Discussing people always saying the same thing about tattoos

February 4th, 2014 by Kevin -


Headline from Milwaukee Sentinel, 1933
Yesterday, BBC News posted an interesting and amusing story about tattooing. The story, called People always say the same thing about tattoos, pokes fun at the press and discusses the overused topic of tattooing gaining popularity in the masses. Citing news headlines from 1876 to 2011, the BBC does a great job of proving a point – we’ve been down this road many a time. With the news media still reporting when each celebrity gets a new tattoo, it’s not that different from the headlines of Vanity Fair in 1926.

From the BBC article 'People always say the same thing about tattoos'From the BBC article 'People always say the same thing about tattoos'From the BBC article 'People always say the same thing about tattoos'From the BBC article 'People always say the same thing about tattoos'

So is tattooing just a fad on the roller coaster of style? Do tattoos get mixed in with argyle sweaters, bleach washed jeans, hair styles, flannels, and neon sunglasses? Isn’t tattooing something more? With one out of every five people having a tattoo, you would think the answer is yes… but is it? I’m concerned that society is now just as quick to jump on a fad, than they are off of a fad. We live in a time when tattoos are being able to be applied in a bold fashion, and then removed in an even bolder fashion weeks, months, and years later. We’ve been exposed to years of reality tattoo television, where every tattoo has a deep story about this or that. Hell, kids are getting their first tattoos on their hands and necks.

To sum it all up, I don’t know. We’re either headed towards the beginning of solidifying the time of tattooing across society, or we’re setting ourselves up for the biggest headline yet.

The Modern-Day Tattoo Renaissance by Joey Knuckles

January 29th, 2014 by Guest Blogger -


Guest Blog by Joey Knuckles

Tattooing is all about progression. We learn from our mistakes and we grow every day; we should all approach it with humility and respect for our fellow artists. True tattooers want to continue to grow, and to become the best tattooers, artists, and people that they can be. To do this we must get rid of the negativity. I can tell you from my own personal experiences over the past couple of years that there are already enough things to bring you down.

A little advice: about two years ago, I stopped listening to news/media/political arguments. I also fought off some personal demons, such as drinking, anger, and depression. Not only have my anxiety and stress levels dropped drastically, but also my thought process has been liberated and I’ve been able to focus on what truly matters. Separating yourself from all the negativity and drama in your life, and surrounding yourself with people who support you is so important. The people in my life, including my wife Tori, my ever loyal Philadelphia clientele, my continuously growing Columbus clientele, and my brothers everywhere, are what keep me going and continuing to progress and to further my understanding of the past, present, and future of this craft. I can wake up in the morning, work on some sketches, and just be happy and honored to be part of the tattoo community.

We are the few and the lucky to be “true tattoo artists.” We must understand that we are all folk artists responsible for handing this craft over to the next generation with integrity and intelligence. If we ever want to progress as individuals and as artists, we have to understand fully what builds a true “traditional tattoo.” Not that everyone has to work in a “traditional style,” but everyone should understand and be able to accomplish the fundamental tattooing techniques. We must understand the tools involved in this trade, and resist relying on shortcuts such as tracing other artists’ work, Google images, and using programs like Photoshop to create graphic images that are unrealistic in the tattoo world (never mind Photoshopping tattoo pictures to create colors and vibrancy that do not exist in nature). As the saying goes, “Don’t confuse the menu with the meal.” People in the beginnings of their careers in this industry are learning these days with rotaries right from the start, without taking the necessary 5 to 10 years needed to master working with coil machines, among other aspects of tattooing. It seems everyone is rushing into fame without absorbing the knowledge required to become a “tattoo master.” So let’s take this note from one of our forefathers in tattooing, which has been a personal motto of mine, so that maybe we can all treat each other, and our craft, a little better: “I ‘Joey Knuckles’ am in the business of rendering a service to this community for the small group who choose to have their bodies decorated in some way or another…I choose to pursue my profession with intelligence and skill, wishing not to offend anyone, but instead with my love for mankind do what good I can do before I die…” —Pledge by Stoney St. Clair.

Joey KnucklesJoey Knuckles has been tattooing since 2003. Beginning his career in Columbus, Ohio most notably at High Street Tattoo, where he honed his tattoo skills in a fast-paced environment under his mentor Giovani. He then moved to Philadelphia in 2008, working in legendary shops like Philadelphia Eddies, Olde City Tattoo, Art Machine Productions, and Black Vulture Gallery, over the past five years. He has now returned to Columbus full-time, after inheriting High Street tattoo from his good friend, mentor, and High Street Tattoo founder Giovani. Joey prides himself on being a well-rounded tattoo artist specializing in anything ranging from cover-ups, custom lettering, floral work, to large-scale illustrative designs.

