01:45 PM
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You get the tattoo you deserve.

From VICE:

No Class is a DIY tattoo parlor run by skater Jesse Brocato from his living room in Fairplay, Colorado. Every tattoo from No Class is free, provided you're at least halfway tanked when you start laying the ink on yourself. Which I think explains why the place is starting to pick up some steam among the skating community.
Comment on the post in N+S Facebook group or Tweet at me: @needlesandsins.
10:44 AM
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Some interesting tattoo news hit the headlines over the past few days, so I picked my favorites here:

First up, I was happy to see Metro (UK) feature the fantastic tattoo work of Chaim Machlev, Dots to Lines, based in Berlin. What I love about Chaim's work in particular (shown above), in addition to his unique compositions, is how he manages to take strong geometric forms and balance them to the body, really enhancing it. And I'm glad the mainstream media was able to pick up on that as well. See more of Dots to Lines on Chaim's site, Facebook and Instagram.

Also looking at the artistry of tattoos, but with a bent on tributes to pop culture icons, is Kelli Marshall's piece for The Week: "What tattoos can teach us about modern fandom."  Kelli writes that, in the course of studying Hollywood legend Gene Kelley -- and the fandom associated with him -- she's found numerous people who have made their devotion to him permanent and public in the form of tattoos. She speaks with some of the fans, who explain why they got tattoos inspired by Gene Kelley, and also presents some tattoo images, thankfully crediting the artists, which is rare.  I liked this article because it offered some insight into the motivations behind tattoos that many may question because pop culture, and not high art, is the basis for the work. I myself have lay awake at nights wondering why there are numerous people with Gwen Stefani portraits. This article was a check not to judge, and here's a round-up from Kelli why:
As diverse as these tattoos are, they're all rooted in the same thing: the powerful, deeply personal impact that mass culture can have on our private lives. Tattoos based on fandoms are rarely a simple tribute to the movies or TV shows we love; they're muses, reminders of a friend, acts of rebellion, testaments to survival. Tattoos may begin with a fandom -- but they end with the self.
But ... if we're going to judge, there's this: "Tattooed muscians: the good, the bad and the very ugly."

On the more serious news tip, there's a discussion on medic alert tattoos and how the medical community responds to them. As noted in the article, there's debate over whether first responders will consider tattoos that note medical conditions, say "Diabetic, Type 1," instead of the standard bracelets that convey that information. One argument is the following:
"We're not going to stop to read a tattoo in an emergency situation," said Don Lundy, president of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. "They can be complicated and hard to read. Medical bracelets and necklaces are what stand out."
On the flip side, tattoos are being taken more seriously to alert certain conditions, and the article notes that it could be useful for organizations, like the American Diabetes Association, to offer guidelines on the placement and general shape for tattoos.

Finally, the Washington Post reports on Baghdad tattoo parlors. There have actually been a number of articles written on the underground tattoo scene in Iraq, but this one is worth a read for the reporting on the surrounding culture that has led to shops opening up despite the danger in doing so.
02:30 PM
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Photos via Vin Los' Instagram

Last week, Vice interviewed Vin Los, an aspiring Canadian model who, at the time of the article, worked at a supermarket but had hopes of being world famous via words permanently scrawled on his face -- words including "lick," "fame," and "scream my name," among other insightful commentary. And those tattoos have indeed gotten him some press, with articles in less-than-literary publications like Us Weekly and the Daily Mail, although Los notes in his Vice Q&A that he has yet to get a modeling contract.

While sarcasm is just too easy here, I am reminded of how, when Rick Genest aka "Zombie Boy" was first profiled online via BMEzine, many mocked the young Montreal punk for limiting his life options. Now, Zombie Boy makes more money than most of us, signing deals with Lady Gaga, Dermablend, and licensing his likeness on products from condoms to bath towels.

Los, also from Montreal, is seeking a similar path, and as Vice points out, has created "a budget version of that Zombie Boy video" in which he shows that his tattoos are real -- just as real as his passion to "embody pop culture."  The video, embedded below, can be found on YouTube here.

I think the real obstacle that Los will face is that his tattoos aren't artful like Zombie Boy's, and in fact, are crude in execution and content. That does not attract license deals. No bath towels for him!

