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2013: The Bay Area Convention of Tattoo Arts

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My appointment with Matt ran late, which is par for the course at conventions. It also allowed me to go to an impromptu LST dinner with @Reyeslv and his wife, @cvportagee and his wife, @ian, @Scott R and @Lance. Three Jill Bonny backs at one table!

When we got back, Matt was ready to roll. He drew on the eagle and banged it out in no time. It was fun; I had Thomas Hooper on one side of me and Steve Byrne on the other, while @Stewart Robson and @Valerie Vargas were right across from me. The eagle, by the way, came out great:

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And @beez, your back looks great! You were handling it like a champ.

- - - Updated - - -

And @MoistTowelette, don't make us beg!

At dinner there were enough back and torso pieces in the group, we should have had a shirts off photo taken! And on that note has anyone else noticed the photo bomb in the background of the photo? Ha!

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Sorry for blurry pic. Bottom hannya and black flowers done by jeff gogueand took a total of 8.5hrs in 2 sessions. Top hannya and flowers done by shige. Took 8hrs. Not yet complete... :-(

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Close up of shige's work. Pretty brutal he hit the nipple, sternum and armpit. That fucker...

WOAH! :-O

That's stunning work right there. And to go from being tattooed on the side one day and then the chest the next for the amount of time, hats off to you. I saw the progress posts on Diamond Clubs IG. I figured that might be you. Damn!

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Sorry for blurry pic. Bottom hannya and black flowers done by jeff gogueand took a total of 8.5hrs in 2 sessions. Top hannya and flowers done by shige. Took 8hrs. Not yet complete... :-( Close up of shige's work. Pretty brutal he hit the nipple' date=' sternum and armpit. That fucker...[/quote']

Holy hell! You, sir, are a beast!

You are also the proud owner of some extraordinary work. Sounds painful, but well, well worth it. It looks great, @MoistTowelette! Great is an understatement, really. Some incredible work you got done there. Congratulations!!!

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thanks guys! i am sooooo happy with these pieces! over the moon really!

I'd be too! Kudos to you for getting that done in the amount of time you had. Gogue's and Shige's work compliment each other so well it's ridiculous. Truly beautiful work man, congrats. Seeing all these awesome tattoos from the convention has been inspiring.

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it was very nice meeting you ( Val' date=' right? ) and it was nice getting to visit a little while you were getting that great tattoo---- glad you had a good time![/quote']

Yep, I'm Val! It really was a pleasure visiting while I was getting tattooed and talking to you after you'd been tattooed all day! Congrats on finishing that leg piece! Do we get to see pics? :p

I had such a good time!! :) :) :)

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I'm late in posting this. Also it's long. Grab a cold beer and read at your leisure.

So was I the only one who attended the Shige Seminar at the SFO convention? If anyone else went I'd love to hear your thoughts. Especially if you went Sunday. I attended Saturday and what was supposed to run from 10:00-11:30, lasted till about 1:30. And only because Ed Hardy's lecture was supposed to take place in the same room at 1:00. I suspect it could have gone on for another hour. Shige was rushed at the end and had to skip over some explanations. Even then, it was both entertaining and educational.

For about 3 hours he discussed the practice he goes through developing each of his back pieces. Starting with a day long consult with his clients to make sure they get the tattoo they want and to make sure he and they are all on the same page. He explained 1 day may seem extreme for a consult, but given the size, the fact they will be together for long periods for the tattoo, and the tattoo will be a part of the Client forever, giving them a day for a consult was most responsible. In one of the back pieces he showed us, he explained the Client originally wanted one design motif but he convinced him to go another route. In that particular case it was a friend with a family, and who owned a nail salon. The Client was originally interested in a hell scene but Shige asked him if he really wanted that type of scene given his new family and his life making people feel more attractive. The Client realized then that something else was more appropriate and together they arrived at a design incorporating a Buddhist diety. I thought this was cool because it showed his commitment to his Clients and their happiness.

He also noted that each back piece is designed specifically for each individual's body. No design can truly be swapped out for another person because he designs in full scale, and for the bearer's shape. Rather than drawing a sketch and enlarging it, he'll draw life size designs. I thought this was an interesting approach and allowed him to fit as much detail as possible into a design. This explains a lot from what I've seen of his work where for example the arc of a sword scabbard perfectly follows the curve of someone's lats.

