The first African American female tattoo artist, Jacci Gresham, is the stuff of legends. A true pioneer and an icon, Gresham is now 72-years old and has been tattooing for over four decades. Her shop, Aart Accent Tattoos & Body Piercing in New Orleans, is Louisiana’s oldest tattoo business still running, and the first one ever opened by a Black woman in the US.
Not only did Gresham break into a predominantly (to say the least) male industry, but she broke into an overwhelmingly white one. At the time, it was difficult for people of colour to find artists who knew how to work on darker skin, if they were even made to feel welcome in shops, to begin with.
All tattoos should be unique. Each and every single one brings together the life story, dreams, and preferences of the person whose skin they live on, and the countless hours of work, practice and ideas that have gone into perfecting the craft of the artist that put them there. But perhaps nothing is more unique than a portrait tattoo.
Well, those of a singer, actor or sports star will have something in common. Although those can be beautiful tributes, those of people close to you that you love and that have impacted your life in such a way that you want to have one of their expressions immortalised (at least, for the longevity of your own body) on your skin, will truly be one of a kind. >>>
Classic Elvis by Seb at Vivid Ink Stafford
When people hear the words ‘tribal tattoos’ today, their first thought is usually of the black sort of sharp and pointy mid-to-late 90s style of, among others, Wesley Snipes’ vampire superhero Blade. And also seen around Mike Tyson’s left eye, for that matter.
Although they could be quite impressive when done right, they are perhaps not the height of artistic display. They were often either large and kind of chunky, or small and picked right off of a flashcard.
To be of a tribe
Cleyton from Vivid Ink Birmingham is an expert in meta-tribal, where faces get their own set of ink.
But actual tribal tattoos are something quite different. According to most dictionaries, the word tribal means ‘to be of, relating to, or characteristic of’ a tribe. As humans, once the organisation of society began, belonged to tribes, all ancient tattooing could be considered tribal. Of course, not one tribal style was exactly the same as any other, as tools and techniques differed around the world. However, it is fascinating that the desire and inclination to mark our bodies is so ingrained in us that it evolved in the beginnings of nearly every ancient culture across the globe. >>>
The tattoo industry thrives on the business of tattooists who have been around for years, if not decades. The reality is, when we get our ink permanently placed on our body we want someone reliable – someone who knows what they are doing. However, how do we keep an industry evolving and thriving if we don’t make way for new and incredible artists?
One of the things we are proudest of at Vivid Ink is our ability to combine our reputable services with new up-and-coming artists to give everyone the best of both worlds. One of the perks of being an established brand in the Midlands is that we can help support those new to the tattoo industry, supporting the launch of their tattoo career whilst also giving our customers some added benefits!
What are Apprentices and Junior Artists? >>>
Unique skull design by apprentice artist Cara in Sutton Coldfield studio
It’s official! On Monday 3rd August we officially opened the doors. Just 9 years after the opening of our flagship studio in Birmingham this marks our 8th instalment to Vivid Ink, and we can’t quite believe it.
Whilst looking for the next location of Vivid Ink it became clear pretty quickly that Wolverhampton would be the perfect place to go next – our clients made their voices heard (we agree that the people of Wolves deserve their own Vivid Ink Studio with no more travelling necessary) and on seeing the former ‘Tattoo Palace’ we knew we could make it into something incredible for all of you! And, now that opening day has been and gone, we really think we delivered.
So, in honour of this studio, we would like to introduce you to some of the newest members of the team. >>>
Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. They emit a single colour/wavelength light through a process of optical amplification in a narrow beam or series of pulses. The lasers used to remove tattoos work with pulses that last nanoseconds, or, as has recently become commercially available, picoseconds. That means even less than one billionth of a second.
Since we mentioned laser removal in the last blog, as a means to making it easier to get a good cover up result, we thought we’d take a look at the actual science behind it. In this first part, we get a little nerdy on history. In the next post, we will dig deeper into what actually occurs when that laser hits the skin.
As you know from this previous instalment, there is a specific physiological response that occurs when the tattoo needle pushes ink beneath the top layer of the skin into the underlying dermis. But here is a quick recap.