So it is likely the fame will come but for limited point-and-laugh type press. Then again, like Zombie Boy, he may prove everyone wrong.

I recommend reading the Vice article, an excerpt of which is below, because it offers some interesting insight into one's drive towards pop culture fame.

VICE: How old were you when you got your first tattoo?
Vin Los: I was about 16 or 17 years old. I got the Le Coq Sportif logo. Then I got words tattooed on my arms, and that's when I decided I would never get another image or drawing tattooed. Drawings don't mean anything to me. It may sound like I have bad values or something, but my tattoos aren't just for me. I want to be an image for people to look at, something that has an impact. Everybody who sees me is bound to ask questions: "Why fame? What's his life like?"

So you like it when people look at you that way?
Yes. A puzzled stare is one that's gonna last. I want to create a myth, a mystery. A lot of people ask me if I'm scared I might regret it one day. If I was indecisive, I don't think I would write on my face.

How do you pick the words or expressions that go on your body?
It's very superficial. I'll go on YouTube and listen to all the big hits and I'll just take words from these songs. For example, "Top of the World" is from the song by The Cataracs, but it's also what I want. I want to rule the world. As for the city names, it's to show that we are all on the same level. Borders still exist but not to the same extent. Whether you're like, in Zurich or Sydney, I personify all of that. I want to embody pop culture. You could look at me in a hundred years from now and really get the idea of what pop culture was like in the early 2010s.

08:37 AM
alice-1267-photo-wide.jpgalice-941-photo-wide.jpgWhile we have a policy of not promoting Kickstarter campaigns (just way too many), I had to mention the incredible success of Litographs Tattoos: Wearable Tributes to Iconic Books, particularly how, within 12 hours, they reached their goal to recreate the entire text of Alice in Wonderland on 2,500 human bodies and make the world's longest *temporary* tattoo chain.  And because of this success, they are able to extend the project by having the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, made into another tattoo chain.

Here's how the chains work:  To be part of a chain, one only needs to contribute $1. Once the temporary tattoos have been sent out, each backer will then upload a photo of their applied piece of the story to Litographs tattoo app, where they'll "print" the story in full.

But there are also cool perks beyond a buck:  $3 gets you another literary tattoo of your choice, $15 gets you six...and more. The other temporary tattoos include quotes from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Ulysses, Henry VI, and Les Miserables.

I got my hands on a few and I have to say that Litographs art team of Benjy Brooke, Tess Clancy, and Dorothy Sanders created some beautiful graphics to accompany the quotes, and they truly look realistic -- which is what my sister wanted when I gave her a couple to put on and shock my parents that yet another daughter has gone rogue.

What I really liked was how this project was inspired by a very real literary tattoo chain, Shelley Jackson's SKIN Project, which launched in 2003, and sets out to publish a story of Shelley's on the skin of 2095 volunteers.

These type of communal tattoo projects are cool, not just for the novelty of the idea, but that it actually could bring people together and create many more stories from that community.

07:59 AM
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Neo Tattoo1.jpgWhile reading the wonderful Things & Ink blog, I came across the latest work of Delaine "Neo" Gilma of Stichfreudig Tattoo Studio in Zurich, Switzerland. Tattooing since 2000, Neo's portfolio is heavily influenced by geometry, illustration, and also indigenous tattooing, blending the traditional with the modern.

Inked magazine did a Q &A with Neo,  and here's a bit from that talk:

How did you get into tattooing? I was always interested in Polynesian cultures and all those mysterious shaman and headhunter tattoos, so I designed some for myself and got them inked in the late 90s. I was studying industrial design during that time, which became pretty technically and economically orientated, so I needed something rude and archaic to bring me back to where I started, before I found myself designing light bulbs. So I was hanging around more in the tattoo studio of a good friend than at the university. One day Alex (who also did my first tattoos) asked me if I wanted to become his apprentice. It seemed obvious that industrial design wouldn't be my way for the future, so I quit and did tattoos.

How do you describe your style? Geometric pattern orientated sci-fi graffiti style flavored with a heartwarming drop of comic characters and occult symbolism.

