Hamsa Tattoos:

The Hamsa has gone by many other names including the eye of Fatima, the hand of Fatima, and the hand of Miriam to name a few. In terms of visual appearance the Hamsa is an open hand with an eye in the middle. The Hamsa is usually worn as protection, specifically against the Evil Eye.

Floral Hamsa flash by Joey Ramona at Under My Thumb Tattoo in Toronto
Micro Hamsa by EQ Tattoo in Seoul, Korea

Today this design is mainly seen as an important Jewish symbol but it has been interpreted by many scholars as Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and even as a pagan symbol of fertility.

Neo-traditional Hamsa by Ceci at Trenton Point Tattoo
Micro Hamsa by Camilo Leal Tattoo in Bogotá Columbia

Two of the Hamsa’s other names (referencing Fatima or Miriam) link this ancient symbol closely to Judaism and Islam. Fatima is the daughter of Mohammed, and Miriam is the sister of Moses.

Geometric Hamsa by Jutta Carter at Martins Custom Tattooing
Geometric/dot work Hamsa by Meg Evans in Shrewsbury UK

One of the oldest depictions of the Hamsa comes from a 14th-century Islamic fortress in southern Spain, on the Puerta Judiciaria, or, “Gate of Judgement.” There are also those who believe the Hamsa has its roots in Christianity through the virgin Mary whose hands are often seen in a “fig” pose. Then there are historians and professors who believe the Hamsa doesn’t come from religion at all, because there are Palaeolithic caves in France, Spain, Argentina, Algeria, and Australia with paintings of the hand.

Hamsa, flowers, and gems by Sarah Thirteen at Black Lodge Tattoo Studio in Bournemouth, UK
A more old school Hamsa by Cari at True Blue Electric Tattoo in Knoxville, TN

As a tattoo the Hamsa is often done in a black and grey or fine line, but neo-traditional and geometric patters thrown into the mix are also popular. Many people wonder if it’s ok for them to wear a Hamsa, whether it’s a tattoo, on a necklace, or a t-shirt, and the short answer is yes. It can be culturally insensitive to wear it without understanding what it means, but as so many religions and cultures have ties to it, it really can be for anyone, as protection is a universal theme.

Micro Hamsa and other work by Marjolein Evens at Garden of Eden Studios in Hasselt, Belgium
Geometric/dot work Hamsa by Ozz Tat in Mexico

Do you have a Hamsa tattoo?

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Tattoo History 17: Shanghai Kate

Kate Hellenbrand AKA “Shanghai Kate” AKA “America’s Tattoo Godmother” got started as one of America’s most well known female tattooers in the early 1970’s, and still tattoos now (though she is semi retired). She works out of Holy Work Tattoo in Austin, Texas, and works tattoo conventions with her husband.

Classic rattlesnake
1970’s flash

Kate has worked alongside some of the greatest American tattoo icons of the 1900’s including Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, Jack Rudy, and Ed hardy, and was also good friends with the late Lyle Tuttle. 

Classic pinup
Black cat and 13 for Friday the 13th

Kate has a background in art and became interested in tattooing when she lived in New York with her partner Michael Malone at a time when tattooing was actually illegal in the city. The two worked out of an apartment and would hand out business cards to anyone they came across who had a visible tattoo. Tattooing was difficult at the time, and they even had to make machines using parts bought at bike shops, or pretend to be nursing students to acquire medical equipment.

Crossed pistols and desert themed florals
1970 Jack Grice, Kate, Thom Devita, Sailor Sid

In 1972 Kate was invited to be one of the seven tattooers at what was the first international tattoo convention in Hawaii that was hosted by Sailor Jerry. This group was called “The Council of the Seven.” This lasted around one week, but when the other tattooers left, Kate stayed behind to work with Jerry for a number of weeks. Sailor Jerry was notoriously protective of tattoo culture and disliked most newcomers to the industry particularly women, but Kate seemed to be an exception and was welcomed wholeheartedly and taught a lot.

Bright and bold dragon
Fortune Teller

As well as still occasionally tattooing, Kate also sells tattoo memorabilia including old flash from the greats, tattoo books, and also gives talks at tattoo conventions around the US. 

Kate’s signature added to an old back piece by Sailor Jerry
Kate tattooing that same signature

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Artist of the Month: David O’Connor

David O’Connor is a traditional tattoo artist working out of Trophy Tattoo in Hamilton, Ontario. The shop caters specifically to those looking for American traditional tattoos, and all of the artists who work there do fantastic work.

Jesus chest piece
Old school flowers

Davids Instagram is full of classic flash and finished pieces that would have been seen on the walls of tattoo shops throughout the 1900’s and on the bodies of sailors. 

