"Lars Krutak with U'tan'Ke, a Macham Naga warrior and tiger hunter living in Myanmar." (Photo courtesy Lars Krutak)
Jemy Kaiabi applying a name glyph tattoo on the arm of his client Silvana, Xingu National Park, Brazil. (Photo copyright Lars Krutak)
"Bianca Gutierrez and Irene Mangon display traditional motifs related to the Philippine tattoo revival. Artwork by Elle and Zel Festin." (Photo copyright Lars Krutak)
Our favorite tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak offered a must-see TEDxYYC talk entitled "The Cultural Heritage of Tattooing" (embedded below), in which he explores tattoo practices and meanings amongst the world's indigenous cultures, with some fantastic images and video as well. I particularly enjoyed when he discussed his own experiences in having many of these practices performed on him. In watching the video, you'll not only learn about tattooing in various cultures around the world, but also about the revival of tattooing in many of these cultures in which tattooing was suppressed by missionaries and governments, forced relocation of indigenous tribes, disease, and even school systems where children were stripped away of their cultural identity in order to "assimilate."
These stories of revival are pretty wonderful, especially that of 96-year-old Whang Od, perhaps the world's oldest active tattoo artist, who continues to apply Kalinga tattoos in the Cordillera Mountains of the Philippines. In fact, there are tons of great stories in this 16-minute talk, with too much tattoo goodness to describe here, so check it for yourself.
Also, last week, Smithsonian Science News published a Q&A with Lars. Here's a taste from that talk:
A common myth that continues to be perpetuated in popular and academic peer-reviewed publications is that tribal tattoos were ornamental. Some indigenous peoples did receive tattoos to enhance their physical appearance, but this practice was the exception rather than the rule. Most tattoos identified tribal designation, related the social accomplishments of the individuals who wore them or functioned as medicinal therapy or as apotropaic [evil-repelling] symbols. In short, I see body marking as a kind of biographical language.In the Q&A, Lars is also asked what most surprised him in his research for his book Tattoo Traditions of Native North America, to which he explained that "nearly every culture indigenous to North America practiced some form of tattooing, and in many cases it had a perceived therapeutic value."
Anytime I watch or read anything about Lars' work, I always come away learning something new, and I'm sure you will as well.
Also read more of Lars' writing on his website.
One of the most sought-after tattoo artists for the "watercolor" abstract style of tattooing is our friend Gene Coffey, whom we last wrote about in March when this fabulous video profile by Snorri Sturluson was released.
Now, after 9 years working at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, Gene is opening up his own appointment-only tattoo atelier, Coffey Shop Tattoos. To celebrate, he's having an opening party this Thursday, September 3rd, from 7-10 pm and welcomes all to his Long Island City, Queens studio. Gene's neighbors, ASH Art & Space, will be having an opening of their latest exhibit, "Her Mojo," that night as well, so it's a way to get a double dose of art in one of NYC's hottest hoods. [More on the art show on Gene's blog.] In fact, Long Island City's art scene is what drew Gene to open Coffey Shop Tattoos there. The studio is just a few block from MoMa PS1 and the corpse of graffiti Mecca 5 Pointz.
As he did at Tattoo Culture, Gene will continue to book his appointments 3 months at a time. Currently, he is booked up through November 2015, and will open his books again November 1, 2015 for appointments from December 2015 - February 2016. You can email the shop November 1 and request a consultation form at that time.
I hope to see you at the opening party and art show this Thursday. Coffey Shop Tattoos is located at 21-36 44th Road,
Long Island City, NY 11101. [Subway E M G 7 to Court SQ - 23 St., 1 block away]
See more of Gene's work on Instagram.
I always geek out over how innovations in tattoo tools and materials lend to the creation of killer tattoo works, and so when Eikon Device sent me their latest video for Symbeos Rotary Machines, I was really digging it, especially as it highlights three tattooers, working in different styles, using one adaptable machine.