“I fell in love with tattooing and gave my life to it.” -Hector Cedillo

January 22nd, 2014 by Guest Blogger -


Guest Blog by Hector Cedillo 

“Once you decide to be a tattooer… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your trade. Never complain about your craft. You must dedicate your life to mastering your tattooing. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

Tattooing holds deep meaning for me because I have learned from it as an artist, a father, a husband and a human being. Tattooing involves all of the essentials of life: humility, honesty, creativity, responsibility, and love. There are many of us for whom tattooing is an irreplaceable part of life. We rely on it to take us out of sadness, madness, the pressures of poverty, youth, age, etc. It seems to be a remedy for just about anything. For me, it has also helped me to identify some of my life purposes. I have listened to my heart and been honest about the goals I have for myself.

Because I have an exceptional life purpose, I approach the world with enthusiasm. I look for ways to expand my abilities and to share my gift with others. I am passionate about living truthfully as a tattooer, approaching life with vivacity.

The thing about being a tattooer is that it’s all about you! You have to motivate yourself. You have to push yourself. You can only count on your machines, your needles, and your imagination because at the end of the day you have to be proud of the effort that you put in. It doesn’t matter how anybody else tattoos. If you have a single bit of doubt in yourself, you will fail as a tattooer.

Great things begin to happen in your life when tattooing becomes greater and more significant than just an everyday thing. Great things blossom in you when you are selfless (and not self-centered!). People begin to notice the great things that you do when you begin to dedicate your life to tattooing. Remember this nugget of knowledge: every great tattoo comes from a superior interest in becoming the best within! So if you are lacking in confidence or are wondering why you are working strenuously with no great results, hear this: tattooing is the part of you that you need both to complete you (bring life) and to fulfill you as you achieve more than you ever imagined.

Tattooing appears somehow more solid and present in our lives than material things, something we can always address and hold on to. At its best, tattooing connects us to a feeling as large as the whole goddamn universe itself.

“I fell in love with tattooing and gave my life to it.”

Be Great, Be Artistic, Be Diverse, and Be a Responsible Tattooer…

- Hector Cedillo

Hector Cedillo Hector Cedillo is a tattoo artist at Piercing Emporium in Worcester, Massachusetts. See more of Hector’s work here. Follow Hector on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to stay up to date with Hector’s work.

Women With Tattoos Have Ruined Dating

January 7th, 2014 by Julene Huffman -


It’s not often I get to feel like I should tag things as tattoo humor on this website, but the advice column answer below pretty much takes the cake. (Source: ThatBadAdvice)


I recently went on a first (and last) date with a “gentleman.” He ordered himself a beer and a prime rib dinner. He never asked me if I wanted anything to eat or drink. As flabbergasted as I was, I have a theory: Men today are different from those of the past, and my guess it’s because the pierced and tattooed gals today speak and act like sailors, therefore ruining it for the rest of us. Am I right?

Dear Puzzled,

It would hard for someone to be more right than you are, because the honest truth is that when women—we use the term loosely, as we must—get tattoos and body piercings, they prevent you from being able to order food at a restaurant. These thoughtless, body-defiling tarts think little of how their actions will affect other people who rely on them for the ability to read a menu and speak to a server.

But let’s not pretend that your date is faultless in all of this. He failed to recognize the obvious chain of events—scores of unscrupulous floozies getting tattoos and body piercings, and doing cusses—that forced you to sit in aching silence as he rudely communicated his wants and needs to people whose job it is to bring him food and drink in exchange for money. Moreover, he made the strange assumption that an adult woman might be able to voice a desire for nutritional sustenance without the express invitation of her male dining partner.

If you’d allowed your acquaintance with this “gentleman” to continue, it’s very likely that you’d run into all kinds of situations where other women’s personal aesthetic choices would prevent you from obtaining basic goods and services. You might go to a movie and find that you had to stand the whole time, because he never asked you if you’d like to sit down! You could end up at a musical performance, unable to hear the instruments, because this clod never asked you if you wanted to listen to them! You might find yourself at an art show staring at blank walls, wondering when your date would invite you to look at the paintings!

Bullets, my good lady, have been dodged.

What is too much at a tattoo convention?

December 6th, 2013 by Kevin -


This video is from the Manchester Tattoo Convention back in August, and it shows a wide array of events taking place at the convention. In addition to the tattoo artists, there were the standard tattoo convention attractions such as vendors, live music, and a live show. There’s also a number of things we don’t typically see at conventions (in the states that is), such as people doing hair, selling cupcakes, and even a ‘photo booth’ featuring fake circus animals.

Which brings me to my question, when is it too much? Do tattoo conventions have to be transformed into a mini amusement park for the weekend for people to attend? What happened to the days of tattoo conventions in school gymnasiums?

