Lochlan

Tribal tattoos

37 posts in this topic

Everyone "knows" what tribal tattoos are or do they? Were they highjacked by a passing trend and morphed by pop culture leaving a bad taste and stigmas behind? Or did they stay true to their origin? What is their origin? I know some people on here, Last Sparrow Tattoo, have mentioned they like tribal tattoos and miss tattooing them. I also know at least a handful of popular tattooers who honestly say they like tribal tattoos and miss them as well. So how about an honest attempt to educate customers and the larger public on tribal tattoos with both their history and what they can look like? How about any good books on them? Good books on Maori tattoos? Upload pictures of "good" tribal tattoos? Bring it and take the ownership back from pop culture or if you want nothing to do with it don't weigh-in!

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Before I say anything, I know this isn't a history lesson but I think any modern tribal discussion should start with Leo Zulueta- http://www.myspace.com/spiraltattoo

Mundurucu Books does a few great but small books on tribal tattoos. http://www.mundurucu.com/books

I don't have photos of 'good' tribal but places to look (in my opinion) are:

Thomas Hooper - I love his heavy black Micronesian/Marquesan tattoos. - http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashooper/sets/72157623072881930/show/

Curly from oxford, UK - http://www.tattoocurly.com/tattoos.htm

Jondix, Mike from Athens, Tomas Tomas and Xed le Head have added different influences and taken tribal style tattoos somewhere new and often exciting.

Rory Keating does great stuff - RoryTattoo.com

Jun Matsui - http://www.lost.art.br/juntattoo.htm

There are a few Japanese guys doing amazing tribal style tattoos but I can't remember their names right now.

I see tribal tattoos as much the same as any other style, in that of you see it executed badly enough, often enough, you'll learn to dislike it.

Unlike other styles of tattooing, I think it's very difficult to find good reference for tribal tattoos as most of the history is verbal. If you need reference for Japanese tattoos, American Naval tattoos, Californian or Russian prison/gang tattoos etc, it's relatively easy to find helpful reference these days. Most of the visual tribal reference we have is recorded by western explorers.

In the next couple of months I'm due to start some Marquesan style shorts on a customer of mine. I'm really looking forward to it because a) I don't do that style every day so it's a refreshing change of pace and b) His reference wasn't the same gym flyer every else brings (the one with a muscular guy stroking his abs with swirly spikes across his chest and arm).

Graeme, slayer9019, hogg and 1 other like this

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Agreed on Leo. My boss has been studying Polynesian/Marquesian for many years and is really doing the thing out here. He lived in Tahiti and married into a Tahitian family and had a traditional education for that particular style. Check out Aleksander: http://northeasttattoo.com/section/70655_ALEKSANDAR_NEDICH.html

What I personally like is that no matter what style tribal, as long as it's drawn well and is of proper size, it has a really dramatic effect! In really like the positive/negative space relationship with that stuff.

Stewart, defnitely agree on what Thomas Hooper is doing. He is sort of reinventing the stuff, and I love the stippling!

Cheers

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You guy sshould look at Adam Sage. He's amazing. I think he's on myspace pretty much exclusively as he's not th ebiggest internet guy. We had him at our shop this year doing some handmade tattoos and he's incredibly skilled. I think we're even lucky enough to have him come work here for a longer extended time now!

When I think tribal, I think black, patterns, geometric or organic, that have to be perfect in terms of design and layout. I guess tha tsome people may have a taste for rougher or less organized stuff but my personal taste always leans toward images that test technique and skill.

Turquoise Cherry likes this

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Love all the above links and found them very informative, thanks.

While looking for pictures from the SFO Tattoo Convention i found this site,

http://soulsignaturetattoo.com/,

and if you scroll down to the post on ten.thirteen.ten there is some cool tribal tattoo pictures.

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Nick here has pictures of Cliff Raven tribal tattoos from 1965. Leo has mentioned that Cliff was his big influence. And like a lot of things, the Gays did it first! I personally like tattooing tribal designs, and miss doing them as often as we used to.

hogg and David Flores like this

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Agreed. I love doing tribal. Something hypnotic about laying in all that black.

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that book is great! leo is only 3 and a half hours from here, i gotta get out there and get tattooed! i don't have any "tribal" on me, but i want one from him!

sarah schor likes this

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that is funny that you guys mention tribal tattoos... I have been seeing more and more reference to them and people saying they began in the late 80s early 90s...which is not the case... and everyone is right about Cliff Raven. My personal experience with tribal tattoos began in the early 80s...maybe 82??? 83....But at some point then they became big with punk rock here in LA..in fact there is a picture of one of my old girlfriends Kim in the Tattootime 'sea and music" (the blue one) dated 1983 so using that as a reference...I always liked the medusa head Bob tattooed on her myself more but the tribal decorating was really unique at that time

Punk rock was huge on tattooing....and in alot ways tattooing would not be what it is today if the two had not crossed paths...one of the major things with that was open mindedness....especially when it came to tribal....

Maybe tribal would not have flown had not punk rock been there at the same time...at least to the the degree that it is now.....

