Prison tattoos in a new light

Prison tattoos are a category unto themselves. Usually done with some kind of makeshift, homemade instrument and ink, they have a unique look and symbolism. (Sometimes I wonder how people survive the process under prison conditions!)

Recently, a tattoo artist traveled to Mexico, originally with the intent of photographing the tattoo culture there. After he arrived, though, he changed his mind and decided to be a participant rather than an observer. And thus he ended up constructing several DIY tattoo machines (one for each inmate he tattooed).

But he didn’t stop there. He also did some hyper realistic paintings of his creations. Thanks to an article in WIRED magazine, you can see the results here.

Worst tattoos are everywhere

I recently got hooked on TLC’s America’s Worst Tattoos. It’s a half-hour show that features some of the most incredible exclamation“What were they THINKING” ink in the USA (it does live up to its name). When I first started watching, I thought it was going to feature tattoo removal artists, but it doesn’t. It features several very talented artists who appear to specialize in coverup work.

Covering up a rotten tattoo is not for the faint of heart (or the mediocre artist). While the show doesn’t really go into details, the artist has to work out a design that will look good on its own and make sure none of the old work shows through. This necessarily means a lot of large, dark designs (which is where finding a highly skilled artist is essential).

So far, the artists have definitely been up to the challenge. That crappy old ink vanishes like magic and a gorgeous new design appears in its place. I can’t say I really like all the replacements, but ink is a matter of personal choice.

Bad-tattoo web sites are also very popular. Two of my all-time favorites are Hanzi Smatter (Asian calligraphy gone wrong) and Bad Hebrew (what you might expect). I’ve cautioned before about putting ink on your body in a language you don’t understand. These sites really, really make the point.

Seen any really bad ink lately?

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Gah.

Yes, let a poor lonely blog languish for a while and you come back and find someone’s moved the furniture!

Apparently my favorite theme isn’t available any more. So I’ll have to go in quest of a new one. And maybe I’ll figure out how to start writing posts again in the process!

Watch this space.

Tattoos in the news

One of the things that happens when we mark our bodies permanently is, you guessed it, they are permanently marked. Our tattoos thus become a form of identification.

Recently, a suspected child molester was identified through her tattoos, which were visible on the photos that were discovered by the police. Her male companion’s face had been obscured, and he is still unknown, but this woman not only had her face in view, her very distinctive tattoos were equally visible.

Ink becomes such a part of our lives that we often forget it’s there. I know I do! If someone took a photo of me in a bathing suit (ok, fat chance of that happening, but you get the idea) all three of my unique tattoos would be visible and any member of my family and quite a few of my friends would know immediately that it was a photo of me even if my face was not visible.

Would that be the case with you? Is your ink unique enough to serve as your ID?

photo by: Chiara Marra

Safe bodies in California

The front page story in the Los Angeles Daily News today featured photos of tattoo artists at work. Right in the

English: Tattoo parlor shop. New York City 2005

English: Tattoo parlor shop. New York City 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

center of the front page. My first thought was “Hey, we made it!” and then I read the headline, which explains that as of July 1, tattoo and piercing artists and others who work in “body modification” in California will have to take health-practices training and the places where they work will have to register with the state. Surprisingly, there has been no state regulation till now, and only six counties had regulations like that.

The story seemed generally positive about it all. The tattoo parlor owners said that their places were already in compliance with the health and sanitation requirements, so this would place no particular burden on them. I imagine that’s the case with most reputable tattoo parlors in California. I was surprised to see that the ear piercing kiosks in malls got an exemption. You’d think that those places more than any other should have to follow health regulations and have their employees take training. Apparently the fact that they use “single use needles” got them an exemption–but those needles go into piercing guns that get reused pretty much forever. I’ve never seen an autoclave at an earring store or kiosk.

One of the most important regulations is that now it’s mandatory that no one under 18 can get tattooed even with their parents’ permission.  Definitely a step in the right direction.

Apparently there was a study done in 2007 that showed that 40% of people then aged 26 to 40 had a tattoo.  I guess that’s an indication that we’re becoming a multicolored nation! Wonder what the percentage is like today?

What do you think about state licensing and regulation of tattoo and piercing parlors?

