07:28 AM
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It's pretty wonderful that the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers many of its art publications as free downloads and for online reading -- books that inspire tattooers and collectors.

In looking for design ideas for my next tattoo work, I searched their titles for "tattoo," and was thrilled to find Adorning the World: Art of the Marquesas Islands, their 2005 exhibition catalog, which is out of print, but the publication in its entirety -- from essays, drawings, photos and maps -- can be viewed here and downloaded.

As noted in the catalog's description, Eric Kjellgren and Carol S. Ivory "place the artistic traditions of the Marquesas within their cultural and historical context, giving insights into their distinctive visual imagery and their enduring influence on Western art and literature." Here's more:

Known for the elegance and complexity of their decorative art, Marquesan artists were described by Paul Gauguin as possessing "an unheard of sense of decoration" in all they created. The extraordinary ways in which Marquesans adorned their world are reflected in virtually every type of object they made and used--from sacred figures of gods and ancestors to items that were purely functional. Long admired by artists, writers, and scholars, the art and culture of the Marquesas Islands have until recently been unfamiliar to larger audiences. However, the artists of the Marquesas archipelago were among the most accomplished in the Pacific. Their work was fashioned from a diversity of materials in forms ranging from delicate ivory ornaments and luxuriant featherwork to imposing figural sculpture in wood and stone. The human body was also an important focus for artistic expression. Adorned with finely crafted ornaments, elaborate coiffures, and intricate tattoos that sometimes covered the entire body, Marquesans themselves became living art forms.
On the publication page, you can also find images of related works that are part of the Met's collection.

And while you're having fun on the museum's free book pages, also check their "Artwork of the Day" page and "The Artist Project" digital feature.
03:32 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed this Heartbeat NY video profile on Gene Coffey, resident artist of Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, in which he shares his thoughts on originality, plagiarism, and finding one's own voice in tattooing, among other great discussions on the art.

Gene is just as adept in painting images with words as he is with a tattoo machine and with brushes. I love how he phrases his work as a remix of images and experiences said with a slightly different accent, and also how he explains how he came to develop his distinct tattoo style, in the vein of his fine artwork, with the encouragement of innovating French tattoo artists Noon and Loic (aka Xoil), who are regular guests at Tattoo Culture. Gene says that Noon advised him to take out every image in his portfolio that he no longer wanted to tattoo and just to leave those works that represented the type of work he wanted to take on going forward. He did so, and in the process, became a tattooer renowned for expanding the definition of what a "tattoo" is.

I also found myself nodding my head and saying Amen when he talked about "tattoo plagiarism" and finding copies of his custom tattoos. He shares that it's not just a copy of an image that someone is stealing, but all his life experiences that it took to make that tattoo.

Of course he says this in a much more quirky and interesting Gene Coffey way, so I recommend watching the full video, which was created by Snorri Sturluson.

Find more of Gene's tattoos on Instagram, and the Tattoo Culture site.

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02:34 PM
irezumi.jpgKuniyoshi  print.jpgHoritoshi III drawing.jpgA fantastic exhibition exploring Japanese tattooing, in various mediums through different periods, is now on view at The Ronin Gallery in NYC. Entitled "TABOO: UKIYO-E AND THE JAPANESE TATTOO," the exhibit encompasses the work of ukiyo-e masters Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi, Kunisada and Kunichika "celebrating the world of tattoo duing the Edo and Meiji periods. Also exciting are the original paintings and drawings of master tattoo artist Horiyoshi III, along with the contemporary art photography of Masato Sudo and mixed-media work of American artist Daniel Kelly.

The best part: the 76-page catalog packed with beautiful imagery and tattoo history is available as free ebook [embedded below]. The hardcopy catalog and prints can be purchased here.

I highly recommend taking the time to read through it. You may also find inspiration for your next tattoo!

07:05 AM
swastika-tattoo.jpgSwastika tattoo on Guido Baldini by Thomas Hooper.

The recent tattoo headlines had some juicy news items, including debate over the use of the "gentle swastika," battling tattoo conventions in San Antonio, tattoo ink regulation in Europe, a new tattoo museum in New Orleans, a Jesus tattoo ad court case, and another reason not to get your girlfriend's name tattooed on you. Here's more:

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there's been some controversy over one tattooer's use of the swastika in his artwork. In KRQE News' piece "Tattoo artist defends swastika-Zia design," there's video footage of tattooer Guido Baldini discussing how he wants to revisit the positive and auspicious symbolism behind the swastika and reclaim it from being a mark of Nazi-driven hate. Baldini also notes in the article that the symbol has history with Native American culture in the southwest, explaining that the symbol is referred to as "the weaving log or whirling log." In essence, his goal is change people's minds by sparking conversation -- even heated debates -- in the same vein as the forefather of the "gentle swastika" movement, ManWoman. It's an interesting read and watch.