In June, Eikon invited three top Canadian tattoo artists -- Simon Golygowski @dadahell out of POL Tattoo in Montreal, Quebec; Jessica Wright @jackassica owner/artist out of Capital Tattoo in Edmonton, Alberta; and, Travis Greenough @travisgreenough owner/artist out of Closed Casket Tattoo in Ajax, Ontario -- to Eikon's headquarters to tattoo using their Symbeos Rotary Machines. They were filmed tattooing over three days, and the result is Symbeos Rotary Machine video, which captures them working with the machines, but also the creation of three very good and very different tattoos.
What's cool about Symbeos is that Eikon, with precision machining from HM Tools & Dye, built a truly tunable rotary tattoo machine with the adaptability of a coil machine. A dedicated range of interchangeable parts allows artists to control the hit, and change up stroke length or the motor speed the way you want to tattoo. Whether you need an individual Lining, Shading or Coloring machine, or a whole system that sets you up with 2 or 3 machines at once, Symbeos can meet the demand. All machines come ready to plug & tattoo, right out of the box.
Find out more here: www.eikondevice.com/symbeos.
If you've ever sat there shaking your head at the sad, sad lengths people will go to in order to be on TV, then you'd appreciate the truTV prank show FAMELESS, produced by David Spade. As noted on the FAMELESS site, "Each week, the series features a group of unsuspecting desperate-to-be-famous individuals who believe they've been cast on a reality show. However, unbeknownst to them, they are really filming a parody with improv actors creating over-the-top scenarios that steadily increase the absurdity and ridiculousness of each situation."
That desperation gets played out heavily in tattoo reality TV shows, making it a perfect punk for those willing to sacrifice skin for their 15 minutes of fame.
In the FAMELESS Revenge Ink clip (embedded above), aspiring rapper JC believes he's going to be on a show called "Virgin Ink," getting his first tattoo -- a zombie Audrey Hepburn -- on his back by Kat Von D. After Kat finishes the tattoo, producers bring a woman in to confront JC about some misdeed and reveal that he's actually on a show called "Revenge Ink" -- and he didn't get the tattoo he bargained for. Hilarity ensues! And it really does. I won't spoil it for you but I burst out laughing at the end of this preview clip. Worth the watch.
The recent tattoo news was a blend of serious, sweet and silly. Here's the run down:
Ten days ago, NY Governor Cuomo signed legislation that requires tattoo studios and body piercing studios "to use single use needles and inks, to obtain consent forms from customers, and to maintain customer consent forms for a period of not less than seven years." The new law takes effect in 120 days from the signing. In our Needles & Sins Facebook group, Ricky Wong posted this Daily News article on the law, which elicited some great comments. Jœl B Van Goor joked, "I've been using the same needle since 2006 and I ain't about to change it now," and Lawrence Mascia made me giggle when he wrote, "Here I was thinking I was special when my tattoo artist would spit on the needle before hand to clean it." More seriously, Paul Roe noted that it does not state "sterile" inks and offers definitions open to misinterpretation. Pat Fish also shared:
The pre-sterilized single use needle set-ups, great, got that. But the single-use packaging of INK is the big threat. Over the years several suppliers have tried marketing inks this way, without great success, since the tiny caps of pre-packaged ink were prohibitively expensive. It is all about lawyers wanting documentation of the products used so they have someone to go after if there is a problem with healing. If this really does go into effect it will set an industry-threatening precedent.Personally -- and setting aside that not all lawyers are evil (ahem!) -- I think it's a poorly drafted bill, which was likely crafted without serious consultation from the tattoo industry. Regulations protecting the safety of tattoo clients are necessary and important, but they should reflect the realities of tattoo practice & industry standards and not be pushed through because of some knee-jerk reaction to misinformed health scares, or anger that some politician's daughter got a Snoop Dog tribute tattoo, or because a manufacturer can bank on it. The tattoo community needs to remind politicians of our voting power and resources, and that partnering with the industry on laws impacting it should be a necessity and not a courtesy.
