LETTER FROM MARY JANE
Here is a recent letter from Mary Jane Haake, whose green tattoo product catalog can be viewed at www.dermalsource.com. Aside from being one of our advertisers, Mary Jane has been a good friend to the tattoo industry and one of its premier movers and shakers for over 25 years. This is the first in a series (I hope) of letters from Mary Jane about the world of tattoo today, yesterday and tomorrow.
Nov 28, 2010
I have been inspired to write you a letter, motivated by a book filled with letters, which has gotten me thinking. At this time of year, with the media packed with “Top Ten” countdowns, and you making your own top 100 list (thanks again for lucky 88), I think it’s only natural to look back at our lives and reflect. I’ve read some great books recently about our tattoo history.
“Secret Historian” by Justin Spring is about the life of Samuel Steward, PhD, a scholar, writer, university professor for twenty years, sexual renegade, compulsive journal and record keeper and correspondent with many of the glitterati of the early 20th century, including Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
I never knew this man, but I knew Phil Sparrow, the legendary tattoo artist, whose “bird” moniker was a subscript for being a homosexual, much like Cliff Raven, who he trained and worked with in Chicago in the ’50s and ’60s. Samuel Steward left his position as a professor of literature to become Phil Sparrow at 45, an age when many tattooists are looking for an easier way to make a living. He chose tattooing, not because he thought he could make a living at it, but because he was fired from his university position. (He is probably the only tattoo artist at the time that could legitimately call himself “Professor”.)
And this wouldn’t be his last incarnation before his passing in 1993. After he closed the door at Anchor Tattoo in 1970, following three robberies and witnessing the death of a friend during another robbery, he became an inventor of sorts and a writer of gay pulp books, movies and memoirs. I have a copy of his 1990 book, “Tom Boys and Tough Tattoos” in my tattoo library, which relates Phil’s Chicago tale of tattooing, gangs, sailors and street corner punks from 1950-’65. I’m going to it dust off and reread it.
Ed Hardy, who reviewed Phil’s book and found in him a kindred spirit, has reinvented himself so many times it is difficult to count. Not many of us could go from a tattoo artist to book publisher, or from political office to clothing designer, all while producing and exhibiting fine art in galleries and museums.
This past year, I worried when you informed us of the end of your tenure as editor of Skin&Ink. But you are now hosting a website that is expanding by leaps and bounds. And like Phil Sparrow, it wasn’t the first time. I remember years ago, when we all thought Skin&Ink was over with the loss of Larry Flynt’s support, but you landed with a new enthusiastic partner and better fit for your expanding career as a publisher of tattoo-related books.
This past twelve months marked an unprecedented number of new shops opening across America and particularly in the Pacific Northwest. It also marked the end of the line for Crazy Ace Daniels, Roy Boy Cooper and that beautiful lady, Gypsy Jill, reinventors all. Sure hope somebody writes a book about them.
Phil was taught to tattoo by the legendary Amund Dietzl. I learned about him through Bert Grimm’s tall tales, and was delighted to rediscover him in “Sexual Historian”.
Lyle Tuttle tells me there is a great book out about this Milwaukee artist called “Those Old Blue Arms.” I’ve ordered it and consider it an early Christmas present to myself.
Chinchilla and Mr. G have put out a spunky and graphically dazzling book on “Captain Don Leslie,” tattoo artist, sword swallower, a genuine gentleman and natural performer. The book is filled with his Mark Twain-like comments and wit. I read it cover to cover, while sitting under one of my most prized possessions, an oil painting of his version of the Rock of Ages.
Jeff Johnson’s “Tattoo Machine” is now out in paperback. It’s the tale of the legendary Sea Tramp Tattoo Company, the longest running tattoo shop in Portland, and in it among his many stories, he preserved in perpetuity living legends like Don Deaton and Rio DiGenarro.
I find reading my tattoo history as seen through the eyes of fellow artists and travelers, a good preparation for my future, whatever it may be. I learn more every day about who I am through reading a shared history, whether in book form or online. So, on this Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to personally say thanks for hanging in there. It matters. You are leaving footprints which others will follow.
From the articulate and informative forewords by Petelo Sulu’ape and Keone Nunes to the page-by-page explanations of numerous indigenous tattoo symbols and designs, Lane Wilcken’s Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern is one of Schiffer Publishing’s best efforts at capturing the history and body art practices of a specific, ages-old and, in this case, head-hunting tattoo culture. Written and organized in a style that will appeal to both the historian and the casual tattoo fan, the 160-page book is filled, cover-to-hard-cover, with helpful drawings, fascinating historic images and current, full-color photographs of the tools, the designs and the colorful inhabitants of the world of Filipino tattoo art. Rounding out the informative and entertaining text is a full glossary and commentary by native Filipino people wearing their life-affirming designs, making this finely-crafted volume not only an excellent addition to the wintertime reading list, but a must-have reference guide for tattooists who are intrigued by other cultures and inspired by their dramatic and meaningful tattoo art. Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern may be purchased ($39.99) by logging onto www.schifferbooks.com. Don’t miss this one!