Healed Geisha
Black traditional chest piece

When booking a tattoo with David you can choose from pre-drawn flash or bring your own idea to the table. David and the rest of the shop also take walk-ins.

Tiger vs snake
Classic old school dragon

The majority of his work is done in colour, with the traditional colours of black, red, and green, but if you’re looking for some black traditional work he’s got you covered as well.

Queen of Hearts
matching forearm pieces

Whether you’re looking for a small walk-in piece or a full back, David does it all, with style. If you’re in Hamilton or just passing through he is a must see artist for all your traditional needs.

Battle Royale backpiece
Bert Grimm butterfly lady

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Battle Royale Tattoos:

The Battle Royale is an old school design that consists of an eagle, a snake, and a dragon, all battling it out to be number one (sometimes it is depicted as an eagle vs a snake, or even other animals fighting).

A more neo-traditional take on the Battle Royale by Sergio Latorre at Octopus Tattoo
Classic colours in this Battle Royale by Tim Pausinger at Pearl Harbor Gift Shop

This design has been passed down for generations through tattooers and tattoo collectors, usually as quite a large design like a full back piece, chest, or stomach, but also as smaller work on arms and legs. 

Black work Battle Royale by Nico at El Furgón Tattoo Parlour
Colour Battle Royale by Rudi Ridgewell in Worthing, England

This most famous design was tattooed on D.C (Dave) Paul by Huck Spaulding and Paul Rogers, though there are a few older designs that are bit different. One was tattooed by George Burchett when he was working with Japanese artist Hori Uno in his shop in London, and the other by Percy Waters in Detroit. Ben Corday’s version is also quite popular.

Black work Battle Royale by Gil Guerra at Heart of Oak Tattoo in Belgium
A more neo-traditional Battle Royale by Erich XXX in Buffalo, NY

The Battle Royale is an American traditional design that has clear roots in Japanese tattooing as well as American. It was designed to represent the eternal struggle of keeping balance, particularly between the East and West, but life in general as well. Everything in life requires balance and hardship. This is a battle that will never be won.

Bold and colourful Battle Royale by JF Bourbon
Spaulding and Rogers version by Leonardo Maria Cardinali at Fat Cat Studio in Viterbo Italy

Most people choose to get this piece in full colour as the first wearers of the tattoo would have, but it also looks great without colour, or as a more neo-traditional piece. 

Black work Battle Royale by Alban at Lig Neverte Tattoo in Montréal
A very bright Battle Royale done by Alfy Iglesias at Old Ironside Tattoo in Honolulu, Hawaii
Ben Corday’s Battle Royale by Rich Hardy

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoos for Beer Lovers:

Who doesn’t enjoy a nice cold beer at the end of a hard week or day, being able to sit out on a patio with friends or in a nice homey pub? Some people like beer so much that they’ve even chosen to immortalize their favourite drink on their skin as a tattoo!

New school Heineken by Craig Foster at Skin Werks
Old school brew and anchor by Siam Mais at Stay Cold Tattoo in Bangkok, Thailand

Many people go for a realistic depiction of their drink of choice, but neo-traditional, American traditional, new school, and black and grey are also popular.

A more neo-traditional beer and nature scene by Pablo Sinalma at Eclipse Tattoo in Barcelona
A realistic frosty mug by Melek Tastekin

Now for some cool facts; Did you know that beer is actually the oldest recorded recipe in the world? Ancient Egyptians first recorded their recipes on scrolls that date back to around 5000 BCE, and was brewed with ingredients such as dates, pomegranate, and other local fruits and herbs. This early form of beer was used mainly in religious ceremonies, and was controlled directly by the Pharaoh of the time.

Prisoner of beer by João Teixeira at Shark Tattoo Gallery
Beer, boobs, and bikes by Hubert Plaikner at Tintenfass Tattoo in Italy

While beer recipes were written down around 5000 BCE, it is believed that the ancient Mesopotamians were also brewing beer, around 10,000 BCE based on the malted barley and bowls with a beer-like residue that have been found by archaeologists. This beer eventually made its way over to Europe from the Middle East, and became an important part of life for nearly everyone. Northern Europe in particular brewed a lot of beer, in large part due to the crops like barley that they were able to grow. Beer even became a popular alternative to water because it was often cleaner to drink (lots of water at that time was pretty badly contaminated by human and animal waste). 

Neo-Traditional beer and hand by Marco Condor
Matching beer tattoos by Hécate at Le Coer Sauvage in lyon, France

Beer that is more similar to what you and I drink today was made in the early Middle Ages, combining hops and other herbs and spices to the barley that had already been used for a few hundred years. Around the year 1150, monks from Germany started using wild hops in beer and it caught on quick. It also acted as a natural preservative, allowing beer to last longer before needing to be drunk. While Pharaohs were the main brewers in Egypt thousands of years ago, monks were the main brewers in the Middle Ages, with almost all monasteries having an onsite brewery. Even today a number of Belgian monasteries still produce beer and rank as some of the best in the world. 

