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SF Tattoo Convention of the Arts 2010, My recap!

Jennifer Stell



Well, first off I would like to preface this by saying two words: THANK YOU.

To Taki, JIll, Colin, and the rest of the crew at S. O. G. , thanks for having us out, it was my first time as an actual participant, and I was stoked to be a part of such an event. It was like being in a room with all the people you have heard, read, seen in print, but never in person... I knew names, not faces, and I know peoples work but again, I am not so great with names... But it was cool to see all the talent in one room, wait, two rooms.

For some odd reason I thought I would be able to work on an important website, but we were slammed, and I was helping make sure everything in the booth was taken care of, breaking down, setting up, checking in clients, and being the go-for for Richard, and Clay. I didn't get to walk the floor or check a lot of stuff out, which was good. It means we were busy, and I love working with Richard. Even when he's yelling at me to hold the light and watch what the fuck I'm doing. I'm learning.

Friday, great warm up.

Saturday, it was getting hot.

Sunday, just as the evening was getting good, (Richard was putting one of the best tigers I have seen him do), hell he's been doing this painting over and over since coming up with a crazy black cat stance at (spotlight during LB QM 2010) that transitioned into a series of 5 panther paintings, then a set of around 7 tiger paintings... and he busted it out, got the outline and all the black in. Stripes, et all.

Then BOOM lights out. I have no idea what time the lights blew, but it was before 5:30pm. No big deal reserve lights from the generators kicked on, and the emergency lights popped on. But no power for machines.

FUCK. -We don't like unfinished tattoos, especially at conventions. People travel, spend hard earned money, and sit in crowds of unruly people, and in uncomfortable spots, to get work by the person of their choosing. So letting the knee to ankle piece just go wasn't a fucking option. Not to mention it was opposite of a Horiyoshi III piece.

I get back, and there's some random dude (Bill S.) sitting in the booth. Along with Mike Wilson and Clay Decker. He has rotary machines he's showing to them, like little bitty jewels they were cute. I have been taught they have no soul, and I believe that, and will go by what I am taught, as I am just a student.

Richard get's back, still no power.

Well, the guy says his machines would run off a USB cord, and we had two laptops in the booth, (Nerds).

Well Clay Decker spliced, and diced ( the man's gotten a bad rap, but like any person with ideas, and a lot of trust, he's been ripped off a few times, and is now making a comeback), it happens, but he's a brilliant mind, and a loyal and great friend of ours we trusted Clay, so. Richard set the machine up, I sat there and got nervous.

It was dark. And the sensory elements that I know Richard uses were about to disappear he knew it, thus the reasons for him publicly not liking them... Ok, so here goes, Richard uses a rotary, for the first time since 1982, PURELY out of necessity. And if it was me, I would have been like hell naw. I have no idea about the mechanics of the device.

Instead of freaking out majorly, I asked, after being snapped at, to tell people to get the fuck away from Richards back, and let him get some room to work. I had no idea that many people were behind me.

I held the LED light so he could see better. I tried to focus on the angle of which he was working, and tried to not shine in his face or make a glare. He went after the tattoo, and he worked it. The machine was quiet. the machine had no give, the machine was a machine. It was not what we are used to having. The feel, the give that the spring allows, the sound, that ever so important buzzing vibe, that speaks to you and tells you that the track you are on is ok; was missing...

Richard looks at Dennis, and asks, how's it feeling... Richard adjusted according to his response. The client was also an artist, all the way out from Providence, RI... and thankfully he wasn't a drinker or on any pills. So he knew what he was feeling. Okay, I was seeing the colors get in, and color by color, the tattoo got done.

We drained Clay's Battery. Then I plugged it into my laptop, and adjusted power settings to make the battery last longer... It was back on.

Well, if he would have had his "bulldog" it would have been done in about 1/3 of the time.

The rotary was pretty, but not, they don't communicate very well with the person running it. I mean Richard has been doing this for 33 plus years, and he knows what he's doing and that's the factor that kept this tattoo from being pitted, or sliced. He knew his client wasn't feeling right, and the client was an artist, and the communication was the key to the tattoo not being jacked. He finished that tattoo with 13 minutes left on my laptop battery. Richard goes to smoke. I tend to the client, and clean up.

I let the nerves settle, go outside and snap some shots: See Below.

No bloody mess, the typical seep, I looked at it closer and closer, it was ok, I was glad it wasn't torn, or over worked. Dennis was happy. And he was not only a good sitter, he was a nice guy.

