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InkSpiredMagazine.com

February 2014


INK InkSpot

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Sean Dowdell

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JD Lorenz

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Noah Babcock

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Positive Spin

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The Devils Right Hand

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Ernie D. Creator

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The Tattooed Undertaker

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Jodajen Photographer Feature

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Less Than Jake

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Mike Bell

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Sara X

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Steadfast Brand

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Ink & Paint with William Thidemann 124 The War On Ink

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Get InkSpired

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Model of the Month

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COVER CREDITS: Model: Sara X

Photography: Billy Ward February 2014

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Editor-in-Chief - Candies Deezy Liu Creative Director - Sean Hartgrove Art Director - David Rossa Website Manager - Cameron Cowan Staff Photographers - Sean Hartgrove, Radek Photography Video Services - James Coulter of Moo Dog Productions, LTD.

William Thidemann Photos by: Sean Hartgrove Words: Candies Deezy Liu Steadfast Brand Photos by: Sean Hartgrove Words: Candies Deezy Liu Models: Addie Lee Dani La’Bella Lennon Lee Vany Vicious Nicole Brown Audrey Kelly Zeb Palmer Joe Miller Samantha Smith Jordan Skye Matty Bullitt Dazed Out Cyrena Sarah Hager Vanessa L. Piccola Danielle Pfannenstiel

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JodaJen Photography Models: Audrey Kelly Bailey Marie Harper Maegan Machine Ash Cynthia Emily Dearhart Karen Lily Deville Paige Butkus Less Than Jake Photos by: Radek Photography Words: Bella Rage Mike Bell Photo by: CJ Smith Words: Candies Deezy Liu

Jennifer Nakai Cunningham Photos by: Sean Hartgrove Words: Candies Deezy Liu

Interview - Sara X Photos by: Billy Ward Photography Words: Candies Deezy Liu

Support Tattooed Military - The War On Ink Photos by: Hunter Tom Words: Kolya Yaudeckis

The Devils Right Hand Tattoo Equipment Photos by: Sean Hartgrove Words: Bobby Lee Black

Piercing Column Managing Editor: Sean Dowdell Interviews: JD Lorenz & Noah Babcock

Model of the Month - Kristie California Photo by: TWalker Photography

Positive Spin - Alex Michael Turner Photos by: CREWSiVIEW Photography Words: Candies Deezy Liu

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Custom Culture - Ernie D. Deluxe Iron Tattoo Machines Photos by: Rhiannon Winter Interview: Edward DeVille

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LETTER FROM

THE EDITOR

A recent headline caught my attention about a little boy who was bullied because he likes My Little Pony. He was bullied so much that at eleven years old, he attempted suicide, leaving him in critical condition in the hospital. A tattoo studio caught wind of this news and helped to raise funds in support of this little boy by doing $20 My Little Pony tattoos. They rallied the biggest, baddest guys they could find to get these tattoos to not only raise funds and support for the cause, but to make a statement. That’s what tattoos are, a statement. Whatever their meaning is, great or small, they all stand for something that means something...anything for us. As a community, we are a passionate, vibrant, strong-willed force to be reckoned with. The support within the tattoo culture is tremendous. We’re like family. When push comes to shove, we stand behind each other. After all, as a community, We the Tattooed People face enough adversity, misunderstanding and fear from outsiders - those who don’t get us. Many of us are “bullied”, for lack of a better term, for choosing to put artwork on ourselves. I may be comparing apples to oranges here, but acceptance is acceptance, no matter under what circumstances. The story of the bullied little boy hit close to home for me. I was bullied A LOT when I was younger simply because I chose to express myself differently. However, I’m a strong believer of blessings in disguises. If it wasn’t for all of the shit I got because of my interest in alternative culture, I may not be here today, passionately writing about the tattoo community that I feel so inclined to defend. Our Positive Spin feature this month features Alex Michael Turner who is a tattooed fitness model and an international anti-bullying spokesperson. I found it interestingly coincidental that the story of the little boy who was bullied because he liked something that his peers didn’t think was cool was released right around the time we are publishing a model who sticks up for kids like him. What’s cool is, Alex shows kids and adults alike that it’s cool to be nice, not making fun of others because they like different things. Acceptance is cool. I mean, I don’t go around hating on non-tattooed people, for heaven’s sake. Signed, Your Chief Editor - Candies Deezy Liu

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INKSPOT “As I get older, I started to write my life down on my body with ink so I will never forget what I have done or what has happened.” -Andy Nguyen “Every one of my tattoos has a meaning - a timeline of my life, if you will.” -Thomas Hathcock “Changing people’s views or stereotypes of people with ink.” -Amanda Jenkins “Life is painful, just like my tattoos!” -Ryan Naus “Being ‘InkSpired’ means to reach a point in your life that is a monumental moment and had to be documented in such a unique way to express the intense emotion of the experience you just lived through.” -Ariel Smith

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SEAN DOWDELL ABOUT OUR PIERCING & BODY MOD EDITOR Story: Candies Deezy Liu Photography: Jim Lovou Sean Dowdell has been piercing in the industry for 19 years (since 1994) and is respected as one of the best body piercers in the world. He has innovated everything from dermal anchor jewelry, piercing tools, piercing techniques, and business marketing. He co-owns 5 world renown tattoo and piercing studios called Club Tattoo which are often regarded as one of the most successful tattoo and piercing studios in the world. In 2010, Sean was also asked to become a member of the H2Ocean Pro-Team. Not only does Sean run a very successful company, he also gives back to the piercing community through teaching various industry related techniques via instructional DVDs as well as traveling the globe and teaching piercing technique seminars to thousands of piercers. His work has been published in over 100 national and international magazines. Dowdell is best known for inventing and mastering corset piercings, pushing the boundaries with ear projects and creating dermal anchor projects. In addition to having two patents on body jewelry designs, Sean sells and markets a micro-dermal anchor jewelry worldwide. Furthermore, he has helped to create a skin prep solution called E2T, along with several tools and instructional piercing videos that are distributed globally. By writing this column for InkSpired Magazine, Sean now has a forum where he can spotlight other piercers in the field that he feels are not only pushing the boundaries in a progressive fashion, but helping the industry as a whole with their specific visions and creativity.

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JD LORENZ INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH

Owner and founder of Industrial Strength Corp. Body Jewelry SD: How many people does Industrial Strength currently employ? JD: 107 SD: What made you want to start making body jewelry?

What I’m most proud of is our innovation of titanium prong settings.

SD: How much time goes into creating new items for your catalog?

JD: Our amazing customers. We are always trying to push the limit in design. The types of technology we have allows us to do things never done before in body jewelry design.

SD: What other companies (doesn’t have to be in your industry) do you look up to or try to emulate with your company and why? JD: I would not say we try to emulate any other company. With that being said, there are many companies I admire for a lot of different reasons. Swarovski for their amazing gems and Tornos for their unyielding speed and precision of the machines they make. I also look up to all the amazing designers throughout history from all over the world. SD: What do you see the biggest advantage of F136 titanium over  F138 stainless steel, if any? JD: Titanium offers better biocompatibility and it’s lighter. SD: You are known in the industry for inventing quite a bit of different styles

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SD: What do you think are problems (if any) within the piercing industry? JD: None comes to mind.

JD: A little known fact is that Industrial Strength was the first to bring 316LVM ASTM f-138 SS Balls and 6AL4V ELI ASTM F-136 titanium balls to the world of body jewelry. We were the first to offer SS and titanium bezel gem curve BBs.

JD: There was not any easily accessible jewelry in 1991 for a guy piercing friends at home. So I decided to make it. I’ve had my ears pierced since 1983 and I pierced my nose while in 10th grade in 1984.