Your immune system sounds its intruder-alert alarm and sends white blood cells to deal with the inky invaders. The pigment gets trapped in the cells, and while some travel out through the lymph nodes, larger pigment pieces remain suspended in the dermis, along with pigment absorbed by cells called fibroblasts. This is what makes the ink stay put on, or rather, in, your body.
Tattoos used to be thought of as entirely permanent (or dangerously and excruciatingly removed). However, with the advent of laser tattoo removal, a potential, albeit costly, opt-out has presented itself.
While there is an existing notion that laser tattoo removal is very painful, most people describe it as generating no more discomfort than getting a tattoo in the first place. And compared to other tattoo eradication procedures, it definitely seems to be the more appealing one. >>>
To cover up a tattoo means to have another one take the place of one you have but don’t like. Perhaps you are not happy with the first artist’s work, it did not come out the way you hoped it would, you had it made when you were 16 on a holiday in Ayia Napa, or maybe it is a symbol/quote/name that no longer resonates with where you are in life. Or, perhaps your old tattoo has faded to the point of a blur. No matter why they are all perfectly good reasons.
So how does a cover up tattoo work, and how does your artist go about creating a successful one?
Done as part of a cover up by Dorian from Vivid Ink Birmingham
As the world begins to return to some sense of normal – the new normal that is – we know many of our clients have questions, worries and uncertainties. When it comes to returning to the studio and what the experience will be like during this pandemic.
We know that our customers have spent the previous months working hard to do their bit during this difficult time. Staying at home and ensuring the safety of our nation, so we want to reassure you that now we are back open. We are doing the same, continuing to do our best to protect your health and safety during these unusual times.
5 Steps to Booking
We understand that booking a new tattoo is a huge step – that you want to know you are in good hands and will be taken care of, from the conception of your idea all the way through to its creation. At Vivid we constantly tell our customers that we are more than just another ordinary tattoo studio, and our unique and customer focused booking experience is an essential part of this. It is the first stage in ensuring each piece of new ink created is something that both us and you can be proud of. Because of this, we wanted to tell you a little more of what you can expect when you choose us!
While we could continue with football stars such as Sydney Leroux, Arturo Vidal and, of course, David Beckham in infinitum, let’s switch it up a bit. In this post, we take a look at MMA legend Connor McGregor, and American Track and Field star Inika McPherson. Both of whom are covered in some seriously significant body art. >>>
The roaring lion
Remaining in the realm of football for a little while longer let’s take a look a Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Rivalling, and perhaps even surpassing, Messi in the amount of skin coverage, “Ibra” has revealed that at first, he was against tattoos and thought they were “bad taste”. Tempted anyway, once the first ink was on his skin, there was no going back. In his autobiography “I am Zlatan” the now 38-year old striker said they became like a drug for him. >>>
It was recently revealed that Michael Jordan, back in the limelight due to Netflix’s documentary showcasing the glory years of the Chicago Bulls, The Last Dance, has a tattoo. Kept hidden for most of his active years, the ink is of an omega-shaped horseshoe.
It symbolises a commitment to the African-American fraternity Omega Psi Phi, of which Jordan was a member when he was studying at the University of North Carolina. His love of cigars did not translate to love for body art however, and that remains the only piece of ink on his body.
However, other major sports stars have offered their skins up as canvases for artists over and over again. Let’s take a look at the greatest lovers of ink and sports excellence alike. >>>
The Bad Boy of Basketball | Photo: PETA
We continue to dive deeper into Irezumi, the incredibly influential and distinctive style of Japanese tattooing. This post takes a closer look at the mythological iconography and themes of the style, as well as the complicated relationship to tattooing in its origin country.
When you think of mythological creatures, and particularly Japanese mythology, thoughts inevitably turn to dragons. The ryu, the colourful Japanese dragon is considered a symbol of immense strength, wisdom, freedom, luck and blessings. Eastern traditions consider dragons to be generous and use their endowments for good. They help mankind, instead of being greedy and violent. >>>
Japanese tattooing occupies its own revered place in ink legend. And from the stunning full-body suits to the minimalistic studios and the elegant hand-poking Tebori tools, what’s not to be in awe of. One of the true classics of the global tattoo trade, let’s take a closer look at the legacy of ink from Japan.
