Tattoo artists have the best stories, especially those who made their living pre-Instagram, so naturally I loved this interview with Sailor Fred Steinhart (embedded above) by Tim Adams, aka Tattoo Timmy. The interview is straight talk from Sailor Fred on being "one of the last tattoo artists from his father's litter" -- his father being famed tattooer Sailor Barney, a "carny" who tattooed the carnival circuit from the early 50s.
Sailor Fred and his 3 brothers learned the craft from Sailor Barney, and took off on their own, tattooing across the US. Sailor Fred started out on the carnival circuit with his father, and then later opened up Sailor Fred's Golden Needle Tattoo Studio in 1975. Sailor Fred also set up a traveling tattoo museum, but as he says, that didn't go over on the carnival lot.
Sharing stories about his father's tattoo life as well as his own, Sailor Fred doesn't need any fancy film production crew to make this interview so compelling. It's a great watch and I learned a lot in just those 11 minutes. This video is Part 1, with a second installment coming soon.
Today, Sailor Fred is semi-retired, but you can still find him doing tattoos at Tat Kat's in Springwater, NY.
Tim Adams did a great job capturing a piece of our history and I look forward to seeing more of Tattoo Timmy's Tattoo TV.
Thanks, Marvin Moskowitz and Jack Two-Hands for the link!
UPDATE: Wow! This flash sale made my inventory go in a flash! I'm now sold out of my author copies but will let you know when I reorder. Meanwhile, you can still grab it on Amazon, but without the deep discount.
I'm running off to the beautiful geek fest that is NY Comic Con, but before I do, I think it's a perfect time to offer a flash sale of my monster hardcover ode to comic tattoos:
I dropped the book in 2011 and I still get excited when artists and collectors tell me how it has inspired their own work -- like Dave Copeland who began getting tattooed by a bunch of artists in the book, including scoring a "Capo Girl" by Joe Capobianco.
This massive tattoo tome is 496
pages of color bombs by 42 exceptional
artists from around the world, including:
Capobianco, Tony Ciavarro, Genko, Gunnar, Kristel Oreto, Jime Litwalk,
Kowhey, Fred Laverne, Ed Perdomo, Jee, Joako, Eva Schatz, Ulrich
Krammer, King Rat, Leo, Sean Herman, Bammer, Daveee, Woodpecker, Josh
Woods, Steph D., Jason Stephan, Dimitri, Broda, Slawek, May, Tiraf,
Holly Azzara, Naoki, Fide, Electric Pick, Leah Moule, Jesse Smith,
Morof, Kozuru, Ivana, Dave Fox, Gerrit Termaat, Peter Bobek, Scott
Olive, Kosei, Olivier. [Olivier's work is featured on the cover.]
The work has been described as psychedelic, trippy, creepy cute, pop surrealist, and of course sexy. In addition to 580
images of their stellar tattoo and fine art, there are interviews with a number of the artists
who share their thoughts on tattooing (and some personal gossip). It
was a helluvalotta fun.
For more on the Hong Kong convention, here's a slideshow from the show, with photos by Keith Tsuji for Getty Images. Some excellent tattoos, in a vast variety of styles, are featured in this set, as well as general convention floor pics.
More tattoo photography can be found on Slate.com's "The Agony and Serenity of Getting a Tattoo," with a particular focus on work by Anne Burlock Lawver that captures tattoo clients at NYC's Gunmental Tattoos (which has since closed) in states of, well, agony and serenity -- although Lawver tells Slate that "the moments of pain she captured were far less frequent than the moments of calm."
The story that captured the most headlines was the "Save My Ink" Tattooed Skin Preservation, which I wrote about last month. The weird and morbid always make for a good story. There was an interesting discussion to the post in our N+S Facebook group. Feel free to add to it, or to any of the stories you find here in our News Review post.
The Yakuza, Japanese organized crime families, have found their way onto this blog for many years because of the elaborate tattoos they wear, often created by masters of the craft. There is so much mystery, myth and lore surrounding the Yakuza that the tattoos are only just a part of the intrigue.
