07:05 AM
zac scheinbaum tattoo 4.jpgzac scheinbaum tattoo snake.jpgI was excited to learn that, earlier this month, one of NYC's premiere tattoo studios, Kings Avenue Tattoo, welcomed a new tattoo artist to their roster: Zac Scheinbaum. Zac rounds out the Kings Ave crew with a portfolio filled with my favorite things: dots, geometry and lots of black ink. I hit up Zac with a few questions about his work:   

You've recently become a part of Kings Avenue Tattoo, coming from Saved Tattoo. As both studios have a high bar for excellence, what was your path like in tattooing to reach that bar?

I learned to tattoo in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at a shop called Four Star Tattoo. Mark Vigil apprenticed me. He is a very knowledgeable and incredibly talented tattooer. When I met him, and the years that followed, he showed me everything about how tattoos should be done, and the right and wrong ways that he thought to do things. I feel like I still learn and recall things he said to me all those years ago and they are totally relevant. But he also definitely "raised" me in a sense to have a high volume of respect for everything dealing with the craft...and artists that do it.

I initially came to New York to get my arm done by Mike Rubendall. He was a huge influence on me and definitely helped me to be where I am today even from back then. I also would've never met Chris O'Donnell without Mike. I had gotten tattooed by Scott Campbell over at Saved many years before and always thought that it would be so awesome to work there.

Long story short (sort of, after a rocky goodbye and a few months on St. Mark's), I ended up at Saved.  Both Kings Avenue and Saved have always been gigantic influences on me and my work. It is a fulfillment of life dreams and goals to have the opportunity to work around these amazing artists.

 How do you work to become better and better at your craft?

I never feel satisfied with my work, and I think that's important. I'm always trying to learn and get better. I sort of think of it as getting an education from all of these different amazing teachers, then taking things you like and don't like about what advice you are given, and deciding how to implement that to best fit your clients and your vision of the final piece of work.

zac scheinbaum tattoo1.jpgI'm a fan of your style of blackwork and dotwork tattooing. How did you come to your style and what references do you seek out for your work?

The use of black and white imagery is what I have always been the most comfortable doing. I would love to do more color work also, but it is definitely a little harder for me to grasp sometimes. That being said, the strong use of dotwork and geometric tattooing that I do, I can attribute directly to Thomas Hooper. When he came to Saved, it definitely changed my mentality -- whether it was about my philosophy for tattoos, work ethic, design, and overall aesthetics, he had such a smart and different way of doing things. I really admire him and wouldn't be where I am without him. I've always loved this type of tattooing (Xed Le Head, Tomas Tomas, Jondix, Mike the Athens), but never understood how it was even possible. Thomas showed me how to make mandalas and how he suggested doing things, and I sort of took that, then just ran with it on my "own" after he left.

I'd say that, just within five years, the appreciation for blackwork and dotwork tattoos has grown exponentially in the US. Do you think that's accurate \? What are your thoughts on the growing interest in these styles?

I think every style of tattooing has a time and a place, and this just happens to be the time where this type of tattooing is getting a little bit more notoriety and acknowledgment, but I'm sure, as with all things, it will pass and something else will come up instead of it. Not that that's a bad or a good thing, but I think it's definitely something that, when people think of tattoos, this was just  something they hadn't seen before and that's why it got so big -- because they didn't realize what was possible, or that a tattoo could be so detailed.

What do you love about tattooing?

I love tattooing because it's has given me the opportunity to do art  every single day. I feel so honored that anybody would like to get tattooed by me. It means the world to me. Not only has tattooing integrated itself into every aspect of my life, whether I'm reading or having dinner or whatnot, I always can find new ideas everywhere. It lets you create all the time! You get to make people happy, and give them something that can change their lives.

What projects, travels, events are coming up for you that you'd like to share?

I'm working on a series of new paintings, and hopefully some flash. I am planning a trip to Japan early next year, but am not sure the exact dates yet.