FROM EDITION REUSS!
Here’s how to enter for this fantastic 22-pound, three-volume set retailing for $550!
The contest is open to both artists and collectors. Simply send us a minimum of three of your very best high-rez tattoo images (black & gray, color, traditional, tribal, new skool, old school, lettering, photo realistic whatever). All tattoos in each, individual entry must have been done by one artist only. We will post three from each artist and let the readers choose their favorite. The artist with the most votes wins! Please include the artist’s name, shop name, website and phone number. Send entries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or snail mail to Tattoo Road Trip Contest, Box 69, 2149 Cascade, Suite 106A, Hood River, Oregon 97031.
VOTING CLOSES ON MIDNIGHT, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3rd, 2010
WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 4th
From Street Art to Fine Art
The first volume, Traditional Black & Grey, is somewhat of a misnomer as it’s simply called “black & grey” in the tattoo community. But now that greyscale tattooing has moved in different artistic directions, the “traditional” label is used to set it apart from its offshoots. Traditional black & grey denotes tattoo art that has stayed true to its roots — a time when homemade machines made of cassette motors and guitar strings dipped in India ink and wash were used to mark skin. The essence of black & grey art is captured in the photography of co-author Edgar Hoill. Select imagery, with quotes from the artists and collectors, leads this volume followed by interviews with Jack Rudy, the Godfather of Black & Grey; as well as tattoo prodigy Jesus “Chuey” Quintanar. Their stories and tattoo work precede the gallery, which includes tattoos from other pioneers of the style: Freddy Negrete, Brian Everett, and Mark Mahoney.
From Street Art to Fine Art
The Dark/Horror volume delves into personal demons relayed on skin. Paul Booth, often described as the “Dark Lord of Tattooing,” reveals some of the reasons why people get these tattoos as well as how his own demons have driven his art. Other tattoos pay homage to horror in pop culture. Artist Xu Zhicheng of Tianzhilong Tattoo in Beijing says in his interview that he finds inspiration for his large-scale dark work in vampire films, not personal angst. In this chapter, you’ll find everything from shrunken heads to Frankensteins to even famous tattoo artists rendered as zombies.
From Street Art to Fine Art
The Photorealism volume encapsulates work that takes photorealistic art and translates it on the body. While the other chapters also feature realism, this chapter concentrates on portraiture, scenery, and even fantastical images rendered in true-to-life tableaux. Two artists renowned in this style, Bob Tyrrell and Andy Engel, talk about how they honed their craft and even offer tips on how others can do so as well. Their interviews are followed by work that has invigorated the tattoo community with the possibilities of mastering a difficult art on a difficult canvas.
All three volumes in this one collection are meant to inspire, showing just how beautiful black & grey tattoo art can be.
ISBN 978-3-934020-85-6. Mammoth three-volume, large-format hardcover books, 24.5 x 31.5 cm featuring covers with silver embossing, a total of 1,008 pages!
BLACK & GREY TATTOO 1 – Traditional; 336 pages
BLACK & GREY TATTOO 2 – Dark/Horror; 400 pages
BLACK & GREY TATTOO 3 – Photorealism; 272 pages
Texts in English, German and Spanish. More than 860 full-color photographs, this 22-pound, heavyweight collection comes in a sturdy, high-quality, hardcover box inside a carrier case.
U.S. price for the three-volume set: $550.
This nine-pound book is a collaborative project produced by the Analog Tattoo Arts Kolectiv (ATAK). The stated goal was to document, exhibit and publish a comprehensive collection of sleeves by the WTC (World Tattoo Community: abstract concept). Tattooers & collectors from around the globe graciously contributed to this complex collective undertaking. During photo shoots on several continents (San Jose, London, Zurich and Los Angeles) sixty-seven sleeves were extensively documented by house photographer Max Dolberg. This is a limited edition of 1,500 hand-numbered copies, 350 hand bound pages printed on heavy art paper, 16″H x 9.5″W (30″ wide with foldout). Clothbound w/ holographic cover imagery. Metallic, spot matte and gloss varnishes. Price $250. Order from www.analogtattoo.com. Note: Want more detail? Click to enlarge the images.