Seeking to better understand the Yakuza, Belgian photographer Anton Kusters went to Japan and, after gaining unprecedented access by one of the leading crime families, he spent two years photographing the underworld syndicate, from boardrooms to bath houses, including their tattoos. In 2011, Kusters published his book Odo Yakuza Tokyo, and most recently, The Economist created a short film about Kusters' project: Japan's Yakuza: Inside the syndicate.
The video, embedded below, has Kusters offering fascinating stories behind the images. The photographer also provides more on the project on his site:
YAKUZA is a personal visual account of the life inside an
inaccessible subculture: a traditional Japanese crime family that
controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan.
10 months of negotiations with the Shinseikai, my brother Malik and I
became one of the only westerners ever to be granted this kind of access
to the closed world of Japanese organised crime.
I share their
complex relationship to Japanese society, and show the personal struggle
of being forced to live in two different worlds at the same time;
worlds that often have conflicting morals and values.
It turns out not to be a simple 'black' versus 'white' relationship, but most definitely one with many shades of grey.
The book seems to be out of print at the moment, but the video is a great watch.
I'm embarrassing at tattoo conventions. When I see someone wearing or creating beautiful work, I get ... overenthusiastic. This has led to many walking away from me, with a mix of fear and confusion. But it has also led to many friendships, based on a shared loved and excitement for tattoos. Thankfully, Todd Torres falls in that latter category.
I first met Todd via the tattoo social media web and got to admire his growing collection posted online; however, meeting him at the Toronto Tattoo Convention last year, and seeing how wonderful the tattoos look in person, brought out the true tattoo geek in me. You'll understand why when you check this list of artists who have tattooed him:
In the video, Todd shares some of his tattoo stories and thoughts on collecting. He's refreshingly straight forward, with none of the grand monologues you see on reality TV about deep existential experiences behind every ounce of ink; in fact, he says that only one tattoo, a rose in tribute to his grandmother, holds meaning beyond the artwork. Todd explains that his tattoos are a hobby, one that he gets to indulge in as he frequently travels being a professional poker player.
Check the video (embedded below) to see more of Todd's work. You may also want to check the tattoo feed that Todd curates on Instagram for @thebragartlist, a mobile app designed to help people easily find where they can get great tattoos.
I'll be doing more posts on tattoo collectors like Todd, in addition to artist profiles. And yes, they will all be overenthusiastic.
This past weekend my phone was blowing up with photo and video messages from friends who were working and playing at The London Tattoo Convention -- playing without me. But I'm not a hater, and even though work kept me from the convention this year, I loved feeling the intense energy and creative boom that came through my phone, even if the images were a bit blurred and my friends words were very slurred after having a little too much fun.
Thankfully, the professional news corps also captured the scene, offering more images and video without the wobble:
Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins Bert Grimm Horiyoshi III Don Ed Hardy The Leu Family Leo Zulueta ...
The names of these iconic tattoo artists can be found on tattoo shop walls across the globe, signed on sheets of their artwork, inspiring generations of tattooers. Ready to be copied onto skin or viewed solely as a piece of art itself, tattoo flash of great artists has furthered the evolution of tattooing as an art form and as a business. While custom tattooing garners the most attention these days for unique one-off works, flash offers collectors an opportunity to get a tattoo designed by someone they may not have an opportunity to meet, while providing tattooers a pre-made design to faithfully reproduce or use as a jumping off point for their own work.
Curated by Edgar Hoill and Matthias Reuss, these large-scale panorama books contain 168 pages of historic flash and also new works created specifically for this project by 78 tattoo artists. Printed on extra thick high quality paper, bound with a durable metal spiral, the sheets lay flat for easy flipping, and also easier removal should you wish to cut out and frame the art.
The books offer a broad spectrum of artistic styles, including lettering, realism, ancient marks and mandalas, woodblock prints, abstract graphic designs, Japanese and Chinese mythology, Neotribal, Nordic, black & grey Chicano tattoo motifs and much more. Not all pages are stylized with individual tattoo designs on one sheet; some sheets are drawn or painted as one complete work of art.
