The Tattoosday Book Review: 7 Tattoos  

First and foremost, let me clear something up: 7 Tattoos by Peter Trachtenberg is a memoir and is not a book about tattoos. Oh, there are tattoos within, and stories about them and how they were obtained. But tattoos help form the context of the story within, and the ink is often secondary to the action at hand.

7 Tattoos is a riveting narrative, "a memoir in the flesh," about the author's inner struggles with his identity and the world around him. His tattoos form the structure of the book, serving as chapters around which Trachtenberg's life revolves.

Imagine a first tattoo: assuming that it wasn't inked on the fly, everyone's first tattoo comes with context. On Tattoosday, I try and tell the story behind the tattoo. But even I know that I am only scratching the surface of the narrative skin.

Each of the author's seven tattoos serves as a focal point out of which a life chapter spins.

From a tribal piece that is inspired by the ink of Southeast Asia (and subsequent trips there) to tattoos that mark chapters in a life punctuated by drug addiction and strained parental relationships, we are given a warts-and-all tour of Trachtenberg's life. As important as the tattoos may seem, they are really just sign-posts with memories in the ink.

Ultimately, 7 Tattoos is about relationships - Trachtenberg's relationships with women, his father, his mother and, ultimately, himself.

He is a writer and his skills show throughout as he describes tattoos with admirable simplicity:

"The tattoo Slam had given me was a drawing of a wrench placed diagonally between two gears. She'd rendered the spinner with punctilious thoroughness, down to the highlights on the chrome-plated shaft, while leaving the gears black silhouettes, and she'd unified the composition by framing wrench and gears with a red triangle that sat athwart my deltoid."
This passage describes the tattoo with political undertones, in a chapter entitled "I Keep the Red Flag Flying". He does a remarkable job taking a 1992 tattoo and narrating back twenty years earlier to 1972. Again, the tattoo anchors the chapter and is the glue that holds it together.

Trachtenberg has skillfully built a personal history around seven works of art. It doesn't matter where they were inked or if any of them are "good" or not. Each piece is a jumping-off point that elevates the memoir above the standard personal history.

7 Tattoos was recommended to me last Spring when I was interviewing poets and writers for my Tattooed Poets Project. I wish I could remember who suggested I read it, because I would love to thank them.

The tattoos in the book are not at center stage, yet they manage to grab a hold of the imagination throughout as we are carried along by the story of Trachtenberg's life. It's an experience I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in good writing, with a penchant for ink.

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Pamela Anderson Tattoos  

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Cody's Eagle Braves the Storm  

On the day after Thanksgiving, I was passing through Penn Station and I spotted this tattoo:

This depiction of an eagle flying through a storm belongs to Cody, who was in town visiting from Key West, Florida.

This symbol of strength and courage enduring the dangers of a powerful storm is fitting, as Cody began work on the piece as a tribute to his father, serving in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

Cody has already had three sittings for this wonderful tattoo, and is close to finishing it with "Tattoo" Mike Haugh at Key West Tattoo Company.

Thanks to Cody for sharing this great tattoo! We look forward to seeing the final product!

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Tay's Angel Reminds Him of a Battle Won  

There are many things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. I know that may cliché , but at its core, there is the kernel of truth. All it takes to remember this is to cross paths with someone who has overcome the odds to prevail in life.

Yesterday I met Tay in the Borders on Penn Plaza, and he shared this tattoo:

Here's the complete piece:

Inked on his inner left forearm, this angelic image is a product of an idea of a spirit watching over him, He gathered a couple of photos for reference and presented them, along with a short written paragraph about the concept, to a tattoo artist at Fat Ram's Pumpkin Tattoo in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts. It was the tattooer who gave Tay the writing assignment. I am impressed that the artist would incorporate that into his creative process, and it makes perfect sense.

Although Tay is not religious, per se, he wanted something spiritual to remind him of his guardian angel that helped him overcome the mortal challenge of cancer.

As it turns out, Tay is a survivor, who has been cancer-free for ten years after a victory over acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Tay notes that, all it takes is a look down at his arm to remind him that he has come a long way from the lows of facing one's mortality at such an early age.

I want to thank Tay for sharing his tattoo with us here. And I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all the Tattoosday readers!

