Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What's in a business card? I find myself picking these up whenever I stop by a tattoo shop. From busy to bare and everything between, everyone has their own tastes it seems. Maybe once I have enough of these I'll setup a gallery. If you have interesting tattoo business cards, please send some pics my way.

At my last tattoo session, we finished all of the remaining color except for the large koi in the center of my torso. The most recent work is almost done healing, I should have some pics up very soon.

I also wanted to give a shout out to Iron Horse Magazine. I was quite surprised to learn a small picture of me was published in their last issue. I'm just glad this picture wasn't of anything embarresing. It just goes to show you never know who's watching after you've had a few drinks at the bar.

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year. Happy tattooing in 2008!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The background on my right side is finally finished! More color soon..

Saturday, November 24, 2007

These pics are of work done over a month ago, on 10/7/07. I did a bit of traveling (New Orleans for Halloween) and so did Shinji, so my appointments have been irregular. Hopefully I can get back on track soon.
Instead of finishing the background, Shinji decided to work in color. As you can see, most of the leaves on my right arm now now filled in with either red or orange. My skin doesn't like red ink very much but it seems to have taken better this time. No problems at all with the orange, although color in general takes a bit longer to heal.
We started to discuss colors for the koi, but we did not reach a decision. Maybe blue? Originally we dicussed maybe a kohaku coloring scheme, but now we're having doubts about such a large area of white ink - I'm not sure it would look good.
We're getting really close to finishing the right side of my body, so I'm already thinking about the left side. Perhaps in another four sessions we will start that, that's only two months!
More pics soon, my last session was a few days ago and it should be healed enough to take pictures within a week.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

No new pics yet, but I should have something in the next week or two. I had to cancel my last tattoo appointment because there was a scheduling conflict with Starlight Tattoo's Annual Tattoo Expo. Horizakura had commited to working there over the weekend alongside his teacher, Horitoshi. Having never been to a tattoo convention, I was curious to see what the fuss was about and decided to stop by on Saturday. I got there a bit late and missed the "Best Back Piece" competition (I wanted to see it, but not to compete). But, I did get to meet Horitoshi briefly when Shinji called me over to show off his work. I also got a chance to see one of Horitoshi's most well known tattoos, a full body suit of dragons and flowers which I've seen in several tattoo books and magazines (see issue 2 of "NIHON DENTOH SHISEI" for a good article on Horitoshi in Japanese, from the same folks who publish "Tattoo Burst"). I wish I'd bought my camera! The Horitoshi family had a good size booth setup and were working on people there. I was glad I had declined moving my appointment to the convention center - there was a large crowd gathered watching and I would have been quite uncomfortable.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Came across this article on CNN today about the tattoo removal business and "removable" ink. The best part of the article is definitely the comments, everything from "people with tattoos are idiots" to "I'm 20 and I'm certain I'll never regret this tattoo".

On the topic of the health impacts of tattooing, the other day someone said to me, "I heard that once you get your entire body covered in tattoos then you die because your skin can't breathe anymore".