Find more of Zac's work on his site and Instagram.

zac scheinbaum 2.jpgzac scheinbaum tattoo 3.jpg
08:47 AM

It's now the science geeks' turn at making a viral video, and this one, I really like. If you haven't seen it when Ricky posted it to the Needles and Sins Facebook group this week, check out Destin Sandlin's Tattooing Close Up video.

Destin, of the YouTube channel Smarter Every Day, wanted to find out how tattoos work, so he went Timepiece Tattoo in Huntsville, Alabama, and hung out with the crew there to learn more about what they do -- and also get an inkless tattoo by resident tattooer Leah Farrow.

He then shot an up-close, slow motion video of a tattoo, explaining the science of a tattoo machine (Leah corrects his use of "tattoo gun") and how ink is put into skin.

Even if this is old info to many of you, it's still interesting how he puts it all together in this video package. Worth a look.  

For more up-close tattoo goodness, check this slow motion tattoo video, which we posted in May, that has more of an art than science focus.
01:55 PM

A bunch of news outlets have picked up the TED-Ed "The history of tattoos" animation piece (embedded above), which is a cool looking flashy History 101 video; however, the piece contains a number of errors, including many of the common tattoo myths, which get circulated around the internet as fact.

Thankfully, tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman, PhD, has taken the time to set the record straight in her post TED-Ed Does Tattoo History...Sigh. Here are just some of her corrections to the info put forth in the video.

1:33-"Stories of Cook's findings" certainly did not "spark a craze in Victorian English high society"! The mid-to-late 18th century is a long, long way off from the late 19th century!!! Tourist visits to Japan post its "opening to the West" by Matthew Perry et al. and other then-contemporary factors sparked said Victorian craze.

1:47-The Victorian tattoo fad among elites was hardly "behind closed doors". Many of these folks were quite open about their tattoos, and they were written about in a variety of newspapers and journals at the time.

1:54-There is absolutely not a shred of evidence for a Queen Victoria tattoo, according to fellow scholar Matt Lodder who has deeply researched this. It is not even worth mentioning as "reputedly". There are so many equally newsworthy but legitimately tattooed celebrities from that time period who they could have chosen as examples to use (and then they could have dropped the "reputedly" too). For example, King George V had two very well documented tattoos-a dragon he got in Japan and a Jerusalem cross tattoo he got in the Holy Land.

1:59- Oh where to start on "and tattoos became very popular among Cook's former soldiers"! First, Cook's "soldiers" did not live in the Victorian era. Second, they were not "soldiers" but sailors. Sigh........

Read many more of Anna's corrections here.

Anna also notes, which I think is quite important, that TED-Ed gets marketed as quality educational materials (even if not reviewed by experts), so this misinfo on tattooing continues to spread. I applaud her for taking the time to set the record straight, and I hope her corrections get as much traction as the video.

03:58 PM
things and ink.jpgtattooed women.jpgOnce again, blowing me away with a gorgeous cover and compelling content, Things & Ink magazine has outdone itself with its latest offering, "The Illustration Issue."

The photography, styling and design should be a model of how to present tattooed women in a way that is seductive but not sleazy -- and actually showing their tattoos! Interestingly, editor Alice Snape changed the magazine's tagline from "Embracing Female Tattoo Culture" to "Independent, Tattoo, Lifestyle." Alice writes in her editorial, "Embracing Female Tattoo Culture' was set up to say: 'We're here to appreciate the art, not objectify the person wearing it.' It wasn't ever really intended to say: 'female only!'" Often projects designed to celebrate women erroneously tend to get taken as "anti-men," which is farthest from the case with Things & Ink, but if it takes changing a few words to bring more people to the mag, I'm for it.

You can buy Things & Ink online, at these stockists, or grab it at their stand at the London Tattoo Convention this weekend.