What inspires you as an artist? I've been asked this one lots of times, and mostly I lose myself in listing up things of interest in my perception, like natural rock-structures, op art, ancient aliens or quantum physics (I like things that sound scientific). But in the end I guess it's the same for all artists; it's just an open eye and mind for everything. I mean, inspiration comes from things you like, things that impress you, things that frighten you, from whatever leaves an imprint in your soul so you want to explain it with your brain or enjoy it with your heart and that's why I do the things I do.

What has been one of the strangest tattoos you've ever done? A pretty strange but very cool one was an ant-trail from the toe over the back to the palm of the hand. The ants were carrying lots of wicked things over that girl's body. Most people would think doing a straight line across the body is strange, but for me writing your own name or doing a fairy on a flower is far more strange.
Check more of Neo's work on his site, Instagram and Facebook.
08:14 AM
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In a truly inspiring story, Moselle "Mimi" Rosenthal, who turned 105-years old last Friday, offers her words of wisdom to TV cameras, and also a peak at her tattoos, which she started collecting at age 99.

Moselle says that she wanted to mark her milestone of turning 99 with a tattoo, but felt she was too old. When a family friend, who is a tattooist, told her she wasn't too old, and then offered to tattoo her for free, Moselle said that she "couldn't resist." That first tattoo was a small butterfly on one ankle; then at age at age 100, she got a flower on her other ankle. And then, because she was tired of pulling up her pants legs to show her tattoos, she got a larger sunflower on her forearm at age 101.

That forearm tattoo garnered some media attention, like this Tampa Bay Times article. Of that attention, Moselle jokes that she didn't get famous for curing cancer, but instead, became famous for being tattooed, adding "Isn't that ridiculous?!"

What makes this 3 1/2 minute video (below) really worth watching are her thoughts on how to live a good life:  to enjoy people and make them laugh.

[Thanks, Sean, for the link.]
06:54 AM
A close-up from an engraving of Jeanne des Anges (ca. 1638) displaying the nun and her "signed hand."

Thanks to the powers of Facebook (and Mikey Freedom), I learned of a fantastic article entitled, "Demon Marks Lay Bare the Twisted History of Tattooing." Granted, I'm only ten years late to the game in reading this 2004 piece (which is like a billion years on the Internet), but the information is really fascinating and I had to share.

The article is based on the research of Katherine Dauge-Roth, who has written about demonic possessions, exorcisms, and body markings among nuns in 17th-century France in her book, "Signing the Body in Early Modern France" (published in 2013).

Here's a bit from the article:
Poring over nuns' diaries, biographies, and exorcists' accounts, Dauge-Roth has pieced together a fascinating tale of torment, tattoos and devotion that details a range of 17th-century body-marking practices and sheds new light on women's spiritual traditions.

For some religious women, carving writing on the body was a way to signify their devotion, and to physically act out their desire for mystical union with Christ.

"In the seventeenth century you see women tattooing themselves with holy names and the sign of the cross," says Dauge-Roth. "One devout widow engraves the name of Jesus on her chest to avoid remarriage. It was a way of saying, 'I belong to God,' of affirming their spiritual commitment and identity."

Other women come by their inscriptions after a run-in with the devil.

Jeanne des Anges, an Ursuline nun from Loudun, France, experienced possession, exorcism and demonic "exit" marks that ultimately transformed her into a saintly character. "Jeanne reportedly had seven demons in her body," says Dauge-Roth. "When they exited they left several marks, including the inscription of four saints' names on her hand.

The whole article is great read. I highly recommend it.

10:48 AM

I enjoyed this illustrated TEDEd tattoo tutorial video "What makes tattoos permanent?" by Claudia Aguirre (animation by TOGETHER). It's basic info on how tattoos are made and answers questions such as, "If Humans Shed So Much Dead Skin, How Are Tattoos Permanent?" (as noted by Gizmodo), but the presentation of the material is clever and worth a watch.

[Thanks, Tommy, for the link!]
08:54 AM
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The US Food & Drug Administration just issued a notice of recall of tattoo ink, needles and kits due to microbial contamination.

According to the FDA:
White & Blue Lion, Inc. in the City of Industry, CA is recalling all lots of tattoo Inks and tattoo needles due to pathogenic bacterial contamination. Use of these products may cause bacterial infection and can lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. The recall includes all tattoo inks, tattoo needles, and tattoo kits distributed by White & Blue Lion...
The FDA site has the specific brand, codes and lot numbers. And as noted on the site, there has been one case of illness as of yesterday.