I feel like we continue to head in this direction, tattoo conventions are going to quickly become less about the art and more about the event. I’d like to believe that a convention like that wouldn’t be successful, but I’m not so sure…

The Tattoo Collector Movement

November 5th, 2013 by Kevin -


Over the weekend, I stumbled upon this article by Jeremiah Barba. I thought the article was interesting, and gives us a history on a new chapter in tattooing.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a rising number of tattoo collectors come to prominence and personally, I’m glad to see it. While there have always been collectors, this new generation has become a strong presence in the tattoo world. You see them at all the conventions, posing for pictures with artists and fans. They’re all over social media. They can have thousands of fans following their feeds. Their Instagram following can rival that of the tattooer they visit.

These collectors show a dedication to the tattoo world that I haven’t seen before. It’s almost become an international club. They support and encourage each other. They’ll become good friends over social media before they ever meet in person. At conventions, they check out who is getting what and compare stories. Some will spend an entire convention weekend getting tattooed by multiple artists.

At this point, a serious collector can even make or break a tattooer’s reputation. A negative experience can be broadcast through social media and have an immediate effect on the artist. Fortunately, collectors are typically very positive and will promote the artist and their work with enthusiasm. Their followers trust the opinion of the collector and why wouldn’t they? These tattoo collectors have earned the trust and respect of not just tattoo enthusiasts but tattoo artists themselves.

There are those with such great collections of work that I have actually found myself intimidated to tattoo them. They’re wearing tattoos from artists I consider to be the best in the world. It is flattering to be asked to add to their collection and gives me a sense of pride to be included.

This isn’t to say there haven’t been tattoo collectors for a long time. One of my favorite tattoo collectors is Chris Long, Mayor of Tattooville. I think he took this to a new level years ago. Once his body suit was done, he just started reworking everything until he essentially had three body suits done. He chose great artists for the task.

He was unlike a lot of other early tattoo fans who often got all their work from one artist. He was one of the first true collectors in the sense that we’re seeing now. Today, it’s a global experience. How do they do it? How do these people (with jobs unrelated to the world of tattoos) manage to fly all over the world for the sole purpose of getting tattooed? The cost of airfare and hotels, the hourly rates and scope of work they get, it must add up to astronomical amounts. Apart from everything else, the money they’re willing to spend for the love of tattoos and tattoo artists is humbling. To spend a small fortune and to dedicate their bodies to tattoos is an ultimate show of dedication.

These tattoo collectors have had such a positive effect on the tattoo world that I feel I have to thank them. They keep the general public excited while educating them at the same time. They deserve our respect and support. Follow them on Instagram, on Facebook, on Twitter. Give them a shout out and watch their work grow. They’re worth it. And for the new comers, learn from these collectors and choose wisely. You only have one body.

Jeremiah Barba

Chris Longo

Mike Moses: Facing the onslaught of the digital age

September 25th, 2013 by Guest Blogger -


Picture of Mike MosesGuest post by Mike Moses (On Instagram: @thedrowntown)

Those of us with at least a decade in the tattoo industry remember a world quite different from today. As for the old-timers… hell, they probably don’t recognize their own shops anymore. The nervous laughter and palpable fear of those yet to be tattooed is gone. Instead, quiet cadres glued to the 5600K light of a handheld revolution occupy our waiting rooms. Prospective clients gain reassurance that the process ahead is “no big deal” from an ever-growing web of search results.

What used to be a rite of passage for more questionable members of society (and more than a few good servicemen) is now served up hot to hoodie’d teenagers, housewives and your cousin Frank. You can’t even check out at the grocery store without a family of five cooing in unison, forcibly comparing their future projects and former mistakes to yours. I didn’t sign up for this – I just wanted some ice cream.

At some point, you have to wonder: “What the hell happened?”

Coming up in a small town, tattooers in magazines took on a heroic glow. They seemed so far away, their greatness vast and unattainable. As an apprentice, you poured over piles of moldy outdated magazines; tattooer preschool was all about taking notes of the good (and bad) aspects of others’ work. Next you began observing the guys you worked with and the dudes down the street; studying their style, approach, and remembering their names was your job.

In those days, even the guys a couple blocks over might as well have had miles of barbed wire around them. The only way to gain access was a chance meeting in a bar; perhaps you’d get lucky and someone would introduce you. To get a glimpse of their sticker smudged and road-worn portfolio meant manning up and walking into their shop, a frightening endeavor indeed. Understanding the industry relied on the realization that you owed other tattooers everything, simply for carving the path ahead of you.