I was pretty excited to enjoy the magazine on a long subway ride, and not worry about people seeing the cover and thinking that I was reading porn (as with a number of other tattoo publications). On the cover is tattoo artist Danielle Rose and her own artwork. Here's more from Alice:

Danielle Rose is renowned for her dark and weeping ladies. With a colour palette of black and two accent colours, her work is instantly recognisable and highly sought after by many tattoo collectors. For The Illustration Issue cover, we've created something truly unique and special. We did a photo shoot with Danielle, and she illustrated over the top of the images. Then we morphed them into one, turning Danielle into an abstract work of art. The artist has become one with her work, the illustrator has become the illustrated.
Danielle's tattooing is also featured in a profile on her inside the magazine. Also profiled are Eva Schatz and Dexter Kay. Other highlights in the magazine for me are "All in the Family," in which the parents of tattooers, including IntoYou's Alex Binnie, discuss their thoughts about tattooing and what it was like finally getting tattooed themselves. There's also "Ancient Ritual in a Modern World" discussing Samoan tattoo traditions, and Amelia Klem-Osterud offers up her expertise on the origins of some "old school" flash. Tons of goodness inside the magazine and too many to list.

In addition to celebrating the launch of this issue, Things & Ink will present tonight, with Atomica Gallery in London, "Miniature Ink" -- an exhibition featuring miniature original artwork from over 100 of the world's leading tattoo artists, with proceeds from the sale of the work going to benefit Sarcoma UK. The opening is tonight from 6-9 pm and runs until October 1st. This will also be a celebration of Things & Ink's second year in publication.

While I won't be there, I'll be raising a glass to the continued success of a wonderful part of our community.    

miniature ink.jpg
Artwork for Miniature Ink by Angelique Houtkamp.
03:04 PM
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Tattoo above by Chaim Machlev.

The tattoo news headlines over the past week had a fun mix of pop culture, business and even philosophy. Here's a rundown:

We posted last week that Starbucks was looking to revise its dress code policy, including its visible tattoo ban. In a subsequent article, Fortune magazine offers the economics behind dress codes and keeping employees happy:

Dress codes are a delicate balancing act for retail and food-service companies, which try to project an image to customers but not be so strict as to make employees quit. For instance, shoppers in Home Depot's massive stores can easily spot employees wearing orange aprons, which also help to reinforce the corporate color scheme. But err into too-strict territory and it could mean an employee exodus. Turnover is already high at retail stores and restaurants, which raises recruiting costs. Research suggests that the cost of replacing workers can reach as high as 50% to 60% of their annual salary because of the extra training required and time human resources spends setting them up to get paid and start their benefits, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management.
In the UK, the Morning Advertiser also discussed employee tattoos and it seems that UK law on dress codes are similar to those in the US, particularly in that, under the UK's Equality Act of 2010, employers cannot discriminate based on "protected characteristics," such as race and religion. If employers don't run afoul of the Act, generally, they can prohibit visible tattoos. But as noted in the Forbes article, better business policy would be to find a balance.

Meanwhile, some big companies actively court tattoos for their branding, just as Reebok did when it urged fans to get their logo tattooed. And this woman did. Hope the $5,800 in Reebok gear was worth the big triangle thigh tattoo.

Seems almost as masochistic as these "Fifty Shades of Grey Tattoos."
A better tattoo listicle in the news this past week was HuffPo's "The 15 Most Incredibly Talented Tattoo Artists On Instagram." It's obviously impossible to capture true tattoo talent on Instagram with just 15 artists, but it's a strong start, which includes Chaim Machlev, whose work is shown above. focused their fashionable lens on Luke Wessman, particularly on his Instagram account @lostartofthegentleman. This all seems to solidify that the photosharing app is now a must for any tattooer looking to get his/her work out there.

Taking a deeper look into the art form is Mark Bauerlein's A Theory for Tattoos. Yes, it starts off with "sailors, soldiers, inmates, gangs, motorcyclists" -- the instant-turnoff cliche. But if you read further, he makes some points worth chewing on. Here's a taste:

The body, too, is a focus of judgment, whether we like it or not. It excites or repels. It lends itself to unwanted racial and sexual stereotypes.

