Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

A True Legend Lives On

April 12th, 2011 by

Few artists – let alone tattooists – have the career that Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins had.  A true pioneer of the tattoo art form, Collins was responsible for taking tattoo to places it had never been before and showing people what an art form that it could be.  He was the first tattooist to incorporate purple into his designs, he developed the magnum tattoo needle and he was a very early proponent of the importance of proper needle sterilization.  His style is instantly recognisable even today, thirty-eight years after his death.  There’s even a delicious rum named after him.

So it all makes sense to know that Collins is now getting a place in history that may even surpass the longevity of his actual tattoos.  Philadelphia’s Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts is busy at work preserving Collin’s work.

‘The center is a nonprofit conservation laboratory that focuses on works on paper, ranging from paintings to rare books to photos. Among the historic documents that have crossed the center’s tables: Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ diaries and a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

The conservators have painstaking, sometimes tedious, jobs. They must maintain the integrity of the original works while repairing obvious damage. Tools of the trade include fragile Japanese paper, brushes, erasers and gentle solvents.

The center handled three types of Collins’ work: drawings on tracing paper, stencils on acetate, and “flash art,” the designs that the artist displayed in his studio.’

An honour indeed for the artist, but also a blessing for the tattoo community and everyone who enjoys important and well crafted works of art.  Sailor Jerry is truly a legendary figure and I for one find it quite suiting that his work is to be preserved in this manner alongside other items of important historical value.  Even from the grave it seems that Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins continues to push tattooing into new and positive arenas.

One More Time…

April 11th, 2011 by

It looks as though the third time might be the charm for the state of California when it comes to tattoo shop regulations.  A bill put forth by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma had previously been vetoed by then California state governor Arnold Schwarzennegger, who felt that:

‘”it is not appropriate to tell tattoo artists through the statute how to wash their hands and fold their trash bags one inch over the rim of a trashcan.”‘

Of course, Schwarzennegger’s statements on the bill were little more than grossly oversimplified and uninformed ramblings, but they did lead to the bill being vetoed twice, most recently in late September of 2010.  Now, as of February 2011, the bill is back on the table and this time it looks as though it very well could pass.

‘Ma’s bill aims to strengthen existing regulations, including requiring tattoo artists to register annually with local authorities and to meet specified vaccination, blood-borne pathogen training and sanitation requirements. Owners of tattoo facilities would have to obtain and annually renew a local health permit and maintain the facility in specified ways.

Additionally, the bill would authorize health officials to inspect tattoo facilities and suspend their registration under certain circumstances. Owners who operated tattoo shops without the necessary permits could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined between $25 and $1,000, with local regulators determining the exact amount.’

A far cry from Schwarzennegger’s arrogant assessment of the situation, as though there couldn’t possibly be anything important or complex about the work that tattooists do.  Thankfully there’s at least one person in the assembly that was determined to bring forth an important bill.  Let’s hope it passes.

Meet Michelle Tarantelli!

April 10th, 2011 by

Okay, here’s the deal: in the vast megacity of New York, New York, there are five boroughs.  One of these boroughs is Brooklyn.  Inside Brooklyn there is a district called Williamsburg and it is within Williamsburg that one will find the Saved Tattoo studio, which is where one will also find tattooist extraordinaire, Michelle Tarantelli.  Got it?  Good, because that’s about all the information I have about her.  But that’s okay, right?  I mean, if you want to contact her for a tattoo, all you need is to know that Saved Tattoo can be found at 426 Union Avenue in the aforementioned district of Williamsburg.  Or, if you want to call up and ask about an appointment, you can do so by calling 718.486.0850.  And of course, there’s good ol’ email:

However, before you go to any of those lengths, you might not want to just take my word for it that Michelle Tarantelli is a super cool ultra fantabulistic tattooist.  You might want to just peruse her online portfolio and check out the photos below for further proof.  And if that still doesn’t convince you (really?? Are you sure??) then check out even more of Tarantelli’s work here.

Oh wait!  I almost forgot – apparently she likes listening to the soothing sounds of Easy E and Black Sheep while she tattoos. And if I had anything to say to Michelle, it’s that you rock and to put more photos of your work online!


In Store Removal

April 7th, 2011 by

Most certainly, it’s not the job of a tattooist to remove unwanted tattoos from customers.  Cover ups, sure, but actually firing up the laser gun and zapping off the hideous mistakes of someone’s tattoo past?  Doesn’t seem quite right.

