Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Own It.

March 15th, 2011 by

Every once in a while it’s good to throw out a little reminder regarding tattoos.  We love ‘em, we get ‘em and sometimes some of us travel great distances and spend massive amounts of cash to get just what we want tattooed by that particular tattoo artist we’ve been admiring for years.  And although most of us take getting a tattoo seriously enough, it’s always good to send a little reminder out there that what you get tattooed is not going away and if there happens to be consequences as a result of what you have tattooed, then you have to face them because that’s just the way that it goes.

Of course, the vast majority of people out there aren’t in the same boat as 25-year-old white supremacist Christopher Slavin, but regardless, Slavin’s case is still a case of not wanting to take responsibility for his tattoos.  Slavin was found guilty in 2001 of attempted murder, assault and aggravated harassment back in 2000 after he and fellow skinhead Ryan Wagner lured two Mexican immigrants to an abandoned building in Long Island, New York and brutally attacked them with a metal post-hole digger and a folding knife.  The Mexicans ended up escaping and Slavin and Wagner were arrested, but Slavin later argued that police took photos of him without his shirt on, in which his neo-Nazi tattoos were visible.  These photos were handed over to prosecutors and used to obtain a grand jury indictment.  It was Slavin’s belief that he didn’t receive a fair trial as a result of the jury having access to these photos.

Well, as of this past Monday, a three-judge appellate panel has confirmed that the lower court’s ruling on Slavin’s case stands.  The verdict?  Sorry Christopher Slavin, your petty whinging ain’t gonna cut it…

‘”Even assuming that the prosecution’s use of the tattoo evidence was testimonial in nature, however, ‘[t]he tattoo[s] … w[ere] not compelled by the government,’” the judges, quoting from the 2nd Circuit’s decision in U.S. v. Greer, a case they heard a month earlier. “We noted in Greer that even if officers were able to read the tattoos at issue ‘only by applying physical force[,] … it would … not amount to compulsion for Fifth Amendment purposes.’ To the contrary, “[t]he voluntary tattooing of an incriminating word” to a defendant’s body plainly is ‘not the product of government compulsion.’”

In other words, you’re responsible for what you have tattooed.  No one else but you.

Keeping Up With Tibet

March 14th, 2011 by

Last week I posted about the swastika as well as the swastika tattoo and its history amongst Buddhists.  The video that I linked to was part of a three part series done by activist/journalist Heidiminx on Tibetan political prisoners and their tattoos.

In this second video of the series, Tibetan activist Pasang Dorjee speaks about his “Free Tibet” tattoo, which he did himself in a Chinese prison.  Though the Chinese guards in his prison could not read the Tibetan script of his tattoo, Dorjee was later forced to covertly alter the lettering of the tattoo while in a different prison.  Using a needle and ink made from a candle wick, he managed to change the tattoo from “Free Tibet” to read “Fighter for the Land of Snow”, as there were rumours circulating that Chinese prison officials were getting dangerously close to discovering that he had a “Free Tibet” tattoo.

The third video is of 21-year-old Tibetan refugee Pasang.  He shows off his tattoos and explains how and why they were done.  Both videos provide a fascinating, yet unsettling view into the lives of Tibetans who have managed to escape from Chinese occupied Tibet to India.  They leave behind their families and friends and retain only these tattoos as reminders of who they are and where they come from.  These tattoos can cost their bearers lengthy prison sentences, torture and even death.  As Pasang Dorjee explains in the first of these two videos, getting tattooed while incarcerated in a Chinese prison is illegal and will lead to harsh repercussions.

These men have taken great risk and effort to ink their beliefs on to their skin.  Although their tattoos are not done by professionals, they are important symbols of the resistance and determination which they have repeatedly risked their lives for.  This is tattooing at its most basic – most likely the only form of scratching that I can approve of, and a bold declaration of the power of tattoo in the everyday lives of remarkable people facing brutal odds.

Meet Red Hot+Blue Tattoo!

March 13th, 2011 by

Change is good.  Sometimes just to keep things on the up and up over here at Tattoo Blog, I think it’s a good idea to take a break from the usual and try something a tiny bit different.  Which is exactly what I’m going to do today.  Normally I would use this post to blog about one artist whose work has recently caught my eye.  Well, instead of doing that, I’m going to use this post to blog about an entire shop that has caught my eye.  Sound okay with you?  Good.

