Getting Heavily Tattooed at Age 15

There’s debate-inviting interview up on the 2KBT clothing blog that I have quite mixed feelings about — an interview with a 15-year old covered in tattoos. Tattoos that unlike those you’ll find on most 15 year olds, are at least slightly above scratcher level, although still far from the quality level I’d wish on anyone — I was going to ask how he affords this level of tattooing, but I doubt they were costly. I admit I started getting tattooed about that same age, but it’s hard to compare the experience directly since in the 80s it was a different world, one that began with me and a hand-poked needle and was followed by being tattooed out of his apartment by an artistically-minded friend who’d just gotten out of jail and ordered himself a Huck Spaulding kit. As you can imagine, those tattoos have almost all been covered up. Even if I had access to better quality tattooists, I’m not sure that at fifteen I had enough perspective on my life to choose tattoos that I’d be happy with today. Very few of us have the same tastes at fifteen as at thirty or forty. Of course, I wasn’t a whole lot more mature at 18 or 21 either… I don’t think it was until I was maybe 23 that I personally had the maturity to choose appropriate tattoos for myself and my life — which is part of the reason I waited until I was thirty to do my face tattoo. For some people that age is higher and for others it’s lower… But I doubt for many people it’s as low as 15.

Still, I dislike ageism as much as I dislike all forms of prejudice — I don’t like the idea of strangers in some government office telling me or anyone how old they have to be to be able to manage their life. That kind of misguided protectionism has often resulted in kids who are handed responsibility at 18 and rush into it, just as incapable of handling it as they would have been at 15, but with a whole lot more self-righteousness. Well, as I’ve said elsewhere, people get the tattoos they deserve. All we can do is continue publishing information on what good tattoos should look like and how to find a good artist — that information is widely available and any kid with basic internet access and a modicum of self-respect is perfectly capable of doing the research these days… All that said, if I was a tattoo artist, I don’t think I would be ethically comfortable tattooing someone at fifteen that I didn’t know extremely, extremely well. A sleeve to the wrist is starting to cut off some options in life — I wonder what would happen if the kid decided he wanted his face or his neck tattooed? It’s not a big step in today’s world for a kid to think that might be a cool thing to do. Even without worrying about tattoo-bigotry, it’s a very big load to put on someone — if their tastes change, a sleeve and a chest is a lot to steal from them.

I don’t think there’s any easy or definitive answer here — I don’t think there’s a universal age where someone is mature enough for tattoos, and personally, the less the government sticks its nose into body modification the better. Responsible artists, a community that strives to educate newcomers, and a general culture of self-respect seems like the right way to tackle this issue.

The tattoos by the way were done by Mike Casale, I believe of Unity Tattoo in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I have no idea what their local laws are or if this interview will come back to bite them in the ass — they seem to be part of that grimey lower-echelon of tattoo shops that prey on less discerning customers, at best a stepping stone for learning artists, but unlikely a home to artists whose work is likely to get much press beyond this sort of shocked “can you believe this crap” coverage…

Click the photos to jump to the interview.

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Psychedelic Bodmod Yin-Yang

A few days ago I posted about the third “double canvas tattoo” that Marc (Little Swastika) had completed. He has quite a few of these in progress — he tells me there are four on the go at present — but this one is particularly unusual because the mirroring only works in this very peculiar configuration, a sort of psychedelic bodmod yin-yang.

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BME/Risks: Extreme Tattoo Ink Bleeding

It’s not unusual for some people to get a slight “halo” of color around their tattoos, as the ink moves out via capilliary action and permeates and stains subcutateous tissue. Sometimes this is because of a mistake make by the artist (for example, tattooing too deep), but because anatomy is so variable from person to person, even the best artists have it happen at times. Typically this halo extends not much more than 1/4″ and is subtle enough that most people won’t even notice it, but a friend just sent me this example which is one of the most extreme examples of tattoo ink bleeding out into surrounding tissue that I’ve seen to date.

In the pictures below, the left one (which also shows a rash that developed after the tattoo, which may or may not be related — I suspect not — and was treated successfully with Sibicort, a Chlorhexidine/Hydrocortisone cream) is two weeks after the tattoo was done, and the right one was taken four months afterward, showing what looks almost like a bruise all the way around the arm. Over a year and a half later and the discoloration still looks the same. The woman with the tattoo has very light, thin skin which is generally sensitive and prone to allergic responses. The ink that was used is the same ink the tattooist normally uses and hasn’t caused problems for other clients as far as anyone knows.