The thing is, with the increase of home tattoo kits being sold over the internet to scratchers and the subsequent drunken/sober/moronic scratching that’s taking place in basements the world over, who better than a tattooist to do their part at cleaning up damaged skin from a terrible “tattoo”?  I guess that’s the sentiment behind Northampton, UK tattooist Nigel Barden.  Barden has seen so many people come into his Suns & Roses Tattoo and Piercing Studio regretting their basement made tattoos, that he’s now offering tattoo removal at a reduced price.

‘Owner Nigel Barden, who has worked in tattoo studios for 30 years, said: “There is so much bad work these days with people doing it from houses, I though this would help our business.

“We are the first tattoo studio in Northampton to have been registered with environmental health for tattoo removal. There are many places where it is very expensive so I thought we could offer it at a more affordable rate.”

Nigel believes one problem is the way in which tattoo equipment can be purchased so easily online.’

An interesting approach to the business aspect of tattooing for sure and one that makes sense.  If all tattooists were registered with their respective health authorities, perhaps they could even be entrusted with the removal of tattoos as well?  And, I know this might sound crazy and that it would most likely never happen in a million years, but just for the sake of argument: what if the local health authorities provided experienced and registered tattooists with tattoo removal lasers for free?  In turn, the government then took a portion of the profits made from tattoo removal.  I’ve seen numerous agencies that provide free tattoo removal that are supported by the government.  Why not continue that concept in actual tattoo studios?

A Pretty Bad Day at the Office

April 6th, 2011 by

It stands to reason that all tattooists appreciate their customers, but Orlando, Florida tattooist Patrick Walker is most likely unbelievably grateful for customer Antonio Kakaleles.  This past Monday, Walker was tattooing Kakaleles at Orlando’s Ace’s Tattoo Shop, when 37-year-old Jason Lynn Gay entered the shop.  Gay’s sketchy appearance immediately caught Walker’s eye, but he maintained his professionalism and told Gay to look through some tattoo design booklets while he finished tattooing Antonio Kakaleles.

“I was being very cordial with the guy because he was a potential customer,” Walker said. “But he did look like a very strange character.”

Unfortunately, Gay, who sports a tattoo on one arm of the word “Nazi” and the word “Wizard” on his other arm, wasn’t there for a tattoo.  As Walker continued to tattoo, Gay picked up the ceremonial Knights of Columbus sword that Walker keeps in the shop.  Gay then moved on to an acoustic guitar that Walker also keeps in the shop and picked that up as well.  With a sword in one hand and a guitar in the other, Gay turned to Walker and Kakaleles, began laughing and said “I’m gonna kill you guys.  It’s your day to die.”

Mug Jason Lynn Gay

He then launched an attack on Walker, striking him on the back of the shoulder with the blunt edged sword and hitting him in the back of the head with the guitar.  Realising that he had to do something and quickly, customer Antonio Kakaleles picked up a glass table top and smashed it down on Gay’s head.  The glass cut Gay’s face and he fled the shop, but police later picked him up after they were able to follow the trail of blood he was leaving behind.

‘Walker and Kakaleles identified Gay as their attacker and crews transported him to Orlando Regional Medical Center to treat his wounds.

Orlando Officer Wayne Costa interviewed Gay at ORMC. The man told Costa he attacked the victims because they were “playing word games.”

Walker denied those accusations.

Corrections records show Gay, originally of Lakeland, has a violent criminal history. He spent 10 years at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton, Fla. under close custody — meaning that he had to be maintained within an armed perimeter or under direct, armed supervision when outside of that secured area.

His decade-long prison sentence was for convictions on charges of burglary, grand theft, robbery with a deadly weapon and resisting an officer with violence stemming from cases in 1997, 1998 and 1999.’

Man!  First off, I want to say nice work to Antonio Kakaleles and Patrick Walker for defending themselves.  I think this entire thing can teach everyone two valuable lessons: if you’re a tattooist, always appreciate your customers.  You never know when they’ll help you out of a bad situation!  And second, whenever you think you’re having a bad day at work, just be thankful that no one’s attacking you with a guitar and a sword!

Seriously though, all the best out to Antonio Kakaleles and Patrick Walker.