Where do people come up with this stuff?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I haven't been spending much time at home lately, so I haven't had a chance to take any pictures in weeks. These represent three sessions worth of work. As you can see, the background on the right side of my body is near completion - after one or two more sessions we'll start adding some color. The area under my armpit on the upper part of the ribs wasn't at all pleasant to tattoo, but other than that the past few sessions haven't been too bad. I'm really not looking forward to getting the background near my groin area filled in at the next session.
The last time I was at the shop one of the artists joked that my kidneys were probably turning black. I managed a nervous laugh, but only barely. I've noticed it takes me longer to heal these days. I chalk it up to age and pray all the ink building up inside me isn't taking its toll. I'd be interested to see some studies on the health effects of tattooing. Seems like most of the information out there is anecdotal, which is not surprising - it's not like scientists can just tattoo folks and see what happens in a controlled environment. I try to put my faith in the tattoo community and their collective knowledge on the matter. The artists probably know more than anyone else. I'm assuming that it's a situation similar to steroids. For many years, the body builders and locker room dealers knew more than doctors about the effects of steroids on the human body because they were out there experimenting on themselves every day while scientists were grappling with the ethical issues involved with human testing. That being said, the most common health issues associated with tattooing are transfer of blood-borne illness, infection, allergic reaction and scarring. So far, I'm pretty good on those fronts. I'm still really curious to hear about potential health issues due to extensive tattooing.
I went to the beach a few times this summer (armed with plenty of sunblock of course), and the looks I'm starting to get when I take my clothes off are pretty funny. Sometimes I forget I'm turning into a bit of a freakshow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Here are two pics from my 8/5 session. My back is now connected to the front via the sholder, and the outline of the right side is quite clear on the top portion of my chest. The distinctive munewari shape is finally coming into focus. I thought getting tattooed around my collarbone would hurt more than it did, it actually wasn't so bad. At the last session we also discussed doing some touch-up work to a few areas on my back either to minimize areas of cover-up or to try again on places where the color didn't take very well the first time. There are definitely some places where my skin was not very receptive to the red ink in particular.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Now that the background on my arm is complete, we're moving on to my chest. The first picture details work from my last session, two weeks ago. The next two pictures are of the entire piece so far. I've been focused on displaying the newest work so it has been a while since I posted pictures of the whole tattoo. Hopefully this gives some of the "context" or perspective I mentioned in my last post.
There really is not a whole lot of background on the front of my torso, so I think from this point on the background is going to go much faster. I'll probably have one or two more sessions near the top of my chest, and then we'll continue working up from the bottom again from where Shinji left off on the right thigh.
Overheard on the web recently: "Japanese is the new tribal".

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This picture is from 7/15/07, just before my last session. The background on my arm is finally done! As far as pain goes, we saved the best part for last - I'd say the inside of your bicep is fairly sensitve but further into your armpit is worse. Also, this took a long time to heal and it's still not 100%, especially the area where your arm attaches to your chest since it folds and stretches everytime you move your arm in any direction.
A few people have made comments about how the background takes up most of the space on my arm and there's little room for color. One person went as far as to call it a "negative space tattoo". I suppose you really need to see the tattoo as a single piece covering my entire body to get the right sense of scale, thereby putting my arm into the proper context - it's really just a small part of a larger whole.
In other weirdness: this is old news but in case you missed it the first time around, check out this article about a woman who got an advertisement for a casino tattooed on her forehead. She planned to use the money to send her son to a private school where he "promises to get good grades".

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm finally getting an internet connection in my apartment this week, so updates should be more frequent after that. Here are a few pics I took on 6/22/2007. I've had some work since then, will post more current picutres soon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Just came back from a 9-day trip to Japan, and I had a great time. One of the highlights was definitely hanging out in Asakusa, Tokyo for Sanja Matsuri. This festival is starting to be known for open displays of tattoos, something which is very unusual in Japan. In fact this year they banned riding on the mikoshi in order to discourage the more flamboyant displays of tattoos from yakuza types. Still, a few were out in force. Here are some of the pics I snapped. I believe everyone in this set of pictures was tattooed by Horigane (the fellow in the white suit). Please email me if you believe this info is incorrect, my Japanese is pretty bad so it's possible I misunderstood (added 11/27/07 - made a correction, the artist's name is Syodai Horigane (Kanazawa, Kesao), his website is at Anyway, check out the great work!

Sorry, I've been slacking on the updates. These pictures cover work from two sessions. As you can see, there's a bit more shading on my elbow and we've moved further up my arm. The tattoo on my arm is actually connected to my back for the first time.