TATTOO MASTERS FLASH COLLECTION - PART I includes works by Horiyoshi
III, Don Ed Hardy, Gau Bin, Jondix, Tim Hendricks, Brian Everett, Genko, Alex Horikitsune
Reinke, Zele, Doug Hardy, Elle
Festin, Tomasi Sulu'ape, Sanya Youalli, Yushi
Takei, Enrique Castillo and many more. Also in this volume are flash from Ed Hardy's personal archive, including sheets by Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins, Owen Jensen, Joe Lieber, and
TATTOO MASTERS FLASH COLLECTION - Part 2 includes works by the Leu family, Leo Zulueta, Luke
Atkinson, Colin Dale, Indio Reyes, Jess Yen, Naoki, Goethe Silva, Krazy K, Olivier Julliand, Kurt Wiscombe, Chris Ayala, Andy Shou, Jean-Luc Navette, Brent
McCown, Dimitri Hk, and Takahiro Horitaka Kitamura, among other greats. This volume also contains archival sheets from the Polish Tattoo
Museum collection, including flash from Sailor Jerry, Ray Emms, Milton Zeis, Ted Hamilton
and Leonard St. Clair.
Beyond the artwork, what makes this an important collection are the contributions by Dr. Matt Lodder, who provides a introduction on the history of flash, dating back to the birth of the Western professional tattoo industry in the late 19th century. Matt cites early examples of designs on paper specifically intended to be traced and transferred onto the skin as tattoos, including the famous C.H. Fellowes sketchbook, dating from around 1898.
There are countless gems of historic information, including a discussion on the term "flash" itself:
The very term 'flash' seems to have been appropriated from carnivals and sideshows, where a 'well-flashed' concession was particularly eye catching, bright and appealing, able to beckon and intrigue customers from across a thronging midway, though the term also has deep connotations as an adjective in English slang of slightly dangerous, swaggering ostentation, often used to refer to thieves and prostitutes in the early part of the 19th century and then to young sporting men - the kind of boisterous, raffish cads who would have been turning over tables in polite drinking circles.
It is through flash, as Matt notes, that much of the history of the first century and half of modern Western tattooing is traced because, well, tattoos die with their owners. [Ok, not always.]
Matt also interviews Don Ed Hardy for the first volume, discussing the flash sheets he created as a child, and also how his 1995 book "Flash from the Past," with its historic collection, drove contemporary rediscovery of flash history and celebrations of artists such as Sailor Jerry.
In the second volume, Matt interviews Filip Leu about the roots of artistic practice in his famed tattoo family, and his thoughts on flash. In this Q&A, Filip explains that flash is any design you can tattoo -- "from the traditional pork chop sheet to the full Japanese bodysuit, passing by Tahiti black work and East LA lettering." He adds that, to him, "flash represents the artist who made it." Following this is another great read, Matt's interview with Piotr Wojciechowski of the Polish Tattoo Museum. This text provides some wonderful context and background to the works displayed in the book.
What will you do with your tattoos once you're gone?
It's a question quite common in the tattoo community, particularly among serious tattoo collectors worldwide, and one I've personally been asked during too many awkward dinner party conversations.
In an answer to this question, a new tattoo preservation service and association has launched, debuting in Las Vegas at The Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth last Friday. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) is a non-profit membership association, with the goal of providing certain services to members, which include "preserving skin art on a wide scale with the ability to pass it on to loved ones." In addition, through its site Savemyink.com, NAPSA seeks to create an online community site via artist and collector galleries, and discussion groups, among other features. To join NAPSA, the initiation fee is $115, plus yearly dues of $60 (dues cover preservation of one tattoo (about the size of a chest piece), and each additional tattoo is an additional $100 one time initiation fee depending on size).
To me, the tattoo preservation service makes more sense as a for-profit business model -- as offered by Dutch tattooer Peter van der Helm -- so I was curious how it would work as a non-profit membership benefit, and also how the Savemyink.com community would provide benefits beyond other existing online tattoo communities and social media. For example, these days, Instagram is a tattooer's default online portfolio and promotion, so there has to be more in order to get artists to pay for something they already get for free.
