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Wes Wood to the Unimax

One of my favorite things to do in this life is to have a chat with older tattooers that have been around the block...and who know a lot more than I do. This morning we stopped by New York's one and only tattoo wonderstore Unimax to visit our hero Wes Wood, who was one of three major players in legalizing tattooing for NYC in 1997.

Wes has been tattooing for almost thirty years and has supplied his fellow artists with hard-to-come-by tattoo equipment for almost as long. In addition to playing tenor sax for American Bandstand and jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, Wes put his brains to good use by not just being an expert businessman and stand-up tattooer, he has led the fight for legitimacy and legalization practically his whole career.
Wes and Unimax helped me out big time during the shooting of Tattoos After Dark with an ample supply of his bright, solid and superior
Electra Pro Inks. Read more about Wes and his fine team of artists and craftspeople at Unimax (and his Chinatown tattoo shop and art gallery) Sacred Tattoo.

Tattoos After Dark has it's season finale tonight at 9pm only on Oxygen!


The Mystery Of The White Tattoo

White tattoos get brighter with each pass and work on almost every complexion.

After hearing yet another dejected story about how some poor soul was turned rudely away for innocently asking if her favorite tattooer performed white tattoos, I have determined the time has come for a post dedicated to the misunderstood, much aligned-mark.

White tattoos are subtle, chic and will last as long as you do, provided you provide your white tattoo with the proper care and sun protection you would provide any exposed color tattoo. They are considered an advanced tattoo, however, so few tattooers are qualified to create them.

Without dedicating too much space to the poo-pooers who hate white tattoos, just bear in mind that these knuckleheads are often bitter misogynists that think all tattoos should be "man" tattoos or failed "artists" who forget that tattooing is a service provided to paying customers, rather than a license to exorcise their narrow aesthetic upon a human being.

I first saw white tattoos simultaneously in Madonna's Sex Book and in the edge-cutting PIFQ. I was already a tattooer, and was just beginning to chafe under the "bold will hold" mantra that traditional tattooing insists upon. Traditional tattoos do hold up over time, but I've got a big, black blob holding fast on my ankle that time took only a few years to soften those fat, flared lines into ignominy. I've never seen a white tattoo spread and distort THAT much, and I've seen two decades worth. In the worst case scenario, one simply retouches a white tattoo that has faded over time or sun exposure. The only thing one can do with an aged, closed-out seven liner traddie is carve it up with a laser or try to ignore it.

Or you can pay someone nice to reline and sharpen up the poor old, spread-out black thing... with WHITE INK, thankyouverymuch.

You're welcome.

Tattoos After Dark is serving up all sorts of unusual bits tonight, only on Oxygen 9pm/8c


Say My Name

We were keeping it brave and crazy with some outlaw styling in NYC circa 1991.
I have an unusual name. The boon and the consequence of an unusual name is you get a lot of queries as to its origin. Since I've been posting so much history lately, I figured I'd give you the scoop.

In 1991 I was serving a very formal apprenticeship in Jacksonville at Inksmith & Rogers. By formal I mean we blended our own pigments, soldered our own needles and (in the manner of Sailor Jerry) spitshaded our flash...with Payne's grey for black, of course. It was fun but serious, with very little deviation from tradition.

Part of our training involved traveling to other cities and engaging with the master tattooers of the area. One spring I decided to go to New York City, which was one of the only cities left in the US where tattooing was illegal. Shocking, yes. NYC was the home of Snake Plissken and The Warriors. You'd think the city council had enough social misery to bother with our mild little industry, but that's fodder for another post. Needless to say, I was heavily warned by the boss to be VERY careful and, most importantly, stay away from Spider Webb.

"I'm getting really sick of your rules." --Snake Plissken
I mentioned Spider in the previous post, and anyone who was anybody in tattooing could appreciate why Spider caused concern. He was irreverent and bold, he made outrageous tattoo "machines" out of buffalo penis and Annie Sprinkle's panties. He created a lot of press and he ran with people like Kenneth Anger and H.R. Giger. He tattooed a late-term aborted fetus with a mom heart.

Of course the first person I had to find in New York was Spider. I haunted Union Square until a mohawked punk pointed out the skull festooned "Tattoo Art Gallery" on the corner of Broadway and 17th Street. I creaked up some scary stairs to the second level as indicated by the skull. I opened the door and brazenly walked through into an airy loft where more skulls, buffalo penises and a silently bobbing grey fetus greeted me with due gravitas.

"Are you the one they sent??!!" a grizzled and leather-jacketed biker/mad-scientist pointed at me from across the wide room like a fierce, fuzzy wizard. Needless to say, I was scared to death.
"That's me!" I chirped in naive bravado, surprising myself.
"Aw, great," the wizard answered, "go move those frames."

I was thrilled! Suddenly I was working for for the great and mysterious Spider Webb! Moving frames seemed quite normal, and nothing jumped out at me as I shifted stacks of art upstairs. I began to breathe easier.

Now my next concern was whether whomever "they" sent would show up or not. When Spider asked me my name I glibly told him to call me his Gal Friday. "Friday! I love it. We're calling you Friday from now on." The nom de tat stuck, and the rest is my tiny bit of tattoo history. Maybe one day I'll tell you about the time Spider had me tattoo in a feathered black raven ensahmblay. Oh yeah.


Tattoos After Dark is on tonight 9pm only on Oxygen...


Those Were The #NSFW Days

80's tattoo camp from Spider Webb inspired our sexy-funky art poster. Click the pic to get yours!

When I was just a wee tattoo grommet trying to make sense of the big, weird world of tattooing I would spend my spring breaks and summers up in the outlawed streets of New York City working for the underground's mad hero Spider Webb. Spider is a tattoo legend/provocateur and was at the height of his influence in the 70's and 80's, holding court with bizarre tattoo-themed performances and ingenious spins on what tattooing is-- he was among the first to celebrate it as art and was way ahead of his time on many counts.

He also created a series of incredibly out-there art posters celebrating a weirdo's fantasy world of tattoo, beautiful girls and gore. Between his influence and the outrageous stories other bosses would describe of those early days of shade, I endeavored to create the sort of wild late-night shop life that these guys would talk about, enlisting LA badass Dove Shore to shoot the stunning Angelina Butera and I on the Sunset Strip.

The campy, sassy result is probably not far from the sort of thing the happy night crawlers of yesteryear might stumble across in Any Given City, 1981. Since tattooing is (for the most part) so safe and even proper nowadays, it's fun to remember the gloveless, smoking, topless army of tattooed radicals that ruled the underground. Here's our homage to those trippy days of tiny dangers. These limited edition posters are printed on archival paper, so you can have fun with the past and freak your grandkids out at the same time. Gawd knows your crazy tattoos won't scare 'em anymore!

See a little more about what I'm talking about with Spider Webb and The Invasion of the Flesh Etchers and get an art poster of your very own right here.


She Works Hard For The Money: Advice from Lyle Tuttle

Annemarie Beers from the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum resurrected this fun gem last week on Instagram. I've mentioned Lyle in past posts, and in this clip he acts out one of the answers commonly heard by young women seeking apprenticeships in a (thankfully) bygone era. Lyle, ever the Gentleman Tattooer, keeps it cute. Enjoy!

Follow Annemarie and the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum on Instagram: @annemariebeers @tattoomuseum