December 30, 2011

The Proust Questionnaire: Orrin Hurley

Back from the holiday daze and looking for some fun, so I roped in Orrin Hurley of Daredevil & Fun City Tattoo studios in NYC to take our Proust Questionnaire for Tattoo Artists. At the shops, Orrin tattoos in all styles but is particularly known for bio-organic and painterly work, taking clever approaches to playing with the form of the body and using a wide color palette. That said, the "bold will hold" traditional ethos is ever present throughout his portfolio.

You can see more of his tattoo work on Facebook. For a look into this personality, here are his answers to the Q&A:

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  A world without art and music.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?  To reach my full potential as an artist, father, and human.

Your most marked characteristic?  Being unpredictable and well rounded.

What is your principle defect?   I have a habit of focusing so hard I lose the big picture.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?  Dexter, Hannibal Lecter -- for the workings inside their mind, not their murderous tendencies.

Who are your favorite heroes in real life? Be your own hero. Blaze your own path.

Your favorite painters?  Robert Venosa, Dali, Flemish painters, Chris Mars, Femmke.

Your favorite musicians?  My music taste is so out there. Anything with musical value. I've been a Drum and Bass DJ for years so Electronic is close to my heart. Hardcore, Metal, Death Metal as well.

Who are your favorite writers?  I dont have a fave,  just whatever I'm reading at the time.

The quality you most admire in a man?  Consistency of character.

The quality you most admire in a woman?  Consistency of character.

Your favorite virtue?  Empathy

Who would you have liked to be?  No one but me ... my journey in life is mine to live.

Where would you like to live?  Maybe Japan, Portland OR, or somewhere in Cali.

What are your favorite names?  My son and daughters names:  Kai Maynard and Aeris Jane

What natural gift would you most like to possess?  I'd like to take the ones I have to the next level instead of trying a new one. I was born to do this.

How would you like to die?  Something epic that makes everyone remember ... like some crazy 15 min long Family Guy skit type thing. A massive fight with a giant chicken.

What is your present state of mind?  Clear. Perfect clarity.

What is your motto?  Ride the wave of life.

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Mandala Tattoos

From the Sanskrit for ‘circle’, mandala is the term used to describe beautiful circle designs.  A circle is a symbol of unity, eternity, perfection and completeness and it is an important symbol in all cultures.  The basic mandala form consists of a four gated square within which is a circle with a defined centre point.  Mandalas have a spiritual and ritual significance in many eastern cultures, especially Buddhism.  They can be used to focus the mind in order to achieve deep meditation or assist in promoting a state of deep trance which allows for one to access the deepest levels of the consciousness in order to experience a sense of unity with the universe.  In more modern usage a mandala is often referred to as being any geometric pattern that is a reflection of the cosmos.  It is an illustrated form of expressionism that has existed for centuries across all art forms.

Native American Mandala

Used to discover the deepest meaning within our hearts and uncover the drive behind our motivations, Native American mandalas showed the connection of man to the universe.  The creation of each mandala is a personal experience and from beginning to end a journey of discovery.  To wear this journey on the body, in such an indelible form as a permanent tattoo is to honour the journey and respect, honour and understand the connectedness of the Universe.

The inclusion of feathers in a Native American mandala design represents ascension and spiritual strength, as feathers were traditionally worn by tribal chiefs to symbolise their communication with spirits and express their celestial wisdom.  The inclusion of a labyrinth in the design is a symbolic representation of life’s journey.

Celtic Mandala

Celtic mandalas are symbolic of growth and expansion.  They are a tool for initiating contact with our origins, visions and desires and contacting our divine ancestry.  By focussing our thoughts upon the Celtic mandala we let our rigid, logical side step back to allow our intuitive side to take over, this lets us attain a state of higher awareness and discover where we may have lost balance in our lives.  To display a Celtic mandala in the form of a tattoo is to show that we are grounded, centred and at one with both our past and our destiny.  A Celtic knot mandala is a representation of our own lives interacting with those around us.  It illustrates how our decisions in life can alter the path of our lives, and bind us together with others.

Personal Expression

The process of visualising and designing your own mandala tattoo, whether a simple design or an intricate one, is a journey of self expression and a kind of personal therapy.  The choice of shape, colour and size are reflections of how you have progressed on your journey through life.  No one will ever wear the same tattoo; it will be as unique as you are.  Creating the design is therapy for the mind and soul and the transference of the design to your skin completes your therapeutic journey so wear it with pride.

December 27, 2011

How to Become a Tattoo Artist

A future in body art is not something that any school or college career officer will actively promote.  It can therefore be difficult to find the information needed in order to get yourself on the right career path.


