Tattoo Archives

09:00 AM
notorious coa.jpg
Update: This original post (edited) appeared in February 2017, just months after my daughter was born. Yes, she is still super cute. Since that time, I've worked to keep up Needles & Sins through social media, but have decided to take a step back. I have passed the reigns for the Facebook group to other members and kept the N+S Instagram page, although it is now inactive. [You can find my personal Instagram at @marisa_loves_u.] 

My hope is that you continue to use this blog as a resource or even a time capsule of tattooing as it has evolved over the years. I'm grateful for this community and all your support. 


I'm writing this post while my newborn is napping. That's her above, but without the tattoos. I just used a tattoo photo app as an excuse to make posting a picture of my child relevant to a tattoo blog. [Thanks, Inkhunter!] I'm pretty obsessed.

Christina Olga was born his past November, and during my maternity leave from my law practice and tattoo writing, I've been giving thought to the future of, well, everything, including this blog.

Where do we go from here, my fellow tattoo nerds?

I'm tired of telling tattooed kids to get off my lawn. I will join them and get more social, even if it means stomping on the turf of long-form writing. The Needles & Sins social media platforms have always been a supplement to this blog, but now they will carry the most updated info in nice, easily digested chunks with pretty pictures. And hashtags. Damn those hashtags!

So, on the @needlesandsins Instagram, you won't just find images of beautiful tattoos I share from top tattooers, but also images that reflect the latest tattoo headlines (like a modified news review), photos from tattoo events, and other artistic inspiration.

On the Needles & Sins Syndicate Facebook group, we'll all post news links and tattoo topics for dynamic discussions. 

On Twitter, I'll keep pulling it all together in 140 characters.

This has always been a community project, so continue to alert me, via tagging or messaging, to cool tattoo-related goodness for all of us to share and enjoy.

We remain a tattoo family, even with the new addition of some chubby baby cheeks.

I kiss you,
07:02 AM
Miles-Chamley-Watson.jpgFencer Miles Chamley Watson photographed by Sophy Holland.


Rick Genest, aka Zombie Boy, photographed by Sophy Holland.

In 2009, I started a series of posts here entitled "Objectified Tattooed Men," a cheeky response to all the "inked doll" and "tattooed babe" features in tattoo magazines. The series didn't go far because, unlike the hoards of young women who line up to show their tattooed bodies for free, there was no budget for the tattooed dudes who wanted pay for play. No matter how much I told these guys how pretty they were, they still didn't think they had to strip down for self-esteem.

At that time, the "tattoo model" career choice was limited to tattoo industry media because the fashion industry wasn't using decorated bodies, with rare exceptions, on their runways or in editorials. Today, this is an entirely different story. For men.  

Exploring today's tattoo culture, with a particular eye toward the experiences of tattooed men in fashion, is Sophy Holland's "Illustrated Man" documentary film and photographic series. The project is described as follows:

Incepted in 2016 this fine art photography collection documents the many subjects' ultimate and often intimate illustrations of 'self' through ink, and chronicles the inexorable rise of the 'tattooed male' pin up, as fashion and tattoo culture converge for the first time in a mainstream increasingly fuelled by Generation Y.

Sophy, a New York-based photographer & director, is heavily tattooed herself and so she comes at it with an insider's perspective, but she also taps others in the industry, like tattoo historian Michael McCabe, Inked editor Rocky Rakovic, tattooer Josh Lords, and musician (and Ink Master host) Dave Navarro. I'm in it too. [I was interviewed soon after I had my baby, and I was very happy to have an adult conversation, filmed or not!]

It's an insightful and beautiful film, beyond the beautiful men featured, and I highly recommend seeing it.

You can view the entire film for free on Sophy's "Illustrated Man" page. Also check the Illustrated Man Instagram.

Illustrated man.jpg
07:36 AM
Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 2.41.19 PM.pngFor a look into an exciting tattoo collaboration, check this video (embedded below) of tattoo icon Filip Leu and blackwork maestro Chaim Machlev creating a backpiece that melds Filip's signature dragons with Chiam's flowing geometric patterns.

The 10-minute film takes you on a tour of all aspects of the collaboration, from design, which includes stencil and freehand, to an up-close view of the tattooing, and then the final beautiful backpiece.

It was filmed by Michael Breyer in St. Croix, Switzerland in Leu Family Iron Tattoo Studio, and in  Berlin, Germany in DotsToLines. The music is by Mor Machlev. A must see.

08:55 AM
Lady Ink Days.jpg
Lady Ink Days tattoo.jpg
Lady Ink Days contest2.jpg
Lady Ink Days contest.jpg
Last weekend, Beverly Yuen Thompson attended an all-women tattoo artist convention in Berlin and shares her experience and photos from the event.

See more images in her Flickr album.