JD: A lot! We are always working on new jewelry designs. We have a huge list of possibilities. The new jewelry we launch is just the tip of the iceberg of what we are working on or thinking about making.

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of jewelry. Can you tell us a few of the pieces that you have innovated or created in your career?

SD: What keeps you motivated to keep creating jewelry?

SD: What is your favorite piece of jewelry that you make? JD: We haven’t made it yet! SD: How do you handle it when another company takes an idea that you have created and manufactures something similar? JD: Is not imitation the purest form of flattery? I have volumes of books about types of jewelry, the history of jewelry, how to make jewelry, jewelry from other cultures, you name it. I take inspiration from lots of places. I’m not one to judge others for taking inspiration. All jewelry is a variation of something else in my mind. We are always focused on the future. SD: Do you have a favorite piercer or studio in this industry and why? JD: No...there are too many great Piercers and shops to pick from.

SD: What do you think is something positive that comes from the piercing industry? JD: It allows people to make themselves beautiful. I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they get a new piercing. SD: Where would you like to be in 5-10 years with your company? JD: I don’t really think about it. I’m very in the now. SD: What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not running your company? JD: Working on my Plumeria farm. I love to grow plants. I’m also working on a giant rare tree botanical garden. I surf, play drums in my punk rock band, ride motorcycles, collect punk rock records, and go to punk rock shows. SD: What was the single greatest moment in your career? What was the worst? JD: Hard question. I don’t really think like that. SD: What would you like others in the piercing industry to know that they might not know about you? JD: That I started out as a piercer, born out of punk rock. I was piercing my punk rock friends as far back as 1984.


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NOAH BABCOCK Interview: Sean Dowdell

Photography: Crystal Sims & Noah Babcock Piercer Name: Noah Babcock Studio Name:  Evolution, Inc.                                                               City/State: Albuquerque, NM  Number of Years Piercing: 18   SD: Why did you want to learn to do body piercing? NB: My father was a man that kept an amazing number of National Geographics laying around the house. It was a favorite pastime of mine when I was a child to thumb through them for hours. Of all the fantastic imagery in them, I found the images of modified people from around the world to be the most intriguing and magical. When I was eight years old, I had BOTH of my ears pierced. It was the eighties, and rather atypical for a little boy to have both his ears pierced, but I didn’t care. When I was about ten or eleven, I began raiding my mother’s jewelry box for simple gold hoops and began trying to cram as many as I could through my little piercings in an attempt to make them larger (in an attempt to emulate many of the fantastic people from my father’s magazines). As I entered my late teens, body piercing was really starting to hit the US in a big way, and I saw it as an opportunity to “fit” in a way that I previously did not.   SD: When did you start body piercing, who taught you and where? NB: I began my path as a body piercer in 1995. I went with a friend of mine to a local studio to get tattooed, and in the course of him getting tattooed, developed a friendship with the piercers there. Over the next few months, those piercers left, and I was offered a position to replace them. It was not the most ideal of situations, and was very much a “learn as you go” type scenario. Thankfully I was (and still am) dear friends with a local reconstructive and cosmetic surgeon that was more than willing to offer me advice and education whenever I needed it …which was very, very often. I developed my craft over the next few years there, and in 1999 was offered a position at Evolution, Inc. which is where I have been ever since.

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SD: What piercers do you look up to and why? NB: Corey Lolley (owner of Maya Jewelry) will always be at the top of my list. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with her in the late nineties when I was still fresh in my career, and she was the first truly positive influence I had. She taught me that piercing goes vastly beyond pushing a needle. She taught me that I am giving each and every person that I work on a life changing experience, and I have the opportunity to make that a positive and enlightening one, or a scary and painful one. I will always be grateful to her, for she is the person responsible for directing me on the appropriate path in my career early on. Next in line is Al D. Sowers. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Al shortly after I began piercing at Evolution, and he was the first person to truly frighten me with the health risks that could be potentially involved with my craft. Of course I had been piercing for a few years already and had a clear understanding of how to process contaminated instruments properly, how to clean, prep, and mark properly, and when to change gloves, but it was Al that fully depicted the levity of risk involved. He also had a fantastic personality, and was the kind of person that could be liked by just about anybody almost instantly. I miss him. Finally, Luis Garcia. I’ve known Luis for many years, and even had the pleasure of teaching with him at the APP conference on occasion. Luis is a gem. He’s been pushing the envelope with creative applications of different piercing longer than just about anybody. He has served as a great inspiration for me for a long time, and he is a perfect example of how honesty and integrity

with clients and peers can manifest a lasting career.   SD: Have you ever apprenticed anyone? How did it work out for you and them? NB: I have never fully apprenticed anyone, however I recently finished one of our employees apprenticeship after the piercer that was in the midst of apprenticing her moved elsewhere. I enjoyed it immensely, and she has grown to be a rather phenomenal piercer. I don’t know that I will apprentice anyone else in the near future, but under the right circumstances I would enjoy to take someone all the way from start to finish.   SD: You are known in the industry for being quite a gold connoisseur. What is it about gold body jewelry that you find so fascinating? NB: Gold is one of the most versatile and beautiful metals on the planet. When working with GOOD jewelers, virtually anything imaginable can be made a reality. From jewelry, to engineering, even to space travel, gold has shown itself to be one of the most valuable materials in existence. Not just monetarily. It has even been theorized that alien races may have harvested gold from our planet many eons ago. Whether true or not, it certainly adds to the historical enigma of such a lovely element.   February 2014

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SD: What do you think are (if any) problems within the piercing industry? NB: “Heavy Mods” being offered to the general public. There are many piercers out there performing procedures that are technically deemed as surgical procedures. Whether they can be performed safely or not is completely besides the point. As piercing gains more attention in the media, it becomes more and more likely that inexperienced  piercers will attempt these types of procedures (i.e. sub dermal implants, tongue splitting, etc.), with potentially horrific results. These individuals cast an ugly black cloud over our entire industry, with potentially terrifying legal repercussions that could affect all of us. If you want to perform surgical modifications on people, then go to medical school and get a medical license just like every other surgeon in the country. Period. SD: Where would you like to be in 5 years (pertaining to life and business)? NB: I am so immensely happy in my life right now that I truly hope that the next five years goes just like the last five years have. I have an amazing fiancé, amazing kids, work for an amazing company and have amazing coworkers. I really couldn’t be happier.             SD: What is your favorite piercing to perform and why? NB: I love ears. I love creating multiple point compositions on them. No two

ears are ever alike (even on the same person) and there are so many fun little folds and shapes that the possibilities become virtually limitless. The ear is a place where I feel I can truly spread my creative wings and be an artist.   SD: Are there any piercings that still make you nervous to perform and why? NB: I don’t know that nervous is the right word, but to this day I’m not a huge fan of septum piercings. I really like to see what’s happening as I pierce, and with septums, that is not really a possibility. I don’t necessarily mind them, but they certainly are not my favorite to perform. SD: Do you prefer to pierce with tools or freehand, or a combination? NB: The running joke with me is that for a freehand piercer I sure do use a lot of tools. The only thing I ever use forceps for anymore is tongues, otherwise, I don’t actually clamp anything. I do however use a significant number of pliers, tapers, hemostats, etc. SD: What do you think is something positive that the comes from the piercing industry? NB: I think I could potentially write a book based on this single question, but in the interest of brevity for this article I would have to say the single most positive thing that comes from this industry is the fact that we as piercers get to improve the way people feel about and perceive themselves every day. I’ve always said that the single greatest thing about my job is that everyone