Tattoo artist training is usually done via an apprenticeship which can last for around 2 to 3 years.  This means that you will need approach some artists directly, and ask them if they are willing to take on an apprentice.  To gain an apprentice position a potential employer will need to see proof that you have some creative ability, so have a portfolio of design work available to show.  Artists come from all kinds of backgrounds so any artistic experience would be good, whether it is in the form of graphic novel design or another genre.

Once in a position you will be expected to supply your own equipment and sterilising kit, some businesses may pay you whilst you are with them, others may not. Over the course of the apprenticeship you will gain the knowledge, skills and experience that will allow you to work unsupervised.  When you reach the end of your time as an apprentice a license to practice will need to be obtained from your local council.

A license will not be granted unless you have proven experience of working in the tattoo business, which is why a good apprenticeship is important.  If you are found to be working without a license you are liable to prosecution and will incur a substantial penalty.  And the end of your apprenticeship you should be confident to work on simple designs progressing onto the more complicated patterns as you gain experience.  Many professionals agree that an artist is considered truly qualified after five years of full time work experience.

Skills Required

Tattooing is a very specialised job and you should show that you have the following skills and personality traits: creative flair and a talent for design; an interest and understanding of alternative cultures and lifestyles; good communication skills; an eye for detail and most of all a steady hand.


You should be prepared to take responsibility for the cleanliness and sterilisation of all tools and equipment, whilst being up to date on all health and safety issues relating to the industry.  Keeping abreast of the latest trends and influences in tattoo design and using any spare time to design your own work is advantageous.  You will also be interacting with clients and suppliers so a professional image is important.


The majority of tattoo artists are self employed and income can vary as it dependant on the amount of trade that passes through the doors.  Whilst a trainee tattoo artist may start on approx £12,000 a year an experienced artist can expect to earn anywhere between £18,000 and £30,000 a year.  An artist that owns his own business and employs other artists has the ability to earn over £50,000, by renting out space to other tattoo artists.

December 24, 2011

The Backpiece Has Begun

Marisa and I are in the annual, last-minute scramble here at the N&S Bunker in preparation for the holidays, so posting will probably be a little light over the next few days.  That said, I will also refrain from spreading holiday cheer in the form of back-slaps, firm hugs and butt-squeezes because I go in for another session on my dragon backpiece tomorrow.  Don't ask me why I scheduled it this way... I enjoy sitting at Christmas dinner.

Two weeks ago, I handed my back over to Mike Rubendall of King's Avenue Tattoo and, because we're a bunch of blogging dorks, I've decided to chronicle the experience at Bodysuit To Fit.  I'll be doing my best to chronicle the sittings in words and photographs (read about Sitting 1 here and Sitting 2 here) and will try to refrain from twitteresque posts like "Oh god, all I wanna do is scratch my ass."

So, please - give it a read!

[FULL DISCLOSURE: Some of these pics are kinda NSFW.  Nothing frontal, just my narrow little butt]

Prison Tattoos

The creation and display of tattoos within a prison environment is often used to signify gang membership or advertise an inmate’s standing within the criminal community.  Used as a form of code amongst inmates they are often filled with hidden meanings and symbols.  Because of the information that can be relayed in a tattoo the law enforcement services have compiled an extensive prison tattoo database.  Tattooing in prison is not an ideal environment as the artists often lack proper equipment or any form of sterilisation for the tools that they do have, making having one a risk to a recipient’s health.  The act of providing or receiving a prison tattoo also carries with it the risk of further punishment if caught.

Resources and Payment

Whilst it is illegal in the United States to receive a prison tattoo it doesn’t stop the process occurring.  As inmates do not have access to the necessary approved equipment they have become extremely inventive in crafting what they need from materials that they do have access to.  Prison authorities in the United States have confiscated tattooing equipment made from mechanical pencils, staples, radio transistors, paper clips and even guitar strings.

They also need to manufacture their own ink.  Where the ink from a disposable pen may seem a reasonable stand in, inks have also been concocted from soot mixed with shampoo, melted plastic or Styrofoam cups.  The prison tattoo artist takes a huge risk providing this service for his clients and whilst cash is not always an option, they will often receive payment in the form of cigarettes, tobacco or phone privileges.