Red Hot + Blue Tattoo can be found in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It is staffed by four artists by the names of Paul, Ian, Sarah and Jason, and man, they do some fine work.  It makes sense to me that any decent tattoo shop would staff artists who are always bringing their best game and who push the other artists to do the best work that they can, all the time, since 2005.

Not only is that exactly what’s going on over at Red Hot + Blue, but I love the fact that each of its artists is doing a variation on the classic American style which incorporates their own personal touches, making the styles similar but different all at once.

There’s some really great stuff to be found here, far more than I have room on this blog to showcase.  If you want to see more, then head over here or here and you can really get a feel for what’s going on over in Edinburgh.  So to everyone at Red Hot + Blue Tattoo, keep doing what you’re doing.  I love it!

Lucky Julia

March 10th, 2011 by

Know anyone who has a portrait of you tattooed on their body?  I don’t, but depending on who the person is that has your mug on their flesh, I’d imagine that it can all be pretty flattering.  Why not, right?  Okay, now what if someone had two portraits of you tattooed on their body?  How about three, or four?  What if someone had five portraits of you?  Even if you happen to know the person, at this point it would sort of be getting kind of awkward, wouldn’t it?

That’s why I can’t imagine how it would feel to know that a complete stranger has 82 portraits of you tattooed on to them, and will continue to get more.  I think it would scare the hell out of me.  Well, I certainly don’t think that Miljenko Parserisas Bukovic, of Valparaiso city, Mexico is trying to scare Julia Roberts, but the 56-year-old newspaper vendor might want to consider that what he’s doing is just a teeny bit freaky.

After seeing the Julia Roberts film Erin Brokovich, Bukovic became well, obsessed with the Hollywood actress.  So obsessed in fact, that to date he has spent over a million Mexican pesos ($83,469 USD) on 82 tattoos of Julia Roberts.  Yikes.

‘The Roberts fanatic has said that he has plans to get more faces inked on his chest, back and arms.

As long as he has the space on his body and the money, his tattoo tribute will continue.’

Normally I would just say hey, if it makes him happy then good for him.  It’s just that this time around, with something of this nature I can’t help but feel that what he’s doing would considerably freak the shit out of Julia Roberts.  I know that it’s freaking the shit out of me.  The whole thing has kind of floated away from the concept of a tribute and landed in the murky seas of stalkerhood.  I’d wish Bukovic good luck with his hobby, except that I don’t want to because the whole thing is unsettling.

The Swastika

March 9th, 2011 by

One of the most controversial tattoos that I can think of is the swastika.  It is a mark that is indelibly linked to Hitler and the Nazi movement, underscoring each and every atrocity committed under that regime.  Many tattooists won’t tattoo the swastika on customers who ask for it, and today when we see someone with a swastika tattoo, it’s typically on an undesirable element of society, like neo-Nazi skinheads and/or racists of various stripes.

Yet the swastika has thousands of years of history behind it which doesn’t relate to Hitler or Nazism in the least.  In fact, the next time that you’re in an Asian country, take a good hard look around you and more likely than not, you’ll come upon a swastika.  It’s not exactly the same as the Nazi version – Hitler inversed the original swastika design in order to create his own symbol, but at any rate, the Buddhist swastika isn’t the swastika of evil and tyranny – as the Nazis have succeeded in making much of the world believe.  Rather, the swastika began with the Bon religion centuries ago which eventually originated into Buddhism.  For Buddhists, the swastika symbolises eternity, good fortune and represents the footprints and heart of Buddha.

In this video, activist and journalist Heidiminx speaks with Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan monk who spent 33 years as a political prisoner in a Chinese prison.  He speaks candidly about his two swastika tattoos, one of which was removed with a knife by his Chinese imprisoners for being “the symbol of Hitler’s regime”.

I’m not sure if there will ever be a time where the swastika loses its negative connotations, but education regarding the true meaning of this symbol can certainly help in banishing its ruinous image and hopefully one day replace it with the intended purity of the original Bon symbol.