Poetry in a name
The distinctive style of Japanese tattooing is called Irezumi, which can be translated as “inserting ink.” It is also known as bunching – “patterning the body”, shishei – “piercing with blue” or get, which literally means, well, tattooing.
The tradition of tattooing in Japan is thought to reach very far back. Some even claim there is evidence of it beginning around 10,000 BC. However, the generally agreed-upon date is about 5,000 years later, the period from which primitive clay figurines have been discovered in tombs, adorned with tribal style tattoos. >>>
The immune system has gotten a lot of press lately. Nor surprisingly, as a strong and healthy one will protect you from things like viruses. And, if you do catch one (not naming names), it can make sure you recover faster.
But your immune system and its response is also the reason why the ink in your tattoo becomes a permanent feature on or, actually in, your body. Let’s take a look at what happens when that needle hits your skin. >>>
Getting a tattoo used to be a very permanent decision. And even though things have changed somewhat with the arrival of laser removal techniques, it is hard to imagine someone getting a tattoo with the initial idea that they are going to have it (quite painfully) removed a few years down the line.
So, obviously we want ink that will stand the test of time. While getting a tattoo is an intense process on its own, you don’t want to worry too much about what your tattoo may or may not look like in the future. So when it comes to tattoo longevity, here are a few things to take into consideration. >>>
Bold pieces make for great longevity. This is by George from Vivid Ink Hagley Road.
So by now, you have had a lot of time to decide, plan, and even begin to long for that next piece of ink. How about we prepare a little mentally by looking at how much pain, hmm, we mean discomfort, you can actually expect on the different areas of your body. Naturally, everyone takes to getting tattooed differently, and everyone’s body and perception will differ. But here is a list to give you a general sense what level of uncomfortable you are in for during your next session. >>>
We are pivoting back to techniques this week, taking a closer look at the beloved by many Black and Grey. This post contemplates the history of the style and looks at how the subtleties that create some incredible tattoo magic are achieved through sophisticated techniques, generating awe-inspiring depth and detail.
Evolved out of joint-style tattoos
Black and grey has evolved out of the underground and hidden culture of prison tattooing. It even used to be referred to as ‘joint-style.’ Inmates would tattoo on each other. They would use homemade single needles made from guitar strings, and tape recorder parts to power the machines. The ink would come from ballpoint pens or cigarette ashes and soot, diluted with water to create nuance. >>>
Chicano-style Emilia Clarke by Vijay from Vivid Ink Birmingham
With the proliferation of the practice of yoga and its philosophy, it is becoming increasingly common to see people inked with representations of what is known as “chakras,” or energetic wheels.
To simplify, one can say that according to yogic anatomy, there are seven major chakras in the body. They are located along the spine and correspond to various functions of the endocrine or the nervous system. They are represented by different colours and are connected to different organs, as well as emotional and mental states. >>>
When the world feels upside down and we become more acutely aware not only of the fundamental uncertainty of things but also of our own mortality, humans often turn to the bigger questions. What is truly important? What kind of support system do I subscribe to, do we believe in a realm beyond what I perceive with my senses, or is this it? And, of course, where am I going to place my next tattoo?
If you are a person who is interested in all of the above, not necessarily because you think you have answers, but because you are asking the questions, then chances are you have an inclination to externalise those questions, portraying some of your beliefs on your skin. Or perhaps you just really the aesthetics of it. This series of posts takes a look at some of the more common symbols of spirituality people tend to incorporate into their body art. >>>
As the world begins to put itself back together, reconnecting and slowly shifting into gear, it feels like somewhat of a restart. So what better time than to take it back to basics. Let’s take a look at the fundamental techniques and practices that go into making a tattoo.
