Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

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!

Let’s Set This Straight Once and For All

March 29th, 2011 by

It might be too little too late, but at the very least the discussion of the need to ban the sale of DIY tattoo kits has started to hit the mainstream news.  That is, according to this article.  No doubt there’s still a long way to go, but I’m glad to know that the topic has even been brought up.  Still, there does seem to be a lot of finger pointing going on that doesn’t necessarily involves fingers being pointed in the right directions.

For example:

‘In one recent case, a 16-year-old, Levi Brady, from Cardiff, had the phrase ‘100% Welsh Lamb’ tattooed on her lower back.

Her horrified mother, Renee, said: ‘The tattooist has branded a child as a piece of meat for the rest of her life.

‘It is the most disgusting thing to have on a young girl and the location of the tattoo is grossly inappropriate.’’

Illegal: In one recent case, a 16-year-old, Levi Brady, from Cardiff, had the phrase '100% Welsh Lamb' tattooed on her lower back

I agree, that is inappropriate.  However, maybe the the teen’s mother should actually take on the responsibility of a parent and find out where here child is and what she’s doing.  People who expect the rest of society to baby-sit their child get what they deserve, as far as I’m concerned.

None the less, it is time to address this issue head on.  I’m not going to go into detail as to all the methods by which better and safer regulations can be created regarding this type of problem.  I think I’ve done that at least a few times in the past on this blog.  But what I can say is that any governing body should be able to come up with a decent solution so that any craze involving illegal, unsafe and unprofessional tattoos is eradicated.

All Together Now

March 28th, 2011 by

When the March 11th earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Japan, the world was rendered speechless at the scale of the disaster.  Truly one of the worst natural disasters ever, it’s unbearable to watch as things continue to get worse for the people of Japan.  Having lived in Japan for several years, it was especially frightening attempting to contact my friends who had gone through the quake.  Thankfully, all of my friends in Japan are safe and sound, though many of them have frightening tales to tell.  Unfortunately, not everyone can say the same thing about friends or family in the region.

It wasn’t long after the earthquake that I realised that it probably wouldn’t be much longer before the tattoo community pitched in to help raise money for Japan.  Everywhere I looked, people were helping, be they musicians or celebrities or regular people like you and I.  The scale of aid was somewhat comforting in the face of such a terrible catastrophe.

Sure enough, tattooists have now stepped up to help in an especially far reaching fund-raising campaign called Tattooers For Japan, which was started by Canadian tattooist Dave Allen.  So far the campaign includes 30 different tattoo studios.

‘Allen hopes to raise $50,000 on his website. Some of the shops have earmarked specific groups such as Red Cross Japan Disaster Relief as beneficiaries, he says. Most of the money raised will go to the International Rescue Committee, a group founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, which is partnering with local Japanese relief groups.’

The best part of this fundraiser is that it can continue to grow as more and more people sign on to help out:

This site has been created in response to the recent natural disaster in Japan. The goal is to unite tattooers globally to show their compassion and gratitude to a country and culture that has influenced most of us artistically and personally. All of us owe a large debt of gratitude to Japan for its contribution to tattooing and the trade we are all so passionate about. The idea is for each tattooer/shop to schedule a walk in day in April with all proceeds going to relief efforts in Japan. Choose your own day, advertise to your client base and community, pick a theme if you’d like. Please invite any tattooers you know to join this effort. Join the discussion below to help decide how the money should be dispersed, via charities or through our own connections(tattooers) in Japan. Let the Japanese foundations of respect, compassion, and integrity inspire you to help!”

If you run a tattoo studio or simply tattoo at one, I highly encourage you to join up in this very important cause to help out.

Meet Henrik Gallon!

March 27th, 2011 by

I don’t know what it is about tattooists from Sweden – maybe it’s got something to do with the long, dark winters or the seemingly endless daylight of summer.  Maybe during these seasons they spend their time locked away indoors, honing their skills until they’ve got things just right.  What I do know for certain however, is that lately I’ve been finding that Swedish tattooists – from Stockholm in particular – have been absolutely killing it.

