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Friday, November 5, 2010

Scratcher Hotline!

There isn't a week that goes by at Seppuku Tattoo where someone walks through the door with some nightmare that was done out of a house or a trailer that they need repaired or covered up. This is fatiguing to us that this is still going on in the year 2010. There is so much amazing talent exploding through the tattoo scene, there isn't any excuse for terrible tattoos anymore. It should be a thing of the past. 

If you've been the victim of a terrible experience at someone's house, & think there's no accountability because it's someone's house, & not a real business, you're wrong. Each city has a health department with officers willing to enforce current tattoo laws. In Bloomingdale, its this number: Health Officer Peter Correale : Tel 973-838-0778, Ext 237. You can do a web search for health department and the name of your own city & locate the officer in your area. 

We hear a lot of kids trying to justify kitchen tattooing. Illegal tattooing does a lot more than just make everyone look like they were tattooed in prison. It breaks zoning laws, business licensing laws, health department laws, & bio hazardous waste disposal laws. The tattoo industry JUST legalized states like Massachusetts, South Carolina, & Oklahoma. We'd like to keep it that way.

It was one single case of hepatitis transmission that made it illegal to tattoo in New York City. All five boroughs of the city were outlawed from 1961 to 1997.

If you think the idea that ONE bad tattoo could make tattooing illegal statewide, consider this. Tattooing is still illegal today in many cities in New Jersey, like Clifton and Cranford.

Really, we do not care what you do in the privacy of your own home. If you want to get stoned out of your mind & pay some ex con with anal sex so you can look like you were tattooed by Helen Keller with a weed whacker, surprise! WE DON'T CARE. I mean, without your terrible decision making skills, we wouldn't have this cringe worthy website for our amusement:

But we have made incredible sacrifices & dedication to make this business safe, reputable, & legal. Actually, we work hard to elevate the business away from the stereotypes of tattoos being just for criminals & druggies, & up to level of museum quality art, the same as any other fine art medium. We do not want all that work that thousands of artists cross country have sweated for to be undone by one post teen rock star kitchen magician who doesn't want to work a real job.

If you or a friend are thinking about getting an illegal tattoo, let me tell you a few things about what you may be in for.

For starters, doing a 'clean' tattoo at a house is nearly impossible. This is a line we get all the time,... 'Well, I saw he had all his stuff in wrappers!' Yeah? Did he sterilize his house? Rugs, carpets, wood, porous material, these cannot be sanitized. They will hold on to bacteria and viruses for weeks. There is no way to dispose of fluids in any sink that can be considered clean. The atomization of blood & body fluids that occurs during tattooing must be localized, which is why tattoo shops are sequestered into tiled booths built from top to bottom with sanitizable surfaces. This is why clients are never allowed into a tattoo studio's clean room where the ultrasonic & autoclaves are. If there are animals in the house, its impossible to eliminate the dander, saliva, urine, feces, or other body fluids these creatures are going to spread or track in.

That's assuming said untrained, unprofessional rock star has had any level of cross contamination, blood borne pathogens or sterile chain of events training at all. Most have not, & there are no shortage of photos online of tattoo parties that feature 'artists' with no shirts, no gloves, no barrier film, no clip cord covers, no lap cloths, no plastic on chairs, arm rests, stools, tables, spray bottles, lights, or anything else they've been contaminating with who knows whose blood. They do not use single use set ups, & often have one giant jar of Vaseline open to dip into, which is disgusting. Porous materials like towels, blankets, or bed sheets are being used & these items are nothing but portable bacteria farms. (Hell, I saw shots online of one guy working on newspaper.) Often their 'work area' is strewn with food, beer & a big old ashtray, again, not the kinds of things you really want to see injected into your bloodstream. They certainly do not have an autoclave which is required in order to sterilized equipment.

The really gross scratchers are reusing their needles & tubes. Its easy enough to slip used equipment back into 'wrappers'. Looks great, doesn't it? 

Just like safe sex, you are now under serious risk of being contaminated with every disease that every other person who has been tattooed there is carrying. Tattooing is a medically invasive procedure, & you could catch the same diseases you could from unsafe sex, including staph, Herpes, HIV & Hepatitis C. If there are children in the house, they are now exposing their own children to all these germs & bacteria as well.

Let me say that again,... in a worse case scenario, a tattoo done by someone practicing illegally can kill. This is why there are are laws regulating tattoos. 

For second,... where did they get their equipment? True, just about every tattoo magazine runs ads & sells equipment, but there are two things that amateurs are not going to know.

A: Any supply company that is going to ship to a house or private residence is a scam company looking to profit off of scratchers. Their ink is watered down garbage made with plastics, metals & unsafe filler ingredients, their needles were jigged by blind monkeys, & their machines are ratty meat slicers at best. Just as not all tattoo artists are created equal, the same is even truer for so called 'supplies'. No professional would ever use supplies bought from a magazine, & its a running joke to people who know the difference.

