The other day, I was waiting on a check-out line in the supermarket, and in front of me, was a young woman with a tattoo that was so scratched into her neck it was a 3D scar. It took up the full half of her neck and when she turned around, I saw that it scrawled to the front of her throat. And that's when I could see what was etched: "Property of Sam (or something close to Sam)" written in child's font, likely unintentionally. I felt really sad for her. To wear a tattoo so prominently that would inspire people to give you a hug is likely to have a real negative impact on your life, regardless who Sam is and why he deserves such a tribute (assuming that the tattoo is even voluntary).
Later that day, my friend Ron of soulhead, sent me this NY Times piece on tattoo removal. Normally, I don't pay much attention to removal stories, preferring to focus the blog on tattoo triumphs rather than mistakes. But this woman inspired me to read and share. It left me grateful that laser tattoo removal technology is exponentially evolving so that people aren't left to suffer a jacked up neck tattoo or a tiny sorority blotch (which is the subject of the Times piece). Here's a bit from the article:
The new laser, called a picosecond, because it fires pulses at a trillionth of a second, works the same way that the previous generation of lasers did, which is by breaking down the ink so that the body can absorb it.Another interesting point in the article is how different colors and types of ink respond to lasers: "Pink ink, for example, often contains iron oxide, which means it may turn black under a laser, a less-than-desirable outcome, particularly if one has, for example, tattooed pink lip liner."
Many years ago, I got an old tattoo laser-lightened. It was a good tattoo, but at the time I got it, I didn't envision working on a body suit and this work just didn't flow with the big tattoo plan. Removal was expensive and it hurt. A lot. Something I've conveyed to more than one person who has told me that he can "just get it lasered" in reference to a ill-informed impulse tattoo.
Especially with the tattoo trends of face/neck/hands and nothing else, the removal story is becoming more of something I want to read, especially if it offers some hope to those who think they are someone else's property.
Photo of Beverly Yuen Thompson above.
Money, sex and more were part of the recent tattoo headlines ...
Starting with dollar signs, two articles focused on tattoo economics: the "The business of making tattoos go away" and "Tattoos: The ultimate art investment?" The tattoo removal story, which looks at Vamoose, a laser removal business in Chicago, is not really interesting in itself; what caught my attention was how one partner in Vamoose stated that he expected "a spike [in business] from a new Chicago Police Department rule forbidding officers to show tattoos while in uniform if the ban survives a court challenge." Tattoo bans can lead to bigger bucks it seems.
The art investment article is a better read. It leads off with the $55,000 body suit of our friend Jesus Ayala, whose stunning work by David Sena is really priceless. [You can see more of Jesus' tattoos in this pic with my sis and Andrew (also tattooed by David) at the NYC tattoo convention.]
Both articles cite some different numbers on what Americans allegedly spend on tattoos annually: the removal story cites an old Pew Research study putting that number at $1.65 billion, while the other article cites an IbisWorld study saying that, by 2020, revenue from the tattoo industry [as a whole -- not just what people spend] is expected to surpass a billion dollars. Both seem low to me. There are a lot of 55K bodysuits across America, not to mention the rise in rates with the rise of "celebrity tattoo artists." Looks like it's time for a new study.
On sex front ... "The Secret Lives Of Tattooed Women" looks at Beverly Yuen Thompson's new book, "Covered in Ink Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body." I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy; after having some great conversations with Beverly for the book about what heavily tattooed women experience -- positive & negative -- I'm sure it's a wonderful read. There's naturally discussion of how we're often viewed as sexually available and of "questionable character." Here's a taste from the article:
As recently as the 1950s, one artist, Samuel Steward, recalled enforcing a rule of spousal permission for women getting tattoos to avoid blowback from furious husbands; some women, such as the partners of bikers, were permitted to get tattoos... that branded them as "Property of" their men. During that time period, Thompson pointed out, "policies that required women to have parental or spousal permission for doing many things in their daily life were common." A tattooed woman might seem on the fringes of society, of questionable character, not appropriately deferential to a male authority. Even now, she said, this pressure continues informally: "Many tattoo artists report that after getting divorced, women come to tattoo studios in droves, and say things like, 'My husband would never let me get a tattoo. So now I can!'"You can order the book online at NYU Press. Also check Beverly's documentary "Covered," which is available in its entirety on YouTube here.
Looking at a family of tattooed women in Bristol, check this sweet article, "Three generations of women got a tattoo after eldest of the trio declared "you only live once." [Thanks for the link, Paul!]
And beloved tattoo matriarch, Loretta Leu, talks about giving her first tattoo, which is a great read. Find more history on the iconic tattoo family here.
