Vibrant and dynamic tattoo work, largely inspired by Japanese and Americana tattooing traditions, make up the portfolio of Marco Serio. Marco, who was a resident artist at Manhattan's Invisible NYC for over five years, moved to Amsterdam in 2011, working at a local shop and then in his own private studio. Most recently, however, he gathered a crew of 9 top tattooers, each with their own unique tattoo point of view, and opened The Blue Blood Studios in Amsterdam.
Despite running a crazy busy studio, Marco took some time to play along with our Proust Questionnaire for Tattooists:
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To be completely unhappy with a tattoo I have done. That is why I strive to not let that happen.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Walking into the studio with my fiance, hanging out with the crew and tattooing.
Your most marked characteristic?
What is your principle defect?
I'm a scatterbrain.
Your favorite painters?
Hieronymus Bosch, Istvan Sandorfi, Benjamin Cohen, Picasso's early years, and Dali.
Your favorite musicians?
Dan Auerbach, Miles Davis, Howlin' Wolf, and Lightnin Hopkins.
Who are your favorite writers?
Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, Fernando Pessoa, and Walt Whitman.
Your favorite virtue?
Who would you have liked to be?
How would you like to die?
In my sleep.
What is your present state of mind?
Calm and happy.
What is your motto?
The bigger the sacrifice, the greater the reward.
See more of Marco's work on The Blue Blood site, Facebook, and Instagram.
Also, The Blue Blood Studios will be hosting several upcoming events for both fellow tattooers (painting nights in which visiting artists will share their knowledge) and day donations for charities (a day for the homeless, a for battered women, and a for kids in need). Check in with the studio on Facebook.
Backpiece above by Jill Bonny.
Backpiece above by Tim Hendricks.
Front torso tattoo by Ron Earhart.
Stunning large-scale tattoo work by stellar tattooists are captured in Markus Cuff's new book entitled "Torso" -- a 120-page hardcover of Markus' photographs spanning 16 years, which document tattoo culture and the evolution of the art form across the United States and Pacific Islands.
The artists include Horiyoshi III, Mike Rubendall, Horitaka, Jill Bonny, Khalil Rintye, John The Dutchman, Carlos Torres, Matt Breckerich, Clark North, Aaron Coleman, Steve Looney, Ron Earhart, Nate Bunuelos, Edwin Shaffer, George Campisi and Denny Besnard. Their differing tattoo styles conveyed in backpieces and front torso tattoos should be of interest to a wide range of tattoo enthusiasts.
The "Torso" book release and signing will be tomorrow, Thursday, November 20th, from 7-10pm, at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. There, you can pick up a copy of the book; also, grab it online now here or pre-order from Amazon here.
[Interesting side note on Markus: In addition to being a photographer and artist, he was also the original drummer for Emmylou Harris and the cult band The Textones.]
In our Needles & Sins Facebook Group this weekend, Inge & Beth posted links to The Guardian's article and video featuring the work of Survivors Ink, a nonprofit project that aids formerly trafficked women by transforming their tattoo and branding marks of abuse into artwork, or helping them remove these tattoos completely.
Jennifer Kempton, who founded Survivors Ink, explains her motivation behind the project:
Tattoos are a creative way to display beautiful and meaningful artwork on a human canvas. However, there are times when this unique form of art is being used to exploit human trafficking victims. It is becoming popular for traffickers to use tattoos as a way to forcibly brand their victims... marked as property, as if they were human cattle. These human trafficking victims are already being treated as though they are pieces of meat and now they are being enslaved by permanent marks of demoralizing tattoos. The thought of having to live the life of a victim, forced or coerced into being a sex slave, is horrible enough. But try to imagine being able to finally escape this life of darkness, only to be marked with a constant reminder of the violence you have suffered.As noted in The Guardian article, the horrors of human trafficking in the US are astounding: "Reliable statistics are rare, but those in the field estimate hundreds of thousands of women and girls - the majority of whom are US citizens - are sold for sexual exploitation in America's $9.5bn human-trafficking industry. According to the US Department of Justice, 300,000 of those at risk are children."
The "property of" tattoos on these victims is systemic in the US (but can also be found on victims worldwide). As Jennifer told The Guardian, "pretty much every woman who survives the streets comes out with some kind of mark on her body." She adds that there was even a crack house where a "tattoo artist" would often be in residence, trading tattoos on the women for drugs.
Through Survivors Ink, real tattoo artists donate their time to cover these marks of abuse, and the only cost is that to cover supplies. More on how the project brings tattooers and survivors together can be found on the Survivors Ink site.
The tattoo stories of the women featured in the article and video are heart wrenching, but I highly recommend you read and/or see the video. It is a reminder just how powerful tattoos can be, from oppression to transformation.