Quick Response to a Crap Tattoo

April 5th, 2011 by

And the winner of the most useless tattoo ever award goes to: (drum roll, please)…the QR Code!! Yes, for only a small handful of cash and a hour or so of your time, you too can have a QR (Quick Response) code permanently tattooed on to you! The advantage?  Well, once tattooed with a QR code, you can access things like social networking sites via your flesh!  Sound stupid and utterly useless?  That’s because it is!!

So yeah, all sarcasm aside, QR codes can be found on many things from magazines, to packaging.  If you’ve ever spent any time in Japan, you’ll also recognise them from ages back.  Well, they’re hitting North American shores in larger quantities now and for some reason, people have gotten the idea in their heads that it’s necessary to have them tattooed in order to access Facebook and the like.  I’m not sure exactly why people can’t just use their fingers to access Facebook online instead of having to go through the process of being permanently tattooed, but there you have it…

‘The codes are accessible on most smart phones with a free application, and although not everyone is happy to see them inked on skin, for others it’s an expression of art and a sign of the times.’

Well, count me in as someone who isn’t happy to see them inked on to skin.  I know this will paint me as some sort of tattoo Nazi in the eyes of the truly open-minded tattoo fanatic, but hey, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere and this is a tattoo that just doesn’t need to exist.  If someone were to come up to me and tell me their in depth and touching story of why exactly it is that they got their QR tattoo, then perhaps my mind could be changed.  But for the most part, it’s just a stupid idea and a stupid, careless tattoo.

A Thing of the Past

April 4th, 2011 by

Trends come and go, no doubt about that, and tattoos all too often fall victim to the dreaded trend.  There’s the tribal armband, the barbwire armband, the kanji symbol – all of which are only but a few of the trends we’ve seen over the years in tattooing.  Thankfully, their prevalence amongst the tattooed has slowly diminished, though something just as trendy will ultimately take their place. It’s inevitable.

That being said, what happens when an entire way of life of a particular culture begins to fade away, much in the same way as a little remembered trend does?  It’s certainly not applicable to call the facial tattoos of the Chin women – an ethnic group in the northwest of Myanmar – a trend, but unfortunately for the Chin people, their way of life is dying out.  Unlike a trend however, the world is not better off without it.

One of the sole surviving tattooed Chin women is now 65 years old, her tattoos faded but still present.  Although the educated belief is that the Chin ethnic minority tattooed the faces of the women in the tribe in order to make them more beautiful, history and the eventual distortion that seems to follow tattoos about created a different legend – one that tells a story of tribal leaders tattooing the faces of their women in order to “uglify” them, thereby protecting them from Burmese kings.

‘”These women are the last of their kind,” said Jens Uwe Parkitny, a German photographer and writer who has documented the tradition among different Chin groups over the past ten years.

The ritual was officially banned by the then socialist regime in the 1960s, and the tattoos became increasingly rare as Christian missionaries converted the previously animist communities, said Chin pastor Shwekey Hoipang.

Soon the procedure stopped completely.

“The Chin girls do not want to get tattoos anymore, because they don’t feel this is beautiful decoration,” added Hoipang, who is currently studying in the UK.

According to one legend, the tattooing emerged as a way to “uglify” Chin women and protect them from predatory Burmese kings — but Parkitny is not convinced, given that the practice was once widespread in Asia.

“It is likely that the story was fabricated in more recent times by those representing a ‘civilized world’ view, which perceives a facial tattoo as defacing and ugly,” he said.’

Today this practice is all but extinct, but tourists are lead in groups up to the place where the tribe lives, in order to see and photograph the remaining tattooed women.  That practice itself is controversial.  Some feel it is exploiting a culture, others feel that it brings money and change to a nation gripped by a brutal dictatorship.  Whichever way you choose to look at it though, one thing is certain: a fascinating history and culture is on the verge of being lost forever and all of us – Burmese or otherwise – will be worse off without it.

Meet Michele Turco!

April 3rd, 2011 by

Sometimes you don’t plan to be a tattooist.  Sometimes, it finds you and makes you realise that you just need to be a tattoo artist.  Such was the case with Italian tattooist Michele Turco.  Originally attending a technical industrial institute in pursuit of a career, Turco came to the realisation that no matter what he achieved from working in an industrial field, it wouldn’t satisfy him as much as the arts could.  So, in 1989, Turco began tattooing in a small studio in his hometown of Piacenza.