Also seeking to offer some history lessons, although more contemporary ones, The New Orleans Tattoo Museum & Studio hosted its grand opening March 21st, and already has been featured in various press outlets, including the Gambit and the New Orleans Advocate. The museum is a partnership between 40-year tattoo veteran "Doc" Don Lucas and fellow tattooer and history buff Adam Montegut. They will be tattooing in the back of the 2,000 square foot space, while the front-end gallery space will house tattoo memorabilia, classic flash, machines, books and research materials. The space is also slated for artist talks and other events. The Gambit article shares some of Lucas' tattoo lessons:

Lucas says New Orleans' port city status was pivotal in bringing tattoo artists to the city, though the often transitory, traveling roadshow of early 20th-century tattooists and their shops largely is undocumented. [...] Lucas estimates there were 150 traveling artists by the turn of the century, and nearly one artist for every major city.

In the 1920s, George Pinell opened his first tattoo parlor in the 200 block of Canal Street. Its sign advertised "Prof. Geo. Pinell Electric Tattooing." Pinell also spent nearly three decades working from inside a truck near Canal and N. Peters Street, and in 1955, he opened a closet-sized shop under the ferry landing at the foot of Canal. The space was so small that customers sat with one leg outside the door and the other inside the shop, which advertised Pinell as a "tattooing specialist" with "all the latest designs." Pinell -- dubbed "The Professor" and "Old Man" -- was among only a handful of tattooists in the New Orleans area. In 1958, he told The Times-Picayune's Dixie magazine that his most popular tattoo was a person's Social Security number. "This is what I call a neighborhood business," he said. "One person in a block gets it done and tells his neighbors. Many think it's a good idea and follow suit."

On the legal front, the "Jesus Tattoo" advertisement, which I wrote about back in 2013, was the subject of a federal appeals court case, in which the people behind the ad sued a Texas school district because they wouldn't display the ad on the video scoreboard of its football stadium. Here's why Little Pencil LLC v. Lubbock Independent School District is particularly interesting: It's not just an issue of the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion. The school district also argued that they didn't want to display the ad because the tattooed Jesus pic would violate its policy against visible tattoos. The appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling that the school district's tattoo restriction rationale for rejecting the ad was "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns." What that could mean is the school has a right to ban any ad with tattoos because it goes against the school's policy of mere mortals showing ink. So maybe that could apply to athletic gear ads that feature tattooed ballers!

jesus_tattoo_billboard.jpgIn European tattoo law news, the EU Commission is mulling over action on tattoo inks, assessing whether there should be some European-wide rules governing them, in addition national action that some European countries have taken to regulate tattoo pigments. I've been speaking with people involved in these regulatory discussions, so watch out for a detailed post on subject coming up.

Ok, I'll stop geeking out over the tattoo law stuff. Moving on...

In this article entitled "Back-To-Back SA Tattoo Conferences Expose Rift," there's talk of the beef behind competing shows in San Antonio, Texas. The 12th Annual Slinging Ink Tattoo Expo was held this past weekend (see coverage here), and next weekend the Texas Tattoo Jam will also take place in San Antonio. Seems to be based on a lot of personal bad blood -- which isn't uncommon in other cities' competing shows as well. Part of me wishes conventions were held only a few times a year -- as big international community events -- rather than watered down weekly gigs. There's also a related article that's worth a read: "Veteran Artists Lament SA's Tattoo Scene Turning Into Competitive Industry." It hits on the "art versus craft" debate in tattooing.

Finally, there's this piece: "Man says ISIS tattoo led to him getting fired." Isis was his ex's first name. Another reason why it's not a good idea to get boyfriend-girlfriend tattoos, kids!
07:34 AM
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The work of tattoo artist nomad Fidjit has been popping up all over my social media feed with her upcoming guest spots across the US, and I realized that I hadn't yet shared her work on blog. Consider that oversight now rectified.

While Fidjit's portfolio is far from limited to the soulful and hypnotic female figures that you'll find on her Instagram and Tumblr, these characters that she draws are signature pieces that have garnered fans around the world. In May and June, she'll be taking care of those fans from the East Coast to the West Coast:

May 14 - 21: Saved Tattoo in NYC, NY
May 27-30:   Scapegoat Tattoo in Portland, OR
June 3-6:      2Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco, CA

For bookings, hit her up at fidjit.m at


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09:10 AM
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Happy to announce the tattoo artist winner of the giveaway we posted last week for the Face & Body Professionals Skin Numbing  Package, which includes four bottles of Sustaine Blue Gel, one Swipe, and one Liquidcaine spray.

I put the entry names of those who commented on our social media, with the majority of entries through
my Instagram, and plugged them into Randomizer to pick a winner. And the artist picked is ...

Paul Talbot (@paultlbt) of Modern Electric Tattoo Co. in Catshill, UK.  Congratulations!

More contests coming up (which will be open to all) very soon. 
02:49 PM
Sailor Jerry Flash.jpg Sailor Jerry Flash 2.jpgSome hot news from the SXSW fest that doesn't involve protesting potential robot overlords

From March 19-21, the entire collection of Norman "Sailor Jerry'" Collins' original flash, art and sketches will debut -- for the first time in the US -- at the pop up Sailor Jerry Gallery at SXSW. The collection, which underwent an extensive conservation process, is comprised of 70 framed pieces: 14 drawings/rubbings on tracing paper, 20 sheets of flash, 36 groups of acetate stencils. Entrance is free and for any age (as no Sailor Jerry Rum will be served in the gallery space.).

