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Making your mark in the tattoo history books.

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Dringenberg and Co.

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his·to·ry

 [his-tuh-ree, his-tree]

noun, plural -ries.

1.

the branch of knowledge dealing with past events.

2.

a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usuallywritten as a chronological account; chronicle: a history ofFrance; a medical history of the patient.

3.

the aggregate of past events.

4.

the record of past events and times, especially inconnection with the human race.

5.

a past notable for its important, unusual, or interestingevents: a ship with a history.

I was talking to my friend Ms. Mikki a couple of weeks ago about the lack of women tattooers and their place in history. Why is the history of tattooing mostly a boys club? Where are the women who have paved the way for women and men in tattooing today? Many of the books published are by men and about men. Ms. Mikki has been tattooing for 24 years. She has worked with many of the women who pioneered tattooing for men and women in the tattoo industry today. Suzanne Fauser, Vyvyn Lazonga, Kari Barba, Patty Kelly to name a few. Ms. Mikki was the first woman to work at Temple Tattoo and AWR and other shops as well. And after years of tattooing Ms. Mikki was told that she should hang out more with the guys and maybe then she could be a part of the books being published. Isn't history made up of the hard work and determination of the people. Wasn't it the Freedom Riders, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others hard work and determination during the Civil Right's movement that made it in to the history books? Or was it the story of the guy's life who was watching from the sidelines that made it in to history. I don't know, but I am pretty sure I have never heard of that guy before.

When I first met Dan one of the things that inspired me most about him was that he was up to something. He was making the best tattoo machines he could, so he could leave a legacy behind when he was gone. If the machines he made were not the best, he would bury his head in a book and put in time working out the new information in his machines. Hard work and determination. Dan is the first to say that he doesn't know everything. Sure he knows a lot but he continues to learn every day.

I have had the pleasure of visiting Lyle Tuttle's collection of tattoo history. I have also had the pleasure of visiting Henk Schiffmacher's Tattoo Museum. Dan and I have been invited to participate in the opening of Henk's new museum opening in November. What I have seen in these particular collections is a vast and complete collection of the history, past and present of tattooing. Including men and women from around the world and the accomplishments and failures of artists that have innovated the industry we love so much. Lyle and Henk gather information with respect. Research what is and what isn't. They are true contributors to the history of the industry.

I have noticed there are many books on tattoos, tattoo machines, and tattooing readily available on the internet. Google the word tattoo on the internet and about 408,000,000 results come up. So what does that say about the future history of the tattoo industry? Well for starters it says tattooing is no longer for sailors, whores and criminals. It says anyone can get a tattoo (196,000,000 Google results), do a tattoo (146,000,000 Google results) or build a tattoo machine (1,030,000 Google results). But who is contributing to this immense wealth of information. Is it the tattooer tattooing everyday, studying their craft and changing peoples lives? I cannot imagine that this form of electronic history is made up of all of the tattooers who have paid their dues and continue to pay their dues day in and day out. So what about the information published in books? I started to research actual published books on tattooing and the number is so immense, and frankly I found a couple of sites that have low cost publication, so really I suppose anyone could publish a book.

Accordingly, what can be done? Who are true contributors and not just information regurgitant's? I imagine it is the tattoo community. A community that must come together. Especially in this time of electronic history and tattoo schools. A tattoo community that is rich with ideas and conversation, from people all over the world. With diverse backgrounds, men and women, young and old, rich and poor. I envision a community full of communication. I know some might say, "well, isn't that what the internet is?" I agree, yes that is what the internet is. But there are so many disreputable sites and individuals who write what they want, and say what they think is the truth. The truth is out there. True contributors are busy making their mark on history. Research and find what is real. Work hard with determination. Keep ego out and let talent rule.

The tattoo industry is no longer this thing, kept in the dark. For sailors and whores done in underground shops. It is main stream, it is on television shows, commercials, movies, in fashion and in magazines. It is rare for me to go out and not see other people with tattoos. Maybe because I live in Hollywood, CA or maybe not. One thing is for sure tattoos are out there. I think it is time that history is updated and representative of what is a true record of past events and times, and not of what a few say it is.

