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

Build your own blog using the link below!

https://wordpress.com/alp/?aff=53531&cid=6423569

Tattoo History 16: “Dainty Dotty” and Owen Jensen

Owen Jensen and “Dainty Dotty” were artists who married sometime in the mid 1900’s. Owen was a tattoo artist with a number of cities and shops under his belt, and Dotty was initially a circus performer working as a “fat lady” before she started tattooing. 

Dotty and Owen with their business cards
Owen tattooing a sailor. Posted by The best Traditional Tattoos

According to a letter written in 1972 to Steve Rogers, Owen Jensen was introduced to tattoos in 1911 in Utah after walking some 12 miles to see the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, which featured James Malcolm as a performer, who had been tattooed by Charlie Wagner. A few years later Owen got his first tattoo from Bob Hodge. 

Owen Jensen flash posted by Andreas Schwertfeger
Owen and Dotty’s shop front. Posted by Eye Love Tattoo

It’s unknown who taught Owen to tattoo, but during WW1 he served overseas and tattooed other military folks while abroad. When he returned to the US he never stayed in one place too long, working in cities such as Michigan, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Norfolk, and finally Long Beach, just to name a few. He eventually met Dotty and the two married and settled in Long Beach, working near Bert Grimm. Around the early 1970’s Owen had a disagreement over flash with Bert who then apparently “ran him off.” Owen then worked with Lee Roy Minugh until he was stabbed in the back and beaten on July 5th 1976. Owen never fully recovered from the attack and died July 24th 1977. 

Dainty Dotty tattoo flash. Posted by Iciar Wallace
Dainty Dotty performing. Posted by My Flash Showcase

Dainty Dotty was initially a circus performer as mentioned above. She first worked as a “fat lady” in the Ringling Brothers circus in the 1930’s and 40’s. Dotty learned how to tattoo after meeting Owen, and he supposedly tattooed her, but there are no known photos of Dotty with tattoos, though there are photos of her tattooing people, and her flash is still floating around!

Owen working on a chest piece.
Owen’s tattoo flash. Posted by My Flash Showcase

Dotty is famous for being the world’s largest female tattoo artist, though she is in fact not the largest woman on record. Both Dotty and Owen tattooed classic old school designs such as eagles, skulls, roses, snakes, and patriotic pieces such as the statue of Liberty, American flags, and military designs.

More of Owen’s tattoo flash.
Dotty tattooing a customer. Posted by Yellow Beak Press Publishing.

Edited by Harrison R.

Build your own blog using the link below!

Artist of the Month: Tony Torvis

Tony Torvis is the owner of Mortem Tattoo in Montréal, Canada. His work consists of traditional old school designs without colour, making his clients look like the brilliant black and white photographs of days long past.

Full sleeve with hand
Battle Royale on the stomach

Tony’s work is reminiscent of the great tattooers of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but is still recognizable as a Tony Torvis piece. 

Full back featuring a dragon and ladies
Beautiful chest piece

Expect crisp clean lines and bold, powerful motifs such as dragons, snakes, lady heads, portraits, and flowers. There is original flash in the shop to choose from, or you can bring your own idea to him, or re-create an old piece of historical flash.

Pharaohs cats as part of a back piece
Angelic ladies

Tony’s Instagram page is full of both large and small scale work, from chest pieces to full backs, sleeves, and little filler pieces.

Full front torso, some healed some fresh
Bert Grimm sintered chest piece

You’ll also notice from his Instagram page that the majority of clients are repeat customers. Tony’s tattoos are kind of like chips, you just can’t stop at one! Mortem tattoo is a must visit shop if you’re in the area, and there are other brilliant artists working there as well.

Two sleeves in progress
Full back featuring ladies

Edited by Harrison R.

Build your own blog using the link below!

https://wordpress.com/alp/?aff=53531&cid=6423569

Artist of the Month: Francesco Ferrara

Francesco Ferarra works out of Fronte del Porto Roma in Rome, Italy, and also sells prints here.

Gorgeous flowers and ornamental vase
Pinup lady and eagle
Healed Rock of Ages front piece with angels

Francesco does classic old school tattoos that are bright and vibrant in colour, with bold black lines. Looking at Francesco’s work, you’ll only see black, red, and yellow/gold making up these beautiful pieces.

Battle back piece and nautical back piece
Devil head and butterfly for the feet
Rock of Ages back piece

His portfolio includes both one shot smaller pieces, and large full back or front pieces. Among these gorgeous designs you’ll find classics such as the Rock of Ages, Sun Dance, devils and angels, lady heads, and animals such as snakes, eagles, and butterfly’s.

Queen of hearts and a feisty snake
Classic eagle

Whether you live in Rome or are passing through, Francesco is another must see artist.

Snake and flowers
Big ole’ stomach snake

Build your own blog using the link below!

https://wordpress.com/alp/?aff=53531&cid=6423569

Andres Inkman

Andres is a tattooer working out of Black Ship in Barcelona. He tattoos old school designs with a much more realistic look. Expect to see lots of ladies, devils, and nautical designs.

Rose of no man’s land
Snake and lady head

Andres’ colour palette follows the old school style of mainly black and red, and he really makes those colours pop.

Devil in disguise
Queen of hearts and a sneaky devil

Andres has managed to mix old school and realism flawlessly, with eyes that appear to be really looking at you, and lines that will stand the test of time.

Devil and woman in love
Nautical sailor lady head and ship

In addition to tattooing, Andres has an online store where you can buy prints.

Lady head and dragon
Lady and devil head

If you live in Barcelona or plan on passing through (when we can all travel safely again) make sure Andres is on your list of artists to be tattooed by.

Split lady and devil head
Classic tattooed pinup

Build your own blog using the link below!

https://wordpress.com/alp/?aff=53531&cid=6423569