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leaves our studio smiling. To be given the opportunity to guide people from a place of fear, to comfort, and ending in joy is an opportunity that I always value, and never forget. SD: What would you like other piercers to know, that they might not know about you? NB:  I have what borders on an unhealthy addiction to quantum and theoretical physics. I’m obsessed with the cosmos in general. I love the outdoors, love to run barefoot, and like to consider myself a bit of a philosopher. My father has always been, and will always be my hero. He is one of the most creative and gifted artists I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and has always lived his life in a state of happiness, regardless of any hardships that have come to pass. I believe he truly understands the meaning of existence better than just about anyone. I have been with my fiancé Donna for nearly 13 years, and she truly completes me. Without her support and understanding I never would have made it as far as I have, and I will be eternally grateful to her for that. My daughter is an aspiring metal vocalist, and my son is somewhat of a dinosaur prodigy. I’m beyond proud of both of them. SD: Being a veteran piercer, what advice do you think that most new piercers should be aware of as they climb into this industry? NB: Never let your head outgrow your abilities. Always listen to the advice of other piercers, and even if you disagree, remain receptive and respectful. Understand that you are offering life changing experiences for every person in your chair, and treat and respect the experience as such. Treat every client with compassion and understanding, no matter how unreasonable they may seem.   Meditate every day, if only for a few minutes, on just how special a position we as piercers are in. Even the most despicable of clients has beauty within them somewhere. Find it, and bring it to the surface with your craft. SD: Is there anything  you wish to learn or get better at in the piercing industry? NB: I would really like to learn more about the underlying psychology of why we modify ourselves, and why this practice is so prevalent throughout human history.  I have my own hypothesis’ for this question, but would love to gain a more formal education in psychology and cultural anthropology so that I may more feasibly test said hypothesis. I also have pipe dreams of creating my own jewelry line one day, but would certainly need to learn much more about the manufacturing side of things.    SD: Noah, you are known throughout the piercing industry for pushing the boundaries or jewelry innovation and design. Can you elaborate on how you approach your clients with designing specific pieces? Additionally, what is your favorite piece that you have designed? NB: This is far easier than one may think.  Often people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. Clients come in everyday and say “I want to get a piercing, but I’m not sure what I want.” Often what I do with clients, is rather than focus on what piercing they want, I have them point out what jewelry they like. Then (and this requires thinking outside the box a little), I discuss all the different ways, placements, compilations, etc. that the jewelry they like could be utilized. This process can really get the creative juices flowing, and is where many of my more innovative designs and ideas have been birthed. As far as my favorite piece that I’ve designed, I simply don’t have one. Each piece has its own beauty, its own story, and its own appeal and is therefore no more important than any other.

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POSITIVE SPIN ALEX MICHAEL TURNER Story: Candies Deezy Liu Photography: CREWSiVIEW Photgraphy Beauty is certainly not only skin deep for Alex Michael Turner, a fashion and fitness model and international spokesperson for anti-bullying. As a child, Alex was a victim of relentless bullying. He described himself as a lazy eyed, short, skinny, goofy kid who wore glasses. He was called all sorts of name, beat up and mocked. At the age of thirteen, Alex wanted to kill himself. “In the beginning, I coped with it by hiding and crying in my room by myself. As I got older, I started lashing out. It wasn’t until I started seeing the vicious cycle that I realized that this wasn’t the path I wanted to be on. Most people who are bullies are bullied themselves. I didn’t want to be like that,” he recalls. His parents paid for eye surgery because he was so traumatized. This marked the beginning of his journey of self-improvement, inside and out. “After I got out of high school, I was so sick of being small at 5’10 and 111 pounds. I asked my dad who was a nationally ranked powerlifter for help and started hitting the gym in 2007,” Alex says. However, the bullying didn’t end overnight. He recalls even being bullied at the gym when he first started working out. Now, he likes to help everyone out in his gymnasium playground, including the guys just starting out, offering them advice and inspiration. The modern day tattooed Atlas admits that being bullied when he was younger was a big motivating factor for him to improve his physical appearance. Getting bigger and stronger definitely helped. In addition to boosting his self-esteem, it has provided a platform from which he can inspire others. Staying true to his message, he says, “looking the way I do helps with the mentality of looking like a bully but not having to be one. I turn the mentality around and be nice, especially when people least expect it.” Alex remains humble, despite his killer looks and skyrocketing success. When he visits his hometown, Boise, Idaho, he often encounters the people he grew up with that tortured and made fun of him during his school years. Their reactions are always the same when they see how much Alex has transformed - shocked. He always treats them with kindness and respect, never hostility or resentment. When asked if he believes the nice guy always comes out on top, he kindly responds, “the nice guy creates a healthier world around themselves and attracts better things.” The gym is not the only place Alex encourages positivity. He speaks at grade, middle and high schools about anti-bullying, being a role model not just for kids who suffer from bullying but for the bullies themselves. He talks to the schools he visits about prevention, coping mechanisms and his personal story. “We let people create an image of perfection versus embracing people for who they are. My goal is to change that,” Alex believes. With tattoos, an undeniably strong build and a good attitude, the kids look up to him and think he is cool, allowing them to relate to him. He receives emails from kids, teens and even adults on a daily basis, thanking him and sharing their stories of heartache and triumph. The heartthrob is also a spokesperson for the Flex Your Heart Movement, an anti-bullying campaign of Shredz, the top nutraceutical company in the world. Alex has been a loyal part of the Shredz family for a while as one of their top athletes, spokespeople and models. In addition to being published in several fitness magazines and an international publication, Alex has been in numerous fitness ad campaigns. He was also in an ad campaign for Calvin Klein in 2012. Much like his intense workout regimen, Alex’s success did not come overnight. Hard work, determination and persistence is consistently a major component in his career. In the last few years, he’s worked to grow himself physically and mentally as well as his team. “If you work hard enough, you can make it happen, just keep after it, this life is yours, and you can get anything out of it you want, or you can get nothing at all. It’s all up to you, so what’s it gonna be? Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” – Alex Turner Facebook: www.Facebook.com/AlexMichaelTurner Instagram: @alexmichaelturner Twitter: @flexturner

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THE DEVILS RIGHT HAND TATTOO EQUIPMENT Story: Bobby Lee Black Photography: Sean Hartgrove The Devils Right Hand Tattoo Equipment by Bobby Lee Black “Good lookin’, hard workin’ equipment for hard lookin’, good workin’ people.” Built by Shiloh Frazier and Brae Bullard-Frazier right here in Denver.   The Devils Right Hand manufactures the classiest and strongest tattoo furniture and equipment I have seen in over 30 years in the business. From simple to ornate and retro to steam punk, the possibilities go on forever. These badass arm rests are totally hand crafted, metal work, upholstery, painting, slides, knobs and all. They are fully adjustable in height, with almost 360 degrees of swivel on the extra large pad and the bases are old rotors that give a heavy stable base that won’t move or slip. And to top it all off,

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they are upholstered in Marine grade vinyl.   They also have indestructible foot pedals that are made of top quality shatter resistant black or clear nylon plastic resin with a PSI of 6000! Furthermore, they use industrial insulted S.O. cords that wont short out when you roll over it and all the electronics are encased in the plastic unit, to avoid corrosion and shorts. Not only do they offer a wide variety of images and textures, they can even customize them with your choice of images or logos in them.   After 3 decades in the business I’m not easily impressed, but The Devils Right Hand has truly impressed me. Kudos Shiloh and Brae, well done...well done.