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Doug's Dragon  

Back on July 13, I posted a photo of Doug's Geisha. Doug was waiting around the Penn Station area before heading down to see Horisei, at tattoo artist working out of Rising Dragon's Chelsea Tattoo Company.

Doug followed up his moment in the Tattoosday light by sending us photos of the work he had done that day. As would be expected from work by Horisei, the tattoo is beautifully done:

Work from Horisei has appeared previously on this site here.

Thanks again to Doug for sharing his new tattoo work with us here on Tattoosday!

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Mike Shares Some More Ink  

Back in May, I met a guy named Mike outside of Penn Station and he shared this tattoo with us.

Occasionally, contributors who I have met on the street will send me a follow-up of additional tattoos that I didn't photograph the first time I met them. Mike was generous enough with his time and energy to do just that.

First is a piece that was done around the same time that the lion-skeleton tattoo, featured back in May, was completed, back in 1995:

This, like the previous work featured from Mike, was inked by Doug White at the Ink Spot in Linden, New Jersey.

Mike also sent along this snake:

I love the cross-hatch patterns on the back of the snake. The lines are so finely drawn, I am impressed by the amount of patience it must have taken to get these tiny details just right.

Mike also sent a photo of this gargoyle on his back:

These last two pieces were inked at Tattoo Lou's in Babylon, New York back in 2000. Work from Tattoo Lou's has appeared previously on Tattoosday here.

Thanks again to Mike for sharing more of his ink with us here on Tattoosday!

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Two Eclectic Tattoos from TG  

I will pace subway platforms, while waiting for my train, so that I may exercise a bit, and, let's face it, spot the occasional tattoo.

After meeting TG on the 59th Street platform in Brooklyn, and talking tattoo with him all the way to 95th Street, he told me I was lucky he had removed his sweater back on 59th.

For it was there that I spotted his tattoos. First I noticed this one:

That is a brontosaurus, which is on his left arm. It was an impulse decision and serves solely as a decorative reminder of a moment in time. TG had just left work with a paycheck and wandered into Rising Dragon Tattoos in their (relatively) new 14th Street location.

The artist was Davide, who hails from Italy, and was most likely a guest tattooer at the time.

TG sings his praises as he took a relatively simple design and gave it his all, down to the shading of the dinosaur's eyes and toe nails.

An even more compelling tattoo is this line-drawn piece:

The caption under the robot and the bear reads "Go for the knees! Bears are known for weak knees!"

This refers to a brief snippet of dialogue in Season 1, Episode 3 ("Blind Date") of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. The line is uttered by the character Frank, who is played by actor/comedian Judah Friedlander.

The absurdity of the line made it memorable to TG, who chose to immortalize it on his right forearm.

The tattoo was inked by Mike at Mad Pup's Tattooing in Plattsburgh, New York.

Thanks to TG for sharing his two eclectic tattoos with us here on Tattoosday!

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The Tattoosday Book Review: Tattoo Machine by Jeff Johnson  

First, a point of clarification. I write blog posts with the ideal blog reader in mind. The ideal blog reader being me. And what I have noticed over the years is, despite the interest in the subject matter, it is rare that a blog post will hold my attention longer than a few paragraphs. This is why Tattoosday posts are generally brief, not drawn out, and some times split into multiple parts.

Similarly, my attempts at literary criticism are not as in-depth as many may like. I acknowledge that shortcoming while noting, for many, this is actually a plus.

That said, I am long overdue in reviewing Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink by Jeff Johnson.

Johnson is a tattoo artist and owner of the Sea Tramp Tattoo Company in Portland, Oregon.

As anyone in America can tell you, the rise in popularity of the art of tattooing has skyrocketed in the last twenty years, and the first decade of the 21st century has seen the acceptance of body art increase exponentially.

Johnson's book is not your typical tattoo primer (the fanciest of which has been Kat Von D's immensely successful High Voltage), but rather, a memoir of his life and experiences as a tattoo artist.

What separates Johnson from other tattoo writers is that he has a true gift for prose, a writing skill that eclipses the efforts of your standard "all about tattooing" books. As a result, the reader is sitting there in the shop with Jeff, listening to his story. I could hear the buzzing of machines and taste the neon in the air.