Many gangs incorporate numbers and symbols in their designs as reflections of the gang names and networks, whereas motifs like spider webs and teardrops can be used to represent the length of their sentences and the family they leave on the outside.  Teardrop shaped droplets of blood are often used to symbolise the number of lives an inmate has been responsible for cutting short, or the number of charges against them.  Religious beliefs are often displayed in the form of a tattoo, especially by those belonging to the more extremist groups and cults by the use of swastikas or a simple ‘100%’ tattoo which is popular amongst white supremacist groups, believing it is their indicator of racial purity.

Health Risks

Without the proper equipment or means of sterilisation the prison tattoo carries with it a high risk of infection.  Diseases like HIV/Aids and hepatitis can be passed from one client to the next through the practice of sharing needles.  The very poor quality of the makeshift inks used can sometimes cause permanent scarring, even blood poisoning.  Those inmates found to be in receipt of a new tattoo, which is characterised by redness and swelling of the skin at the site of the tattoo are processed and charged, whilst those individuals found to be in possession of tattooing equipment receive punishments like solitary confinement, loss of privileges and confiscation of equipment.

December 19, 2011

Kim Jong Il Tattoo

Reading the news of Kim Jong Il's passing this morning, I wondered if The Supreme Leader had already been immortalized on skin. And that wonder lasted less than a minute when Google pulled up this stop motion video of a Jong portrait being created by Cody Brigan of Ghost Dog Tattoo in Cloquet, Minnesota.

I then pondered that oft-asked question when viewing a tribute to a dictator of divine birth:  Why? I found the answer on Deviant Art, of course. There, Cody explains that he wanted to attempt a portrait (he's only been tattooing since last year), so he offered a free tattoo to the client, but on the condition that he could tattoo whatever he wanted. And there ya go.

But this isn't the only Il ode. Google served up another portrait as well. Sadly, it didn't yield the same results for Vaclav Havel.

Tattoos as Rites of Passage

Rites of passage differ between cultures; they traditionally mark the transition of a person from one state of being to another.  Often marking out life’s milestones like puberty and marriage, such rites illustrate the values and beliefs that are held as important within a culture.  The tattoo has been used throughout history to mark such life changing occasions.  Mummified remains have been discovered all over the world with still visible, highly detailed tattoos which have enabled anthropologists to map out social hierarchies and tribal life across the centuries.

Filipino Tattoos

When Spanish explorers discovered the Philippine Islands they named them “La Isla de Los Pintados”, which means the “Islands of the Painted Ones”.  In the Philippines tattoos were seen as marks of status and high rank.  The ink on the chests and heads of the tribesmen marked their standing as great warriors.  The women wore intricate tattoos on their arms and wrists, others on their chests as marks of beautification.  In both sexes though tattoos were earned for accomplishments and marked the passage of their lives from one state of existence to the next.

Maori Tattoos

As tattooing of the head caused the run of blood towards the tattooist, it was considered to be the most sacred part of the body.  Those who went through their lives without a tattoo were considered to lack any form of social standing and all high ranking tribesmen were heavily tattooed.  Beginning during puberty when the young men would be developing their hunting skills, tattooing accompanied many rituals and ceremonies that marked the occasion.  It was also a widely held belief that being tattooed made you more attractive to the opposite sex.

Women were traditionally not as heavily tattooed as the men, though they would usually have their upper lips outlined in a deep blue.  The most popular tattoo amongst the women was the chin moko which served a purpose much like an identity card, making their status and role within the tribe easily identifiable.  The male facial moko covered the entire face and was split into eight distinct areas signifying their ancestry and rank.

The Rikbaktsa People

Also known as ‘canoe-people’ the Rikbaktsa live in the Amazon Rain Forest.  Whilst the men of the tribe traditionally marked their passage with piercings; the nose at age 12 and the ears at 15 to signify their passage from child to adult, the women of the tribe were traditionally give facial tattoos to signify their transition into womanhood and their availability for marriage.

Traditional Tattooing Methods

Traditionally tattooing implements were made from animal horn, bone or wood, delicately carved to measure about 10cm in length and an unbelievable 2mm thickness.  Needles were then attached to this tool and the tattoo was made by tapping the needle into the skin with the aid of a small wooden hammer.  The ink used was made from a mixture of soot and tree resin and was rubbed into the wounds left by the needle.

December 16, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Adha Zelma Jewelry

Seductive, feminine, and most definitely rock-n-roll. Adha Zelma jewelry are true statement pieces that, like tattoos, command attention for unique and sexy adornment. And for this reason, we just had to include these Brooklyn artists, who have an international following, in our gift guide.