Hand poked beer carton by Simply Uglyful at Inkformal Tattoo
Photo realistic Stella Artois beer bottle by Maiko Only at Good Tattoo Studio in Nottingham, UK

What’s your favourite kind of beer?

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoo History 15: Myanmar

Tattoos have long been an important part of Myanmar (Burmese) culture. Legend has it that tattoos were first introduced to what was then called Burma around 200 BCE by ethnic minorities that migrated to the area from southwest China. 

Yaw Shen, who got her tattoos at the age of 15, entertains visitors by playing the nose flute, also a vanishing art. (Credit- Dave Stamboulis)

Tattooing was/is a very important part of belonging to Myanmar, and everyone from the kings to commoners would get work done, and continue to do so even today. Early on tattoos were a way of showing off masculine strength as well as feminine beauty, on top of cultural identity and aesthetic appeal. Lots of tattooed people also believed (like many ancient cultures) that tattoos would serve as a protection from evil and that they (tattoos) could protect the wearer from harm. Being largely a Buddhist country (90% of the population is Buddhist), Buddhist tattoos have also been important in the area. Tattoos related to Buddhism would often be created at temples by monks, thus ensuring that the wearer would be protected from harm. 

M’kaan woman (Credit- Dave Stamboulis)

Early on in Myanmar’s history it was mainly the Shan, A Ta’I ethnic group that were getting tattooed the most frequently. The Shan States still dominate Northeast Myanmar today. Men would mainly get their waists down towards their knees tattooed as a sign of virility. Early on it’s believed that both men and women were tattooed frequently, but by the mid 1600’s only women were mainly receiving facial tattoos, particularly women of the Chin State in Western Myanmar. The women of the M’uun tribe are easily recognizable with the looping “P” or “D” shaped tattoos on their faces, along with the “Y” on their foreheads. The M’kaan women have lines on both their foreheads and chins. There are six tribes in total in the area where facial tattoos were popular for women, though sadly in the 1960’s this practice was outlawed and when these women pass away a piece of history will die with them. 

M’uun woman (Credit- Dave Stamboulis)

Below are a few charts that show what kind of person was getting what kind of tattoo, and where on the body, with regards to military action. 

Other common motifs for tattooing in Myanmar include cats of various sizes from house cats to tigers, dragons, geometric patterns, and figures from Myanmar’s and Buddhism’s history and culture. 

Information from “Tattoo Art in Myanmar Culture: Special Reference with State Bondsmen of Cavalry Corps 2016” written by Moe Moe Oo from the Ministry of Education, Myanmar, and 

Tattoo Art in Burmese Cultures: History, Technique, Design, and Symbolic Functions of Tattooing in Burma/Myanmar 

9/1/11 to 11/20/11 Northern Illinois University School of Art DeKalb IL

Edited by Harrison R.

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Tattoos as a form of protest:

Tattoos have long been a symbol of youth and rebellion, but people also get tattoos as a form of protest. There have been many individuals, groups, and cultures who have done this, so today we will look at the people of Myanmar and Hong Kong and the tattoos they’ve been receiving in regards to recent protest events. 

Masked and helmeted protestors by Samantha Fung
Hong Kong revolutionary by Samantha Fung

Hong Kong still struggles today to hold onto its independence from mainland China, but in the summer of 2019 the main island looked more like a war zone than a shopping and business dis-trict. Hong Kong and mainland police met hundreds of thousands of protestors in the streets over a period of months and the clashes turned violent quickly thanks to the police. Having been there myself I can attest to the fear people had of the police, but also the resilience, particularly in young people who didn’t and still don’t want their home to change for the worse. People in Hong Kong are especially worried to lose their freedom of speech. If they do that would mean people could no longer openly criticize the government and may even face being arrested for social media posts, particularly if they try to make their thoughts public. Because of the escalation in events, many have even fled Hong Kong, often to Taiwan, to escape Beijing’s reach. 

Gas mask and umbrellas by Cathy
Hong Kong Molotov cocktail by Cathy

Sadly, clashes have in fact stayed violent for a long time now; and specific protestors are being targeted even now by police, nearly two years later. Some are still taking to the streets, and even more to social media, but others are also getting tattoos. Some specific designs include protestors with gas masks and/or helmets, the iconic umbrella-turned-weapon, “free Hong Kong”, “Fight for Freedom”, Hong Kong flags, etc. Three artists (though there are many more) that are doing these tattoos as a form of protest are Samantha Fung at 59 Tattoo, Cathy at Star Crossed Tattoo, and Mike Chan at Lov-inkit Tattoo. 