To overcome the problems, the academic argument goes, we must displace a longstanding conception. People have idealized the human body, treated it as a temple, a purity, and that mystification must end. The body is NOT a natural thing or divine form. It has no natural or supernatural status. That's what my friend meant when he insisted on coloring hair, writing words on forearms, inserting studs in tongues, and otherwise modifying the physique. We must de-naturalize the body, redefine it as a human construct. A tattoo helps turn this object we seem to have been given into material we may shape and revise. Yes, each one of us is stuck with the one we've got (at this point in time), but we can re-create it, fashioning it into an expression of the identity we prefer.

Feel free to comment on any of the news items in our Needles & Sins FB group page or Tweet at me.
08:53 AM
newyorker tattoo.jpg
UPDATE: The wonderful Helena Wissarionowna posted, in the Needles & Sins Facebook group, two other tattoo-related New Yorker Covers, which I added below.

Yesterday, I posted on Instagram and Facebook, the image above of the recent cover of The New Yorker magazine illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. It was a "Like" parade, but also inspired some serious critique, particularly the context of the illustration, rather than the artwork itself. Gawker Media's Lux Alptraum noted on her Facebook page that she found it a fetishization of tattooed women by a publication trying to be edgy. It's a good point, although I noted that more objectification and exploitation of tattooed women comes from our own industry media.

In the back story of the cover, Mattotti himself says: "Doing fashion illustrations is part of my work, but for me it's all about women [...] It's all about women--very pictorial women putting on dresses, putting on a show."

This wasn't the first time The New Yorker made tattoos a central theme of its cover. In the October 29, 2012 issue, the "Skin Deep" cover below by Barry Blitt offered an homage to the Norman Rockwell painting "The Tattoo Artist." In that New Yorker back story, Blitt says of his cover illustration:  "'The Tattoo Artist' features a sailor with a long list of girlfriends' inked names crossed out on his arm," he said. "This seemed like a nice tableau for highlighting Mitt the politician's shifting positions and convictions."

So, is this an out-of-fashion publication trying to bank on tattoo cool, or just another example of mainstream media embracing the art form?

Share your thoughts on the Needles & Sins Facebook group page or hit me up on Twitter.

Peter de Seve_tattoo_newyorker.jpgCover above by Peter de Seve.

Chris Ware_tattoo_newyorker.jpg
08:40 AM
slave to the needle.jpg
Seattle's Slave to the Needle Starbucks parody tee above.

It's fairly known that the Starbucks coffee chain has a strict dress code policy of no visible tattoos at any of its one trillion cafes worldwide. In fact, this past July, it was reported that Starbucks threatened to fire a Detroit-based barista for a tiny heart tattoo on her hand, allegedly telling her that she had 30 days to begin a removal process for the tattoo or she had to resign from her job. However, according the SF Gate, "in an internal e-mail this month, Chief Operating Officer Troy Alstead said the company is revisiting its 'dress code, including the tattoo policy.'" Here's more from the article:

Last month the tattoo policy was challenged when Kristie Williams, a Starbucks employee from Atlanta, created a petition to change the rule. Williams said the long sleeves needed to cover her tattoos get in the way, especially in the summer. More than 21,652 people have signed the online petition.

Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said the company's review of its tattoo prohibition began before the petition. "We are always actively engaged in discussion with our partners to determine how to make their Starbucks experience better and more valuable to them," he said. "We know the dress code and tattoo policy is important to them so we are taking a fresh look at it."

Keep in mind that private employers may have a general right to institute dress code policies and make appearance-based hiring decisions, as long as the discrimination is not based on a protected class. The question is whether it's good business.

02:32 PM
total tattoo issue.jpg

In the latest edition of the UK's Total Tattoo Magazine -- its 10-year anniversary issue -- you'll find what the magazine graciously calls my "words of wisdom," although a truer description would be, "Here's a page of Marisa blathering on about something she doesn't like." 