Monday, April 30, 2007

At a dinner a few months ago with some folks who work in the tattoo industry, I voiced my opinion that the current fascination with all things tattoo-related was nearing an end. After all, how many tattoo reality TV shows, books, magazines, etc can the public really absorb? So imagine my surprise when the other day I walked by the Macy's department store here in Manhattan and saw their latest window displays which are built around classic tattoo imagery in support of a new line of clothes sporting Ed Hardy's designs. Does the tattoo fad still have legs? Or is this the death knell? Can tattoos maintain their "street credibility" now that they have been whole-heartedly embraced by mainstream corporate America? In the end, it doesn't really matter to me; but it must come as a bit of a blow to those who got tattoos in order to cement their personal "rebel" status. I wonder if tattoos can go the way of the skull - once used to strike fear in the hearts sailors by pirates, but now suitable for baby clothes. In an age where tattoos are increasingly common, can they still be thought of as marks of individuality?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

As promised, here are a few shots of recent work. The first three are after my 3/11/7 session and the second set are after my 4/1/7 session. I've gone again since then and will post more pics soon.

I recently read an article on tattoos in Contexts magazine, a publication of the American Sociological Association. The article, titled "Why Do People Get Tattoos" was written by Miliann Kang and Katherine Jones at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. As the title suggests, the authors discuss the myriad motivations people give for wearing tattoos, especially among women. They also devote some time to discussion of tattoo subcultures (so called "modern primitives" and "tattoo enthusiasts") and the limitations of using tattoos to communicate messages due to cultural stigmas attached to tattoos. The tone of the article is captured best in the following quote:

"While these individuals give varied and multilayered meanings to their own and other's tattoos, their personal assertations are sometimes at odds with the pervasive popular interpretations of tattoos as signs of rebellion or faddishness."

I agree. If your tattoo is a means of communicating a message, it probably won't be very effective since most people already have such strong preconceptions about tattoos.
Some recommended reading cited in the article:

"Tattooed: The Sociogenesis of a Body Art" by Michael Atkinson
"Revolting Bodies: The Monster Beauty of Tattooed Women" by Christine Braunberger
"Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern tattoo Community" by Margo DeMello
"Tattoo Narratives: The Intersection of the Body, Self-Identity and Society" by Mary Kosut
"Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoos" by Margot Mifflin

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sorry I've been slacking with the updates! I've got three sessions worth of pictures to post. Sometime this week I promise to get them up. Until then, check out this movie on the NYTimes website. It's the first in a series of short videos called "The Story of Skin" (sorry, a login is required to view), and it is on tattoos. The description on the site reads "Dr. Nina Jablonski says the human canvas offers something different and deeply personal for a world where fashions are mass produced." The video features a brief appearance by New York's Daredevil Tattoo. Thanks to Josh for forwarding me this.

Monday, March 12, 2007

These pics show the work done on 2/25/07. The rocks are now starting to be shaded in, and we also did a little more work on the background. I just had an appontment yesterday so I will try to post more pictures shortly. Also, I just purchased a new camera (a Canon SD 900) so I should be able to produce better pictures for this site. In other news, I'm planning a trip to Japan in May so I'm pretty excited about that. I'll be in Tokyo for Sanja Matsuri! I was hoping to have most of the background on my right side finished by then but I'm doubting that I will have enough time.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Here is the latest batch of pictures. The background now runs completely around my right forearm. I have an appointment later today, and I'm guessing we will continue working up my arm.
I finally picked up a copy of Poysden and Bratt's "A History of Japanese Bodysuit Tattooing". It's a great book. It goes into a lot of detail regarding the history of tattoos in Japan and also the history of Japanese yakuza (mafia) organizations. The book also showcases Horikazu and his work, which is incredible.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Here are some pics of the last session's work, sorry for the delay getting them up. It wasn't fully healed when I took these pictures, but you get the idea.
As you can see, we started on the background on my right forearm and finished the shading of a large splash of water. The forearm is an easy enough place to get tattooed, it doesn't hurt too much at all.

One reason why getting tattooed on the front of my body and arms has been interesting is that I can actually see Horizakura work, carefully placing each spot of color with a deft movement of his hand. It seems he hits my skin at a certain angle, and once punctured, pushes the ink downward with flick of his wrist. Amazingly, he's able to do this quite quickly while maintaining the required precision.