At 424 pages and eight pounds, Lars Krutak’s Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal—Kalinga Tattoo is yet another publishing triumph for Germany’s world-class publishing house Edition Reuss. Available from Amazon for $150, this extraordinary collection of Dr. Krutak’s unparalleled anthropological insights and mesmerizing photographs is, quite simply, a book that, if you do not own it, you are cheating yourself of infinite pleasure. The full-page, 9½- by 12½-inch photos of unparalleled tribal blackwork (page after page after page) are sequestered between beautifully embellished hard covers on thick, handsomely printed, glossy paper stock. Well worth the asking price.
I have worked with Lars Krutak and published his writings for over a decade and he is, arguably, the world of tattoo’s leading anthropologist, adventurer and advocate for the vanishing arts of indigenous cultures at the four corners of the globe. Kalinga, a landlocked province of the Philippines in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon, came to my attention when I first became involved with the tattoo world, over two decades ago. I marveled then at the photos of this beautiful people, with their mystical and profound connection to the timeless customs and application of, what is unquestionably, the highest form of body art. Written in both English and German, the chapter titles are as exciting and inspirational as the photos of the people—mostly older-generation men and women who proudly wear the marks of this intricate body art. “History of the Kalinga,” “Kalinga Tattooing Motifs,” “Warrior Culture of the Kalinga,” “The Last Kalinga Tattoo Artist” and “Mark of the Four Waves Tribe (The Philippine Tattoo Revival),” each chapter is a beautifully written, never ponderous, guided tour by Krutak himself, as he introduces and connects the reader with the colorful lifestyle and traditions of this powerful people. An added bonus, of course, are the double-page spreads of sweeping valleys, winding roads, terraced rice fields and cloud-capped mountain tops that, as you leaf through the pages, continually surprise you with reminders of where and how these unique people coexist with the nature around them.
Mostly in full-color, the vast collection if images includes many rare, archival photos of Kalinga ceremonies, mock battles, tattoo sessions and, around every corner, those gorgeous photographs of daily life, a way of being that is practiced this very day and, hopefully, will continue to do so through the dedication and resurgence of new advocates such as the Four Waves Tribe—Kalinga children, who boldly proclaim their artistic heritage by practicing, rekindling and rescuing rich traditions that might, otherwise, be forgotten.
Besides the overwhelming beauty of the Edition Reuss volume, for the tattoo artist, this is a rich resource, a visual seminar on design and placement. For the collector, this is a haunting page-turner. For the history buff and anthropologist, this is a treasure trove of fascinating, accurate information by one of the most profound, dedicated and talented chroniclers of indigenous tribes in today’s changing world. Hooray for Dr. Krutak! Hooray for Edition Reuss! Your new book, all eight glorious pounds of it, has clearly made, for me, a most wonderful day.
ANCIENT AND MODERN EXPRESSIONS OF THE TRIBAL—KALINGA TATTOO
Note: All tattoos and artwork featured are protected under the copyright of the tattooists. Their presentation is meant to inspire, not to be copied. The tattoos are created especially for the wearers and so should your own.
BACK TO THE BOOKSHELF
One of my favorite all-time tattoo books is Taschen’s 1001 Tattoos by Henk Schiffmacher. Available in America in 1996, Hanky Panky’s 7½ x 5½ book is two inches thick and full to the brim with some of the most delectable tattoo images ever complied. With its 18-page introduction, there are sections on ethnographic tattoos, classical tattoo designs, tattoos from the early days to the 1980s, Japanese tattoos and contemporary tattoo art—each photos is printed full page—all meticulously selected by Henk himself. Included are works by Doc Forbes, Les Skuse, Filip Leu, Brian Everett, Freddy Corbin, Marcus Pacheco, Alex Binnie, Horiyoshi III and a raft of others, including the famous Last Supper with frogs backpiece by the legendary Dave Lum. The book was so popular that it was immediately and enthusiastically accepted into libraries of tattoo shops and collectors worldwide. In fact, when the Taschen salesman brought in a preview copy to Body Electric Tattoo in Hollywood, Pote Seyler, Jesse Tuesday and the others ordered 70 copies! Following are some of my favorite photos. If you already have this book, perhaps you will enjoy looking back at some of these memorable images. I know I sound like a broken record, but don’t forget to click on the images to enlarge them.
Matthias Reuss, publisher of several wonderful tattoo books from Edition Reuss, just sent us a preview of some new titles coming out in September. We’ll be receiving review copies soon and will be giving these promising titles extensive coverage.