Case in point, a paragraph from Johnson's introduction:

"This isn't simply a memoir. It is also a personal look at the people behind an art form that has undergone a rebirth and is shaking the natal mucus from its drying wings as a new pool of exciting, schooled, and committed artists take their places. This is also a book about street shops and the artists that flourished or inexcusably withered in those fertile grounds. I want to give the reader a more complete picture of a tattoo artist's life and the lessons learned along the way, the things a TV show or a visit to your local establishment can't capture, the things people wonder about when they look through the window the first time and ask themselves What's really going on in there? This is what I've seen. You might not want to get a tattoo from me after reading this, but there you go..."

The narrative wends its way through Johnson's past to his present, getting the reader to appreciate the journey that led the author to the helm of the Sea Tramp.

He tells it like it is, warts and all. On shows like L.A. Ink, you don't get to see the unsavory characters that are often hindrances to a tattoo business. We get that here.

Part One, Dial Tone, dwells on the business side of tattooing, from employees and scheduling, to flash art and drawing, signs of a good shop, and shop lingo.

Part Two, Man's Ruin, provides a primer on the big problems confronting the business: drugs, criminals, scams and oddities. The oddities section certainly opened my eyes and made me realize any good artist wouldn't bat an eye lash over a mild case of psoriasis.

Part Three, Love and Hate, talks about the emotional journey that the author has taken.

Part Four, Wine, Song and Your Mama, deals with success.

Part Five, Tiny Revolutions, revisits the technical aspects of tattooing and spends a nice amount of time discussing the politics of tattooing and the regulation of the industry.

And the final section, Part 6, Smile Now, Cry Later discusses pranks, rivalries, and the life cycles of a couple of shops. Johnson does a nice job addressing that aching question: how does an artist feel when a great tattoo dies along with its host.

Ultimately, Tattoo Machine, despite its meandering, is a thoughtful, humorous and well-written volume on the life of a tattoo artist. Is it every tattooer's experience? Probably not. But I'd be surprised to find an artist who would read this book and not relate to anything between the covers.

We here at Tattoosday give Jeff Johnson's memoir a big thumbs up and a hearty recommendation.


Here's some more on Tattoo Machine.

And here's a real treat, a clip featuring Jeff and a discussion of Sea Tramp Tattoo Company:

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Shom's Chakra  

I met Shom very briefly as he was about to board a train at Penn Station.

Aside from shoulder pieces and Sanskrit text circling his upper left arm, he has a couple of other tattoos, including this one on his inner left forearm:

This piece represents one of the many chakra for meditation.

It was inked at Jinx Proof Tattoo in Washington, D.C. Work from that shop has appeared previously here.

Shom had to board his train before I could get more information, but I express sincere thanks for his brief participation here on Tattoosday!

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Drew's Samoan Circle  

I met Drew in Penn Station and he shared this, one of his two tattoos:

It's a cool design that he saw in an encyclopedia and took to an artist at State of the Art Tattooing in Southampton, New Jersey.

Drew ascribed his own meanings to the piece, creating his own interpretation of the designs.

The main circles he regards as two pinwheels, spinning in different directions. These two, as a whole, represent progression, as life moves forward.

Also, along the edges, in addition to some traditional design aspects, Drew pointed out two half-circles and four quarter-circles. These fragmented wholes represent the realms of dreams and realities.

By ascribing his own meaning and understanding of the tattoo and its elements, Drew makes the impersonal design (out of a book) more personal and special.

Thanks to Drew for sharing his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

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Travis Barker  

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Cristina Aguilera  

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Kelly Clarkson  

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Beyonce knowledge Tattoos  

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Tommy Lee Tattoos  

Tommy Lee Tattoos

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Lindsay Lohan tattoos  

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Tata Reid Tattoo  

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Alissia Milano Tattoo  

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Alicia Keys Tattoo  

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Anna Kourkonikova  

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Indonesian Celebrity Ratu Felisha with Tattoo in her back

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Monica Belucci Tattoo  

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Megan Fox Tattoos  

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Marlyn Monroe Tattoo  

Marilyn Monroe on

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Katie Price Tattoo  

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Kim Kardashian Tattoo  

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demi moore Tatoo  

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denise van outen Tattoo  

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Even Rachel Tattoo  

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Amy Winehouse Tattoo  

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Eva Longoria Tattoo  

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Drew Barrymore Tattoo  

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Tattoo Heart  

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