For this column, editor James Sandercock asked me to write further on the Daily Mail's crush on me, as I noted in my World's Worst Tattoo Reporting post. In that post, I talked about "The Fail" using my photo in a ridiculous article about how "middle class" people have tattoos. But it wasn't the first time a pic of me was featured. In my piece for Total Tattoo, I talk about how the tabloid has banked off my bod before.

Here's a taste:

If Andy Warhol was correct that everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes, then I'm pretty pissed off that The Daily Mail is eating up all my allotted time. Over the past year, the tabloid has featured a picture of me in all my heavily tattooed glory, not just once, but twice-and both times they were not kind. I could liken the The Fail to a jilted ex-boyfriend, obsessed and angry that I've dared to do anything to my appearance without permission. But it's really more insidious. What the tabloid does (and they are not alone) is lure people in with tattoo images--many of which are used without permission--then slap a catchy headline over some cheap and easy content, all the while, having McDonald's ads flash in the background. Breaking it down: my bod is being used to sell burgers. Not the acclaim I was hoping for.

The first time I became a Daily Mail darling (to my knowledge) was in September 2013, in which a photo of one of my tattoos was posted under the blaring headline "World's Worst Head Tattoos." "World's Worst" anything is common "clickbait," designed to drag us in, make us angry with asinine writing, and provoke us to comment on the article, defending something that is personal and important to us. It brings more clicks, more time on the site, and more interactivity. Editors and advertisers just love how much we hate it.

This tattoo of mine that has The Daily Mail readers clutching their collective pearls in horror is indeed on the back of my head; however, it's deserving of praise rather than any pejorative. As the kids say, my head tattoo is "pretty fucking rad." Sometime around 2005, I wanted a fun, illustrative, semi-secret tattoo that was quite different from the blackwork ornamental bodysuit that I've been working on. So, I made an appointment with renowned tattooer Tim Kern, who is pretty fucking rad himself, and we came up with the idea to do a devilish looking little girl with red pigtails popping out of the back of my skull with a chain in her hand; essentially, a portrait of my childhood with added weaponry. I had taken some time off from the law firm I was working for at that time, so it was a perfect moment to shave off some ginger curls and get a badass tattoo that would eventually be covered when my hair grew out and I had to be proper lawyer again.

I was so happy with my new tattoo that I posted it to my photo album on (this was pre-Instagram days). I wanted to share the artwork. I did not want it used by others for their ridiculous "listicles," which lure people with short attention spans and a propensity to make comments that they would never dare to say to someone's face.[...]

It's also important to note here that Flickr has a better photo-sharing policy that other sites like Facebook, Twitter/Twitpic and Instagram. When you upload an image to Flickr, the default setting is "All rights reserved," putting others on notice that you're holding on to the rights granted to you in copyright law and not giving them up for sites like to use. Flickr's policy specifies that they may use, distribute, display, reproduce, modify, and adapt your content on the Yahoo! Services but "solely for the purpose for which such content was submitted or made available." For Facebook and Instagram, when you post your photos and videos, you are granting these sites "a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license..." That means that they can use your content and offer it to others without your approval, and even make some money off of it without anything paid to you.

Read the full article in the 10th Anniversary issue of Total Tattoo, which can be purchased at booksellers throughout the UK, US, and around the world. You can also download the digital version.

There are also great reads in the issue, such as the artist interviews with legend Horiyoshi III as well as Marco Galdo and Max Pniewski.  And giveaways, including my Black & Grey Tattoo box set!!  Grab the mag for more info.

marisa head tattoo480.jpgFreshly inked head tattoo by Tim Kern.

06:42 PM
 tattoo condom.pngArt. Sex. Safety. Cash....

Naturally, Graphic Armor's Tattoo Condom Design Contest caught my attention. But what really made me post the contest on this blog is Graphic Armor's tagline, "We are changing the way the world looks at condoms by changing the way condoms look!"  I think that's important, especially after reading recent stats from the US Department of Health, stating that "over one in eight high school students did not use any contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy during their last sexual intercourse."

Make condoms fun. Keep people safe. Considering that the professional tattoo industry holds health and hygiene at utmost importance, this way of engaging the community is a good fit.