Fox tattoo by Mike MosesBack then tattooing was still massively unappreciated by the mainstream. It was a remote career, a venture regarded by all but the most subversive as a “bad move” – to pursue this was professional suicide. No one in their right mind would encourage you, and threats from disapproving parents hung in your head like nooses. But for all the nooses they tied and the gallows erected, nothing held the same allure as old timers’ stories: neon in the windows, shitty pool table out front; the hum and buzz off in the dark distance, the unknown.

You couldn’t get enough of it; the allure and majesty of an industry that didn’t want or need you, quietly carrying on in the shadows.

Epicentral to it all was a collection of nicotine-stained flash art, hung in blessed disarray. A shop’s flash collection was it, man: the fiercely guarded and revered mother lode. Despite the disproportionate quality to quantity, stealing flash was treason of the highest order. The names of people and stories of their deceit remain burned into young tattooers’ minds for all time. Theft of someone’s custom work meant kissing your ability to wipe your own ass good-bye. Copying, tracing, or otherwise stealing a custom design was akin to signing your own death warrant. This was ingrained in all of us – it was lesson one.

Reference materials were limited to naturalist illustrations, a few good photos, and some Japanese shit so secret, you weren’t allowed to look without its owner’s express permission. The wall of secrecy around tattooing could only be overcome through YEARS spent carefully chipping away—and that was what you worked for; that was your goal. Looking back, that secrecy’s importance presented itself, as many things do, only in its absence.

Some of us had websites, but they were flimsy and difficult to navigate. Magazines were still the dominant medium to gaining mass recognition as a tattooer, and getting into them was either easy because you knew someone – or impossible, because you didn’t.

A carefully manicured hard copy portfolio was still your best bet for getting work. A tattooer that couldn’t produce images of their work on demand was hiding something, and likely a filthy scratcher.

Before the digital revolution, you had to put in the hours, make the connections, and earn your notoriety. Promoting yourself was something you had to earn the right to do. And then it struck. A stray bullet from an unforeseen Philip K. Dickian future.

Networking took a notable turn with the first websites tattooers actively posted to: Myspace and Facebook. Promoting yourself through the baby-fresh face of social media was approached with a shrug and a “why not?”

That changed with the popularization of the iPhone. At first it was a ‘gimmick’ most of us laughed off, an item purchased only by those with too much expendable income.

The ribbing died down once we realized the ease with which we could shoot and share our work. A pocket-sized portfolio at our fingertips? That was nothing to laugh at. Eventually, we all caved. Inadvertently, we changed the industry forever.

Social media became the final stick of dynamite wedged in a hardened wall of secrecy that had stood for decades. By trying to expose ourselves to a larger audience, we removed all of the barbed wire, turned on all the lights, and made all that was hiding in the magical dark accessible to anyone.

moses1Today, any amateur with a smartphone can amass a following seemingly overnight, rivaling what someone else worked their whole lives for. People who’ve never set foot in a tattoo shop know the names of every potential great. Critiques on tattoos take place in forums about cake decorating. Painstakingly produced custom designs are ripped off, copied, perverted, gimmicked, and destroyed by pathetic tracers before the original artist has the chance to lay claim to their idea. Trends blow back & forth across the globe in a cheap wind. Within hours, a single great idea is bastardized and forgotten by a constantly churning sea of ingrates—and the inexperienced are heralded as gurus, geniuses and greats.

A trade thick with tradition and respect has been unceremoniously bent over, violated and left for dead. Integrity, already in short supply, dried up like a puddle of spit in the sun by people possessing no more artistic depth than the fluids they excrete. Tracing is commonplace, and no one seems to realize or care about its devaluing nature.

For all of this, a lot of it has made our lives easier: modest public acceptance, professional respect, and comfortable incomes… even parental endorsement! These are the benefits afforded by cultural countenance.

Contacting amazing artists the world over is now simple; new collaborations occur daily. For those that cut our teeth the old way, or just happen to have a good head on their shoulders, it’s a very exciting time. There is much work to be done and new ground to tread.

The benefits are there as sure as you read this, available only in digital format, now that seeing things exclusively in print seems inconceivable. We should be awed by the power of the digital medium, and owe a lot to the ingenuity that fixed the path… and to the people that take the time to Like and Reblog our work daily. All of this fans the fire that now warms us.

The question remains: Are we better or worse for it? A quick flip through your battery powered magic 8-ball reveals: “ASK AGAIN LATER.”

As we stare blankly for hours, flick endlessly through scrolling tiles, and search for ideas we don’t believe we could produce alone… we learn one valuable lesson: No matter what the future brings, there’s no such thing as instant gratification. We must offset the flaws of our situation—we must continue to work our asses off, and allow ourselves to still be mystified. We must cultivate respect and integrity. Most of all, we must be conscious of the need to protect our seedy, sacred industry in the onslaught of the digital age.

See more: Mike Moses on Tattoo Snob

Tattoo by Mike Moses