The inks are sold separately and also in tattoo kits with needles, which are distributed by 8Decades and White & Blue Lion, Inc. on Amazon.com and other places that will sell tattoo supplies to anyone.

While Needles & Sins readers aren't the type to be or frequent scratchers with cheap starter kits, it's worth noting and passing along.
12:49 PM
Interesting news stories this week include jail time for certain tattoos in Myanmar, the impact of US Army tattoo rules, tattoo-related infections in Japan, a Brooklyn tattoo studio profile, and a beautiful new tattoo for quarterback Colin Kaeprnick.

First up, tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman pointed out, in the Needles & Sins Facebook group, this article: "Below-the-Belt Burma Map Could Earn Jail Time for the Tattooed." It's an fascinating quick piece about how a provision of Myanmar's State Seal law, which prohibits anyone from "disgracefully using or destroying anything that represents the country's symbol (including the map outline of the country)," can be used to impose a 3-year prison term on anyone who gets a tattoo of the map of Burma on the lower part of their body. The article quotes one lawmaker citing a chief justice who declared:
"It is acceptable if they tattoo the map on the upper part of body to show their love for the country. But if it is in the lower part of the body, it's inappropriate." [...] Thein Lwin [a district representative] said he had noticed the growing popularity of tattoos among young people to express themselves, and felt the map should be protected from inappropriate use."
Also interesting is the impact of the new revisions to the US Army's grooming & appearance standards, as noted in AZ Central's "300 prospective Phoenix Army recruits rejected over tattoos." [Note: The news video automatically loads when you click the link, including sound.] According to the article, "Nearly 30 prospective enlistees on average are being turned away each week from Army recruiting stations in Phoenix" because of the new regulations. It's also noted, "The Army is allowing soldiers to keep ­older tattoos as long as their content isn't forbidden and they were documented before the new rules took effect." Naturally, that means that a lot of enlisted men and women had hit the tattoo studios to finish up or get new work before the rules went into effect. For more on the regs, check our "Military Tattoo Battles" post.

Tattoo-linked infections sent a handful of American troops to the US Naval Hospital in Okinawa Japan, as noted in this Stars & Stripes piece last month. The follow-up to that story this week is the Military.com article, "Military Won't Name Tattoo Shops in Infection Case." It's reported that Naval Hospital officials stated that they would not identify the three possible studios where the servicemembers contracted infections (which were "easily treatable") for the following reason: "If we posted a list of tattoo parlors that were linked to infections, it would imply that establishments not on the list were safe and tacitly endorsed by the hospital." The article also notes that Japanese health officials weighed in:
"There is no license or permission for tattoo businesses in Japan," said Hiroaki Arakaki, spokesman for the Health Care Policy Division of the Medial Department of the Okinawa Prefectural Government. "If we can confirm that the subject shops engage in tattooing, the government will instruct the shops to stop the illegal conduct," he said.
In more artful news, we can rejoice that the movement of sports stars getting really great tattoos (instead of the impulse-driven scratches we often see) continues! Here's quarterback Colin Kaeprnick's new work (shown above) tattooed by the excellent Carlos Torres. The tattoo design is reportedly based on the "money is the root of all evil" biblical reference. According to TMZ, Colin first reached out to Carlos through Instagram to ask about getting an appointment. Carlos told TMZ"
"[Colin] sent me a drawing of his idea ... There was a lot going on so I simplified it. Not every piece of art makes a great tattoo, so I refined it so it'd be a great tattoo. But Colin came up with the concept." He added, "We did three sittings. They were each eight, nine hours long. The side of the ribs are a painful area, but Colin laid there like a rock."
Finally, I highly recommend checking this Complex Magazine profile on East River Tattoo in Brooklyn. Our friend Nick Schonberger, Complex Deputy Editor, offers his thoughts on what makes the studio a stand-out in a sea of stellar shops in Brooklyn, and there are also cool photos of East River that capture its vibe by Liz Barclay, such as this one below.

east_river_tattoo.jpgIf you find a cool tattoo news item, let me know via Facebook, Twitter, or hit me up at marisa at needlesandsins.com.
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