On a lighter note, Paul shared this great piece on 83-year-old Doc Price of Plymouth, England, who will be judging the Plymouth Herald's Best Tattoo contest. Doc told the Herald that he believes himself to be the oldest living tattoo artist in the country and has tattooed more than 40 acres of human skin during his lifetime. He also shares some stories like a time when a disturbed British Intelligence worker entered his shop with a loaded weapon wanting a scar tattoo on his face, or his laugh over the Kanji tattoo that read "Windows 7" instead of a girlfriend's name on an unsuspecting tourist.
In a piece that hit close to home, a woman with vitiligo -- a chronic skin condition that causes the loss of skin color in blotches -- gets a tattoo to address stares & bullying. I actually have vitiligo on my face and hands, but because I have very fair skin, the loss of pigment isn't as pronounced as with those who have darker skin tones. Still, I was teased as a kid, and as an adult, it was suggested to me that I could have those white patches of skin tattooed to match my normal skin coloring. But, like Tifanny Posterar (another Brooklyn girl), I've embraced what I was born with and prefer to tattoo myself as a way to celebrate, rather than to hide. Tiffany has taken it further by getting the words "It's called vitiligo" tattooed across her forearm to educate those on the disease. More of her story in the article.
Quick & dirty links:
* Ricky & Pinky's tattoo parlour: 40 years of inking Hong Kong. Some great photos, including the top pic above.
* OC Weekly profiles Jess Yen of My Tattoo.
* "The 17 coolest tattoo artists you need to follow on Instagram." A good list. Although there are hundreds I'd add.
* Marine Corps to update its tattoo policy after review.
* Three held in Kuwait for illegal tattoo center.
* Will Smith Tattooed Suicide Squad Co-Star Joel Kinnaman.
* Photos from the 2015 Seattle Tattoo Expo.
* Men lose girlfriends after getting penis tattoos on their thighs. And I'll just leave it at that!
Human taxidermy, with faux flayed tattooed skin, is the subject of Mexican artist Renato Garza Cervera's series "Of Genuine Contemporary Beast." The artist, who works in various mediums, created effigies of LA gang members, stylized as bearskin rugs, as a commentary on the vilification and dehumanizing of members of society. Here's more from his artist statement:
Societies always invent new beasts in order to make others responsible for their problems, to express their fears and to invent them a new cover. Mass media play a very important role on this world-wide scapegoating process, by presenting some minorities as uncapable of thinking or feeling, delayed and dispensable people.See more from the series here, and also check his other work on Instagram.
[Via Dangerous Minds.]
Video Channel CryptTV, whose tag is "Weird is good," has a beautiful, heart-string tugging profile on filmmaker Allison W. Gryphon, discussing her mastectomy tattoo. The angel and butterfly wings placed around her breast was done in LA by Zulu of Zulu Tattoo, who has worked with a number of breast cancer fighters.
Directed by Michael Gaston Bitar, Alison's Permanent profile takes us through her story, from her diagnosis 4 years ago to the multiple rounds of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Most powerfully, she speaks of not feeling "back" on the inside, even when her treatment was over. It was getting her tattoo that changed that feeling. She says it was "the first time that she felt done," and that the tattoo closed the cancer treatment door and opened up the rest of her life.
You can read more about Allison and her experiences in an earlier post I did three years ago on her: "A Tattoo to Transcend a Breast Cancer Battle."
Rose Hardy tattoo above.Todd Noble tattooing.
Joe Capobianco & co-organizer Justin Weatherholtz at the Kings Avenue Tattoo booth.Dream team Heather Bailey, Rose Hardy & Virginia Elwood judge the Saturday tattoo competition.