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ERNIE D. CREATOR DELUXE IRON TATTOO Story: Edward DeVille Photography: Rhiannon Winter InkSpired Magazine: What inspired you to start building machines instead of just using them? Ernie D: Don’t get me wrong, I still love tattooing. I don’t want to be that builder that just builds machines and not tattoos. I believe that a good builder is also a good tattoo artist. I still put in some time at Town Hall Tattoos with Chris Longo. I always wanted to work with my hands, and the idea of building machines came while tattooing and dealing with some machines that just didn’t perform well. That’s when the desire to make a machine function at its best became my vision for a solid, hardworking machine. When I first started out as an apprentice, I learned under Louie McHill. When his machines would not work, he would just chuck them into a drawer, he had tons of them. To me, it was a treasure just to take all these machines and try to create something worthwhile. During that time there, was no money for a new machine. It was trial and error until eventually I would get it right. There was no eBay, YouTube or books. You just had to figure it out. InkSpired: What, if any influences, have you had that might have inspired you?

“You want to do it because you love to do it; your payment is not coming from selling them but more so that you appreciate your work.” Ernie D. has created some of the most sophisticated, streamlined, unique and sexy machines out there. But most importantly, a consistently reliable tool built to last. Edward Deville of InkSpired Magazine catches up with Ernie D in an exclusive interview.

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Ernie D: I will definitely always give credit where credit is due, but I can’t say I had too many influences in building. I have these images or thoughts of what I like or what I feel comfortable with to put something out there. I like to think that what I create is based off of my imagination, creativity and not someone else’s style, but my own. But if I had any, and in no means do I compare myself to Paul Booth or Guy Atchison, both captured my attention when I was an apprentice. During that time, it was the early 90’s and a lot of the new school was coming in. Things I was told not to do were being done and some of that work would just be amazing, new and different. Overall, it was a great time to learn how to tattoo and build. After that I didn’t start creating my own frames till 2004. That’s when my passion for creating came in.


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InkSpired Magazine: What sets your machines apart from the rest? Ernie D: I can say the hard work and time I put in to my machines is my labor of love. I enjoy what I do, and I just don’t send something out there to make a quick buck. First and foremost, the quality of a hardworking machine comes first, then cosmetics. Sure, you need to know how to tune your own machine, but the performance of that machine is my job, that’s what we are here for. I won’t create a trailer bitch, something that looks good and does not perform for nothing. My designs are composed of universal parts, unless asked for a custom build. That will give the client an advantage to change out parts at any moment’s time. Without exposing too much of my trade secrets, next to the fairies that come in the middle of the night to sprinkle their fairy dust in works of creation, my machines are a work horse built to last.

Ernie D: From a young age, I worked with my grandfather, a jack of all trades. In his shop, he taught me a lot of the skills of what I know now. I learned a lot of his wood and steelwork ideas, which I have been able to use in my designs. My machines look great with beautiful details composed of white turquoise, onyx or mappa burl wood overlay. They are unique tools in every way. I won’t put anything out there that I’m not satisfied with and I’ll practice patience before I ever do. As for the names of my machines, that’s not my department. I don’t name my machines but my girlfriend does, she’s a great supporter in all this, especially when I have ideas I can’t get out of my head, and you’ll find me grinding away in the shop no matter what time it is. I feel good knowing every piece on my machine is handmade and nothing is fabricated somewhere else.

I stand behind my lifetime warranty one hundred percent. If at anytime, from either two weeks of purchase or ten years from purchase, it is always a pleasure to fix and/or answer any issues you may have. I am always willing to help. As matter of fact, I had a gentleman come in to express gratitude for a pair of machines he was needing retuned, which he had purchased ten years ago. He gave me a handshake. It was such a pleasure to see how far I have come from when I first started and to see a client enjoy something I created. It was an honor and a memory I’ll always have. InkSpired: Where did you get the ideas for adding wood and onyx to your machines and making it work?

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InkSpired: How long does it take you to create a machine?

InkSpired: Do you plan on changing the formula of the machine?

Ernie D: To be honest with you, I can’t really put a time frame on how long or when a machine will be done. Let’s put it this way, I don’t have a clock on the wall at my shop. Really, when I’m in there, I am concentrating on how this machine is going to work and what direction I’m going with it. I am focused more on the dimensions of the machine, and positioning of the coils and armature bar, as well as how much the machine will be putting out, how it’s performing, making it clean and how it holds up to the vibration. I’m also keeping in mind how it sounds or feels, whether it is a shader or liner, et cetera. It might be a custom build; it’s really hard to say. I guess I try not to rush my ideas or creations. It’s something I like to take my time with.

Ernie D: No, not really. I am working on the idea of a rotary, but I don’t have much history with that, and I am playing with ideas for now. I’m thinking of re-innovating past compression machines that are currently discontinued. InkSpired: What would you say to anyone out there wanting to step up to the plate and be a builder? Ernie D: You want to do it because you love to do it; your payment is not coming from selling them, but more so that you appreciate your work. You’re going to sweat for it, bleed for it, and it is not easy work. Really it’s something of a community and not an industry. You will be creating a tool that will be used in the application of artwork to someone’s body. If you don’t get how important that is and the process as well as dedication it takes to create this piece, then maybe it is not for you. The community became an extension of my family, and I know should I ever need help; they will always be there for me. It is not putting out crap and throwing together parts to consider yourself to be a tattoo machine builder. And so, it is not a place to come and make a quick buck. It takes hard work and a love for the machine, which shows in all my creations. InkSpired: What do you think of mass production as opposed to custom built machines? Ernie D: There is just something to say about a custom built machine that has been worked on for some time and has some kind of soul. And then I guess you have something that came out of a fabrication company spitting so many out per minute. Don’t get me wrong, they are not all pieces of shit, we all had to use them at some point. I like to believe that we are a community and not an “industry“. Unfortunately, and sad to say, it has been a fast growing and mainstreamed demand but that’s where creativity, passion and self worth goes out the door and gets lost in the mentality of being a “cool rock star tattoo artist”. There are the few of us that create appreciative works of art. That is what this culture is about - great imagination, creativity, heart and solid craftsmanship. http://www.deluxeirons.com

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THE TATTOOED UNDERTAKER Story: Candies Deezy Liu Photography: Sean Hartgrove Funeral director and embalmer by day, pinup vixen by night, Jennifer Cunningham is more than meets the eye. Her mortuary career began with a client she had at a salon during beauty school. He was like family to Jennifer and he started teaching her how to do mortuary makeup. “I never really planned for a career in mortuary science. It was an opportunity that fell in my lap and it was perfect,” she recalls. As time progressed, her mentor taught her how to do embalming and funeral arrangements. She was also one of the only females in her professional circle who does everything from funeral arrangements and directing, down to the nitty gritty of embalming, impressing many around her with uncanny skills that came naturally as a result of her passion and experience of sewing. Jennifer received extensive training through her internship with her mentor that gave her the exceptional mortuary skills that she has. Now, she is the funeral director of A Better Place Funeral, the family business that she owns. Her passion for educating the public and her clientele about the process it requires to take care of a passed loved one has led to exceptional customer service on behalf of her company. It also reveals her kind heart, genuine spirit and passion for truly helping those around her. Becoming an expert and well respected figure in her field was more than about learning the skills required to have a career in the funeral industry. For Jennifer, it was about breaking the molds that are prominent not only in her profession, but