In regards to subjects, whether they be Buddhist entities, mythological/natural creatures, or scenes from specific stories, Shige explained he takes great care in making sure he gets the subject just right in portraying them accurately and accentuating certain elements as needed. One thing he mentioned was that it was his job to educate the Client about stories. The Woodblock, Noh, Kabuki scenes are not something most Japanese Clients know about. Most people in Japan are just as uneducated as non-Japanese in regards to this. As such he takes great pain to research as much as he can.

In the instance with deities, each hand carries a certain item. Which hand it is in and which item is very specific. This reminded me of Horitomo's lecture on Fudo Myo-o who said the same. If the items were lacking or in the wrong hand then the depiction of that deity would be off. It's all in the bearer if they truly care, some don't, but it's good to hear things about these deities most are not aware of to know they may be incorrect.

He also noted that most motifs based on a story is based on a true story with a historical figure and context. It was very important to know this and he went through the process of showing some back pieces and describing their stories and where in particular they took place in Japan and when. And also compared the time spans between each.

Now I've always been interested in mythology since I was a wee lad so bit by bit I've made an effort to learn about particular historical characters, many of whom figure into these stories to a certain degree so some of these stories were familiar to me, but I always relish the chance to hear more about them. Even so, Shige apologized many times to the group for making it feel like a history lesson, but also stressed how important it was to know it. Why so? One example he explained was when designing patterns on kimono or the colors used. One would not apply the print design of a geisha from say the 17th century to the print design on a princess's kimono from the 10th century. The pattern would be wrong for nobility and the time period would be off. subtle things. In the past the closest thing I've seen to this example was with regards to samurai style armor from the 1500-1600's being depicted in stories from about 1100. They were cool images, no big deal you think, right? Not really. I mean if you don't care about details like that it's all good, but in relatable terms it's like showing a Viking at the controls of a drone strike or a knight wearing chaps and a pair of six shooters at his side. It can be cool but it can also just as easily make someone scratch their head. All this, displayed the shear amount Shige goes through to give his all to a tattoo.

What was also nice was that while informing the group about the historical backdrop of particular stories, he also touched upon their relationship to other stories and how they interconnected. He also alluded to particular stories he felt would make interesting subjects for future large pieces. Taki who was translating, joked that he wasn't sure if Shige was hinting that he wanted some one to make a request for those stories. If it was, or you want to give it a try, I can fill you in on which stories those were. Ha ha!

Between all of this he also described how having no "master", outside of the constraints of certain story elements, he was allowed creative freedom to do what he wanted and not conform to rigid traditions. For example normally a back ends a certain distance on the ribs down the side but I believe it was his Taira No Tomomori back piece, that the subject wrapped around the Client's body to almost become a full body suit or in the case of another tradition mandated a Buddhist deity be depicted with 11 faces. In that particular case instead of tattooing all 11 he introduced some western notions having some hidden with the idea that as the faces wrapped around the deity you wouldnt be able to see some and he also allowed the Client's face to be the 11th. In addition that particular face was known to always wear a smile. So Shige told the wearer that he always has to smile now. I thought that was pretty clever and a nice inside joke between the two.

I'll end this now, but like Shige's lecture it could go on much much longer. Suffice it to say it was a very enjoyable time and what I came away with was a profound appreciation for one man's deep thought process he gives to each of his Client's tattoos. Often times, something Clients take for granted of their Tattooers. Thank you Shige and Taki for the seminar.

Also everyone who attended received a print of Fudo Myo-o and a digital copy of his book! Now I have all 3 versions. Hardcover, paperback, and digital!

Sidenote, every time I mentioned "Client", I was very tempted to swap it out for "Canvas". But that would be too cruel.

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Dang, thanks for the second-hand knowledge bomb @Lance! So cool, great to hear more about anyone like Shige who truly dedicates their life to tattooing. I wonder how many mistakes are hidden in the knock-off back pieces...

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Thank you @Lance! That was a great read. Did you attend the Ed Hardy lecture also?

Unfortunately not, though I wish I could have. Apparently it was all about the panther design, I believe. Shige's seminar began at 10:00 before the Convention opened for the day and I think to enter Ed Hardy's, you needed a wrist band showing your admission to the convention. By the time Shige finished there was already a long line waiting to enter and I was still sans a wrist band. I can only imagine how cool it must have been.