I think it's exciting to have the opportunity to view original works from the "Godfather of American tattooing," considering how his bold-will-hold aesthetic, and visionary melding of Americana and Japanese technique and design, has influenced generations and generations of tattooers. There's word that the exhibit may travel to other US cities so keep an eye out for it. 

The Sailor Jerry Gallery at SXSW is open from Noon - 6PM and is located at 908 E. 5th Street, #106, Austin, TX 78702.

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03:21 PM
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"Women are tougher than men."

Naturally, this caught my attention when a Canberra Times profile on Australian tattooer Leslie Rice -- and his life lessons -- appeared in my tattoo alerts yesterday.

The second generation tattoo artist, who is the son of Les Bowen, offers advice that go beyond tattooing, which include the following:

Perimeters or limitations on creative expression are helpful. 

If you're completely free to make anything it can be stultifying, you don't really know quite what to do. If you have limits and boundaries on creativity that sets you in motion, you can actually make something of any kind of worth.

The insidious nature of fashion.

The logic of fashion has infiltrated everything. In tattooing it just does not belong, but sadly it's here whether we like it or not. Fashion and tattooing are the world's worst bedfellows because fashion is that thing that every six months you have to change for some arbitrary reason, but a tattoo is something that can't be changed. A lot of people are approaching tattooing from a fashion angle and 6-12 months later you can look at their tattoo and tell exactly what month it was done because you know when that was hot, and that's a sad thing. 

Read the rest here.

You can find Les at his two LDF Tattoo shops, in Newtown and Marrickville, Sydney, and at the The Australian Tattoo and Body Art Expo today through the weekend.

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03:08 PM
Needles-and-Sins-Give-Away_FINAL copy.jpgWe have an exciting new contest, geared especially for tattoo artists and studios:

Face & Body Professionals are offering a special "TATTOO ARTIST GIVE-AWAY" on their topical anesthetics (skin numbing products) - a $200 value - to help clients sit longer, squirm less, and leave the studio happier.

The kit includes four bottles of Sustaine Blue Gel, one Swipe, and one Liquidcaine spray:

Sustaine Blue Gel, which retails for $35 per bottle, is Face & Body's most popular and potent skin numbing agent for use after outlining a tattoo (and, according to Face & Body, a favorite of longtime user Ally Lee from Hot Rod Alley Tattoo and Spike TV's Ink Master).   It contains a unique combination of ingredients - lidocaine (4%) and tetracaine (2%) with epinephrine (0.02%) - and is effective at reducing bleeding, swelling and bruising.

Liquidcaine, which retails for $20 per bottle, is a 4% lidocaine spray, used to produce a quick skin numbing within 90 seconds of application. It can be applied during all tattooing once the skin is broken.

Swipe, which retails for $40 per bottle, contains three powerful local anesthetics, which when applied to broken skin, provides effective skin deadening within 90 seconds: lasting up to an hour. Swipe can be used continuously throughout tattooing once skin is broken.

So, here's how we're going to play it: 

Tattoo Artists head to our Facebook group and enter your shop name and link on this post; or Tweet it at me; or comment, with your shop name and link, on the Face & Body photo on my Instagram.  On March 19th (9 AM EST), I'll plug all the entries in to Randomizer to pick a winner. 

While the contest is limited to artists/studios, collectors should feel free to hit their tattooers up to enter, and possibly reap the rewards for a less painful session.

Good luck!

04:31 PM
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Yesterday, our friend Paul posted in the Needles & Sins Facebook group, this video (embedded below) from one of the most iconic tattoo conventions worldwide: the Dunstable Tattoo Expo. The video, which is from 1994, offers a glimpse of 90s tattoo culture, complete with a long blonde-haired Paul Booth, a village of tribal tattoos, and people having a ton of fun.

I had never been, but my tattoo artist, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo, speaks of it fondly and how important it was, not just as a community gathering, but how it helped a lot of tattooers progress artistically. Before Instagram and Facebook fan pages, being featured in tattoo magazines (remember when tattoo magazines showed lots of good tattoos) brought recognition -- and more bodies to tattoo. Dunstable was the place to have your work seen. At one of the Dunstable shows, Dan brought a bunch of punk friends he had been tattooing for free in his heavy blackwork style at the time -- big tattoo pieces. He wanted to work further in this style he was developing, and showing his work at Dunstable was a pivotal moment. His work was photographed and appeared in tattoo magazines; soon, more tattoo collectors, and fellow tattooers, traveled to his studio in Liege, Belgium to get his style of tattoo work. With the flood of tattoo images on various platforms that we see today, I wonder if conventions still have that kind of impact. Maybe they still do.

When thinking about putting up this post today, I did some searching for old Dunstable photos and found these on Flickr (via bainbiker). So cool to see body modification guru Elayne Angel, and Guinness World Book holders (and badasses) Isobel Varley and Elaine Davidson. Some great pics there.

If you have any Dunstable stories of your own to share, feel free to post them in the comments in our Facebook group.
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