So, I hit up NAPSA with some questions about their community and services, and Allison Peltz of their PR agency responded:
On your site, under member benefits, it states the following: "Promotion of tattoo art and tattoo community through advocacy, support, exposure, education, and more." Could you give specific examples of the advocacy and support component? I understand that Savemyink.com is a community site, but beyond the website, what services do you offer?
As our membership numbers of our association grows, our list of benefits will as well. We plan to be an advocate for the community whether it involves zoning issues or the rights of artists and enthusiasts. Another focus of ours will be lobbying to protect the preservation of art. Also, we will listen to our members and build benefits around their feedback.
The Tattoo Preservation Benefit is for one tattoo (chest piece size) but there are those, like myself, who have full body suits of tattoos (or working towards them), which most would considered one unified piece. With regard to your services, what would constitute one tattoo if we are talking about tattoos that are not single designs?
The first membership fee covers one chest-sized piece, which can be expanded to the whole body. A member is able to pay for a tattoo expansion to include the entire tattoo(s) of their choice. Each registered tattoo expansion is roughly the size of a chest piece.
As the Final Wish Fulfillment Benefit is secured by a warranty purchased from Continental Heritage Insurance Company, does this mean that the benefit is guaranteed even if NAPSA is no longer a legal entity?
The warranty guarantees the payment of a valid benefit if NAPSA is unable to fulfill the Final Wish Fulfillment Benefit.
What happens if the mortuary service of the deceased member refuses to use the service? What active steps are being taken to ensure preservation is honored?
We have a master embalmer on staff to advocate on behalf of the member. He is currently working to advocate for our service in the funeral industry and will be able to provide support as needed to the mortuaries. We are in the process of building a preferred recovery provider network.
I'd be interested in learning more about the first preserved tattoos, specifically, your founder's "KPMG" and "Mom" pieces. How many other tattoos have you preserved?
We have preserved 21 tattoos to date. The hard part was actually perfecting the process of preservation.
Charles [Charles Hamm ] had lost a large amount of weight and was visiting the plastic surgeon to have skin removed. He asked the plastic surgeon to mark where this procedure would take place, and then informed him that he would have tattoos put on those spots. The plastic surgeon removed the tattoos, the process on those pieces worked, and we were ready to go.
Why chose a non-profit, rather than for-profit, model to offer these services?
We constructed NAPSA as a non-profit because we wanted to create a membership association. As a membership association, we can provide a host of benefits and foster a community of like-minded individuals, whose membership dues directly support the provided benefits and the furtherance of all association activities and our community at large. ***
I appreciated the response, but I'm still skeptical about a number of the claims. First, in my experience working with the tattoo industry for almost 15 years, I can say that it is an incredibly difficult task to properly represent the interests of artists and collectors across the country, as the laws (such as zoning) differ, not just from state to state, but among local jurisdictions. Especially as it is collecting fees for membership, NAPSA should be cautious about making certain promises that it may not realistically be able to properly fulfill.
I also personally don't see greater membership benefits beyond the preservation and wish fulfillment service. If their method of tattoo preservation is proven to be a good service, then I would rather pay for it, straight out, working with the mortuary services I contract with, rather than pay dues every year until the end of my life for an organization that may not be around as long.
Alas, I'm buried under work in Brooklyn, but if you're in London -- and many are traveling to the London Tattoo Convention next weekend -- you must head to Miniature Ink II, presented by our friends at Things&Ink in collaboration with Atomica Gallery. The opening reception is Wed Sept. 23rd, 6-9pm, at the Atomica Gallery Pop-Up, 55 Neal Street in Convention Garden. Drinkies sponsored by Sailor Jerry and Huber Beer. The exhibition runs through October 2.