Tra$h

March 8th, 2011 by

Rant time.  I don’t know, I don’t want to come off as some anal retentive stickler for rules, but there are just certain things that need to be considered when it comes to tattoos and a few things that I do take pretty seriously.  This past weekend wannabe “bad-ass” “musician” Ke$ha decided that it would be a good idea to use a needle and a pen and “tattoo” a dollar sign on a 24-year-old fan’s ankle.

If you’ve ever seen Ke$ha before, she looks pretty much like any other low grade pop star who’s desperately trying to cultivate the image of a real rough and tumble rocker.  I guess it must work for her because she’s got a legion of pre-teen, teen and post-teen fans out there, watching her every move.  Personally, when I hear her music I just imagine really awful, tacky night clubs.  It’s like the anthem to that sort of place.

Anyway, that’s beside the point.  My real beef with Ke$ha is that she tattooed this 24-year-old fan.  Yes, the fan wanted it done, but the fact that Ke$sha thinks that it’s acceptable to double as a scratcher when she’s not performing seriously pisses me off.  I mean, come on!  Does tattoo really need this on top of everything else negative that it’s in the process of trying to shrug off?  What kind of message does something like this send out to people when they see it?  That anyone can tattoo as long as they have a pen and a needle?  And most importantly, why is this legal?  It really, really shouldn’t be and it gives a terrible image to the real artists out there who are proper tattoo artists.

I’ve also read that Ke$ha’s manager recently bought her a tattoo machine off the internet.  Great.  So now instead of seeing videos of her backstage scratching with a needle we’re going to see her scratching with a machine?  This is total shit.  Stick to what you know Ke$ha, whatever that is.

Automatic Salvation

March 7th, 2011 by

No matter what, sooner or later religion will find its way into the topic of tattoo.  In the past few years we’ve seen preachers who have tattoo artists set up at their religious services, Muslims who have angered other Muslims over their personal choice to be tattooed, Buddhists being tattooed with words of political protest against the Chinese…the list goes on and on.  And, unless Hollywood has lied to me my entire life thus far – prisons are also filled with inmates covered in religious tattoos.

All of this being the case, San Jose, California based artist Chris Eckert has just created a functional work of art that intends to point out the ridiculous randomness of religious zealots who feel that they were born directly into religious certainty.

It’s called Auto Ink and what it is is a machine which randomly tattoos a religious symbol on to a person’s arm.  Laying their arm inside the machine, the volunteer grabs on to a rubber grip and the machine then inks a religious symbol on to the volunteer’s forearm.  I’m not too sure that a lot of people will be lining up to have this done, but that’s beside the point.  Says inventor/artist Chris Eckert about it all:

‘”While my personal experience with religion is one of inclusion, a system that unites people from different regions and cultures, the public face of religion is often one of exclusion. Muslim, Christian, and Jewish zealots who know what God wants. More specifically they know what God doesn’t want and apparently God does not want me…or you. This public face of religion is always so certain, self-confident, even arrogant. That anyone could possibly know the “truth” when that truth is randomly assigned at birth is just funny.”’

An interesting statement indeed.  Check out more on this, including a video of how it’s all done, here.

Meet Carl Löfqvist!

March 6th, 2011 by

Been to Sweden?  Me neither.  Still, that doesn’t keep me from knowing a couple of things about the place.  For example, depending on what month of the year it is you can either expect a whole lot of darkness or a whole lot of daylight.  Hmmm…what else?  Oh yeah, it’s crazy expensive and last but definitely not least, it’s home to tattoo superstar Carl Löfqvist.

Initially Löfqvist’s path into the tattoo universe wasn’t very direct – getting waylaid with work in a factory until he finally took the plunge and went back to school to study commercial art, getting rejected everywhere he went while trying to get hooked up with an apprenticeship and finally getting to the point after much study and hard work, where he was able to open Wicked Tattoo in Gothenburg, in 2000.  What a difference a few years makes: Löfqvist is now in demand, and for good reason.  He travels a great deal throughout the tattoo circuit, providing ample proof to everyone he comes in contact with that the work he is producing is fully and completely off the hook.