Creators (and best friends) Sheanan Bond and Cherise TrahanMiller hand-craft each line, which they say "centers on bringing elements of indigenous art and culture into our contemporary world." They approach each piece as sculpture for the body. Sheanan and Cherise say that they're inspired by "the organic shapes found in bone, shed antlers and shells -- along with the incredible colors and graphics seen in naturally molted feathers, the texture of skins such as stingray and the rawness of rough stones."

I'm particularly in love with one of the richly layered pieces I have from their Solstice Collection, with its mixed metals, gem stones and plumes. The line is described as evoking "the night sparkle of NYC and a little Mad Max." And I do feel likeTina Turner rockin it.

Hit up their online store for a full array of their collections and sale pieces.

Even sweeter, they're offering a special 20% off if you put in the code: Needles&Sins at checkout. The promotion ends 12/23/11.


December 15, 2011

Pep Williams Photography

Legendary DogTown pro-skateboarder and photographer, Pep Williams, may shoot for fashion, sports and music glossies but it's his portraits of tattoo life that have garnered particular acclaim for their penetrating intensity and soulfulness -- a quality that comes from the photographer's own experiences in the community and respect for the craft. 

The subjects of Pep's tattoo-focused imagery reflect his Los Angeles upbringing, and largely include black & grey inked bodies and faces. He also captures intimate moments in the tattooer's chair, which have powerful solemnity to them.

Pep will be on tour shooting street culture and skating in Brazil, Dubai, and Australia. Next month, he'll be releasing limited edition prints available for purchase. Updates will be posted on his site and Shockmansion blog.

For more on Pep, check Jinxi Boo's great interview with him.


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Toy/Clothing Drive at Sacred Tattoo

Do a good deed for the holidays and help someone less fortunate!  This Friday, December 16th, from noon until 8pm, our friends at Sacred Tattoo will be holding a toy and clothing drive for Coalition for the Homeless.  Bring in any new toy or new/gently-used winter clothes/blanket/jacket and you can get a tattoo from the flash sheet above for just $50!  Don't feel like getting tattooed?  No problem!  The donation box will be at the front of the shop all day.

Tattoos are roughly 2.5 inches in size and are valued around $150-200 each.and will be subject to a "limbs only" rule (arms and legs) in order to keep the machines humming along quickly.

Sacred Tattoo is located on the second floor at 424 Broadway between Canal and Howard.  Take the J/M/Z/Q/R/W/6 train to the Canal St station.

Holiday Gift Guide: Antiqued Brass Skull Pendant

Our friends at Father Panik Industries have clothed and bejeweled me for over a decade with their hand crafted badassery, and every year they keep coming up with more designs to put on my wish list.

The latest in their jewelry collection is this anatomical skull pendant in antiqued brass with 18" chain. [The skull measures 5/8"x1/2"x7/16" (17mm x 12mm x 10mm).] According the the Panik peeps, "The skull spins around slowly as you move, so you get to enjoy the skull 360 degrees. The wax model for this was carefully hand carved after studying human skull anatomy, then cast in brass in NYC. Each one is hand polished, antiqued and assembled here in Brooklyn USA."  The brass pendant sells for $48 and you can also purchase it in sterling silver for $116.

Also be sure to check out their long standing favorites like the knuckle tattoo gloves (which I'm modelling here), their brass knuckle rosaries, and their towels, tees and hoodies, among others.

You can also find Father Panik online at Etsy. To catch them in person, check their events listings, which include NYC independent artist markets as well as tattoo conventions throughout the US, throughout the year.

December 13, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Seven Acre Toys Matching Tattoo Memory Game

Have a small child you one day hope will follow in your tattoo footsteps but aren't sure how to plant the seed when they're so young? Or are you itching to do a long-term sociological experiment with family members' kids to see if they'll get tattooed when they turn 18, or maybe even make a homemade rig from that old VCR up in the attic before they're even of age? The Matching Tattoo Memory Game from Seven Acre Toys might be just the thing to get started.  
Seven Acre Toys was founded by Chris and Hannah Blackburn (married master woodworkers turned toy company entrepreneurs) with the goal of creating better wooden toys that promote creativity and imagination. The Tattoo Game features six classic tattoo images, all drawn up by Chris himself (who recently visited Brian Mullen at Art Freak Tattoo in Providence for a full sleeve of dogwood flowers).
Here's more on the Seven Acre philosophy from Chris:
It's funny, one of our competitors has something on their About Us page that says something like, "Each product is made by hand and usually all the wood is surrounded by cups of tea, laughing children, and disco music, so each product will come to you infused with love and bliss!" We thought about countering that with something that says, "We have tattoos. We drink pale ale, listen to a lot of psychobilly, punk rock, and folk music. We make each toy awesome, it's up to you to continue that." However, drunk, loud, and arrogant might not be the best image for a maker of eco-friendly children's toys.I tend to disagree and am hoping Drunk, Loud, and Arrogant will be the name of any future toy endeavors. Even better, Seven Acre Toys uses only FSC certified hardwoods that promote responsible forestry practices. Now, you'll have a clear conscience when you're one-upping all those other parents and their crappy non-green, made in China toys when you see them at the Knitting Factory's Mommy 'n' Me classes, or whatever the hell goes on there in the mornings.