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in society as well. “I had hot pink hair, I’m covered in tattoos and lived in a suburb in Colorado that was not very accepting of anything out of the norm,” she describes her experience of entering the professional mortuary field. “I didn’t fit the socalled ‘profile’ at all. Most of the funeral directors are bitter and stuffy. I’m more down-to-earth. Not to mention that there aren’t very many females in the field. The industry is dominated by older men and women. I admit I had a hard time getting people to take me seriously,” she continues. The tattooed bombshell entered into the mortuary industry when she was only 26. Capturing the attention of those around her was something that came naturally for Jennifer. With stunning features and an indescribable attractiveness, people were drawn to her, qualities that inevitably jumpstarted her modeling career at the age of 18 when she began working with Sean Hartgrove with whom she has been published in several magazines since. As a well-rounded and multi-dimensional individual, Jennifer takes pride in her modeling hobby. The vixen not only looks like a pinup porcelain doll, she has the right mindset to execute the vintage lifestyle. She even tries to keep the pinup spirit alive with her 10 month old daughter, whose hair she puts pin curls in. In addition to her own little live pinup doll, Jennifer mothers a young son named Noah who is the reluctant recipient of hairstyles of eras gone by. Much like the way in which modeling has

become an expressive outlet for Jennifer, getting tattooed allows her to show the world her true colors. She began getting tattooed when she was at the young age of 14. “My mother signed for my first tattoo. My best friend got a stomach tattoo in a basement and my mom was so worried I’d do the same that she signed for me to get my first tattoo in a real shop. She said, ‘mark my words, you will regret your tattoos’. Lo and behold, I have gotten two of my first three tattoos covered up,” Jennifer admits. Her father is Japanese and her grandparents are very traditional. “They don’t get it but over the years, they have come to accept me as the grandkid that’s a little out there,” she laughs. She continues to explain, “I’m a very creative person but I can’t draw anything to save my life. As I get older, my tattoos are beginning to be more meaningful.” The art on her left arm was done by Jher Seno at Landmark Tattooers in Denver. “The reason I had him tattoo my sleeve is because he is a true artist at heart and his passion for art is apparent. When he’s not tattooing, he’s painting or doing some art somewhere.” In pursuit of her passion for sewing, Jennifer plans to go back to school in March for professional sewing. She plans to continue her mortuary path, educating people and providing excellent customer service along the way. As for continuing her tattoo journey, she is planning her right arm sleeve as well as an intricate back piece. A mother, wife, mortuary genius, and tattooed pinup model, Jennifer possesses a unique finesse about her that is no pun intended, to-die-for.


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JODAJEN PHOTOGRAPHER FEATURE Jodajen has been creating art in one form or another for over twenty years. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, he has taken his surroundings and its people on a visual journey. “I like to look at life from any other view, except the ordinary,� Jodajen says is a motto he tries to live by. His work evolves from a mesh of life-experiences, inner depth, and the outer limits of imagination. After years of self-taught experimentation, he added onto his art-filled career through graphics design and website design starting in 1991. In 2000, he took a three year detour and ended up in Honolulu, where he found the art of photography. After returning to Colorado, Jodajen furthered his craft by earning his degree in photography at The Art Institute of Colorado. Since attending The Art Institute, Jodajen has won various photo contests and art show awards by portraying his unique blend of real life and surrealism. For Jodajen, the future holds an endless amount of creativity. It is his wish to give to the community through his art, passion, thought-provoking emotion and perhaps another level of awareness as we travel through this journey called life.

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LESS THAN JAKE Words: Bella Rage

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Photography: Radek Photography


Less Than Jake has been at the forefront of ska punk style music since the early 90’s. With hit songs such as “Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore” and “I think I love you”, their infecting the scene for more than 20 years. Formed in 1992 in Gainesville, Florida, the band consists of Chris DeMakes, Roger Manganelli, Vinnie Fiorello, Buddy Schaub and Peter “JR” Wasilewski. Less Than Jake released their debut album, “Pezcore” in 1995. However, it wasn’t until the release of “Losing Streak” and “Hello Rockview” that the

band became popular amongst the crowds. To most of us that grew up listening to this music, these were the CDs that we remember. Their most commercially successful CD, “Anthem” was released in 2003. The band took a hiatus from 2003 until 2008 when they formed their own record label called Sleep It Off Records and released its seventh full length album, GNV FLA. With their much anticipated return to music and their 9th full length studio release, “See the Light” should prove to be a classic of the ages.

The band’s name, “Less Than Jake” has an interesting story. The name actually comes from Vinnie Fiorello’s dog, whose name was Jake. Apparently, this dog, “Jake” was treated better than the rest of the household. Thus, everything then became “less than Jake” and the name of the band that would go down in history as being one of the pioneers in the ska-punk craze that swept the nation off its feet was born. I sat down with the guys from Less than Jake before their show in Denver on the 21st of November and got a quick schooling of their past, future and all things tattoo. From Vinnie’s Candyland inspired artwork on his right arm, to the Pez dispensers on Roger’s legs, they know how to keep it fun but brilliant at the same time. When asked if there were any tattoos they regret, Vinnie quickly replies with “No, not at all, everything that I have put on my body I really wanted it there at one point”. We learn quickly that these guys do not waste time dwelling on things. “Even though some things go awry, bad memories and good memories are just the same...memories” states Vinnie. Gone are the days when they would shoot paper and stickers into the crowd and run around the stage crazily. Their antics are replaced by a more mature stage presence without changing the way the music impacts the crowd. After playing together for 21 years, the guys have seen highs and lows. Becoming more of a brotherhood than a band, they keep each other motivated and going strong. Having experienced so much together, we can only hope that their music continues and their legacy lives on for many years to come. Stay tuned for video coverage of the full interview with Less than Jake coming soon online at: www.InkSpiredMagazine.com/InkSpiredTV.

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MIKE BELL Story: Candies Deezy Liu Photography: CJ Smith Mike Bell is an artist whose style can be best defined as pop surrealism, blending an ambience of nostalgia and amusing humor. Combining vivid color, imagination and various classic pop culture icons, such as Frankenstein, Dracula and Batman, Bell sheds his own artistic light on these recognizable characters. Unique and original, his imagery takes vintage toys, punk rock, classic monsters, Japanese cartoons, carnival allusions and other references of counterculture and merges them with a new concept, bringing an unusual perspective to the classics we have come to know so well. The Jersey Shore born artistic savant finds inspiration in using the characters we adored as kids and taking them out of their element. His art often depicts these characters, in an adult setting, such as in a bar with a cigarette. It is a concept that represents the dualistic realm in which we all reside - this adulthood that is glamorized by the iconic figures of our childhood as well as the bittersweetness of lost innocence. It only makes sense that when one admires Bell’s artwork, there is a sense of familiarity and amusement. His pieces of art involve a juxtapositional relationship with counterculture and modern day influences, mingling between the dimensions of cartoony and illusion. The outcome, Bell says, “is a world where the weird is wonderful and the inhuman is alive”. He attended the College of New Jersey, where he studied advertising design and minored in illustration. “However, my style is self taught. Technique is something you learn in school, not style,” Bell explains. He began as a commercial illustrator at an advertising agency and eventually worked his way up to creative and art director. After getting laid off, he made the decision to chase his own visions of fine artistry. “I love painting and it has always been my passion. I never really had the courage to go out and do it on my own until three and a half years ago when I lost my job. Though my job at the time paid well, it wasn’t very rewarding to me as an artist,” he recalls. As he continued on his journey of exploring fine art, Bell discovered that there was an entire culture that surrounds the type of artistic endeavors he was so fascinated with. Empowered, he set out on a creative journey and never looked back. Working mostly with acrylic paint on canvas, his paintings have broad, robust strokes but not without small details. Several of Bell’s signature designs can be found on Lowbrow and Black Market Art Company’s apparel. His canvases can be found in galleries all over the United States, Canada and Germany. With heavy influences in counterculture, his art resonates deeply with tattoo culture. Tattoos can often be seen on the characters in Bell’s pieces, including Alice in Wonderland and Frankenstein. Though his artistic signature is easily recognizable, Bell’s subject matter is widely diverse. Much like the diversity that can be found in his paintings, Bell’s canvases range anywhere from $125 to $5,000. www.belldogstudio.com

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SARA X Story: Candies Deezy Liu Photography: Billy Ward Sara X is an emerging tattoo model, taking the world by storm. A dancer of burlesque, she is a blonde bombshell with a killer body. Her look is charming but her presence is demanding. InkSpired Magazine caught up with Sara X to learn a little more about the pixie haired, bright eyed cutie.