Gas mask and helmet by Mike Chan
“If we burn you burn with us” by Mike Chan

Myanmar has been facing a military coup since early February (2021), and a group of young people from the Intha ethnic minority organized an all-day tattoo event to raise money for the CDM or Civil Disobedience Movement. This military coup began when democratically elected members of the country’s ruling party were deposed by Myanmar’s military which has stated the results of the November 2020 general are invalid. The military has used tear gas, flash bang grenades, rubber bullets, and in some cases even live rounds against protestors. In the first couple weeks at least 54 people were killed, mainly young people and teenagers, and at least 2000 were arrested, charged, or sentenced by the military. 

Hunger Games tattoo, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN
Aung San Suu Kyi tattoo, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN

Eight tattoo artists worked on dozens of protestors during the all-day event. They kept designs small and from flash tattoos already pre-made. The small pieces were designed for speed and to convey a message of unity. The options given were: the face of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the words “Spring revolution,” the phrase “Kabar Ma Kyay Bu” (which references a protest song and means “we will not forget until the end of the world”) and the well known “three-finger salute,” from “The Hunger Games” movies which has been adopted in Myanmar and Thailand as a symbol of protest and rebellion. The finger salute is often used at protests as well, but the most popular tattoo design here is the outline of Suu Kyi’s face.

Aung San Suu Kyi tattoo, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN
Aung San Suu Kyi tattoos, photo by Robert Bociaga for CNN

Edited by Harrison R.

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Mastectomy Tattoos:

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 1 in 8 Canadian cisgendered women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, and 1 in 33 will die from it. In 2020, 25% of all cancers in Canadian cisgendered women was a form of breast cancer, with approximately 27,400 women diagnosed and 240 cisgendered men also diagnosed. 

Peony flower by Justin Dunwoody at Eastern Pass Tattoo Co
Black and grey bird and rose by Emma at True Love Tattoos in Norwich

Breast cancer is unfortunately quite a common form of cancer, and mainly affects cisgendered women. Often a breast cancer diagnoses leads to a mastectomy. A mastectomy is a surgery that removes part or all of the breast. There are 5 kinds of mastectomy surgeries including; “Simple” or “total” mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy, radical mastectomy, partial mastectomy, and subcutaneous (nipple-sparing) mastectomy. 

Before and after nipple recreation by Eric Eye in Seattle
Breast cancer awareness ribbon and flowers by Kerry Soraci in St Louis

For years now people who undergo various forms of mastectomies have turned to tattooing to either cover the area after it is healed, or in some cases recreate what they looked like before the mastectomy. 

Black and grey flowers by Clara Welsh at Evil From the Needle in Camnden, UK
Pastel flowers and nipple recreation by Lita Edwards at Boobs and Tattoos

Many tattoo artists even specialize in mastectomy tattoos, either covering the whole area with an image, or nipple and/or breast recreation. Many people who decide to get tattooed after a mastectomy opt for some form of cancer awareness piece, such as the breast cancer awareness ribbon with flowers or a butterfly, or something that they find beautiful to help them deal with the trauma they’ve been through. 

Breast cancer awareness ribbon and flowers by Sabrina Cruz at Skin Elixir Tattoo
Water colour style rose by Michelle Gómez in Guadalajara Mexico

Some tattoo artists also offer to do mastectomy tattoos for free if they have some sort of personal connection to it, but those who specialize in this type of work always do a great job.

Breast cancer awareness ribbon and water colour tree and birds by Louisa Kleinert at Blue Bird Inked
Breast cancer awareness ribbon and flowers by Erin Mathews at Canvas Tattoo in MN

You can donate to the Canadian Cancer Society here.

Edited by Harrison R.

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Artist of the month: 더니들스 (redlip tattooer)

더니들스 (redlip tattooer) is an artist working out of The Needles in Seoul, South Korea. 

Classic Death Before Dishonor
Willy Wonka

She tattoos in a hybrid style of old school and new school. Her old school techniques consist of thick bold lines and the classic colour scheme, with an added almost cartoon-ish look.

Mickey and Minnie meets Ice Cream
Maui, Hei Hei, and Pua

Lots of her work features cartoon characters from popular Disney movies and shows like Mickey and Minnie, Moana, Mulan, and more. Her Instagram is also full of old school classics like swallows, reapers, skulls, pinups, and lady heads.

Mulan, Mushu, and Cri-Kee
Grim Reaper on holiday

Much of the work she does can be done as smaller pieces if you’re a tourist in the area, and she also puts together fantastic larger pieces such as full sleeves.

Party shark
A beautiful red cardinal

If you’re traveling in the area be sure to send her an email and get yourself an appointment, or if you live nearby add a few new pieces to your collection.

A classic swallow and rose on the neck
Daria’s Jane Lane

Edited by Harrison R.

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