Happy Holidays!

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Keeping it in the Family

Photo taken from the real London Tattoo Convention by EPA, posted on The Telegraph.

I often use the term "tattoo community," and just as often, I get called on it. Is there a true community today when the explosive popularity of the art form has brought in so many who come to it, not out of passion, but for cashing in?

In the past few days, I've seen action that answers this question, and that answer is resoundingly Yes. It's action with the stated goal to protect this community from corporations wanting to take a piece of the profits from those who have dedicated their personal and professional lives to tattooing before the onslaught of pop culture "tattoo cool."

We last saw this movement in July with the efforts to boycott TLC's "Tattoo School" program, a show that made it seem that anyone can be a tattooist within two short weeks.

This weekend, the focus has been on boycotting tattoo convention companies and media outlets seeking to ride the coat tails of well established and successful events; specifically, it's a movement against the planned The Great British Tattoo Show, which would take place months before one of the world's best conventions, Miki Vialetto's The International London Tattoo Convention.

Michelle Myles of DareDevil & Fun City Tattoo studios has the details on her wonderful Devil City Press Blog. Here's an excerpt:

The Great British Tattoo Show is being billed as "A brand new show with a brand new artists.... blah blah blah.... yet another first for the UK tattoo industry.....blah blah blah..." As tattooing has gotten more popular more people have looked towards our industry to make a quick dollar. People who have no concern or love of tattooing only look for ways to exploit the tattoo industry and the success that's been created by others before them. After the first London Tattoo convention this person organized "Tattoo Jam" a show one month before the London show less than 100 miles away. He then went on to set up "Tattoo Freeze" another UK show a week before the Brighton convention.  I guess this could all be written off as coincedence and fair play in business but to make this drama even more interesting there is a webpage devoted to this guys business practices of not paying his vendors, bankrupt companies and an overall contempt for the rest of the tattoo world. Did I mention that this guy has not one tattoo (last I heard anyway)? 

Not only does this affect the people who run the original London show it also impacts all of the artists working at that show. [...] As artists, these are the people we should not lend our names to. It's important to be aware of who we support. I know that the show will probably go on. But I for one am not going to be a part of it.
Michelle's post -- as well as others from tattooists -- are making the rounds, urging other artists not to participate in these shows. I believe collectors should also take a stand by not attending.

Let's keep our support in the family.

Tattoo Conference at Vatican University

Tattoo conferences are held all the time in a number of different places, but the one recently held at the Vatican University was something no one had ever seen before. The title of the conference, “Into the Skin: Identity, Symbols, and History of Permanent Body Marks,” let’s you know right away that this particular conference will not be covering dragon tattoos and tramp stamps.

The Who

The Christian arts association and Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See were unlikely experts for a couple of reasons. First of all, Judaism completely prohibits tattooing, stating that it defiles the body as a sacred temple and divine creation. Second, the tattooed serial numbers that scar those who were affected by Holocaust, so tattoos of any kind tend to be painful reminders. Ambassador Mordechay Lewy even refers to the tattoos as “death stamps,” but understands that today’s tattoo trends are derived from a long and rich culture of tattooing.

Lewy’s interest in tattoos stemmed from reading and research that he did while on post in Sweden. There he read logs from Swedish travelers who had traveled to the Holy Land during the 17th Century. Each came back with a tattoo that marked the completion of their pilgrimage. While Judaism stands firm on its views of tattooing, Lewy pointed to the conference participants and declared, “there are a lot of tattoos here…they’re just not visible.” He even disclosed the fact that his own back is covered in them.

The Where

This particular conference was the first of its kind, and come together in a very impressive manner. The history and study of tattooing has actually become its own field of research and academics, but is still extremely new. The conference was held at Pontifical Urbaniana University of the Vatican, which sits right up from St. Peter’s Square.

The What

This conference at the Vatican was all about the history behind tattoos, what they were traditionally used for, what they meant, and how far they have come. Every presentation was meant to open people’s eyes to the fact that tattoos had a vast array of uses over time and that they were ever changing throughout history. Some of the presentations included descriptions of mummies that were found in Egypt, each with their achievements tattooed on them. Most of these tattoos had to do with who they were married to; making sure that their rank was known even after death.