A stickler for everything but rules when it comes to his art, Löfqvist sees no division between what tattoo artists create and the art that any other artist creates.  It all comes from the same place.  He also doesn’t care much for the notion of pigeon-holing anyone into any particular style – so don’t bother asking him what kind of style he’s mainly interested in, he loves it all.

Carl believes there is no more line between art and tattoo artistry: “Tattoo artists can paint and translate their medium so easily” is the main reason given. However he does believe that tattoo artistry needs to loosen up and become a lot more fluid – according to him, the biggest fault of tattoo art culture is getting “too fixed” with certain styles. “There is no strict direction. Do what you want to do, as long as it’s good!“‘

Head over here if you want to check out some of Carl’s outstanding work.  Enjoy!

Credit Where Credit is Due

March 3rd, 2011 by

As far as rivalries go, one of the few true rivalries that seems to exist in Canada is that of Toronto versus the rest of the country.  Travel around Canada a little bit and either mention that you’re from Toronto or that you like Toronto and you’ll undoubtedly be met with more than a few grumbles and/or rolls of the eyes.  Hell, this disdain for all things Toronto even served as the inspiration for the fittingly titled 2007 documentary film Let’s All Hate Toronto.

While I myself don’t hate Toronto and have numerous good friends who live there, I don’t make any apologies for the fact that I think it’s an ugly city, ranking somewhere around the zero mark on my personal 1-10 scale for grading the aesthetics of any given city.  Make of that what you will…

Fortunately for Torontonians, there is no shortage of gifted tattoo artists who are doing their utmost best to make their fair city more beautiful.  Should you need further proof of such a claim, I would recommend checking out this article/interview on nine artists who are worth knowing about in Toronto.

So, there you have it: one Canadian’s perspective on Toronto and their tattoo scene.  Hopefully this will be enough to encourage those of you who’ve never visited Toronto to stop by, check out the city and get a tattoo.  Despite its looks, Toronto actually does have a lot going for it.  Just don’t go in the winter.

In Memory Of

March 2nd, 2011 by

On Sunday I profiled New Zealand tattoo artist Matt Jordan.  In that post, I spoke about the earthquake in Christchurch last week and the tragic consequences that were brought about by the disaster.  I certainly don’t want to give the impression that only tattooists were affected by the quake, but since we are a tattoo blog and since the tattoo community often sticks together through the good and bad, it’s important to acknowledge this tragic loss as well.

Christchurch’s Southern Ink Tattoo was hit too hard by last week’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake.  Tattooist Matt Parkin has just gone outside for a little break in order to write in his journal, when the quake hit.  A client of his, Emma Rox had just come out to talk with him.  They were both forced to flee down an alley as the buildings around them – including Southern Ink Tattoo – collapsed.

‘”I saw Emma following me, the whole back of the buildings along the alley were just falling. Then I looked back and Emma had disappeared in a cloud of dust. I thought ‘she’s gone’ and I had to keep on running.”‘

Tragically, Parkin and Rox were the only two to escape from Southern Ink before it collapsed.  Inside the studio were tattooist Bonnie Singh and Parkin’s apprentice Matti McEachen.  Miraculously, Bonnie Singh managed to climb her way out of the collapsed structure despite her back having been broken in six places. 25-year-old McEachen wasn’t as fortunate and died after being buried beneath the rubble.

‘Once Ms Singh emerged from the rubble, others had arrived and were digging to find Mr McEachen.

“The rubble was just too heavy. They uncovered enough of Matti to know that he hadn’t survived,” said Mr Parkin, who saw his apprentice’s legs and fell to his knees in shock.

“There was no point in digging. I didn’t want to see him, not like that. Just moments before I had rubbed him on the back and complimented him on his shoes … and then bang, he was gone. Just like that.”‘

Remembering McEachen, Matt Parkin’s wife Jak said that McEachen’s favourite saying was identical to the manner in which he lived his life: “The best way to eliminate a negative is to replace it with a positive.”  It will certainly take many positives to ever eliminate the massive negative that this quake has cast upon the lives of Christchurch residents and beyond.  I wanted to send the family and friends of Matti McEachen and all others irreversibly affected by the Christchurch earthquake my sincerest condolences and hopes for a better future.

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