Photo by Joshua Gordon.
On my list of favorite tattoo blogs, for a long time, has been Swallows&Daggers. It's my go-to source for everything about traditional and neo-traditional tattooing, with artist profiles, galleries, and articles on the history behind iconic tattoo imagery.
This month, the Swallows&Daggers crew (who are based in the UK) have created a streetwear brand that is inspired by these traditional tattoo motifs as well as hardcore and hip hop cultures.
Check Respect-Tradition.com for their debut line, which features artwork by Clark Orr, Zach Shuta, and Matt Skiff that is clean and bold, just like a good traditional tattoo. The tees and hoodies can be purchased online and in select retail partners in the US & UK.
If you want to watch cute and really young tattooed boys play around in the shirts, see the video below. Also hit their lookbook on Flickr and Facebook.
This past weekend, the AFP reported on ancient tattoo practices having a contemporary appeal in Rob Bryan's article "Myanmar's tattooed women lure tourists."
In it, you'll read stories of the few remaining Chin women who bear the facial tattoos of their ancestors, a rite of passage and act of beautification for young women that is vanishing as the new generation of Chin have not see its aesthetic appeal. They are, however, seeing how it could prove lucrative. As Rob Bryan reports:
The article also discusses the ethical debate on "human zoos" -- exploitation or education/documentation?
When one of the Chin woman is asked how she feels about the tourists, she says that she welcomes those wishing to learn more about her and her heritage, adding "Sometimes I feel like my parents' spirits are coming back to me through the visitors."
I recommend a full read of the article.
For a related look at the traditional tattoos of that region, read Lars Krutak's article for the Vanishing Tattoo: "Tattoos of Indochina: Supernatural Mysteries of the Flesh."
On New York's Long Island, there's a treasure trove of tattoo history: flash that dates back to the Civil War era, vintage machines, sideshow memorabilia, a file cabinet filled with acetate stencils from the 1930s and so much more. The real treasure is the collector himself, Cliff White of Cliff's Tattoo in Centereach, LI.
When Skin & Ink Magazine asked me to interview Cliff, I jumped at the chance to hear his stories of a time when tattooing was raw and rough but a respect for the craft prevailed. I also spoke with Cliff's son Rob White who carries on the tattoo traditional and is a collector himself. [He's also a comedian.] Part 1 of the article in the February issue is on newsstands now. Here's a taste:
When Cliff began to tattoo in the early eighties, he had to learn to make his own needles, mix his own pigment from powder, tune his own machines, and search to find the right supplies. As an apprentice to William Averso, he scrubbed toilets and mopped floors. He spent hours cutting acetate stencils, a time-honored tradition that built up the muscle in artists' hands. Cliff's apprenticeship also included throwing out unruly clients--of which there were many. He says that guys who walked into the shop would puff out their chests and felt they had to be the toughest guy on the block. "If you worked in a shop back then, no matter how big and bad this guy was--and the biggest and the baddest were your clients--you couldn't let anyone get over on you in your shop," he explains. "That is your territory. If one person gets over on you, then everyone gets over on you. Nowadays, it's like dealing with the boy scouts."Read more in the article, which includes gorgeous shots by Steve Prue.
With almost thirty-years of tattooing behind him, Cliff just recently traded in his tattoo machines for paintbrushes, and has been creating sought-after signage, furniture and decoration--all with an old school tattoo flavor much like his needled portfolio. See more of his work, like the one below, on his Facebook page, or go to Cliff's Tattoo in person, like many do, for an immersion in Americana.
As an added bonus:
Check this video of how Rob White handles crack heads when they come to Cliff's.
When I got back to Brooklyn from the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest in Ireland, I found the latest issue of the wonderful Swallows & Daggers tattoo zine waiting for me. Considering it's published in the place I'd just come from, I've gotten to continue my love affair with the Irish beyond
Swallows & Daggers highlights Traditional and Neo-Traditional tattooing, promoting established and up-n-coming artists working in these styles. And they do so in the coolest of old school and new school ways by offering a paper zine (almost like a tattoo newspaper) with a dynamic blog. Bookmark it!
You can order the hard copy zine, as well as the digital version, through their online store, which also includes flash, tattoo books, prints, and some nice looking tees.
I particularly love the thoughtful tattoo interviews, but also check their section on the meanings behind common tattoo motifs, their growing convention coverage, and sketchbook reviews. In fact, there's a great article in this latest issue that explores the good and bad of mass-produced sketchbooks sold by tattooists and suppliers. ["Do they show a tattooer's particular approach to design or just make it easier for the uncreative?"]
Cheers to Cian David Wright who works his butt off putting it all together.
The devlish Richard Metzger of Disinfo.com has a new site that I'm loving: Dangerous Minds, described as a "compendium of the new and strange--new ideas, new art forms, new approaches to social issues and new finds from the outer reaches of pop culture."
One of my favorite posts is this video of 88 Lines about 44 Women, which contributor Tara McGinley found on Marc Campbell's Facebook page, where The Nails singer wrote:
"In the 30 years since 88 LINES ABOUT 44 WOMEN was first recorded there has never been a video version authorized by THE NAILS. Of the dozens of videos on Youtube that pay homage to the song, this is the only version created by a member of the band, me. So, here's the world premier of 88 LINES the video. Hope you enjoy it. I had fun making it."
Naturally I love the opening with the traditional Malaysian tattoo sequence (and dancing that follows). Keep in mind, as BoingBoing best put it, "the video is NSFW in a 1950s National Geographic sort of way."
Thanks to Sara for turning me on to the video (check out Sara's sister's site: Where's Lulu, a hip guide to places and services that are accessible to people with disabilities in Portland.)