Another eye-catching presentation was that of the 11th Century First Crusade Warriors who branded themselves with crosses (usually on their shoulder or forehead), to display support for their mission. Mystics have also used tattoos for religious purposes over time, tattooing themselves with the “stigmata.” These tattoos are created to mimic the wounds that Christ suffered.

The conference set out to show people that tattoos were more than just art or ink; Lewy describes them as, “…a tangible way of expressing the past.” His only disappointment is the fact that so much of the history of tattoos is still so unknown. He claims that once the tattooed skin has been buried, the whole practice just disappears. The goal of this conference was to share what is known, in the hopes that the history will be carried on and not forgotten.

December 10, 2011

The Significance of Henna: More than Just a Short-Term Relationship

Many people today look at henna tattoos as nothing more than an alternative to a permanent tattoo; they are one of those, “next best things.” They are fun to get, but you don’t have to be committed to it for the rest of your life and there’s also no blood involved, which is definitely a plus for some. What most people do not know, is that henna is actually a sacred ritual for cultures in India, and it has an extremely deep and personal meaning. Henna is not new, though many think it is, and its significance is more than you could ever imagine. Next time you get a henna tattoo, you will know exactly what you are getting; an ancient custom and a healthy dose of history.

The Beginning

The application of henna is called “Mehendi” in India and other parts of the Asian subcontinent. The Mughals introduced the idea in the 12th century A.D. At that time, the rich were the only ones with access to it, and they used it as a form of makeup. They decorated themselves with extremely intricate designs, and artists were often called to apply it.

Henna was also used in Egypt to stain the hands and feet of pharaohs before they were mummified. The belief was that forms of body art would ensure that they were recognized in the afterlife. The origins of henna can only be traced back so far, because travelers would take it from place to place, spreading the practice everywhere they went.

Significance Today

Henna is still widely done all over India today, and is a crucial part of any Indian wedding. Years ago (and often still practiced in some parts of India today), the bride and groom would never meet or even see each other before their marriage. When the bride was brought to the groom for the wedding ceremony, her face was covered. This meant that the only things exposed were her arms, hands, and feet. Of course, this meant that they had to be beautiful, so henna was applied; the more intricate and detailed the design, the better.

In India, even today, weddings are extremely extravagant and the bride especially is adorned with anything and everything to make her look even more beautiful; there is no such thing as too much. The wedding henna is the main part of the bride’s preparation for the wedding, and the process can take hours. The henna is applied from her elbows (and sometimes even higher up the arm) to her fingertips, and from the middle of the calf to her toes.

Because henna is also used for healing, the ritual is seen as a sort of blessing for the bride as well as she leaves her home and begins her new life. Depending on the traditions and beliefs of each family, the henna on the bride’s hands can also be blessings for health, happiness (specifically in marriage), spirituality, and fertility.

December 7, 2011

Artist Profile: Ed Perdomo

In the latest issue of Skin & Ink magazine (February 2012), I profile Ed Perdomo, who works his illustrative awesomesness in Gothenburg, Sweden at Heidi Hay Tattoo. Before settling in Gothenburg, the Columbia-born artist traveled the world to learn more about tattoo culture and improve his skills -- and of course have some fun personal adventures. Over time, he developed a style that reflects his personality: he is an eternal optimist, and his outlook on life is most evident in his bright, humoristic tattoo work.

In the article, Ed shares stories of his travels, how he developed as an tattooist, and highlights of his career. Here's a bit from that:

I had a collector from Germany who refused to look at the tattoo (on his back) until I finished. It was his first tattoo, and he traveled to Sweden for a 10-hour session. When we were done, he finally looked at it and then just broke into tears. He couldn't stop crying and laughing at the same time. When he caught his breath, he hugged me and thanked me for it. It was quite satisfying knowing that what I do makes some people really happy.
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Ed also discusses his first tattoos, done by his own hand:

Back in early '90s, maybe '92 or '93, I wanted to have a tattoo so badly, but I didn't know anyone who could do it, so I attached a little motor to a mechanical pencil and tattooed myself. It was a little tribal that I saw in a magazine. [It's gone now.] I did five tattoos on myself before I did any on friends. And that's how I got started. [...] It wasn't my plan to make my living out of tattooing. I was just trying it for fun, but rapidly the word spread, and at some point I didn't need to work at anything but tattoos. Eventually I fell in love with it.And as is stressed in the profile, Ed believes the key to creating better tattoos, is constantly bettering your drawing. He says that he continues to learn, adding humbly that he hasn't succeeded in where he wants to be artistically, but he won't give up.