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InkSpired Magazine: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?   Sara X: I’m a 27 year old transplant from Virginia living in Las Vegas! InkSpired Magazine: What do you do for a living?   Sara X: Right now, I just model. I model in trade shows, tattoo magazines and for clothing lines. I also sell custom Instax (polaroid style) photos in my Etsy shop.  I’m a bit of a starving artist but I’m way happier than I ever was working in bars, which is what I did from the time I was 18 until I got fed up and quit. InkSpired Magazine: When did you start getting tattooed?  Sara X: My first tattoo was when I was 18, three days after my birthday. I didn’t start getting larger tattoos until I got my chest piece at 24. InkSpired Magazine: What was your first tattoo?   Sara X: A compass rose between my hipbones! InkSpired Magazine: What do your tattoos mean to you?   Sara X: They’re a way of expressing myself and who I am, which is to say a person that loves art and isn’t afraid to have a whole bunch of tattoos. InkSpired Magazine: What plans do you have for future tattoos?  Sara X: My right sleeve still needs a little background work, I’m looking for a good artist locally right now to do a galaxy motif behind my bats so that it will finally look finished (that’s my disaster tattoo from before I knew better). I have an idea for my left thigh and I know I want my back done but as of yet, I’m not sure what. I need another job just to fund my tattoos!  InkSpired Magazine: Who are your tattoo artists?   Sara X: Most of my tattoos were done by Carl Fuchs at Trinity Tattoo in Virginia Beach, VA. InkSpired Magazine: Who do you hope to get tattooed by?   Sara X: Oh man... I have such a list.   I don’t even know where to start. InkSpired Magazine: How did you get started in tattoo modeling?   Sara X: I was an “alt” model before I really had tattoos many, many moons ago. I took a hiatus from modeling for a few years and was getting more tattoos during that time. When I moved out West, I decided to get back into it and I’m so glad that I did! InkSpired Magazine: What inspires you?   Sara X: The internet! This is always my answer for this question. There’s so much inspiration to be found online, from photographs of places you may never visit to art you may otherwise have never seen, endless amounts of knowledge about everything, and brilliant people doing what they love.  

www.Facebook.com/Saraontheinternet www.Instagram.com/@saraontheinternet February 2014

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STEADFAST BRAND Story: Candies Deezy Liu Photography: Sean Hartgrove Steadfast Brand. A clothing brand that has quickly become a household name within the industry that represents all the multi-faced, passionate, relentless components of a community that is united by one common denominator: the passion for ink. The name itself represents loyalty, fixed determination and unwavering belief, all characteristics that are prominent within the tattoo community. Chris Collins joined forces with Aurora Ansara, a marketing and fashion student at the time and established a company that would take the tattoo world by storm. The first year of operation was out of Chris’ living room and the back of his Nissan Frontier. Together, Chris and Aurora literally drove Steadfast Brand into the hearts of tattoo enthusiasts all over the nation and eventually, all over the world. For Chris, Steadfast was more than just a clothing brand or a business opportunity, it was his saving grace. After spending years on a destructive path of drugs, partying and getting in trouble, he needed an avenue to focus his energy and addictive habits. His addiction wasn’t only in drugs and alcohol. He found himself addicted to the tattoo industry, a community that he always felt a strong connection with. The tattoo world resonated deeply with him because it was a community in which people could be themselves while still making a living. Having earned the respect of fellow industry people through his experience as the owner of a previous tattoo studio named Fat Kat’s Artistry in Ocala, Florida, Chris had friends and supporters in the community long before Steadfast was conceived. Steadfast Brand symbolizes a unification of artists, bringing them together to represent an industry we hold so dearly to our hearts. “A lot of our stuff is message based,” Chris explains. The messaging of the company encompasses a loyal and passionate fan base. Dedicated to the art, they have several designs by tattoo artists themselves, such as their “Staying the Course in Stormy Seas”, a t-shirt that is a testimony that resembles the journey we are all on - an absolute refusal to give up. Symbolic and meaningful, their concept resonates in the souls of various walks of life within our community. Their mission is simple, to cultivate and spread tattoo acceptance amongst people, whether they are in the industry or not. “Tattooed and Employed” is a signature line of Steadfast Brand’s, teaming up with an engaging community made famous on Facebook you may be familiar with: Tattoo Acceptance in the Workplace.

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Furthermore, Steadfast revolutionized the Support Tattooed Military culture, in efforts to not only generate awareness for the matter, but to establish a community for the people who risk their lives for our nation to became a part of something in which they feel accepted and appreciated. “You can fight for our country but all of a sudden there’s a problem with you getting tattooed? It’s ridiculous. This is a huge example of a select few that have a bias towards individuals that choose to adorn themselves with tattoos. It’s control of the people that are making a personal decision. We’re bringing attention to honor and empower these folks...we’re speaking up for our own,” Chris adamantly says. In appreciation for a community that has always supported Chris, Steadfast Brand continuously finds ways to give back. A portion of all items sold are donated. They wanted to contribute funds to support programs for men and women that have served and their families. They are currently actively working with a program that focuses on paralyzed veterans. When the Boston bombing occurred, Steadfast Brand was contacted by the Dropkick Murphies to design and sell a t-shirt from which the funds generated would be donated. In three days, $23,000 worth of proceeds was generated from the tattoo and punk rock music scene for donation. Today, Steadfast Brand is an eclectic collective of tattoo artists, ink enthusiasts, and anyone who digs a little art with their street wear. With hard work, determination and the unwavering support of the industry, they are a community successfully activating change within the industry and convincing others to engage in tattoo acceptance. Steadfast Brand is more than just a clothing brand. It’s a concept, a statement, a culture, a lifestyle, a mindset.

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INK & PAINT WITH WILLIAM THIDEMANN Story: Candies Deezy Liu Photography: Sean Hartgrove William Thidemann is quickly becoming a pioneer in the Denver tattoo and art community. He owned and tattooed with Sandi Calistro at Kaze Gallery, a private tattoo studio and art gallery since 2009. William is in the process of opening a new studio on Tennyson Street in the heart of Denver, Mammoth American Tattoo. Similar to the concept of Kaze, the new studio has a gallery component. When asked why he feels it is necessary to have an art gallery in conjunction with his tattoo studio, he replies, “it’s nice to have the art aspect in there. It urges people to do more, to engage and interact more.” Additionally, it will be located in a busier neighborhood with more accessibility and walk-in availability. Opening on March 1st, Mammoth American Tattoo will consist of four artists: Matt Hays, Michael Martinez, Jon Clement and William himself. The Mammoth American crew plans on hosting a grand opening party the first Friday in May. Art, specifically painting, has always held a significance in William’s life. Before he was a tattooist, he as a painter. Selling paintings was his first way of making a living through art. His art skills have always translated into his talent of tattooing. An active participant of various art shows and known to host several of his own, William is a well respected artist in the local and national community. The Virginia native has always embraced and promoted the art community that surrounds him, positively contributing to the artistic ecosystem. To William, painting and tattooing go hand in hand. “The two inform each other, feeding each other. Informing things with gesture in painting is important in tattooing,” William says. There are two sides of tattooing - craft and art. Painting has helped William to understand how these two realms of tattooing coincide. Being a good tattoo artist requires creative talent as well as an understanding of the technical aspect, the application of a tattoo. Mastering both is crucial to becoming a good artist. Becoming a tattoo artist was something that he considers luck. “I got really lucky being in the right place with the right people at the right time,” he recalls. William grew up fascinated and submerged in tattoo culture as a punk rock kid. His first tattoo was a small hand-poked thing (as he calls it) on his finger. His interest in tattooing originally came from Crazy Eights and Bernie Luther. After that, a roommate recognizing William’s artistic talent suggested that he give it a try...and so he did. His style consists of traditional american iconography, with various cultural twists. For example, he likes to blend western dimensions into eastern themed pieces. The cultural significance in his work involves taking iconic themes and exploring different applications to the theme. He loves taking traditional images and adding more detail. William best describes his style as raw artistic sense. Tattooing since 1993, William’s art has evolved into a compelling portfolio of dualistic and thematic pieces. William’s visual signature is the inevitable talent in his ability to merge various defining aspects of a certain subject and creating a unique twist in which they come together. His work as of late reflects the process in which subjects coincide. There is an often dualistic nature in his art, representing balance when an equilibrium is usually unexpected. He enjoys depicting the beauty and darkness of the subject matter, simultaneously exposing the extremes and delicacy. He is also fascinated by the nature of changing through life, things becoming...more. When it comes to growing as an artist, William believes that one is always a student of art. His goal is to continue growing, learning and exploring. www.Thidemann.com