By Beverly Yuen Thompson.

Lady Ink Days, an all-women artist tattoo convention, was held last weekend, March 25-26, 2017, at the venue Huxleys Neue Welt, in Berlin. Germany happens to lead Europe by hosting the most tattoo conventions each year -- 108 -- out of the European total of 516 shows in 2017 alone (according to World Tattoo Events).

There have been at least five other all-women artist conventions in cities including Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Warwickshire UK, and Orlando, Florida. I have attended the Marked for Life Orlando Convention for many years, as it formulated the basis for my book Covered in Ink: Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body, for which I interviewed women tattoo artists and women tattoo collectors.

Lady Ink Days was my first convention to attend outside of the US. It was a small but lively convention held in Berlin, an international, urban city where tattoos can be seen on many people in the city. There were fifty shops represented, most from Berlin, or Germany, but others were from Istanbul, Rotterdam, Moscow, and Haugesund in Norway. Yellow Sunshine provided a vegan food bar, including veggie burgers and vegan cupcakes and entertainment included the rap group Checan, comendian Deus ex Comedia, Mr. DJ B-side, and of course, many tattoo contests: black & white, individual, small, large, and color tattoo, best of day, and best of show.

While women tattoo artists continue to be a minority in this male-dominated industry, especially in the global context, shows like these demonstrate their presence and talent within the industry.

Lady Ink Days contest 3.jpgStitch Witch Ini.jpg
10:00 AM
m_jam170001f2.pngIn the recent edition of the The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there is a wonderful article written by tattooer and painter David Allen entitled "Moving the Needle on Recovery From Breast CancerThe Healing Role of Postmastectomy Tattoos."

As posted here before, David has created some of the most beautiful ornamental tattoo work over mastectomy scars. In this article, he offers a detailed account of the process. Here a taste of it:

I screen the women who contact me with a lengthy phone call in which I ask hundreds of questions. I need to know that they're ready. Some women don't know what they want, which means I can't be certain that what I do will help them, or they want to regain control by controlling me, which doesn't work since it inhibits my freedom to help them. Some are managing disagreements with family members about the appropriateness of what I do. One woman wept when I touched her--her husband had left her because of her illness and she hadn't been touched by a man in many years. That wasn't the time for me to begin my work. My contribution needs to be a healthy, organic part of their path through their illness. I'll decline to do the work if I get the sense that this is not the case.
Over the 10 years I've worked with cancer survivors, I've developed a tattooing process and imagery that's a little different from other artists, plastic surgeons, and micropigmentationists. A standard approach to postmastectomy micropigmentation is to tattoo images of a nipple on a breast mound or reconstructed breast. To my eye, a clinical, trompe l'oeil image of a tattooed nipple lacks character. It has no relationship to the woman's altered body and mind. The women I see want the opportunity to turn themselves into something that transcends an imitation of what they used to look like. Additionally, the nipple image fades with time. So over years of work I've evolved toward botanical imagery--branches, stems, leaves, flowers--as the most effective way to transform the surgically altered breast 9. Artistically, the use of organic imagery lends itself to variance and deviation; the imagery is freed from a rigid adherence to scar patterns and can move the eye along designated paths and away from the areas of the chest that feel most abnormal or disfigured to the woman. It is forgiving of changes to skin and scars that come with healing and age. And the symbolism of quiet, inexorable change and growth evoked by flowering plants fits where the women are in their journey through and away from their illness.
Read more on JAMA.

You can also find more of David's work on Instagram.
08:54 AM
Paul Sayce Interviews.JPGOral histories are an important part of tattoo scholarship; honestly, though, I just love them because they transport me to a different place along the tattoo timeline, where good stories add to the richness of good tattoos. It's like I'm in a pub in some part of the world overhearing secrets and maybe a little gossip about people and events that would never make a Facebook newsfeed.

Watching The Paul Sayce Interviews made me feel just like that -- that I was privy to talks that cannot be found in the many films and books about our tattoo culture. The reason behind this, I believe, is Paul Sayce himself, who has lived many of the stories with the artists he's interviewed since his tattoo obsession began in the 1970s in Surrey, England.

Filmed over 2015-2016, The Paul Sayce Interviews series is Paul Sayce and Adam Beesley setting out to make films with a focus on tattoo history and featuring new interviews with Don Ed Hardy, Dennis Cockell, George Bone, Lal Hardy, Loretta Leu, Duncan X, Derek Campbell and others, along with 45 minutes of bonus features. Weaved into the footage are old photos, business cards and other artifacts that illustrate their talks.

There's three full hours of footage, broken down into segments, which can be viewed on demand on Vimeo or purchased here on DVD.  

Check the trailer below for a taste:

The Paul Sayce Interviews from Paul Sayce Films on Vimeo.