I think his work is playful and bold and inspiring, especially to those with a particular bent towards cartoon-styled work. See more of his tattoo and fine art on and his Facebook page. You'll also find him working various international tattoo conventions.

Ed is featured in my Color Tattoo Art book, available for purchase in our online store.

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December 5, 2011

Disney Gone Wild

Walt Disney is a household name whether you are in the US or some remote island off the coast of nowhere. Disneyland, Disney Stores, Disney Movies, and the Disney Channel are just a few of the things that reign in Mr. Disney’s Empire. The Disney Channel has grown over the years to include more than just Mickey Mouse Cartoons. The channel offers all kinds of original television shows, original movies, and more young stars than you will find anywhere else. The stars of the Disney Channel shows often end up moving on to singing, movies, and apparently, tattoos. We’ve found just a few of the sweet little Disney stars who are going under the needle.

Vanessa Hudgens

While taking some time out to attend fashion shows in New York City early this year, Vanessa Hudgens decided to get herself a permanent fashion statement; a tattoo. For her very first (and so far only) tattoo, she debated between her ribcage and her neck. At first glance, you know what she chose; she has a beautiful butterfly tattoo on her neck.

Demi Lovato

Demi has a script tattoo on her right ribcage. When a picture of her in a bikini that showed what looked like a possible tattoo, nobody wanted to believe it. The back and forth arguing began instantly as everyone debated whether it was real. Demi revealed on her Twitter that it is, in fact, a real tattoo that reads, “You Make Me Beautiful.” While she is already beautiful, Demi says the phrase is from the song, “Beautiful,” by Bethany Dillon; a song that, “changed her life.” She later added a pair of feathers to the phrase.

She followed this up with tattoos on her wrists that read, “Stay Strong.” Her left wrist also has red lips on it; one she got with friends. She has also added a blue feather behind her ear and a small cross on her hand.

Miley Cyrus

Yes, we had to save the best for last. Miss Miley has not one, not two, but nine tattoos. Allow us to walk you through the Miley art gallery.

Her first tattoo was a script tattoo on her left rib cage that says, “Just breathe.” This tattoo was in honor of a close friend who passed away from cystic fibrosis, and two uncles who died of lung cancer. Next, she joined daddy at the tattoo parlor and while he got his own ink, she got “LOVE” tattooed on her ear. Apparently it’s about only hearing the good things and drowning out the bad.

Tattoo number three is a fairly large dream catcher on her right side. It’s the biggest so far, and is a drawing of an actual dream catcher that hangs by her bed. The four feathers represent her siblings and the protection that the dream catcher offers. Next was the anchor on her wrist to remind her of a, “safe port,” and that she always has somewhere to go home to.

After that, Miley apparently decided that her hand was boring, and covered each finger in a different tattoo. She has a heart on her right pinkie, a cross on the ring finger, and a line on her middle. The other side of her middle finger has a peace sign, and her index finger says, “Karma.” At some point, the line on the middle finger was turned into a peace sign, and she added an equal sign to her ring finger to symbolize marriage equality.

Miley was also recently seen outside of a tattoo removal office; which of the nine will be the first to go?

Tattoo Coloring Book #2

Our friend Phil Padwe - the talented illustrator who gave us the delightful children's book, Mommy Has A Tattoo - has launched a kickstarter project to help fund his latest work, the follow-up to Tattoo Coloring Book 1.  I'm a big fan of this kind of crowd-sourced funding, so break out your credit card so the rest of us can break out the Crayolas!

(And for a pledge of $25 or more, he'll send you - or your child - a hand drawn card on your birthday!)

December 3, 2011

Steampunk with a Tattoo Twist

"Dermobot" by Chris Conte.

Today on Wired's Underwired blog, Hugh Hart shares some images and information on the Mobilis in Mobili: An Exhibition of Steampunk Art & Appliance show at Wooster Street Social Club (yup, NY Ink headquarters). The exhibit runs through Jan. 14 and the work, like those shown here, are available for purchase.