As time passed, Turco came to understand that tattooing meant much more to him than he had originally thought.  The entire concept of tattooing became more than a matter of drawing on flesh.  It was attached to the client in other ways, particularly through their personality and what they might be hoping to express through the art itself.  In this way, Turco feels that he truly gives his clients what they want and what they need.  As a matter of fact, Turco says that the name of his studio in Piacenza: Da Cosa Nasce Cosa, best sums up his philosophy on tattooing and of his own style.

Working primarily in the realistic/portrait style, Turco’s work is bright and detailed, sharp and laid out on the body with a solid awareness for proportion and shape.  The more that I see of it, the more impressed I am.  Even his studio in Piacenza impresses me with its quaint, stylish and laid back atmosphere.  Whenever I see an artist of this calibre, I’m always thankful that they turned their skills to tattoo.  We’re all better off for it and when one considers that Turco could have just as easily finished up his time at that technical industrial institute and gone on to things other than tattoo, it makes it all that much sweeter to know he’s out there tattooing.

Is This the Future?

March 31st, 2011 by

Over the last few years, we’ve repeatedly seen people getting tattooed with corporate logos as a tribute to that particular product or company that they love.  Certainly not my cup of tea, but a quick search on the internet will prove that it’s more than a few people’s idea of a great tattoo.  But all brand allegiance aside, I’ve got to admit that from an advertising point of view, a company or corporation really can’t go wrong with having their logo tattooed on to the flesh of loyal customers.

To be honest, I find this concept a little frightening.  It’s pretty much been proven that every single multinational corporation out there never has enough.  They never have enough money, they never have enough locations and they never have enough advertising.  Given the chance, Starbucks would (and probably will) not rest until every inch of every major city around the world is covered in Starbucks logos.  An exaggeration?  Possibly.  But the latest corporation to see the advantage in having legions of customers tattooed with their logo in exchange for a meagre 20% lifetime discount is apparel retailer Ecko.

Yes, that’s right: get the Ecko logo tattooed on your body (human billboards can choose between two different designs) and a 20% discount on all Ecko goods is yours for life – provided that you shop at Ecko stores in the United States or Puerto Rico.  In addition to the logo tattoo, Ecko is encouraging human billboards to “personalise” their Ecko tattoo, which kind of seems like a contradiction to me.

Oh all right, I don’t want to come off as Mister Grumpy Pants here…It’s just that I can clearly envision this becoming more and more common place as corporations realise how profitable it can be for them to not only have free advertising, but to also lay claim to a host of permanently dedicated customers.  Offer a meagre discount for life (something that ultimately costs any major corporation very little), and watch the cash roll in.  Thank you tattoos!

Thanks, Dad!

March 30th, 2011 by

A couple days ago, I wrote about the current battle in Hermosa Beach, California between the citizens who are against giving tattoo artists their legal right to open tattoo studios and the tattoo artists who rightfully wish to be able to open up their own businesses in the area.  As the issue continues to be debated, it’s nice to see that not every resident in and around the area is against the tattooists or that not everyone in support of the tattooists are tattooists themselves.  As a matter of fact, this letter was sent in to the Daily Breeze in defence of tattooists.  It wasn’t written by anyone in the industry, but by a proud parent of their tattooist son.

‘Like any business, tattoo shops deserve respect

I can’t believe my ears or my eyes. Hermosa Beach says “yes” to more bars that lead to public displays of drunkenness, fighting and mischief. A tattoo shop today is not a hangout but a business establishment looking to build business and clientele. Most tattoo salons now being built are well-designed and well-run companies. Live and let live. Everyone has a legal right to earn a living. If they are not successful, well then, there goes the business.

I am personally not a tattoo person, but my son is. I have come to understand his wanting body art. So be it; not everyone has to be a critic. People should learn when to understand and not jump to disagree so quickly. Try looking at the positive first, maybe the negative won’t appear that bad. Make sure it’s the finest tattoo parlor in the South Bay, and then you can have some pride.’

– Fred Fasen, Hawthorne

So take note, all you anti-tattoo, narrow minded Hermosa Beach people: above is a mature, well thought out and objective view of what a tattoo studio entails.  Perhaps if any of you anti-tattoo people took the time to meet some of the people whom you’re so frightened of coming into your precious neighbourhood, you’d learn more than a thing or two about what it means to be an artist and that the world of tattoo isn’t the frightening, violent, drug and alcohol fuelled danger that you think it is.

Open your eyes!

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