The tattoo news also included news on celebrity tattoo mistakes, and other ridiculousness but that doesn't leave much to think or talk about. Always feel free to share your thoughts on the headlines in our Facebook group or Tweet at me. [I also have this Instagram thing.]
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.
From TheAppendix.net: "Europeans and indigenous Americans being judged at the court of Nature for modifying their bodies, from the frontispiece to John Bulwer's Anthropometamorphosis (London, 1656). Wikimedia Commons."
A perfect follow-up to yesterday's post of a 1902 newspaper feature on tattoos is another wonderful history article, published yesterday in The Appendix, entitled: Indelible Ink: The Deep History of Tattoo Removal. Mairin Odle, a PhD candidate in Atlantic History at NYU, cites texts, from as old as a sixth-century encyclopedia of medicine, that discuss ancient tattoo removal procedures; she also offers stories of frustration over the difficulty in removing permanent markings -- the same frustration people talk of today.
Here's a bit from Odle's text:
By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, documentation of tattoo removal was often found in accounts of Europeans in contact with cultures overseas--particularly, although not exclusively, societies in the New World. The failed effort to remove the English pirate's facial tattoo was not the only attempt at such a procedure in the early modern Atlantic world. A number of French, Spanish, English, and Native American sources suggest that people of the period could regret their permanent body modifications just as much as modern people do.As much as I am a cheerleader for the tattoo community, I think Odle is absolutely correct that the "regret" issue has not really been explored fully when discussing tattoo culture -- beyond the silly tabloid articles. I think this history of tattoo removal article is a great start.
Read more of the article here.
[Thank you, Lindy Hazel LaDue, for the link!]
We spend a lot of time here at the Needles and Sins Compound discussing the application of tattoos but, every now and again, the issue of removal comes up. More often than not, any discussions of removal are about making way for a larger piece or eliminating a youthful "mistake," but I recently watched the documentary "Erasing Hate" and another facet was revealed: what happens when your tattoos no longer represent your personal ideology, much less your ability to function in society?
The documentary profiles Bryon Widner who joined the racist skinhead movement in the American mid-west as a teenager and it wasn't long before he had adorned his face with the violent markings of a violent ethos and lifestyle. But as he grew older... he grew up - recanting both his bigotry and beliefs. The one problem? Well, it's kind of hard to re-enter a culture of equal rights when your face is covered in images of racism.
In an interesting turn, he reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center for help - an organization known for battling and monitoring hate-groups. They not only located a plastic surgeon who agreed to do the removal, but they also provided $35,000 for the grueling two-year procedure through an anonymous donor. The documentary follows Bryon and his family over the course of his journey and it's definitely worth a watch (especially if, like me, you hate neo-Nazis).
"Erasing Hate" is available on Netflix streaming, or for $1.99 on Amazon instant video.
Tattoo by Gene Coffey stolen from TattooNow.com's Tattoo of the Day.
Beautiful walking works of tattoo art, like ya fine selves, are becoming a tattoo majority, and yet, those who pollute the tattoo gene pool make the big headlines. Sheesh. It wasn't a pretty week for tattoo folk in the news thanks to rabid sports fans, Nazis, and of course, Stephen Baldwin.
Let's begin our review with the burning post-Super Bowl question: What's the ColtsSkinDeep dude feeling like this morning, and will all those autograph tattoos be covered by better memories of yesterday like Betty White/Abe Vigoda portraits or the
Even the Tongan ancestral tattoos of Colts' Fili Moala could not bring the mojo for the team.
While there were plenty of stories on Super Bowl tattoos (even videos), one rebel reporter wrote a feauture on those who prefer the pain of a new tattoo over the Cheetos and beer halftime heartburn. Score!
Indeed, sports tattoos are generally not credited in the evolution of fine art tattooing, but at least they don't further stigmatize the tattooed as criminals like these jackasses:
A Nazi firebombed a tattoo studio in Monterey because they refused his tattoo request: a swastika and an image of President Obama overlaid with crosshairs. He faces seven years in prison for this and another torching.
An upstate NY tattooist was arrested after being found via his social network posts; cops further punked him by leaving this note on his Facebook wall: "Just a quick thank you for giving us your current employer's name and address. Without the help from you and your friends, your arrest would not have been possible. Special thanks for the excellent photos you provided for the U.S. Marshals. Without the help of criminals such as yourself, our job would be much more difficult."
Yet another criminal, this one with a tattoo that reads "Why Try" across his head, is astounded that he was identified (and arrested) for choking a 72-year-old man in a carjacking.
Beyond the criminals, tattoo stereotypes will remain as long as people with bad taste continue to get them. You'd think a bastardized Ed Hardy design tee would be enough, but some need to take their gift of gauche to the next level.
That level being a pornographic Mario Bros tattoo.