08:49 AM
ihudatattoo.jpgnordic tattoo2.jpgIhuda tattoo2.jpgFor today's Proust Questionnaire for Tattoo Artists, our favorite guest blogger Serinde takes over, posing the Q&A to Tor Ola Svennevig, best known for his work celebrating traditional Scandinavian art.  


On September 17, Tor Ola Svennevig, founder and owner of Ihuda Tattoo, in Fredrikstad, Norway, celebrated 15 years of tattooing in a jubilee party held in an old 17th century fortress. The celebration also marked his movement towards tattooing only by hand, putting aside his tattoo machines.

Over the years, Tor has developed his style using the dotwork technique and specializing in designs inspired by his own cultural heritage: ancient Scandinavian art and mythology. In this questionnaire, however, you can learn more about the man behind the tattoos.

What is your current state of mind? Inspired.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Balance and that my loves ones are doing well.
What is your greatest fear? To lose my loved ones and die with unfinished business.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Not one figure but the era of vikings.
Which living person do you most admire? My daughter.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My fears.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Their double moral.
What is your greatest extravagance? Tea and tobacco.
What is your favorite journey? Life.
What is your most treasured possession? The tools of my trade.
When and where were you happiest? With my loved ones and in nature.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Surviving life so far.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? hmm.. A broken nature.
What is your most marked characteristic? Caring and stamina.
How would you like to die? Finished.
What is your motto? Fucking never give up

See more of Tor's work on Instagram and Facebook

nordic tattoo3.jpgviking tattoo.jpg
Nordic tattoo.jpg
11:13 AM
Paul Acker tattoo.pngPaul Acker tattoo above.

Jason Butcher tattoos.pngJason Butcher tattoo above.

Paul Booth Face tattoo.pngPaul Booth tattoo above. More on this facial tattoo here.

On this Halloween, I'm highlighting horror and dark art tattoos by some masters of this genre. I've always been fascinated by how beautiful these works can be, even with sinister undercurrents.

In an old interview I did with the "Dark Lord of Tattooing," Paul Booth, explains the attraction to this style:

The general public tends to think that the people who come to me for work are a bunch of deviant, social misfits looking for shock value. But for my clients, underneath all the initial surface shock or negative tones, ultimately there's a positive...[A] lot of people leave here feeling empowered for many reasons, and I don't know how that could be negative.

Tony Mancia tattoo.pngTony Mancia tattoo above.

Robert Hernandez tattoo.pngRobert Hernandez tattoo above.

Josh Duffy and Jeremiah Barba collab.pngJosh Duffy and Jeremiah Barba collaboration tattoo above.

zombie tim kern.jpgPortrait of Tim Kern by Tim Kern on Paul Laverty.
09:43 AM
Yallzee tattoos.pngPhoto of Yall Quinones at the Bucharest Tattoo Convention.

The recent headlines had an interesting mix of tattoo law, culture, convention coverage, and a lot more. Here are some of my top picks:

One controversial issue sparked some interesting debate among my fellow tattoo law nerds in this article: "Jury should see neo-Nazi tattoos in Las Vegas murder trial, judge rules." A 25-year-old White Supremacist is facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of a 75-year-old in her home. Bayzle Morgan is covered in tattoos, which you can see here, including "Baby Nazi" on his neck, Nazi "Skin Head" eyebrow ink, and "Most Wanted" across his forehead, among others. Morgan's defense attorney requested that a make-up artist cover his tattoos for the murder trial -- as was allowed in a separate robbery trial for Morgan -- because they could negatively impact a jury. But District Judge Michelle Leavitt denied the request, saying that jurors should be able to set any prejudice aside. It's also important to note that none of the evidence in the murder case relates to Morgan's tattoos -- it is not alleged that this is a racially motivated killing. But it is likely that jurors will have a negative reaction. Should Morgan's choice to mark himself in this way be hidden so that the focus is on the evidence and not appearance, or do the tattoos somehow reflect just who this man is (and at this moment)? Share your thoughts on the Needles & Sins FB group page under this post link.

See more posts on the topic: Tattoos at Trial and
Tattoos as Evidence in Criminal Trials.
On a more artful note, a bunch of media outlets covered the International Tattoo Convention Bucharest, which hosted top talent from across the globe, including this AP slideshow. A photo of our friend Yall Quinones was also the Salon top photo pick, as shown above. Looks like a lot of fun!

Looking at how tattooing can be a healing art, the Seattle Times' "Leading tattoo artists help wounded Israelis with scars" is a fascinating read about Artists 4 Israel's Healing Ink project that connected 11 international tattoo artists with Israelis "maimed by war and violence which left them with daily remainders of their ordeals -- either in the form of physical scars or deep emotional ones." Tattooers drew inspiration from works at the Israel Museum, which hosted the event. The article includes a beautiful slideshow. Worth a look.