Last week, a beautiful tattoo video (below) was released online featuring Alexis Calvie of Black Heart Tattoo in St. Raphael, France. Filmmaker Arnaud Payen does a great job in capturing the dark and sexy vibe of the studio as well as the process of creation as Alexis works on a sacred geometry inspired sleeve. There are close-ups of the line work as well as how Alexis builds on the sleeve using the stippling technique. The video inspired me to take a close look at Alexis' portfolio, as well as the other artists at Black Heart, and I really loved what I found.
Check their work yourself on their Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram @blackheartattoo pages.
Photo by Edgar Hoill.
I've been asked, a number of times, by tattooers what the best defense is to those frivolous law suits against tattoo studios, which are exponentially being filed, especially now that people think that tattoo artists have deep pockets. I have a pretty simple answer: insurance. Just like policies for your health, home, and car, protection is available for tattoo and piercing businesses. One company that has been protecting our industry the longest is Professional Program Insurance Brokerage ("PPIB"), and we are proud to have them as a sponsor of our site.
To offer y'all a glimpse into tattoo and piercing studio insurance, I sent some questions to Susan Preston, who founded PPIB 22 years ago, at a time when there was a pure lack of or a market for this type of coverage. Here's a bit from our Q&A:
Over twenty years ago, at the inception of PPIB, what were the main concerns of artists and studios in terms of insurance coverage to protect their businesses and are they still the same today?
Twenty years ago, the biggest concern to artists and studios was that a market did not exist for insurance coverage for their business. Most studios felt as though their customers, mostly bikers or college students at that time, were less likely to resolve their issues in the legal system; therefore, shops were not keen on carrying insurance coverage. PPIB realized that, with a changing world and economy, more people would become sue-happy and change the environment that the studios operated in. Over time, shops and artists have come to realize that insurance is needed in order to protect their livelihoods, and PPIB has been able to provide this at an affordable cost.
What are the newer legal issues in the tattoo industry that artists and studios need to be aware of and protect against? The biggest issue facing the tattoo industry today would be the transfer of communicable diseases, including infections such as MRSA, to their customers. The stigma of tattoo shops being unsanitary is far from the truth, but to a customer who has had their skin opened by a tattoo artist...the first person they blame is the shop. The infection could be caused by many factors, such as improper aftercare, but we help insure the tattoo industry against the risk of being sued for this issue.
With that being said, other issues that affect artists and studios can include sexual abuse charges (example: inappropriate touching during a service) and a growing contingent of consumers who you can't always judge and are unsure what their reaction would be to your work. There have been situations where a customer is happy with a tattoo, and weeks or even months later comes back and something has changed their mind about their artwork, and they become unhappy. These are situations which we try to help protect our clients against.
What have you seen as a big impact on the industry as a result of the popularity of tattooing?
With the growing popularity of the tattoo industry, more people from across a wider spectrum are getting tattoos. This in turn increases the likelihood of lawsuits from customers of varying backgrounds. As time has progressed, this has made tattoo shops more aware of the need for insurance and the need to protect their assets. Being aware and educated on insuring one's business is the first line of defense in making sure any shop is successful.
For more info, you can contact PPIB via their site or phone: 415.475.4300.
For an absolutely fantastic look at ATL's tattoo scene, check Hypebeast's The Atlanta Project: Navigating through Tattoo Culture.
The film features tattooers Miya Bailey, Jason Kelly, Russ Abbott, Keet D'arms, and Eddie Stacey -- renowned artists working in various styles -- and takes the viewers into their studios as the artists discuss the city's tattoo community. It's a great watch, and although I wish the experience of at least one woman tattooer was included, these artists all have some great insight into the dynamic art scene in Atlanta and share that energy in a really engaging way.
Here are some tattoo samples from Miya, Jason, Russ, Keet and Eddie below. Oh, and if you haven't checked it yet, Miya's documentary on professional black tattoo artists in America -- Color Outside the Lines -- is a must watch as well.
Russ Abbott tattoo above.
Miya Bailey tattoo above.
Keet D'arms tattoo above.
Jason Kelly tattoo above.
Eddie Stacey tattoo above.
As I noted in last week's post about tattooer Josh Lord's collaboration with Stetson, I'm particularly interested when companies pursue tattoo-inspired product designs by working with actual tattoo artists rather than trying to create (what they believe to be) a tattoo vibe in-house. Another cool example is the limited edition bottle design for Dead Bolt Wine by David Hale, tattoo artist and owner of Love Hawk Tattoo Studio in Athens, Georgia.
David's tattoo style is heavily influenced by folk-art and tribal artwork, rendered in a refined blackwork style and peppered with reds. He translated this tattoo aesthetic by creating an eagle in flight design for Dead Bolt's 2013 Californian Red Blend. I wish the neo-tribal stylized logo didn't overwhelm the beautiful eagle artwork, but overall, I'm digging the collaboration, and also how Dead Bolt has been prominently featuring David's tattoo and fine art work in their promotions.