Such mistakes can be left behind when we pass -- an upside of death! -- but not for some who wish to enshrine their decorated skin, or at least try to like this dude:
A New Zealand man requested his tattoos be preserved upon his death but because the guy who handles this stuff was on vacation, the body was cremated instead, tattooed skin and all. The family is considering suit over the lost tattoo collection, which includes a Playboy bunny, Aries and Taurus signs, and a DB Export beer logo -- tattoos fiercely mocked by someone other than myself.
And then there are ... sigh ...
... Tattoo. Removal.
I promise to remove such ugly thoughts by focusing on top tattoo work this week like the image above by Gene Coffey stolen from TattooNow.com's Tattoo of the Day.
With the exception of the occasional Andy Samberg song, I do everything humanly possible to avoid Saturday Night Live - even going so far as to throw out my television (contrary to media reports that if was sold for blow and an outstanding debt to a bookmaker). But thanks to my primary news source, Metal Sucks, this little piece of "advertising" came across my radar...
Photo by Alan Berner/Seattle Times
I'm gonna geek out on you a bit for today's tattoo news review. As a heavily tattooed lawyer, any time I see a news item that deals with issues like First Amendment or tattoo bans, I get giddy, as if Bradgelina came to my very own McDonald's drive thru. Well, this past week, there was plenty to squeal about.
Check the tattoo law headlines ...
Last week, a new policy went into effect for St Louis cops that bans visible tattoos. Those who did not comply were sent home. The St. Louis Police Officers' Association says it's unfair and will be meeting this week to discuss the new dress code. In general, it's a tough battle to fight.
In 2006, the Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Inturri v. City of Hartford, upheld a similar ban for Hartford, CT cops, setting precedent that such dress codes do not violate the First Amendment. It said, "A police department has a reasonable interest in not offending or appearing unprofessional before the public it serves." Further, in a federal case in Texas, Riggs v. City of Fort Worth, the District Court said that "A police officer's uniform is not a forum for fostering public discourse or expressing one's personal beliefs."
The bottom line is that tattoo stereotypes still exist and if the public cannot trust the police, the bans fulfill a "legitimate purpose" as long as they are not applied in a discriminatory way. The best way to combat the bans is to fight the stereotypes.
Alas, after the weekend I had, I fulfilled every negative tattooed chick stereotype in the book. Do as I say, not as I do, my friends.
This guy also doesn't help our cause: Tattoo gives away nine-time drunken-driving suspect who tried to fool a cop with a bogus license but the officer remembered the tattoo from a previous arrest.
Tattoo bans in public schools like this latest one in western Kentucky, however, can be fought.
As I wrote in my 2005 Legal Link column entitled "Fighting Oppressive School Dress Codes," the 1969 landmark Supreme Court case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District gave students the right to freedom of speech. Read my article for points on how parents and students can exercise this right and fight against school body art bans.
In convention coverage ...
The Seattle Times reported on the Seattle Tattoo Expo, which took place this past weekend. The article features great photos by Alan Berner like the one above of Becky Long undergoing a 6-hour session at the show under the needles of Paul Zenk of Portland's Infinity Tattoo. Paul was one of the 285 tattoo artists working the Expo where an estimated 10,000 tattoo lovers attended.
The Times article also has a great quote from Body Graphics's Bill Funk on tattoo culture:
"What we see now is a complete reflection of society in general. There is no tattoo subculture. The lines have been blurred. If you have a love of the art, you're going to get a tattoo."
Seattle Pi also has an extensive slideshow of the Expo with photos like this one right by Daniel Berman. Check it. [Thanks, Bill!]
In tattoo business ventures ...
Call your stock broker! Tattoo removal company, Dr Tattoff is expanding and wants to go public next year. John Keefe, Dr. Tattoff's chief executive, estimates that tattoo removal could be a $10-billion-a-year industry. He wouldn't give figures for his own profits but did say that Tattoff is a multimillion-dollar business.
KansasCity.com explores how tattoo art has made its way onto gift registries but in the form of tableware, home decor, and bedding. At the end of the article, they list tattoo-inspired goods along with websites and prices (like the $65,000 price tag on Kiki Smith's "Tattoo Vase" for Steuben Glass).
In celebrity tattoo snooze ...
Posh's latest Hebrew tattoo gets pimped in Israeli press.
Lady Gaga waxes poetic over her new Rilke tattoo.
Ryan Gosling has a tattoo inspired by Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree." [Thanks, Scott!]
But I liked this bit: Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone show off their very real tattoos in their upcoming film The Expendables. Mickey plays a tough tattoo artist, drawing inspiration I'm sure from his own artist Mark Mahoney of Shamrock Social Club. Also read more about Stallone's tattoo work here.
More Quick & Dirty Links ...