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Wearing your pet on your sleeve

Not long ago I saw a woman who had a very colorful sleeve that featured portraits of several cats. I didn’t ask her about

Calypso

Calypso, a real-life good-luck calico cat

it, but if that were my sleeve, it would be the cats I most wanted to remember forever.

There’s always a risk in putting a person’s face or name on your skin, unless it’s someone who has passed on. There’s nothing worse than immortalizing the current Significant Other and then going through a breakup or a messy divorce. Getting that ink off your skin is going to cost more than putting it on there, guaranteed.

But an image of a beloved pet is something different. I wish I’d asked if I could take a picture of that sleeve. I wouldn’t go as far as having a complete sleeve done, but I could definitely see creating a design that incorporated several beloved pets.  It would be a great way to make them even more a permanent part of me.

What do you think about pet portraits on skin? Would you do them in full color or stick with monochrome?

Ink in high places

So, it’s not just us regular folk who get decorated. According to an article in Roll Call, there are several members of Congress who have tattoos.

Reading the article, I was actually surprised that the numbers were so small. I’m sure not every member of Congress was asked, and I’m sure that not everyone would own up to it if they were asked, but it just seemed to me that people who are as comfortable being in the public eye as most politicians are, would be more in favor of body art, even if it was only to be revealed behind closed doors.

I wonder what designs politicians would pick, if they could do it without penalty? A discreet presidential seal on Michelle Obama’s bicep? A tramp stamp on Michele Bachman? Men’s Ruin on Larry Craig?  Fuzzy dice for Harry Reid? The possibilities are endless.

I wonder if both Bush presidents had something discreet and Yale related? It’s been said that George Schultz had a Princeton tiger on his behind, and Barry Goldwater had a Native American symbol on his hand.

Have you seen, or heard of, people in public life (not entertainment) who’ve got ink? I’d be interested to hear about it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: TheeErin

More on tattoos and diabetes

We’ve had several discussions here over the years about whether tattoos are safe for diabetics.  There really is no set answer to the question, since there are far too many variables. The size of the tattoo, the skill of the artist, the ability of the diabetic to keep his or her blood sugar under good control–all of those can play a huge part in whether any individual diabetic is going to be OK with a tattoo. And, unfortunately, there really is no way to tell in advance what’s going to happen.

I got my first tattoo two years before my diagnosis with Type 2 diabetes, and the other two tattoos afterwards. I had problems with the third tattoo, a reaction to the red ink, but that could have happened to a perfectly healthy person too. For me, the answer is ‘Yes, you can have diabetes and get tattooed.” I can’t give an answer for anyone else but me.

I just got this month’s issue of Diabetes Forecast, the official publication of the American Diabetes Association (and if you’re a diabetic, it’s well worth signing up so you can get the magazine). On the cover was a heavily tattooed basketball player named Gary Forbes. According to the story, he’s doing just fine in the NBA with Type 1. And he certainly seems to have had his arms covered with ink with no problems at all.

Read the full story here.

Of course, the ink appears to be all black, which might have helped keep him safe from reactions. Diabetics heal much more slowly, so any problem with the tattoos would very likely have lasted a long time (like mine did).

Have you had experience with tattoos and diabetes? How did things work out for you?

A new kind of fake tattoo

I love the How-To Geek blog, which is always full of interesting tidbits. Today, they explain how to create a fake tattoo with Photoshop or other image editing software.

It’s not really a fake tattoo, as in a tattoo you can actually affix to your body, but it’s a good tutorial in how to combine a picture of yourself with a picture of the tattoo you want. Or do a little creative decoration on a picture of someone else.

You can find the article here.

Meow, Ink.

I”ve read the Moderncat blog for a long time (and I’m sure our three cats approve of this). Today I discovered thatIMG_9705 Moderncat has a new blog called CattooDesign. It is, as you can guess, a showcase for cat tattoos (I mean, human tattoos with a cat theme, not tattoos on your actual cat). One thing I really liked about the site is that they sell temporary tattoos that have a cat theme.

If you like cats and tats, please do check out CattooDesign. It’s a keeper.
Creative Commons License photo credit: issye