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THE WAR ON INK Story: Kolya Yaudeckis

Photography: Hunter Tom

“In a society that tries to standardize thinking, individuality is not highly praised.� - Alex Grey

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“In a society that tries to standardize thinking, individuality is not highly praised.” -Alex Grey Tattoo machines operate at the same rate as the cyclic rate of fire for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), the US Army’s most casualty producing weapon. I turned this fact over in my mind as I felt the needles jab my skin 600 times a minute. I’m getting hit as fast as a fucking machine gun. But that’s nothing like the glare that pierced my skin when I returned to my unit the week after getting my newest piece, an adaptation of Alex Grey’s painting, “Theologue.” As the company leadership meeting commenced, 1SG Birch, the company First Sergeant, leaned back in his chair, arms folded. Although his body was relaxed, his eyes beamed at my right forearm, which rested on the table in front of me, still burning from a four hour session. CPT McLeod, our Company Commander, stood at the head of the table, and handed a stack of memorandums to the Lieutenant sitting closest. His own forearm tattoo peeked out from the sleeve of his uniform. As I reached for the documents, his eye caught fresh streaks of blue and red ink near my wrist. “Yaudeckis, what the hell did you do to your arm?” He peered over his thick, black-rimmed glasses. “I fell off my bike, sir.” A hand full of my peers chuckled. I had only been in my position as the third Platoon Leader for a few months. CPT McLeod was my direct supervisor, and I was just beginning to test the waters with wise-ass comments like this.

ick Nietzsche, I decided human beings are the true creators. Originally the tattoo I envisioned involved an androgynous figure meditating, with a black hole hovering between its hands. The solar system would wrap around my forearm, with the sun falling into the black hole. When I discovered Alex Grey’s painting a year later, I knew it was the tattoo I had been searching for. Not only was it strikingly similar to the image I created, it perfectly represented the worldview I nurtured. This idea, which I considered essential to my existence, became threatened three years later under the new policy. When I walked up to 1SG Birch after the meeting, he seized my wrist, pulled up my sleeve, and examined the new tattoo. After a minute, he released my arm and said, “You better read up on the new tattoo policies that are coming out. The SMA is really focused on the professional image of the Army. And with the drawdown, they are looking for any reason to cut personnel. It’s not too late to get that removed.” That wasn’t an option. I already did my homework. The new regulation states that tattoos cannot be extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist and cannot be visible in our dress uniform. Any previously existing tattoo on current service members, which does not breach this stipulation, would be “grandfathered in.” Although I am a secular humanist, its religious significance provided additional protection. Still, I was taking a risk that could have stripped me of, not only the career, but the sense of purpose and fulfillment I had found as an American Soldier. I responded with another “Roger, First Sergeant.”

“Right.” He moved on. 1SG Birch still had a lock on my arm. “Talk to me after this,” he said without emotion. “Roger, First Sergeant.” I knew what our talk was going to be about. A tightening on tattoo regulations was impending under the new Sergeant Major of the Army, the highest ranking enlisted Soldier in the Army. One of his responsibilities is to institute and enforce standards of uniform and appearance. Under the new regulations, tattoos below the elbows or knees would be prohibited. From the time the changes were announced, the new regs would go into effect in 30-60 days. I took it as a sign to get my tattoos done as soon as possible. The tattoo had been on my mind since I conceived it four years earlier, as I lay awake in my bunk one night during basic training. At the time, I was struggling to reconcile a past of nonconformity with the identity of the Soldier. Throughout basic, I attended the Buddhist service and developed a respect for balance and self-control. Then with the help of philosophers like Freder164

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Not everyone in the Army feels the same way about tattoos as 1SG Birch and the SMA. While fourteen percent of Americans have at least one tattoo, with tattoos most prevalent among people aged 26-40 with forty percent , an estimated ninety five percent of military personnel have tattoos . Numbers like this indicate that tattoos in the military are more than a trend. They represent an inseparable aspect of military culture. ***** Shortly after my conversation with 1SG Birch, I rejoined my Platoon Sergeant on the drill floor. SFC Seaver has two full sleeves portraying the struggle of good versus evil, and a landscape covering his back, which fuses Calvary, the location of Jesus’ crucifixion, with a valley in Afghanistan. When he saw my tattoo, he said, “Sir, if you want a sleeve, you better get it fast.” A brief conversation ensued, and I learned that we go to the same tattoo artist, Nate, a soft spoken thirty year old, with lip piercings and a Mohawk too long to stand upright. SFC Seaver had been meeting with Nate monthly for the better part of a year. He didn’t explain why he was in such a rush to get more ink, but, like me, he was probably feeling

pressure from the new tattoo regulations. Although Soldiers already in the Army will be permitted to keep their existing tattoos, the new regulations will restrict many people from joining the Army. Other branches of service have similar regulations. A private I attended basic training with experienced this when he tried to join the US Marine Corps. His whole life, he dreamed of being a Marine. All the men in his family were Marines, and he was meant to follow suit. At the age of sixteen, he got a large forearm tattoo with the words, “Semper Fi,” to solidify his pledge. But because of that tattoo, he was barred from enlistment into the Marine Corps and had to join the Army. I wondered if the constant harassment from drill sergeants was worth the time, money, and pain he saved by not removing the tattoo. Semper Fi’s tattoo was not the only one to receive attention from the drill sergeants. Tattoos signified experience and strength, both mental and physical. All of our drill sergeants were covered in elaborate tattoos, often marking the affliction caused by their experiences overseas. DS Wells had the too-common flame tattoo covering both forearms. In his own words, he had been, “Blown the fuck up,” too many times to count. As a result, his hands were badly burned. DS Vu’s entire forearm was wrapped in a tattoo bandage. I never learned what injury, or whose, inspired it. “You don’t know pain,” he would tell us dryly. Even our reserved and well-respected first sergeant had two full sleeves. Likewise, they projected this obsession with ink onto us. DS Wells once called me a “fag” for my tattoo, the only one I had at the time, for its resemblance to a flower in a gravestone. I decided not to retort that DS Thacker, the senior drill sergeant in the company, had a large pink lotus flower worked into his sleeve. With a week of freedom between graduation and their report date, many of my peers rushed off to local tattoo shops. Some already had patches of ink all over their bodies, but others were just beginning to feel the allure of tattoos. They were infantrymen now, and they had to look the part. One of my comrades got “Army Grunt,” with the two words separated on opposite forearms. Another got “11 Bang Bang ,” on his chest. Others chose skulls, rifles, and various other designs to make themselves look tougher. These tattoos served more of a purpose than merely concealing the insecurities of misguided teenagers. Tattoos helped them embody the identity of the Soldier. Their lives, and the lives of their future comrades, depended on their ability to think and act like a Soldier, and this requires the complete submersion into that world. Similar to Semper Fi’s failed attempt, it was a testament to their commitment and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. Having come face-to-face with their own mortality, they needed to immortalize this covenant in their flesh. My next tattoo will serve the same purpose. I will get the Warrior Ethos on