My latest discovery is the work of Henrik Gallon, a tattooist who works out of the Stockholm area at Fafnir Tattoo, which by the looks of it, also seems to go by the name of Porky Royale Tattoo.  I wish I could be a lot more clear on this information, unfortunately as far as info on Gallon’s place of work as well as Gallon himself goes, it pretty much all seems to be in Swedish.  In case you haven’t already guessed, I don’t speak Swedish.


No matter though, just cruise over here and take a look at what Gallon’s capable of.  Beautiful stuff all around.  Though I do have to admit that I much prefer his black and grey work to his colour stuff, that’s not a slight against his colour work.  The man has skills and I can’t wait until he updates his blog with the promised English translations so that I can find more out about him.  Until then, I can be plenty satisfied with just looking at his art work.

Life’s No Beach (For Tattooists) in Hermosa Beach

March 24th, 2011 by

Throughout this past week, I’ve been posting some updates to stories that I original wrote about several months back.  Well, I might as well continue with that method today, although the story that I have to write an update on isn’t exactly a happy one.  Not that it’s sad either, but it certainly is annoying.

In September of last year I was delighted to help spread the news that tattoo artist Johnny Anderson had won his lawsuit against the city of Hermosa Beach, California, after he was initially refused the right to open a tattoo studio within city limits.  It seemed as though the tattoo community had landed a great victory against the negative stereotypes and attitudes that typically casts tattooing in an unjust and incorrect light.

Unfortunately, given the chance, the narrow minded, bigoted views of the uninformed will often creep back into the picture.  Some residents of Hermosa Beach are now gathering themselves into a well organised and downright annoying group of do-gooders who believe that they and only they know what’s best for Hermosa Beach.

‘They’ve passed out fliers, organized on Facebook and relayed messages on Twitter. They’ve signed petitions and taken out newspaper ads. And this week, they took their fight to City Hall.

“I’m all for free speech, but this brings a certain vibe that I don’t want in our town,” said Greg Maffei, a resident living near the site of a new tattoo studio on Eighth Street and Hermosa Avenue.

“We are going to have six or seven tattoo parlors in a 2-square-mile city – and we only have two supermarkets,” Maffei said. “This is going to be a playground for the element of people that live that style. We believe that will bring problems.”‘

It’s interesting when people say that they are for a particular right or belief and then completely contradict it.  Take for example, Mr Greg Maffei, who says that he’s “all for free speech”, only to go on to say that tattoos bring a “certain vibe” that he doesn’t want in his town.  You know what that vibe that you speak of is, Mr Maffei?  It’s the free speech that you so glowingly claim to endorse.  That’s the point of free speech – it doesn’t just apply to things that you like, it also applies to things that you might not be all that crazy about.  Dealing with it is part of living in a democracy.  So quit your whinging and deal with it, you snivelling hypocrite.  It’s also worth noting that Maffei is lying when he says that Hermosa Beach is going to have six or seven tattoo parlors in a 2-square-mile city.  In fact, only three tattoo studios have been approved by the city.

City Councilman Patrick “Kit” Bobko is also opposed to tattoo studios in his city:

“We are in a precarious situation and we need to make sure we don’t drive ourselves into a worse situation,” Bobko said. “You can’t predict the outcomes … And the outcome could be something worse than what exists today.”

I particularly like this comment.  Once again, someone with a limited grasp on the reality of the situation at hand contradicts themselves.  When Bobko says that you “can’t predict the outcomes”, he’s exactly right.  Yet he goes on to offer only a negative option for what could result from allowing tattooists their right to operate a business within Hermosa Beach city limits.  If we’re going to play in the hypothetical realm of what ifs with regard to a situation that hasn’t yet occurred, then it’s also completely applicable to say that the outcome could be something absolutely brilliant and more beneficial for the community than anything it’s ever experienced before.  You do realise that, don’t you Mr Bobko?

Sheesh.  Let’s hope that the tattooists of Hermosa Beach and those who appreciate art can once again shrug off the ignorance that is being heaped upon them.