Bruce Rosenbaum, "steampunk evangelist" offers more on the show:

Mobilis in Mobili:  features work from artists whose work fuses Victorian aesthetics and craftsmanship with salvaged vintage components combined with modern devices to create unique works of art. It showcases the spectrum of Steampunk art and appliance from drawings to entertainment systems. These pieces take an innovative approach, transporting visitors through time, yet maintain a firm hold on contemporary contours and comforts.
I'm particularly attracted the piece above by Chris Conte entitled "Dermobot (Skin Crawler)," which features a functional mini-tattoo machine. And I know Brian Grosz is loving the work shown below, "The Grand Experiment," by Steve Brock. As noted in the Wired blog, it's "a 1964 Norma guitar with turn-of-the-century noodle-cutter handle and solid-brass door plate from Detroit's Book-Cadillac building."

Also shown on Wired is the "Steampunk 'Back' Tattoo to the Future" piece by Bruce Rosenbaum and Ken Taylor. Bruce describes the work: "I found this 1918 hand-cranked gas pump and restored it. [...] The hose that had been used to deliver the gas now swoops down and behind where the tattoo subject sits. Out of this nozzle comes a webcam so that when you sit with your back to the camera you can see this monitor attached to the gas pump and watch the work as the artist tattoos your back." I want!

The fantastical and mechanical imagery of Steampunk can often be found in tattoos. Here are some excellent examples below.

chaudesaignes_steampunk_tattoo.jpgTattoo by Stephane Chaudesaigues by Nick Baxter.

For more on Steampunk art & culture, check the vast number of links on its Wikipedia entry.

Sullen Contest: Win a Free Carlos Torres Tattoo

Known for his exceptional black & grey tattoo work, Carlos Torres of Timeline Gallery in San Pedro, CA is one of the most sought after artists in the genre with an eager international clientele; so you can be sure that getting an appointment is a win in itself.

Now Sullen Clothing is not just offering a chance to jump in front of that appointment line, but to get five hours of tattooing from Carlos for free, as well as $500 of Sullen gear, a one-night hotel stay and a feature on Sullen TV. Sweet!

To enter to win, head to Sullen's Facebook page and "Like" them. No purchase necessary. The contest goes through the month of December and the winner will be announced the first week in January.

It's easy breezy -- except for Carlos who has a hard time explaining the contest in this video (which is pretty adorable). 

As a tease, I'm posting some of Carlo's work below. You can see more of his tattoo and fine art on his website and Facebook page.

carlos torres tattoo.jpg
carlos torres tattoo2.jpg

Barbie Visits the Tattoo Parlour

If you were ever a fan of Barbie when you were a kid it’s likely that you’ve seen her go through many transitions over the years.  She’s been a teacher, a princess, a doctor and even an astronaut – all things that a parent would be happy with seeing their child grow into you may think.  This is why the latest Barbie has sparked quite a bit of controversy, not just with fans of the doll but with parents too – the latest Barbie is tattooed!

Tokidoki Barbie

A few years ago Mattel – the creators of Barbie – released a version of the doll that came with removable stickers called ‘Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie’.  The manufacturers received a lot of praise for this doll and due to its popularity it’s hardly surprising that Tokidoki Barbie – our tattooed friend – is the latest creation by the brand.  Designed by Simone Legno, Tokidoki has a tattoo on her arm and further body art on her chest.

Punk Princess

Alongside the tattoos, Tokidoki Barbie also has bright pink hair and she is wearing a black sweater with a cute skull and crossbones design (the skull has been replaced by a heart).  Tokidoki also wears leopard skin leggings and a cute little mini skirt – she really is a punk princess and is set to be a big hit with kids around the world, or she would be if they were able to obtain one.


The media has recently suggested that parents of Barbie fans are outraged by the new Barbie design, however we fail to see why they are so uptight over it.  Many are… wait for it… saying that Barbie will have a negative impact on the mind of a child and many are concerned that children will start to tattoo themselves.  We think this is a bit of an over the top reaction and as usual, people will come together to back a cause that probably doesn’t even apply to them.

Limited Edition

Whether it’s due to the controversy surrounding Tokidoki or whether it was Mattel’s plan all along, the Tokidoki Barbie is only being released via the internet.  Mattel claim that the doll is purely for adult collectors and there will only be 7400 dolls released.  So, unless your kids know where to find Tokidoki online you needn’t worry about them forking out for a DIY tattoo kit just yet – she won’t be on the local shelves in Wal-Mart or anything!

Like we said above, this is not the first time that Mattel have released a tattooed Barbie so we are quite surprised by the controversy.  Aside from the tattoo it yourself Barbie that we mentioned above, Mattel also released a Harley Davidson Barbie back in 2008 which has a large pair of wings adorned on her back – we didn’t hear people getting angry then unless we just weren’t listening.

We think the new Tokidoki Barbie is pretty cool if you like that sort of thing, and definitely not worth protesting over.  What do you think?

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