Tebori aside, if you haven't already you should check out Troy Denning at his shop Invisible NYC. He's been doing great work here in NYC for years, and he's also been very friendly the few times we spoke. I understand he has a small gallery at the shop where they showcase various artists, all the more reason to stop by.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Those of you interested in Japanese woodblock prints or ukiyo-e should check out my latest acquisition: a series of 29 prints depicting the story of the 47 Ronin. If anyone happens to have more info on this series, please contact me. I purchased it from a vendor at an antiques market who did not know much about it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A company called Somark Innovations has successfully tested an RFID "tattoo" on cows, mice and rats. An array of needles is used to inject a passive RFID ink which can be read at a distance of 4 feet. Looks like this will be used for branding cattle and...military personnel. More info at The Register and Engadget. Now if this isn't the "mark of the beast", I don't know what is. ;)

I wonder what other applications they'll think of? They already use RFID to process credit card transactions ("Paypass") and are pilot testing the same payment system for use in the subways here in NYC. Now if you can get a tattoo of your baby momma's name on your neck and pay for your beer/cigarettes/lotto tickets by banging your head on the cash register..that would be something.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The outline on my left side is done! Just a few details to be added here and there, but the bulk of the work is finished. Now Horizakura can start filling in the background again. The plan is to start on my arm and work his way up. Eventually the background creeping up my leg and the background creeping up by arm will meet around my sternum somewhere. The pace of tattoo work has been steady lately, and I don't have enough time to adjust to my new body between sessions. I find myself looking in the mirror and wondering - "Who is this person in front of me? What am I becoming?" Sometimes this sensation is interesting, even pleasant. Other times it's not. I joke that the tattoo has a mind of its own but some days it doesn't feel like that's far from the truth.

Last weekend a few of my coworkers saw the portion of my tattoo which covers my forearm. We all went out for drinks after work, and after a few beers I thought "Fuck it". It was a group of people I'm fairly comfortable with, and no senior management was around. It's just exhausting for me to try to repress every part of my personality that doesn't fit into the narrow slice of humanity we call "corporate culture". I've spent my whole life living on the edges of acceptable and polite society, which basically means I've never felt free to talk about most anything in my past or that happens outside business hours with people at work. I'll be damned if I can't even unwind and enjoy a beer in my off hours.

Anyway, I better stop before I launch into a full-on rant. ;) Next update will be in a few weeks.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy New Year! Sorry for the delay in posting updates. I was far too busy eating, drinking, being with friends and family, and all those other holiday-type things. As you can see, the incredible man-eating tattoo has started to engulf my right arm. I decided on the seven-tenths length sleeve ("shichibu"). It's primarily composed of more crashing waves and rocks, punctuated with a solitary maple leaf. There is also a small plant growing out of the rock near my elbow. The scale of the tattoo doesn't allow for a whole lot of different elements on my puny arms. The tribal-style tattoo on my upper arm will be completely covered (It won't be missed. Oh, to be 18 again..). This is the first time any of my tattoo work has extended into an area that is usually uncovered (that's outside of my office, of course - at work it's long sleeves everyday). I'm sure it will spark a few interesting conversations since many people, even people I've known for ages, don't know about my tattoo work. These conversations tend to make me a little uncomfortable. Tattooing is a personal thing, and I'm not really much of an exhibitionist (I know, I know..the existence of this blog suggests otherwise ;). People always have such funny notions of what type of person gets a tattoo. Upon seeing the tattoo some people have said "oh, I never would have guessed you were that type of person". For some, the presence of ink in my skin apparently is enough to undo all of our past interactions. Wouldn't it make more sense for these people to reexamine their preconceived notions of "people with tattoos" now that they have some evidence which suggests these theories are bunkum? The next update will be in about 3 weeks. I believe in the next session we are going to complete the outline on the right side of my body.