The kewpies are designed by top tattooers from around the world, including Alex Binnie, Annie Frenzel, Anthony "Civ" Civarelli, Antony Flemming, Big
Sleeps, Clare Hampshire, Deno, Drew Linden, Friday Jones, Guy le
Tatooer, Hannah Pixie Sykes, Jody Dawber, Jondix, Keely Rutherford, Lal
Hardy, Lauren Winzer, Lou Hopper, Michelle Myles, Nikole Lowe, Rachel
Baldwin, Rose Hardy, Sarah Carter, Sasha Unisex, Wendy Pham and more.
All featured artwork is available to purchase on a first-come, first-served, basis. Atomica Gallery will also have a selection of limited edition prints,
original artworks, ceramics and books and other
artist-made rarities available for sale. What's even more awesome is that profits from the sales will benefit Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
Alice Snape, Things&Ink Editor and curator of Miniature Ink II, offers more on the event:
Kewpies were common as illustrations, dolls and tattoo designs in the
early 1900s before falling out of popularity in the 50s. With respected
contemporary tattoo artists such as Mike 'Rollo' Malone (1942 - 2007)
and Dr Lakra reviving their status, the cherub-like characters are once
again in vogue as both tattoo flash and recognised artworks; decorated
kewpie dolls by Mexican artist Dr Lakra have even appeared on display at
Tate Britain and Somerset House. [...] Kewpies have become a cult object in the tattoo world, and we're so excited to see what the artists create.
The exhibition also marks the three-year birthday of the magazine, so this opening is going to be quite a party -- and a hot ticket, so RSVP in advance via email email@example.com or join the Facebook event.
The Dark Lord of Tattooing, Paul Booth, just broke his facial tattoo taboo and created his version of Moko in this demonic piece on a fellow tattooer. As noted on Paul's Instagram post, the tattoo is designed to change depending on the point of view.
Naturally, with a work like this, the tattoo has gone viral across social media, garnering hundreds of comments -- and within those comments are critiques on changing someone's appearance so drastically and the ethics in doing so. The discussion of tattoo ethics has been a hot topic lately, particularly driven by the "f*cking neck tattoo" debate, in which Dan Bythewood at NY Adorned refused to put a neck tattoo on a women who only had three little tattoos; the woman then whined about his refusal on the internet.
This is different.
I'm a fan of beautifully done facial tattoos on those who are seriously committed to tattoos and in a good place in their lives, and I feel that the decisions to tattoo people wanting this type of work is best done on a case-by-case basis. In this case, Paul felt that this client and this type of work made the right moment to break his taboo.
Here's how Paul explains it:
[T]o answer some questions I'm getting a lot of, I thought I would
answer some here. Old School Tattoo shop Mythology dictates we don't do
hands and faces. My reasons included not wanting to be responsible
for... At THAT time... A truly regret filled bad decision. Society did
not find tattooing even remotely
acceptable. Of course, even today, a face tattoo severely limits you
with career options. So it is generally unethical practice and therefore
"taboo". However... While i have thought up heaps of sick ideas for
faces over the years because after all, isn't what is taboo to you
always quite alluring?! It was just my ethics wouldn't allow it. Now
it's not that i have lost them by choosing to do a face... It's that i
was finally approached by someone who not only met the requirements for
me to keep my ethics intact but also was doing it for many of the same
reasons i did it. It was a Ritual for both of us. He is a 30 year old
tattoo artist who needed and was ready for the ultimate commitment to
our craft. Do you have any concept of what it takes to literally go to
your mentor and say tattoo whatever you want all over my face. It's
about extending trust at a level most couldn't understand. He is
tattooed to his knuckles and the reason his chest and shoulders are bare
is because he has been saving them for me for years. He endured the
suffering for 3.5 hours as he insisted on one sitting from the start.
It's important to suffer... Especially if this is a Rite Of Passage for
you. He barely squirmed. Seriously dedicated tattoo warrior right here
and he deserves respect, not opinionated scorn. Besides... "Mr. Can't
get a job " probably makes more money than you. He's a Tattoo Artist.
Yup. He probably does. Kudos to them both for a beautiful tattoo and the discussion surrounding it.