without crawling into the bottom of a bottle, either." (Charlie Campbell says that he quit drinking before his wife died.)Beyond artist profiles, The Economist wrote about tattoos and recidivism, that is, how visibly tattooed prisoners tend to find themselves back in jail. Kaitlyn Harger, a PhD student at West Virginia University, states that employers are less likely to hire those with facial/neck/hand and other visible tattoos, which can lead to recidivism. According to Harger, it can cost $30,000 a year to house one prisoner, and so she argues, "free removal for every prisoner would be sensible economics."
Finally, in our Needles & Sins Facebook group, Anna Felicity Friedman pointed to the SF Gate article on the safety risks of tattoo kits, particularly the "Stick & Poke kits," which I wrote about in January. The article also reminds readers that the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks (or these kits). It's my hope that, with all the great features on top tattooers in the news, people will skip the stick & pokes, and go for something safer and artful.
Hand-poked tattoos are experiencing a Renaissance, with stellar professional tattooers reviving the ancient methods of body adornment. Employing techniques passed down from generations, much of hand tattooing comes with strict tradition and sacred rituals. The question is should it come in a box?
When SF tattooist Shannon Archuleta sent me the link to the Stick & Poke Tattoo Kit, we both said that our initial reaction was Oooh nooo. Then there's the rationalization reaction: people have always been sticking and poking themselves, so they might as well be safe. This rationalization is how the kit is touted.
However, upon further reading of the site -- particularly the "Open letter to the precious tattoo artist" on the blog portion -- the disdain for the craft, the hygiene 101 info and bad advice on what to do with the dirty needles, and also the goal of putting the kits in stores around the world, well, it made Shannon and I revert to our original reaction: this is not a good thing.
The first (and probably the last) tattoo I ever did was a hand-poked tattoo; it was under the guidance of a professional tattooist and under sterile conditions. Despite this, the tattoo is not one of my proudest moments. I poked the ink into the skin too deeply, leaving a bit of a scar, nevermind the blurred lines. Thankfully, my friend whom I "tattooed" is a forgiving soul.
Tattooing is difficult. It can be dangerous, especially in spreading bloodborne pathogens. And because of this, it shouldn't be picked off the shelf at an Urban Outfitters.*
What do you think? Share your thoughts under this post on the Needles & Sins FB group page or Tweet at me.
* Update: I should note that the kit is not available at Urban Outfitters and similar stores -- my comment referred to the goal of worldwide distribution, and if that was reached, I could foresee hipster stores carrying it.
stick and poke tattoo kit