Artists 4 Israel is founded by Craig Dershowitz, one of the early contributors of this site. One of my favorite posts of Craig's is "Tattoo Jew: The Definitive Guide to Jewish Thought and Law Regarding the Practice of Tattooing." It's a great interview with Henry Harris, an Orthodox Rabbi, which covers some interesting ground, including that common question, "If you are tattooed, can you be buried in a Jewish cemetery?"

Exploring tattoos as tributes and memorials, The Atlantic's "A Tattoo for the King" writes about how Thais are turning to tattoos to mark the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed on October 13th. The BBC also highlights a number of those tattoos, photographed by Wasawat Lukharang at two Bangkok tattoo studios.

Another recent piece in The Atlantic is also worth a read: "
Watching Tattoos Go From Rebellious to Mainstream," in which our friend Michelle Myles of Daredevil Tattoo talks about how attitudes toward body art have changed over her 25-year career. Here's a taste from that Q&A:

What was it like to try to hone your skills while it was still illegal in New York City?

Myles: It took me a little bit longer to get good based on it being illegal, because you get better by working in a shop and having artists around you. I feel very fortunate that I was able to work before the ban was lifted, because it was such a completely different sort of community back then. Everybody knew who was tattooing in the city, and there used to be these underground meetings called the Tattoo Society. You didn't advertise that you were tattooing, and there was no sign outside; people would have to call up [to the meeting place] to be let in, but at the same time, the ban wasn't enforced. Cops would come in to get tattooed. It wasn't a criminal violation. It was more like a health-code violation.


Tattooing was just such an outsider thing when I first started. It wasn't something that was mainstream. It wasn't acceptable, especially for women. You didn't even really see that many people that were heavily tattooed. Now, no matter where you go, people are exposed to it. Even if you go to more conservative areas, they get the same tattoo reality-TV shows, and are much more aware of the industry. As far as types of people go, literally everyone has tattoos now.

Also it's changed quite a bit technically, as far as the types of artists that are in the industry. Now, with social media, everybody's got tremendous resources to look at for reference and inspiration. When I started tattooing, we didn't have Google or anything like that. You just used your private reference library. Artists improve so fast now, because they're looking at all of this other work. It's pushed the aesthetic along quite a bit.

Read more here.

So those are the headlines, folks. I'll keep reviewing them for you and picking my faves, that is, until my baby comes, when I'll be taking a bit of a blog break. She's due next week, but I should have more tattoo goodness for you before then.

12:23 PM
Bay Area Tattoo.PNGRoxx 2spirit tattoo.pngTattoo above by Roxx 2Spirit.

Nikko Hurtado tattoo.pngTattoo above by Nikko Hurtado.

Grez tattoo.pngTattoo above by Grez of Kings Avenue Tattoo.

The Bay Area Tattoo Convention of the Arts, which runs from October 21-23 at the SFO Hyatt Regency, was at the top of my tattoo convention schedule this year...that is, until I learned that I'm due to have a baby just a couple of weeks I guess I'll just live vicariously through all of y'all heading over -- and the hashtag #bayareatattooconvention.

What makes this convention special for me is that this a tattoo artist-run event that is singularly focused on people getting good tattoos from about 250 renowned artists (including those featured in this post). There will also traditional tattooing, such as tebori by Horihachi and Horikiku, and Samoan tatau by Sulu'ape Si'i Liufau.

There are no performers, no contests, and minimal vendors. Presented by title sponsor Black Claw, the convention is also supported by small business tattoo people, something which organizer Takahiro Kitamura of State of Grace says he is particularly proud of. What this all adds up to is a gathering stripped down to just tattoos and fine art of tattooers, without the strippers and nonsense.

And of course there are parties:  The opening party is on Thursday, October 20th at Minna Gallery, hosted by Seventh Son Tattoo. Analog hosts the closing party on October 23, featuring an art show by Timothy Hoyer, Edu Cerro and Phil Holt. There's also the official book release and painting exhibition of The Cat Book by LLL Books.

This week, you have a chance to win a FREE tattoo from traditional master Chad Koeplinger. If you buy a weekend pass online for $65 until October 14th, you will automatically be entered to win the tattoo, to be selected from a handful of designs. Admission can also be purchased at the door for $30 per day (cash).

The SFO Hyatt Regency is located at 1333 Old Bayshore Hwy, Burlingame, CA, 94010.

Post your pics from the show online. I'll be looking for them!

Luke Seventh Son Tattoo.pngTattoo above by Luke Stewart of Seventh Son.

Samoan Mike tattoo.pngTattoo above by Samoan Mike.
connect with us
Marisa Kakoulas
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
Needles and Sins powered by Moveable Type.

Site designed and programmed by Striplab.

NS logo designed by Viktor Koen.