The contest was recently launched and is open to all, not just tattooers and designers. Voting is also open to all. As Graphic Armor notes, "The top three designs, as determined by the voting public, will be printed directly on our approved premium latex condoms for sales and distribution around the planet." Yup, the planet. Here's what else they say on their site:

The winning designers' names will appear on all packaging, including the condom itself!  In addition, the top three winners will get:

1st Place - $1000 plus 200 Tattoo Condoms

2nd Place - $500 plus 100 Tattoo Condoms

3rd place - $250 plus 50 Tattoo Condoms

Voting is open to until 10/6 at 8:00pm (EST) and the winners will be announced on 10/7 at 8:00pm (EST).

Details on how to enter are here.

Already there are some great designs to vote on -- all submitted so far by tattoo artist Pat Fish, known for her Celtic artwork, which she plays with in her condom design. Pat's work has been getting a bunch of votes, so if you're thinking of entering, best to do it sooner than later.

Having no drawing/design skills at all, I won't be entering BUT I did order some condoms with the Needles & Sins logo, which I'll be giving out soon to readers to share the love.
03:08 PM
body-electric-tattoo.jpg1-Alex-Binnie-hand-hate.jpgArt work above by Alex Binnie.

On September 18th, the highly anticipated "Body Electric" exhibit at the Ricco Maresca gallery in NYC will open, featuring the fine art work of a stellar roster of tattooists, who include Saira Hunjan, Jef Palumbo, Duke Riley, Noon, Nazareno Tubaro, Amanda Wachob, Jacqueline Spoerle, Colin Dale, Scott Campbell, Peter Aurisch, Chuey Quintanar, Horiren First, Alex Binnie, Minka Sicklinger, David Hale, Stephanie Tamez, Virginia Elwood, and Yann Black.

The show is guest curated by the wonderful Margot Mifflin, author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo (and my co-conspirator in recent lectures, including Women's Ink). In her essay, "Visionary Tattoo," Margot writes that "tattooing has sprung free in the new millennium, liberated by artists who combine fresh concepts, holistic design, and masterful technique in thrillingly original styles." It is this "new generation of conceptual trailblazers" whose work Margot and the Ricco Maresca gallery have chosen to display in "Body Electric." Margot further writes:

The visual art featured here reflects their tattoo sensibility--the next best thing to showcasing the living canvases that bear their designs. They hail from around the globe: In Lucerne, for example, Jacqueline Spoerle uses Swiss folk motifs in lyrical silhouettes perfectly suited to tattoo's inherently graphical nature. In Los Angeles, Chuey Quintanar takes fine line black and grey portraiture to a new level of grace and power. New Yorker Duke Riley's maritime narratives betray a blush of nostalgia through strong line work and meticulous cross-hatching. In Argentina, Nazareno Tubaro blends tribal, Op Art, and geometric patterns in flowing compositions that embrace and complement human musculature. And in Athens, Georgia, David Hale, a relative newcomer, folds the curvilinear lines of Haida art into his folk-inflected nature drawings.

The exhibition includes a selection of flash art spanning the late 19th to mid-20th century. These pieces, many by titans of the trade--George Burchett and Sailor Jerry Collins among them--represent the keystone style of Western tattoo tradition and the semiotic conventions that define it, from hearts and anchors to pinups and crucifixes. Conveying both the charms and limits of these pioneers, they offer a baseline for understanding the evolution of tattooing over the course of the past century.
I'm incredibly excited to attend on the 18th, not simply to view the works, but also to spend time with a number of the artists who will be arriving specifically for this exhibit. For one, Nazareno Tubaro of Argentina, one of my most favorite blackwork artists, will be at the show (and he'll also be a guest at Kings Avenue Tattoo NYC from 9-12 to 9-15). In addition to those artists whose work is on display, I hear many more will come to celebrate the opening. I hope you'll join us as well.

8-Horiren-First.jpgArt work above by Horiren First.

colin dale art.jpgArt work above by Colin Dale.

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