Tattooing for generations have closely guarded the trade secrets that make for excellent tattoos. The genuine supply companies will only ship to authorized studios, with legal & current business licenses, & monitored by the local health departments.

B: Without a proper apprenticeship, how is said garage hero supposed to know if he has quality equipment? For all he knows, he's ordered supplies that were made by guys who just got out of prison & are taking him for a free ride, & wouldn't know the difference between a hand crafted original Jonesey Squareback machine, & an electric steak knife. If there is a serious problem, like excessive bleeding, client passing out, an infection, broken lines, spotty shading, busted fills, or just a terrible looking tattoo, how does he troubleshoot the problem? The answer is, he doesn't. He simply has no idea of how wrong things can go, or how to deal with them when they do. 

During a real apprenticeship by a world class master, artists will learn every single aspect of the tattoo process, from the metallurgy of machine frames, collapsable magnetic field theory, electronics, frame geometry, spring tensions, spring cutting, coil winding, machine construction, fine tuning, needle & needle bar making, pigment grinding & ink mixing, sterilization, skin anatomy, skin tension, skin texture, & a complex array of techniques to assure that no damage, tearing, cutting, scarring, or overworking of the client occurs. This information has been handed down for generations & modern tattoo artists dedicate years of their lives to perfecting these techniques. 

All of this should be considered long before you even question whether or not this person can DRAW. Which is another topic entirely. But if you're ever wondering why you don't see a lot of neo-Rembrants coming out of a trailer or winning awards, that's because tattooing is far more difficult than it appears.

Like I said before kids, I'm not trying to tell you what to do with your lives. And, if you really love tattoos, & the amazing art tattoo artists have created, do you really want to disrespect it so badly by keeping it in the basement like a kidnapping victim? But whatever you do, just know that your actions have consequences. It may be as inconsequential as just having a shitty looking tattoo. It may be the reason tattooing becomes illegal again, or stays illegal in places like Cranford. It may be as serious as threatening someone's life with a fatal incurable disease. 

Play hard, but play smart.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hell City Phoenix August 2010

"Lucky for you it's down right frigid out today!" said client Sandra Rodegher. Flying into the Phoenix airport Thursday afternoon, it was 107 outside, down a good 13 degrees from the average. You'd think that was the reason that promoter Durb Morrison tags the convention with the line 'Let it burn!'. But really most of the heat that weekend came from inside the hall. 

Hell City Phoenix is held at the Biltmore,... some pretty swanky digs for tattoo people. Check it out if you're old enough to ooh & ahh at things like amazing architecture & posh landscaping. Hard not to love a joint with eight swimming pools, pool side swim up bar, & a number of putting greens right outside the doors of the bungalows. Late night fire pits where people were roasting marshmallows added to a summer camp vibe. We were also spoiled with hot waitresses cruising the convention hall taking food & drink orders. 

And exceptional roster of talent for this show. Sean Karns, Jess Yen, Juan Salgado, Kari Barba, Toxyc, Josh Fields, Josh Woods, Sean Herman, Megan Massacre, Scot Winskye, Dan Ross, Steve Soto, Mick Squires, Monte, Mike Cole, Big Gus, Tim McEvoy,... just a stupid amount of talent. Anyone who knows how hard Durb works to maintain such a smooth running show knows he hand picks the talent to assure a quality event.

Matt only tattooed on Friday, spending the rest of the convention on stage doing live painting as part of the twelve person team chosen for Chris Dingwell's Wet Paint Project. The full line up included: CHET ZAR, CHRIS DINGWELL, JESSE SMITH, NICK BAXTER, CORY NORRIS, DAMON CONKLIN, MATT LUKESH, JASON MAYBRUCK, CHRIS REED, CARYL CUNNINGHAM, DEE DEE SERUGA, and PAOLO ACUNA. Each artist was exceptional & each had such a different technique, approach & subject matter, it really was just mind blowing. It was difficult to man the tattoo booth, all I wanted to do was vacate my post & sit at the feet of a dozen masters & absorb everything they were throwing down.

Traditionally, this much talent usually also brings along that many egos, stilted personas, & clashing rivalries. Maybe I was stoned on the wave of creativity knocking everyone on their ass, but all that kind of petty shit seemed to be absent from the entire weekend. All I experienced was encouraging words, serious fucking around, & people working to raise the bar across the board. Just a stellar time. 

Our clients kicked ass, everyone got some great pieces, & everyone was a delight to meet. We couldn't ask for a whole hell of a lot more. 

Sunday Johnny was asked to get upon stage & be one of the judges for that day's tattoo contests. He was duly impressed at the set up. The stage is equipped with giant video projectors so attendants can see all the entries on big screens. The judges each have a laptop with software that divides all the contestants into groups, lists them by number & name, provides a photo of the tattoo, allows you to judge based on three sets of criteria, & then tallies the data online. Pretty genius. Even the judges do not know who was won until the numbers have been crunched & the winners announced. Very impartial & as about as fair as its going to get, another way Durb simply outclasses everyone else. 