Dead Bolt is also promoting a contest in which you can win $500 towards your next tattoo by sharing your tattoo story. I know, not every tattoo has a story, but go ahead and make one up for $500!
I opened a bottle of the 2013 Californian Red Blend last night and really enjoyed it. It was fruity and subtle, smooth and not overpowering. Of course, I should have waited to open the bottle with Demetra Molina, wine expert and co-owner of The Hand of Fate Tattoo Parlor ... but it was one of those nights.
Dead Bolt's limited edition bottle is available across the US through December 2014 at a suggested retail price of $15.99. Look for it on the Pernod Ricard wine finder.
For more of David's artwork, check his site and Facebook page.
Iraq War veteran Mike Ergo with his daughter, Adeline. (Courtesy War Ink)
Senior Medic Ron Riveira of the California Army National Guard's 184th Air Assault. (Courtesy War Ink)
Launched on this Veterans' Day to honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces, War Ink is a very powerful virtual exhibit that explores the experiences of 24 veterans (most of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan), as illustrated by their tattoos.
In the video below, you'll hear pieces of the larger conversation that War Ink holds. As one veteran says, the project is a chance to talk about their own experiences in their own voice without a politically charged message, and tattoos are a way to tell those stories. The stories told through the tattoos speak of "the burden of survivor's guilt," "a reminder to maintain my humanity," "acceptance that I had come home" ... One summed up War Ink as open communication between veterans and civilians.
War Ink is created by Jason Deitch, a former Army medic and military sociologist, and Chris Brown, the senior manager at the Contra Costa County Library in California. The online exhibit is presented in four chapters: "We Were You," "Changed Forever," "Living Scars," and "Living Not Surviving." The site also has a segment called "Your Role," which is something we should really think about, particularly on this day:
Whether a veteran is a close relative, a good friend, a co-worker or even a new acquaintance, ask about his or her experiences. Most veterans welcome the opportunity to share their stories. And when they do, then... listen. Really listen. Don't use the conversation as an opportunity for telling your own story or voicing your opinions. Just be open and respectful.
Tattoo above by Jason Bane of Iron Age.
The past week's tattoo headlines ranged from tattooed monks to Hello Kitty super fans. Here's a look:
St. Louis Business Journal takes readers inside the city's renowned studio Iron Age, where they filmed the process from consultation to design to tattooing by resident artist Jason Bane. The video is meh. It's an exciting shop and the video could have better reflected that, but it does offer the look and feel of the studio, and it's always interesting for me to see that process.
Also interesting is the story of Bobby Love, a tattoo artist turned monk, and the discussion of his own personal process -- from arriving at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon in leathers on his bike to his six years there, becoming the curator of the monastery's art collections. It's a pretty powerful story of art, addiction, faith, and transformation. Here's more:
[Thanks, Brian, for posting the link to the article in our N+S Facebook group.]
ABC News in Bakersfield, CA reports on how tattoos are a "trend" for seniors. Trend pieces in mass media really don't hold much weight, especially as they relate to tattoos. It's, of course, likely that more seniors are getting tattoos because of greater accessibility and a lessened stigma among their age group. But it's pretty safe to safe that grandmas aren't running out en mass to slap pictures of their grandkids all over their bodies. What makes this article noteworthy is that no one featured was asked what they were going to look like when they get older!
Then, ABC News in Brisbane looks at the history of female tattooers in Australia, via Clare Miles' book on the subject, "Painted Ladies: The History of Female Tattoo Artists in Australia." Clare explains (in the audio of her interview) that when she was learning to tattoo and looked for information on other female tattooers, there was very little on the experiences of Australian women artists, as much of the discussion focused on American women. And so Clare began researching pioneering women in Australia's tattoo industry herself. A rather fascinating part of her talk is how famed "tattoo lady" and tattooist Cindy Ray (born Bev Robinson) had her image plastered all over post cards, books, tattoo machines and products, and yet barely received any compensation for it. [Sounds like a lot of "tattoo models" today.] It's a great discussion and you can download the 13-minute audio file here.
More noteworthy links:
After our our Q&A with the fabulous Erin Chance last March, I heard a bunch of friends from around town voice how they were hoping that Erin -- who is based in Richmond, Virginia at Ghostprint Gallery -- would spend some extra time in NYC. Well, Tribulation Tattoo recently announced that Erin will be a guest artist at the studio from February 27 to March 4th, 2015. Friends rejoice! Erin is one of a number of artists who owner Tim Kern has lined up for winter. Check the guest list here.
To ask about an appointment with Erin, you can leave a message here.
Find more of her excellent work on her site, Facebook, & Instagram, as well as our Q&A.