After back-to-back NYC tattoo shows, I was feeling a bit burnt out on conventions and figured I'd take a break this summer. I had a blast at those shows, of course, but big conventions can be intense with the crowds, cameras, competitions and general creative chaos. But after writing my post on the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest, I decided to drive down to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania this past weekend to check for myself what my friends had been talking up since last year's premier of the convention.
On the way there, I passed by billboards that promised damnation for abortion, special deals on rifles, and mega-mall retail therapy. And then there was the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest billboard--a good sign, literally, that all would be welcome to the party.
Just minutes after walking into the Crown Plaza lobby, filled with banners for the fest, I got hugs from friends who also traveled to be a part of it. At check-in, hotel employees were wearing the super-cool designed convention tees, just one of the many ways the hotel welcomed the tattoo take-over.
I dropped my bag off and headed to the convention area of the hotel, where I was warmly greeted by Joe Johns and, soon after, Justin Weatherholtz, co-organizers and well respected tattooers. This was a hands-on operation, not run by an outside convention company, but by tattoo artists for tattoo artists and collectors.
The Pagoda City Tattoo Fest is a small boutique show with very select tattoo artists of the world's best. As I walked up and down the aisles, I kept thinking as I passed by the shop booths, "Woah, she's here, he's here...in Wyomissing?" [The amount of talent is too much to name. You can check the artist list here.] And so many of them -- who have endless studio waiting lists -- were taking walk-ups. I wondered if those who just came in off the street knew how lucky they were.
While the focus was heavily on excellent tattooing, I also felt the strength of the show stemmed from the intimate community feel. I didn't just get to hang out with old friends; the way it was set up, with a great outdoor communal space by the pool and laid back vibe, I had the opportunity to meet new people, have a drink and share stories. It wasn't a bunch of posing tattoo models or reality TV tattooists holding court with fans. People were really connecting. It was ... lovely.
That's not to say there wasn't some hardcore partying and 3am splashing in the pool. Dirty jokes, dirty laughs, & dirty tattoo tales will always be my favorite part of shows. [I never get tired of hearing veteran tattooer Mike Skiver keep telling the story of how he mistook my butt for his wife's at a convention 14 years ago -- a grab that began our friendship.] Sex, whiskey and rock-n-roll will never leave conventions (even if I, myself, went to bed sober at a reasonable hour).
Because I was having too much fun, I didn't take many pics, but you can see a few on my Instagram and Flickr album. Find more on the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest Instagram.
Claudia De Sabe tattoo.
Zack Dunn painting.
Booty out with Mike Skiver.
This morning, I came across an interesting profile in Wired, which looks at portrait photography of Dina Litovsky, specifically, the 40 people she captured getting tattooed at the NYC Tattoo Convention this past June and the Empire State Tattoo Expo (also in Manhattan) last month. Litovsky's focus was not documenting the shows or the tattoos, but the collectors' experience, and their expression of that experience, when getting work done. Wired explains:
Surrounded by the sound of buzzing guns, Litovsky wanders around until someone catches her eye. She chooses subjects based on their facial expressions and body language, and any interesting props they use to distract themselves from what is occasionally a painful procedure. Some people thumb through their smartphone. Others chew gum or suck on lollipops to stave off nausea. "Many subjects go into almost a trance state, a mental zone where the pain sensation transforms into an emotionally euphoric state," she says.
As noted in the article, Litovsky shoots with a flash, "which captures her subjects and nothing more," making them look like studio shots. I'm just wondering how the artists felt about flash going off while they're trying to work. Well, maybe she wasn't in their faces.
Another interesting mention in the article is Litovsky's earlier work, Ink Girls, which are portraits of tattooed women, and the judgments viewers had of the women in her photos. She told Wired: "I saw how easy it was to stereotype certain types of tattoos and attribute character traits and social standing to the people that have them. [...] In a way, a traditional portrait of an individual with tattoos can be a dead end. We understand less, not more about the person."
Read more about her work, and see additional photos in Wired and on Litovsky's website.
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.]