the inside of my bicep, printed inversely, so every time I flex in a mirror, I will be reminded of what I am here to do. Clearly, the military attracts a certain type of person. Armed service members must be prepared to give up his or her life. Already we can assume the average Soldier to be more of a risk taker, perhaps even impulsive by nature. Soldiers must come to terms with their own mortality, with the vulnerability of their skin. Further, we endure a great deal of pain for abstractions like glory and honor, the rhetoric of recruitment commercials. Given our tendency to take risks and our conditioning to handle pain, it is no wonder so many armed service members are attracted to tattoos. ***** Pain is an essential element of tattoo culture. Most people with tattoos perceive the benefits of having a tattoo (image, self-expression, a sense of completion, etc.) as outweighing the pain involved. Others do it specifically for the pain. Shortly after my first session for the new tattoo, I went to a hip hop concert in Seattle with 2LT O’shea, the assistant personnel officer of my battalion. We had known each other since our days in ROTC. She was tough, and I knew she could handle the testosterone-fueled environment of an Infantry unit. Between sets, we stood outside smoking cigarettes, and we soon got onto the topic of tattoos. She has six. I played with the cigarette between my fingers. I don’t smoke often, but I’ve found a strange intimacy between those who do. We were killing ourselves together. My eyes moved from my cigarette to hers, which she held loosely by her side as she leaned on the concrete wall of the venue, and then up her arm, which was dotted with cigarette burns and a single word tattooed near the crease of her elbow. It said, “Kaivalya,” loosely translated as freedom or detachment, the ultimate goal of yoga. Staring across the street, she exhaled a plume of smoke. “I’m never calmer than right before I get a tattoo.” I laughed. “Really? I’m usually nervous before it gets started.” “Because it hurts?” “No. Because I know there’s no going back.” She nodded and flicked the ash from her cigarette. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Most of her clothes were black; only the cuffs and collar of her white shirt peeked out from her sweater. There was nothing forgiving about her attitude or appearance, and yet, although I could never explain it, there was something strikingly alluring about her. “I don’t know. There’s something therapeutic about it,” she said with a shrug. “You’re kind of a masochist, aren’t you?”

“A little.” She smiled. “Why do you burn yourself?” It was a brash question, but we had already crossed the personal boundaries that our professional relationship demanded. From the moment I noticed them, I was curious. I only had one cigarette burn. It had since been covered up by my newest tattoo, but if you look closely, it can still be seen where the lines have blurred and the ink is shinier than the surrounding area. On one drunken weekend, a battle buddy and I put our forearms together and let a cigarette burn out in the crevice. My girlfriend at the time chastised us, understandably so, but that drunken and immature decision made it clear how far we would go for each other. I continued, “Is it for pleasure? Punishment? What?” She was undaunted. “It’s like…” She paused to exhale, and for the first time she locked eyes with me. “Until you feel something that intensely, you can’t really feel alive.” Although I understood what she was talking about, I think about life differently. I subject myself to pain when there is something to gain from enduring it, such as respect, a sense of accomplishment, or a shiny medal I get to put on my dress blue uniform. It is not the pain itself I cherish, but the end state. Those uplifting moments give life value. For me, a cigarette doesn’t cut it, but tattoos are different. ***** During my second session, as I lay face down on the table with Nate working at my side, I asked him if he gets many military customers. He spoke just loudly enough to hear over the buzz of the tattoo machine. “Yeah, usually they get patriotic tattoos, classic American style, like flags and eagles, things like that.” Neither of us were much for conversation, so most of the time I examined the various paintings and tattoo templates posted around the walls of the shop as he worked. Every once in a while I would steal a glance at his own tattoos, two unidentifiable half sleeves. Others, if he had any, were concealed by clothing. I wondered how tattoo artists choose their tattoos, but before I could ask, he said, “Not many military guys get tattoos like this. Actually, this the first time I’ve done a Grey tattoo on somebody else.” He removed the black latex glove from his left hand to reveal an eye engulfed in fire on his palm. Although it was faded, I recognized it as the third eye, a symbol found in many of Grey’s works. “I did this one myself.” He replaced the glove and resumed working, but I continued examining his tattoos. “I’m not spiritual,” I admitted, “but I’ve always believed in human beings as creators.” “Yeah…fuck yeah. When I create art, I feel grounded. I never feel more human.” Alex Grey believes that the role of the artist is to share the world we have co-authored with our collective conscious, a theory Nate takes to heart.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say we are all connected on a metaphysical level, but rather our perception of the world is shaped by ideas we have constructed socially. However, this does not limit the power of the individual to think independently and question the world he or she inherited. I certainly entered a new social circle when I joined the Army, complete with its own language and paradigms, but I brought with me a unique past, and it has allowed me to embody the identity of the Soldier without sacrificing my individuality. I am the one in control. Similarly, I have taken control of my physical image, and until I have constructed a complete sense of self, my body will remain an unfinished project. I need more. Daily, I dream about my next project, and the one after that. Maybe I will never be satisfied. With each new chapter of my life, I am compelled to find meaning, to fill in the spaces. Like many of my peers, tattoos are my outlet. Uniformity is drilled into our heads. We must dress the same, act the same, and speak the same way as every other Soldier. We are no longer ourselves, but small parts of a massive machine that exists solely for the defense of the nation. This is a culture that condemns individuality, yet something is stirring under the surface. Individuality cannot be repressed. It will always find another outlet, and when it does, it does so explosively. Our essence is not expressed by the clothes we wear, but by something much closer and more intimate—our living, breathing skin. Even though we cannot express ourselves in the open air, bright, twisted designs adorn our bodies beneath our uniforms. We can scream without ever opening our mouths. 1. Alex Grey is a spiritual artist. So spiritual, in fact, he was selected as the 12th most spiritual person in the world by Watkins Books in 2013. In support of visionary culture, he and his wife have co-founded the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, a non-profit church in Wappinger, New York. 2. The tattoo is a brightly colored half-sleeve. On the outside of my forearm stands a figure with transparent skin, revealing his bones, nerves, and circulatory system. Chakras glow inside his body. An orb of yellow light surrounds him, as he meditates. White lines extend from his sixth chakra, which interconnect on the opposite side to form a grid, from which mountains and fire rise. It represents the human mind, fused with the divine conscious, constructing time and space. 3.At first, I saw it as a chance to get out of cleaning the barracks, while most of my peers attended the Christian services. It grew on me. 4.And destroyers 5. Allowed as an exception to the new regulation 6. http://www.statisticbrain.com/tattoo-statistics/ 7. http://www.kpbs.org/news/2009/nov/09/tattooed-under-fire/ 8. Marines are not permitted to have any tattoo visible in their physical training uniform, a t-shirt and shorts. 9. “Semper Fidelis,” is the motto of the Marines, meaning, “Always faithful.” 10. The Military Occupational Signifier (MOS) for Infantry is 11 Bravo. 11. A four line creed that represents the core values of a Soldier. “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Many Soldiers have an extra dog-tag with the Warrior Ethos and the seven Army values printed on opposite sides. 12. Palm tattoos, as well as those on the bottom of the foot or on the inside of the lip, fade quickly from everyday use.

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InkSpired Magazine Issue No. 17