Showing Her Funny Side

March 23rd, 2011 by

More than being a trend or an impulsive urge to “be wild” or even a part of someone’s regular day to day existence, tattoos are supposed to make people happy.  Naturally.  Even the most gruesome, fearsome, monstrous looking tattoo was intended to fill its bearer with joy.  And so it only seems like a logical extension of this that something as simple as a tattoo could be used for the purpose of making others laugh while contributing to a great cause.

Let me explain: every March across the United Kingdom, a charity called Comic Relief is held.  I don’t want to go into every last detail of this excellent charitable event, but if you want to know more about it, you can check it out here.  At any rate, one of the best parts of Comic Relief is that people will do something potentially ridiculous and humorous and others will then be encouraged to make a cash donation and sponsor that person for their efforts.  The money accumulated from this is then added to the total Comic Relief fund.

This year a 21-year-old from Newcastle put her own spin on a method by which to raise money for charity.  Olivia Ketchell underwent 4 hours of tattooing on March 18th in order to have the portrait of her favourite comedian Stephen Fry forever inked on to her right calf.  The tattoo was done at the Cock a Snook tattoo studio (yes you read that name right) by tattooist Paul Johnson.  Though some might find the tattoo a little strange, Ketchell has no regrets.

Permanently devoted: Olivia Ketchell has had a tattoo of Stephen Fry inked on her her leg for Comic Relief

”The tattooist had done lots of portraits before and they are his favourite thing to do,’ she said.

‘He has never done a Stephen Fry one though and I think I’m the only person in the world who has a Stephen Fry tattoo.

‘I’ve been looking online and I haven’t found anyone else yet.

‘Everybody thinks I’m crazy but I couldn’t be happier.

‘It’s like I have had a baby. I always wanted him and I suffered for four-and-a-half hours and he’s finally here.

‘It’s totally worth it and I would do it again.

‘My mum said she wouldn’t donate because she doesn’t approve of tattoos, but she did in the end.’

Having so far raised more than £250 in charitable donations, Ketchell is still keeping the fundraising going.  If you’re interested in helping out with a donation, Ketchell’s fundraising page is open for donations until the end of the month.

Tattoo + Beer = Happiness

March 22nd, 2011 by

Last summer, I wrote about the lads from Scottish brewery BrewDog.  At the time, the media was reporting that they were going to be offering free beer for life to anyone who had the BrewDog logo tattooed during the grand opening of the BrewDog Bar in Aberdeen, Scotland.  The offer set off alarm bells amongst Alcohol Focus Scotland, a national charity group that works to limit the amount of damage caused by alcohol.  Unsurprisingly, the announcement of free beer for life also made many, many Scottish beer drinkers extremely happy.

Well, it wasn’t to be.  Possibly due to the flack that they were receiving, BrewDog announced soon afterward that the media was responsible for distorting the truth (imagine that!) and that they wouldn’t in fact be giving away free beer for life to anyone who had the BrewDog logo tattooed.  You can read the full press release by BrewDog here.

None the less, there was an offer on the table by BrewDog, albeit a much different one than initially reported.  Recently, twenty-year-old Robert Hanson became the first to be tattooed with the BrewDog logo.  Instead of free beer for life, he will now be permitted a 20 percent discount on all BrewDog beer at a new BrewDog pub opened in Edinburgh.  The tattoo was not free either, it cost Hanson nearly £100 ($163 USD), but Hanson’s got no regrets:

‘”I didn’t get it done for the discount, that was just a perk.

“It cost nearly £100 but it’s worth it.

“My mates think it’s a pretty funny thing to do and that I’m some kind of obsessive, but I reckon they’re all just jealous.

“My parents are probably just as obsessed with BrewDog as I am. The first thing my mum said when I told her about the tattoo was ‘I might get one of those myself’. My parents are real ale drinkers and helped me to appreciate beer.”‘

Now that’s a beer drinker.  Enjoy your brews and your tattoo, Robert!

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