If you are an aspiring tattoo artist, these will be the first techniques you learn in order to build the foundation for future greatness. Then as your apprenticeship progresses, and you begin to master them, you will build on that knowledge to create truly unique and expressive pieces. >>>
Garcia Hotspur – Shadows of the Damned
Demon hunter Garcia Hotspur’s tattoos make an appearance in the game’s opening scene even before his face does. Not surprisingly, the ink on the Shadows’ protagonist pertains mostly to his fight against the forces of the underworld. >>>
Tattoos in video games are almost always infused with the lore and backstory of the realm and the character. Whether or not you find yourself in an RPG or a first-person-shooter, if your character is sporting ink, chances are it says something about who they are, where they came from, or about the quest they are on. Sometimes, they even break the fourth wall, providing commentary on “our” reality.
Kratos — God of War >>>
Continuing our foray into the world of movie ink from earlier this week, the theme of superheroes, neo-noir and hunt for killers is becoming even more evident…
Both in Justice League and the eponymous movie, Jason Momoa’s DC superhero is covered in ink from head to toe. Reportedly, the idea was director Zak Snyder’s. Rather than the fish-scale like suit, Aquaman dons in the comics (although, as you know from the posters, that also makes its appearance), Momoa’s version sports some serious body art. >>>
These past few months, many of us have had the opportunity of watching (or, for that matter, re-watching) a lot of movies. And even as countries re-open and we will be able to sit in pubs and cafes once more, it may take a while before we are out and about as freely and carelessly as before. So, what better than a little movie inspiration in the name of the ink that has adorned the screen? >>>
As the UK enters its second month of lockdown, there has never been a better time to distract yourself with daydreams of new ink, and getting serious about planning for that amazing piece of body art.
Plus, should you be in the position to book in with your artist and pay a deposit during this time, you will be supporting them as they cannot perform their work when studios are forced to stay closed. >>>
Tattooed ladies were working-class women who had gotten plenty of ink at a time when it was unthinkable for any proper ‘lady’ to do so. They performed in circuses and sideshows, along sword swallowers, fire eaters and bearded women throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. >>>
The Japanese traditional version of stick-and-poke consists of using a wooden or metal stick knowns as a ‘nomi’. It has a set of needles — sometimes up to 15! — attached with silk thread to its tip. The artist would have several sets of sticks with varying numbers of needles and blades to fill in and shade the easily recognisable traditional Japanese motives. >>>
As the world is experiencing unprecedented times when it comes to public measures for collective health, this feels like a good time to write about the stringent precautions that tattoo artists take every single day to keep you safe. Measures that are now being implemented in workplaces and public spaces all over the world are part of tattoo studios’ everyday existence. >>>
The Neo Traditional tattoo style evolved from the Old School, or the American Traditional (hence the ‘Neo’), tattoo. The style is recognised by a wider array of bright colours that can often have a velvety feel or golden tint to them. They often draw inspiration from Japanese Ukiyo-e prints and the style movements of Art Nouveau and Art Deco and have an illustrative quality to them. They use a lot of the same techniques as American Traditional tattoos, but have their own very clear aesthetic and beyond the imagery of Traditional, they often portray lavish motives of flowers, portraits of women, and animals. >>>
Recent years have seen a revival in the tattoo style known as dotwork, particularly as it has begun to become blended with other styles, complimenting each other. It is a tattooing technique where the artist creates a design with a multitude of dots, rather than full lines or fill. It can be incredibly intricate, and It shows off one form of artistry from afar, and another level entirely when you come up close to it. >>>
So you have done all the prep-work (showered, not gotten sunburnt, stayed away from alcohol and painkillers, you’ve brought your snacks, etc) and are all set. Now comes the fun part!
This post continues from last week where we talked about how to plan for your first tattoo and how to find your artist. Here’s all about how to get booked in, what to do once you are, and what to think of when you arrive.
Getting a spot
Stunning lighthouse by Seb from our Walsall studio.