Live entertainment included live music, sideshow performers, & an art fusion stage, where a number of artists would work in charcoal & then switch to work on each other's art. The Arizona Roller Derby was there & put on bouts of all girl boxing. 

As the event was winding down, having put as much of ourselves into it as we could, it did feel like summer camp was coming to a close. Great way to end the summer. We noted how hard Chris had worked all weekend long to make sure the on stage artists had everything they needed to be comfortable, & had been shooting video of everyone else all weekend long. So we shagged his camera & decided to turn it around & interview Chris himself.

Thanks to everyone who was so great to us. Thanks to Durb for being the classiest gentleman in tattooing. Thanks to Chris for breaking molds. Thanks for the blood & skin, & for the loyalty of the scattered ronin. 

Check out the photos. 

Next up for Seppuku, the Richmond Tattoo Convention in November. We still have openings, let us know if you're going to be there to schedule work! 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paint Jam Finals

Below are the final works Matt & Johnny created at Keith's for the Paint Jam.

Matt's painting is entitled 'Mary and the Millipede': Oil on Canvas (24"x30")

Johnny's painting is entitled 'Beautiful Music' : Acrylic on Canvas (18" x 24")

Monday, July 19, 2010

Paint Jam @ Kustom Kulture Ink

Sunday, July 18th, Baldwin, NY, out on Long Island sandwiched between Valley Stream & Freeport is Keith Ciaramello's Kustom Kulture Ink Tattoo & Fine Art Gallery, the east coast's answer to Ed Roth & Ed Hardy's studios. 

Both Matthew & I played hooky from the shop & loaded up the car with easels, paint, brushes, canvas, & other weapons of mediocratic destruction. Wisely deciding to journey out late at night after fielding a day of work at our own studio, we found that the choice of hotels on southern Long Island to be somewhat wanting. Three hours later, with poor Matt crashing on a couch that was rescued from a dumpster & me hogging a bed made from the hides of wet dogs, we caught a restful five hours of sleep, more than enough for the challenges of painting shoulder to shoulder with a handful of the top peers on the tattoo industry. Although I fear that the ghosts of the poor souls who had been killed in our room in the weeks prior to our visit will haunt our sleep for decades. 

Keith had put together this Paint Jam months before, trying to untangle the mess that is a tattoo artist's crazy schedule,... seems like all of us had just moved, open a shop, just got back from several trips, gallery shows, conventions, & personal onslaughts. The final roster stacked up like this,... the two members of the Seppuku shogunate, our beautiful host & beat poet Keith Ciaramello, Scott Winskye, who came up from Kentucky, but is talented enough so we forgave him for that, Chris Dingwell, who I fear is secretly cheating on my partner behind my back, & I fear may start cheating on my partner in front of my back, Keith's lackey Jared who was stripped of a last name by the courts, & a camera crew who were recently fired from the offices of Screw magazine. 

The idea was to blow through a full painting in the course of one day. In this day & age of a saturation of mad talent & overachieving artists stacked up like cordwood, this is no longer as challenging as it would have sounded just ten years ago. On one hand, we have canvases hanging in our studios that have over 100 hours into them easily. On the other, we have people like poster guru Stanley Mouse & tattooist slash fine artist Jeff Gogue doing live alla prima oil paintings from start to finish in less than two hours. So, the idea that we'd lock ourselves up on a stunning Sunday afternoon walking distance from some of the nicest beaches littered with the nicest bikini models in New York, crammed inside an art studio with all stars who's skid marks are more detailed & refined than an hundred other artists, seemed like an exercise in masochism. 

But we are not your femmey emo hipsters wearing girl's jeans two sizes too small. We are Seppuku Tattoo. So we manned up & gave our brothers a little sample of our Wu Tang Style. 

To keep us off our game, during the paint jam we were dragged out of the studio & into a small interrogation cell where they sweated us under the lights & beat a confession out of us. A squad of thugs that the Soprano's casting agent rejected for being too comically stereotypically guinea to be believed tried to throw their weight around & pry the darkest secrets of our scarred psyches out of us. I know that right now in a basement hideout somewhere off Sunrise Highway, Ciaramello is ripped out of his brain huffing painting solvents, watching these tapes & laughing at my pain. 

Ten hours later, we tapped out. Chris & Scott finished their paintings, Chris proudly bragging 'last one to arrive, first to finish',... talented and superfast,... Matt, Jared & myself came damned close,... & Keith,... well, he barely started, preferring instead to spend most of his time shoving everyone in a barrel & verbally assaulting them sexually. But we all are confident that his painting will look stellar,... this October. 

Here's a sample of the shenanigans. Or at least the images we cam post without a flurry of injunctions or divorce papers. Can't wait to do it again. Just need a few months to heal so I can sit down comfortably again.