These pictures shows the extremes to which ink is capable of spreading. It should be noted that because of the likely depth and diffuse nature of the discolouration, it is unlikely that this can be treated short of simply tattooing over all affected skin. If any professionals have comments or feedback on this — theories on what caused it or how to minimize it, or whether this is just an unavoidable risk in a certain percentage of clients — I’d love to hear it.

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Dark King

“Dark King” is the title of this tattoo by Wang at Tattoo Temple in Hong Kong.  I’m a big fan of tattoos that have this brush stroke style.  If ever I find myself in Hong Kong I’ll definitely be tracking down Tattoo Temple.

Check out more work from Wang and the other artists at Tattoo Temple in the BME galleries.

Mr. O and Mr. R got nothin’ on this

The Monsters of Schlock, Burnaby Q. Orbax and his brother Sweet Pepper Klopek, just rigged up a tattoo machine to run on battery power and brought it onto the PNE’s big — and very shaky — wooden rollercoaster and tattooed a lizard logo onto Sweet Pepper’s leg. Photo by Syx Langemann (click to zoom), and there was lots of HD video shot so don’t be surprised if you see more that just this quick teaser video in the future on television.

Yes, yes, I know, this is an insult to everything you hold sacred. We’re all very offended.

For the first time in recorded history, a man has been tattooed on a running roller coaster. That man was none other than Sweet Pepper Klopek, one half of the world’s most extreme two man circus sideshow comedy magic extravaganza known as the Monsters of Schlock. His brother, and other half of the daredevil duo, the great Orbax, performed the tattoo. As a matter of fact it was the first time he had EVER tattooed!

The wild stunt took place at the PNE Playland fairgrounds in Vancouver BC Canada on Oct 24th 2012 on the wooden roller coaster. Two successive trips around were required, totalling in just under four minutes of track time covering a total distance of 1732 m. At points the coaster hit 47 mph, took a drop of 75 ft and pulled 2.2 g’s.

The tattoo itself was a lizard face, the logo of their long time sideshow friend and coworker, Erik Sprague, the world famous Lizardman. As the coaster hit the first incline, the five time Guinness World Record breakers proclaimed ‘One small tattoo for man, one giant leap for douchebags everywhere!’.

The Monsters of Schlock have performed skilled, daring and dangerous all over the world but this, by far, they claim to be their stupidest.

Coming at you like a frieght train!

Could there possibly be a better tattoo to celebrate ModBlog’s new superfast servers that Jon set up for us last night? I know how happy it makes me as someone who used to have to wait minutes for edits to my entries to be accepted, so I hope it makes you happy as a reader as well.

I’m also really happy to see that tattoo artists have been posting more healed work lately, showing the public what they’re really capable of. If this trend continues, it will really separate the great tattoo artists from people who are simply great artists. Just because someone can paint doesn’t mean they can lay in a tattoo that will look good for your lifetime (as you may recall from the controversial entry on tattoo fading and a couple followup entries). I’m very happy to point out that California-based tattoo artist Cory Norris (corynorrisart.com) is more than capable of doing both. Even though this photo of Ricky’s chest that he did looks like it was taken the day it was done, it’s actually fully healed in this picture, even though the blacks are deep, the red flames are incredibly vibrant, the shading in the clouds is still rich and you can make out the ghostly seething skulls inside, but the touch I really like is the deep red glow inside the eyes of the skull in the train’s engine, as if it has hellish glowing coal embers for brains.

Thanks again to Cory Norris — let’s hope top artists keep on posting healed work, really letting the world know who can be trusted to implant art that will last a lifetime — not just win you a “best of show” tattoo convention plaque and then fade out a month later. Let’s put the emphasis back on real tattoos. Click to see it a bit bigger of course.

Flesh Art by Liam Sparkes

I just discovered the beautiful archaic work of tattoo artist Liam Sparkes of Shangri-La Tattoo Parlour (shangrilaparlour.com) in London, England. Wonderful work that I’ve got a raging mod-on for, tattoos able to transport my mind to another place and time. Not just works of beauty but works that exude a certain power I think. The lines feel somehow scraped into the wearer’s essence, not just casually inked on the surface. Here is a small selection of some of my favorite pieces. Click to zoom.

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