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Hi Jazz, I hope you were able to get the angst out that you needed to express. I havent figured out how to, yet; without having my intent be misunderstood. As for what I was told, once, when I asked how I may be included in some of the painting projects, book publications ect, I was told I needed to "hang out" more with certain folks. Yeah...no thanks. I got too much shit to do, than to hang out. Not to mention, that seems a little too much like being asked to hang from someones balls, so I may be accepted. I stepped into this business, surrounded by men. And in no way, was it easy to establish myself or set my boundaries in this male dominated industry. I gave it a go. I was blessed to share the city with MaryJane Haake. And have Vyvyn close by in Seattle. But that was it, on the nearby female support front. We were still isolated in a territory code of honor relationship. I reached out to Suzanne, Kari and Patty for support later and was relieved to make friends with them. In the beginning, being a pretty young woman gave me a lot of grief. Being more talented than some of the guys I worked with, also gave me grief. I wanted to be recognized for doing good work, having good work ethics, doing good tattoos and being a good artist. I struggled my entire career, with want to be accepted on those merits. "I still struggle". When I began, there were maybe ten out of hundred women that were any good at tattooing. The statistics for men in that hundred were about fifty to hundred. Its still about the same ratio. Even though there are many more men/women in the industry today. Why? I have my theory. But we can touch on that another time. Here, I am hoping to support Jazz in the "making of history" topic. I down played my feminine self, as to not be a distraction on the work site. I kept my integrity and didnt become a star fucker to "improve my career opportunities". Unlike many I have witnessed over time. Ya wanna know what I went through in detail, here's some short examples. Lets see...my first year in the business, I was drugged and given as a birthday present to one of the tattooers I worked with. I was socked in the face another time, same year, when I didnt respond to another tattooer's advances. The same guy, hired one of the bum's to come in and tell my Sensai, that I was reusing needles and not sterizling my tubes. He also, when I got in my motorcycle accident, that layed me up for a long while, told everyone, all my clients, that I was never going to tattoo again and that he would finish what ever works I had begun. I was on my own, fresh out of jail, trying to hold on to something. Not wanting to fall back to old street habits and a deadend road. I fought hard to keep going. I never said anything to anyone, not wanting to cause trouble in the work place. I just wanted to learn my trade from the man that offered me an apprenticeship. I am grateful, my Sensai, never once tried anything on me. Never gave me any sexual pressures. It helped me. Knowing at least one man, in the bunch, had some code of honor. And did'nt think with his dick. The next situation I had to figure out, was working with a man, that I didnt want to reject. But was not interested in sexually either. The sexual pressure, went on for a couple of years, until finally, somehow diverting the relationship to, "she is my daughter, he is my father" attitude helped sway any angst that could have resulted in not participating as a hole. I loved the man, but was not interested in having sex with him. Something had to be done. And playing the card that we were "related"...worked. Later, and at another shop. I had, what I thought was a friendship with a young man. New to the scene, he was an up and coming...going to be the next cream cheese in the business. I always laughed off his advances trying not to let him feel too rejected. I wasnt a prick tease. I respected him. I actually liked him. I wanted to be his friend. Period. We worked together for a year. And after having a curt dicussion on how I was never going to fuck him. Friendship lead to tension at the shop, and the boys club finally rallied and I was fired. I kept working hard. Trying to get better as an artist/tattooer. I wanted so badly for the barrier to be lifted and the boys club to go away. I thought it would die away, when the old timers died. Taking with them the archaic programming of where a "woman's place" should be sequestered. I got rallied up reading a blog on here a few weeks ago, and then again when Vyvyn was down visiting. She has been going through this, for nearly forty years. And we both, almost in unison, stated, in wonder, how we as women, are still not recongnized in the light we feel we deserve. I am honored to have been the first woman to work out of HB tattoo, Temple tattoo, Skull and Sword, and AWR. I have know these guys for years, saw most of them come up in the business and am stoked that they gave me a seat, based on my being who I am, soley as a person. I hoped to show them all, that not all women are holes, trouble in the work place; or give them reason, not to consider hiring another woman down the road. I understand, men and women are different. Even in sweat lodge, it is part of ritual to hide our womanly attributes as to not tempt the male libido in ceremony. This rift is everywhere in the arts, in sports, in music, in the writers league and in daily life. So, how do we evolve out of this predetermined human practice of segregation? Be more self aware? Be more conscious of how we are responding to one another on an animal level? As Vyvyn made light of, how do we get the men, who are more "clan like in nature" to include us as women without threat to their ego's or make them feel out of place as a man, by having a woman of equal standing, standing right next to them? I hold my own. Im not trying to break anyone down. Im here to nuture and support. But I also want to be accepted. Some get it. Most don't. So, how do we as women in this industry, obtain this stature? Part of the overall discussion, began with this topic and went on to what's been happening in the tattoo publications. Seems everyone, wants to rewrite history or re-invent the wheel. Some of our worry, is that these people that are pushing books about themselves, and their buddies, are indeed making history. Ten years from now, these people that some of you were programmed to admire and worship, will be known as having been the top twenty five of this era. The people that were excluded from such publications, or did not participate, or rally to publish themselves will be swept under the rug and long forgotten. I guess, when Lyle and Ed decided to nuzzle themselves into the public limelight, as to make their mark in the history books. They succeeded. They knew they had to keep the buzz going about themselves to stay in the game. I remember some of the old timers scoffing at them, talking about what big ego's they had and remarking in discust with where they were taking the industry with their need for stardome years ago. Well, here we are, a generation or two later and now weve got considerably less deserving figures calling the shots. And the old timers that scoffed, many are trying to jump on whatever band wagon they can, to not be forgotten. History...as Jazzy, is pointing out, is being made right now, by people, that should step to the back of the line. If you are going to publish a book, would you please consider doing some research on what tattooers male and female, that actually contributed something unique, and innovative to this industry. Please stop the circle jerk of publications, that regurgitate the same imagery of the past fifty years, and showcase the next ball swinger that had time to hang out.

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Wow, That was intense and I am thrilled to have been a clearing for you to speak. Communication gives life to creation. I encourage you to create the world you want to live in. I'm with ya. We'll keep takling and see what is next. I personally have no idea yet how to achieve the next step. I will live in this step for a moment and see what opens up for the steps ahead. Thank you for taking time out of your day say what you needed to say.....

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