I remember people talking about leo and he was working at Spotlight with bob....I had been tattooed by bob but not Leo...so i went in there one night and leo was working alone. I had 35.00 dollars and i really did not want a tribal. I am pretty sure he was tattooing with a PR prefab and after talking about it for awhile we settled on a spider web.... lower forearm and tribal.... I remember Leo talking about using the lines of the body and muscles when designing tribal and that was a really new and fresh way at looking at tattooing...(at least in the U.S.)

But one must remember punk rock when one talks about modern tribal....I do not think there would have been tribal without punk rock....

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Dan DiMattia. http://calypsotattoo.com/

I'm not super into the tribal thing but watching Dan work and hearing him talk about the designs is always a lot of fun. He does some really nice stuff and a lot of his work can be really fun. He's also a force of fucking nature -- get him talking about his chi and you'll never hear the end of it! Also, don't ever agree to spar/wrestle/box with him.. you will lose. He may be one of the simultaneously nicest and toughest dudes ever.

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I could follow all these links, flip through the books, and look at these pictures for days....thanks and please keep them coming. I love learning more about tattoos and tattooing!

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Agreed on Leo. My boss has been studying Polynesian/Marquesian for many years and is really doing the thing out here. He lived in Tahiti and married into a Tahitian family and had a traditional education for that particular style. Check out Aleksander: Welcome to Northeast Tattoo, Piercing & Laser Tattoo Removal - Aleksandar Nedich

What I personally like is that no matter what style tribal, as long as it's drawn well and is of proper size, it has a really dramatic effect! In really like the positive/negative space relationship with that stuff.

Stewart, defnitely agree on what Thomas Hooper is doing. He is sort of reinventing the stuff, and I love the stippling!

Cheers

Very cool link! Some badass tattoos in there!

If only it was closer...

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Does anyone know where (other than the south pacific) I can get a traditional Māori tattoo? By traditional, I mean hammering in the ink and shit. My family if from New Zealand, and it would be pretty rad to have something like that done, without having to fly all the way to NZ.

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If Blackwave Tattoo is still in Los Angeles you could try there. It was started by Leo Zuletta (I am pretty sure), and is now owned by this guy Freewind. Many years ago I had a friend with a backpiece by Freewind, and it was a beautiful tattoo. It was partially done in the traditional tapping way. Which my buddy said hurt like hell. I have seen the guy working at conventions and he is the only person that I have ever seen tattooing in the traditional way. I have not been around LA in a long time so I don't know if any of this information is current, but it would be pretty easy to find out. Also, this is not a recommendation for the guy. I have had no personal experiences with him, but I have heard some pretty annoying stories about his time management with customers. However, those stories are all second hand, and I do not want to knock the man since I don't know him. Just make sure and look into it closely before making a commitment.

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There's usually a guy at the San Jose (now SFO) Convention that does the traditional tapping. The convention is always at the end of October--check horitaka.com for details closer to the date. The artist is named Aisea Toetuu and works out of Soul Signature Tattoo in Hawaii. Check him out! It would probably be a good idea to try to contact ASAP, as he always seems to be really busy at the convention. Good luck and keep us posted, please.

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There's usually a guy at the San Jose (now SFO) Convention that does the traditional tapping. The convention is always at the end of October--check horitaka.com for details closer to the date. The artist is named Aisea Toetuu and works out of Soul Signature Tattoo in Hawaii. Check him out! It would probably be a good idea to try to contact ASAP, as he always seems to be really busy at the convention. Good luck and keep us posted, please.

I could be wrong, but i think I've also seen them at the Long Beach Convention in june. They don't have the artist list up on the site yet, but it's always a good time, with plenty of excitement, aboard a haunted ship to boot:

Attractions :: Ink-N-Iron Festival

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There's usually a guy at the San Jose (now SFO) Convention that does the traditional tapping. The convention is always at the end of October--check horitaka.com for details closer to the date. The artist is named Aisea Toetuu and works out of Soul Signature Tattoo in Hawaii. Check him out! It would probably be a good idea to try to contact ASAP, as he always seems to be really busy at the convention. Good luck and keep us posted, please.

I could be wrong, but i think I've also seen them at the Long Beach Convention in june. They don't have the artist list up on the site yet, but it's always a good time, with plenty of excitement, aboard a haunted ship to boot:

Attractions :: Ink-N-Iron Festival

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I'm originally from N.Z. and Maori tattooing underwent a huge revival around the time of the movie Once were Warriors .Traditional maori designs are based on the land and sea most recognisable for swirling patterns and balance between positive and negative space-kinda like ying/ yang .

Tattoos were used to show social status usually reserved for maori royalty and the like and the most heavily tattooed = most prestigious.Sorta like how it should be .Some of my mates got hand tapped work when they came of age .Apparently this is no joke off the ricter scale pain wise .Forget needles they use a sharpened whale bone and bang the ink in with a mallet .Afterwards people are known to have died ,and the bruising takes weeks to heal in the mean time expect fever and shock symptoms .Mind you i saw large scale legwork on the guys i knew so smaller stuff is probably different.

If your interested WeRndog on this site is a Kiwi -he's on my friend list and will help u out with artists etc i'm sure

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haha, i bet you were well disappointed when he didn't bring in that classic ref though, eh stew? like a mouse!!!

who do you think is doing interesting tribal work as far as less established 'key names' go?

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