I will say thanks for lending the machine Bill. But even more so, thanks Clay, we got the job done. And met a nice guy from Providence. Who was happy with his work, while everyone else packed up, except for one person who hand poked the remainder of her tattoo on her client, we finished up. We lost the last two appointments, but quality over quantity.

Wished the floor had a no limit on time. Cause I like walking back and forth between Richard, and Jack Rudy, seeing who's doing what, it's been a habit anytime they are both working the same show. I missed seeing him on the floor, but he was on another floor, and luckily we all ran into one another at the end of the show. It was always a toss up on who would be on the floor the latest, in August, we beat him out the door one night by 10 mins, haha.

Richard and Jack were talking I guess it turns out the power went out at the Houston Tattoo Convention in 1996, and guess who was the only person tattooing in the darkness, CLAY DECKER.


Lesson number one, expect the unexpected. Lesson number two, use the tools you have to get the job done, but only if you are capable of using the tools properly. And lesson number three: Adapt to the situation, or become a byproduct of the situation itself.

It was great to see The Spotlight Crew, the Krak, Boltz, and the rest of the usual suspects.

I read Jill's new book. Oliver's chapter made me cry, and so did Richard's. It was an all out good weekend.

I'm proud to be a part of the Stell and Decker team, and even more so proud of my husband. Who for the first time, I think realized just how good of a person he is. He isn't an asshole. He can be, but only if you are asking for it. But everyone I know, says he's a nice guy. He's just intimidating.

And he's modest, which is rare in a world full of ego, especially in the limelight world we know exists in the tattoo community. I think the only person you should truly seek acceptance from is yourself. Friends are hard to come by, and always have been. I don't have a lot of friends. But I am lucky to be able to count them on one hand. I saw a lot of stuff, and heard a lot of things. I still have enough friends to fit on one hand. And I am truly thankful.

Even more, I am really proud of my Man, he used no one to get to where he is, he has built a reputation on hard work, quality work, and not fucking anyone over to further his skills, or self. I look up to him in so many ways and always have. Since the time he kicked me out of the shop when my parents wanted tattoos at Pair O' Dice back when I was a kid.

He has principles and morals, and sticks to his guns on life and work matters. If you read Jill "Horiyuki" Mandelbaum's Book: Tattoo Artist, A Collection of Narratives, read his chapter, it was a dark time in his life, I know, I could feel it, however, it's a part of him that she captured, and like any gemstone, we people have many facets, without them we're just pebbles.

The man is the epitomy of a tattoo, he's beautiful, crazy, intelligent, unapologetic, and lives his life, not passing judgement on others, only himself, always striving for that perfect drawing, painting, tattoo, etc. "A Constant Creator", Doug Hardy explained to me, as I was struggling to understand the obsession to paint something 8 -10 times. He creates. He doesn't copy, he may take an idea but he changes it to make it his own until it fits him.

A tattoo may be beautiful, or ugly, but it is a mark of permanence; everlasting, with or with out a story behind it.

I'm lucky he's taught me as much as he has, and looking forward to learning more from him each and everyday that I get with him, he loves what he does, and he loves tattoos, and if you are one of the lucky ones, you get some of the magic he exudes, and the knowledge he can't help but divulge, he cares so much about this "Parlour Trick", (as he calls it) he doesn't want it to go to shit.

To all the people I have been hearing about from Richard, it was great to finally shake your hands, and meet ya'll. I only wish there was more time to hang out. But we came to work, and we did.

SFO 2011, hell yes, we will be there with bells on.






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This is yet another amazing blog from an LSTer! Thank you for taking the time to post such a well crafted insightful and progressive post with us plus tattoo video and tattoo pictures!! Who would of thought a usb cord, computer, tattoo machine would allow a tattoo to be finished due to a power outage? It just goes to show how genius some tattooers are and jacks of many trades!!!!!

For those who want more on the State of Grace Tattoo Convention.

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This was such a great read--thanks so much for posting it, Jennifer. I got tattooed by Richard Friday night (I was the last appointment) and had a blast. It was one of the few times I wished that the tattoo had taken longer--Richard was cracking me up the whole time.

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It was fun... we saw a bunch of raccoons, like out hanging at a nearby Diner, after dinner/breakfast in the AM...and managed to get shit done, and buy a new truck, (for motorcycle related purposes)... (well new to us), but it was fun.

.....the hardest part is saying goodbye to people...

But that show is what Richard refers to as Prom... it's the best show going for a few years going... Power out and all, we had fun, sans room service bills, but, i gotta have my french press, and eggs in the am.

I can't wait till 2011.

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