JASON PHILLIPS FLASH BOOK
His name is Jason Phillips. He owns FTW Tattoo Parlor in Oakland, California. Jason wrote to us because he has just finished putting together a book of tattoo flash that he has printed over the last ten years. Available from http://www.ftwtattoo.com, this eight-and-one-half by eleven, hard cover book, has fifty-two full-color pieces of old-school flash. A bargain for a set of flash at $50.
By Marisa Kakoulas
Published by Edition Reuss, Germany
“The perfect tattoo―the one I believe we are all struggling toward―is the one that turned the jackass into the zebra.”
―Cliff Raven, TattooTime No. 1, “New Tribalism,” 1988
A fabulous quote introducing a fabulous―no, make that devastatingly wonderful―compendium of full-page, full-color photos from some of the world’s preeminent artists specializing in the powerful, often mesmerizing body art known as tribal or, more correctly, blackwork tattoos. Totaling a whopping five hundred thirty-six pages with over five hundred photographs, this 12½- by 9½-inch hardcover book printed on luxurious, glossy paper stock is a must-have addition for anyone seeking both knowledge and a view into an all-encompassing collection of outstanding artwork from Polynesia to Europe, Southeast Asia to the Americas. The artists―many of whom are familiar to Skin&Ink readers―include Sulu’ape Aisea, Matt Black, Christ from Endangered Species, Colin Dale, Daniel DiMattia, Cory Ferguson, Elle Festin, Vincent Hocquet, Patrick Heuttlinger, Jef from Boucherie Moderne, Jondix from LTW, Rory Keating, Seymore Kahiliaulani-Lindsey Kaniho, Volker Kloth, Xed Lehead, Jeremy Lo, Marc from Swastika Freakshop, Mike the Athens, Alex Nardini, Tattoo Planet Savona, Navette, Noon, Pink, Roonui and Lynda from Tahiti Tattoo, Peter Schachner, David Sena, Cristophe Souloumiac, Jacqueline Spoerlé, Idexa Stern, Nazareno Tubaro, Gerhard Wiesbeck, Cy Wilson, Yann Black, Zulu and, of course, the man who popularized the style in the U.S., Leo Zulueta.
All I can say is, “Wow!”
I think I know something about putting together text and photos to showcase the art of tattoo, but this particular collection and presentation clearly marks Marisa Kakoulas as one of the industry’s leading biographers and Matthias Reuss of Germany’s Edition Reuss as one of its most important publishers. These people understand tattooing and respect it. They made certain that the subject was presented in a professional, well-conceived and singularly splendid edition.
Starting out with a clear, logical history of the art form, this huge, cleanly designed book is helpfully divided into informative sections: Neotribal, Dotwork, Art Brut (or “raw art” as practiced by one of our favorite French artists, Noon, for example), the Tradition Revival and Thai/Buddhist tattoos. Each component is preceded by an English/German text that clearly explains the origins and practices of each particular style, followed by multiple-page examples of various artists’ work. And not just any work. As I leafed through the pages, it was clear that whoever selected the final images has an educated eye for not only for choosing appropriate artists, but also for selecting their best work. There’s no filler here. It’s all solid, all masterfully executed. In addition, Kakoulas interviewed several tattooists who expanded on relevant themes and supplied important details concerning both their work and the traditions they practice. I especially liked the candid shots of some of our Polynesian friends like Roonui and Chimé, artists that have continued to introduce and popularize blackwork for the past two decades.
Aside from the fact that the book weighs as much as a small boulder, my only complaint, and it’s a small one, is the title, Black Tattoo Art: Modern Expressions of the Tribal. To me, the term “black tattoo art” denotes tattoo art done on, by or for folks belonging to racial groups having brown to black skin, especially those of African origin. Perhaps it’s the translation from German to English that confuses the issue, but, personally―although the term “blackwork” is used fleetingly in a subtitle and on the back cover under “Contents”―I would have chosen these words exclusively to define the subject. In any case, it is a semantic difference and in no way diminishes the magnitude or importance of this volume and the message it communicates.
To sum up: Every so often a book comes along that belongs in every tattoo shop and in the collection of any self-respecting connoisseur of the body arts. Well, here it is. And not only is it a graphic collection unequalled in any book on the subject that I have seen (due in great part to its diversity), this highly compelling page-turner is an intelligent, readable and enlightening foray into an art form that stands alone in both its visual drama and its irrefutable link with the past.
To order (ISBN 978-3-934020-71-9), log onto http://www.edition-reuss.de. The price is ninety-eight Euros or one hundred forty-seven U.S. dollars. To contact the author, Marisa Kakoulas, log onto her website at http://www.needlesandsins.com.