Great, so you have done your research and found your dream artist, congratulations! Now you need to secure a spot with them. Often artists open up their diaries for appointments at a specific time, and will then take bookings for a few months ahead. Of course, some artists operate on a more open schedule, so always get in touch to enquire about appointments. >>>
So you are thinking of getting some gorgeous body art. First of all… Welcome to the community! For the most part, it is a very welcoming and warm space filled with creative, passionate and caring individuals. So, please, enter with a general sense of trust and excited anticipation. But, also, do be skilfully prepared and educated by doing your homework! >>>
The Code of the Camorra – Neapolitan mafioso ink
It is said never to judge a book by its cover. However, when it comes to the Camorra mobsters of Naples, you could probably judge them by the markings on their skin. >>>
The Bowery Crew — Founding Fathers (and Mother) of the Tattoo Trade
The world owes a lot of the popularity of tattoos in modern times to New York. And particularly to an area on the Lower East Side known as the Bowery. At the time the city’s tattoo boom went down in the early 20th century, this was the roughest part of the city. >>>
Jessie Knight, Britain’s first female tattoo artist
Hailing from a lineage of counterculture artists, Jessie Knight was one of the most celebrated tattoo artists of her time. Born in Croydon in 1904, Jessie was one of eight siblings, and the granddaughter of the famous poet and journalist EA Lempriere Knight. >>>
Ink and the MCU
In 2018, the Canadian Marvel fan Rick Scolamiero became the record holder of ‘Most Marvel comic book characters tattooed on the body’. It is unclear exactly when this category was instated… But safe to say it could be a long time before Rick’s record is challenged. Rick got his first tattoo done only in 2011, so over the course of 7 years he has gotten tattooed once a month. For a total of over 350 hours. >>>
The Guinness Book of World Records is a gold mine for interesting tattoo facts. One of the most obvious records to hold would be that of having the most ink on your body.
The title of most tattooed woman in the world is held since 2017 by Charlotte Guttenberg. 71-year old Charlotte’s body is covered to 98,75% with ink. While saying that she always appreciated body art, and how she admired the former record holder Isobel Varley, Charlotte only got her first tattoo in her 50s! But she also says that she knew right away she was going to get a full body suit. >>>
For tattoo collectors, conventions constitute a chance to get a piece by a visiting artist, without having to save up for plane fare and taking holiday time to fly half way across the world to their home studio. For other enthusiasts and the perhaps not yet inked but generally curious, they can be a great place to meet and peruse the work of both their local talent and artists from far away. And to see an artist’s work up close before booking in for a session. >>>
Since Ancient Greece, the agora, the public market place, has been at the heart of community life. The interaction that took place went beyond daily transactions, spawning an exchange of ideas that changed the world for the people around them. To this day they influence what we take for granted about society. The freedoms however, had their limits. The philosopher Socrates was charged and condemned for ‘corrupting the mind of the youth’ of Athens and of impiety, ‘not believing in the gods of the state’. The Athenian rulers sentenced him to death through poison. >>>
‘Dermal Abyss’ Tech Tattoo
The evolution of Artificial Intelligence — AI — from something menacingly coming at us in various shapes and sizes from distant futures in sci-fi movies, to something that is a major part of our everyday life has been swift. Assisting, chartering, calculating and developing, it is hard to imagine life today without machines and algorithms. As with any technological revolution before it, the rise of AI has given birth to a bunch of questions and concerns. >>>
Denmark, as stated in a previous entry, was one of the first countries in Europe to embrace tattoo culture, when its king was seen on the cover of LIFE magazine bare-chested and with numerous tattoos from local Copenhagen artists in 1951. It is therefore ironic that it has the only law in the European Union regulating placement of body art. Since 1966, Danish law-makers has officially forbidden artists to tattoo on the face, neck, or hands. Many Danes do sport visible ink on these areas however, and it would seem any prison sentence (or whip-lashes for that matter) is yet to be dished out to the artists that have performed them. >>>
Already in the 4th century, fishermen along the coast in what is today known as South Korea would get tattoos that were thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Then, as it was in many other places in the world, tattoos were used as a means to brand prisoners, and became associated with crime and vagrancy. Today (albeit still frowned upon by the older generation) a great number of young South Koreans are openly sporting various styles of ink as a form of self expression and creativity. >>>