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@Lance Thanks for posting that. Really cool stuff!

Now that there's a bit of time passed since the convention I feel like I've processed it enough to have an opinion.

This was the first convention that I've attended and I've gotta say, I'm not sure it's my thing. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time, spent too much money on prints/art etc (including a relatively spontaneous tattoo with Greg Christian that is totally awesome), watched my wife get two excellent tattoos from Stewart Robson, was totally blown away by a lot of the tattooing I saw happening, met some of you guys, etc etc etc. But the whole thing was pretty overwhelming for me.

I guess it really solidified a few things about what I enjoy about tattoo experience: going to a shop, seeing the culture that has been cultivated and created there, talking with the tattooers, making bad jokes...soaking it all up, y'know? As inspiring as the whole thing was, I think I can only handle small doses of the convention environment!

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@Lance Thank you for the write up about Shige's seminar. That was really awesome to read.

I'm curious what the stories that Shige mentioned were and if he pointed to any resources in English that someone could look towards to get ideas from, as a Client.

Thank you again!

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@Lance Thank you for the write up about Shige's seminar. That was really awesome to read.

I'm curious what the stories that Shige mentioned were and if he pointed to any resources in English that someone could look towards to get ideas from, as a Client.

Thank you again!

Sorry for the very late response. Holiday, sickness, work, laziness. You name it, it all applies.

So to answer your question about resource material, unfortunately Shige did not give any books which have been translated into English that anyone can make use of. Obviously he doesn't need the translated versions. That said, personally, I've noticed, once you find the name of figures in a woodblock, it's fairly easy to find a description of the stories on the Internet. But of course, NEVER trust the Internet for all facts. It's crap. Full of BS by people who know nothing or romanticize to the extreme. It can be useful to determine the bare bone basics after reading multiple descriptions and discerning the relevant information but it's up to each person to dive further. After all once you know the name of the subject you can also search for potential books which can contain more reputable sources. One example is the samurai "Taira no Kiyomori". There's information on the Internet. Being wary of red herrings there's enough for you to learn his general history and background. Enough breadcrumbs to then be able to search for translated books on him as well. By the way, Kiyomori was an uber badass back in the day.

In regards to prints/stories he talked about, there were a few interesting ones. One was in regards to I believe it was the Goddess Izanami-no-Mokoto who helped create the Japanese islands, I'm really not too sure. He showed an image where she was in a cave and thus in darkness so it alluded to Japan being in darkness. There was a whole story to it but that's an extremely abridged description. Kind of cool. Sorry to be vague but I'm not too good with stories that far back.

A second print was related to Taira no Tomomori. Everyone typically knows his story with regards to the battle of Dan no Ura where in defeat he jumps off his ship with an anchor tied around him or afterwards depicted as a ghost. Shige lamented no one ever gets another image he is depicted in. One where just prior to jumping off the ship he is depicted with broom in hand sweeping the deck of the ship cleaning it. There's a Yoshitoshi print of this. Anyway, many people might think this is a weird image but it's very Japanese with regard to pride and maintaining an appearance. By cleaning the ship and having his enemies seeing it's pristine cleanliness in the midst of a raging battle he is showing them his pride and honor as a samurai even when all is lost. It's a very cool story just as interesting, possibly more so if you think about the meaning behind it, than other depictions of him.

Shige also mentioned Tomomori's father who is vastly of more historical importance than his son. Taira no Kiyomori. Most people know about the shogun in regards to Japan and samurai power. Kiyomori, however was the precursor. He was the first samurai to gain power over the nobles and seize power in Kyoto the seat of the central government. Without him who knows if the Minamoto would have been able to take over after and become the first shogun. Anyway being such a powerful figure there is a story (and print) where he instructs a large if not impossibly long spanning bridge (for the time) to be built. He was so powerful a figure he is depicted as preventing the sun from setting till the bridge was completed. Like I said earlier, Kiyomori really is a badass for his day. If you've seen prints of him they will likely be ones showing him on his death bed hallucinating with scenes of hell or where the background garden is depicted as skulls. At the time he died he supposedly had a fever so high it burned people to touch him so the stories go.

The last story was related through another one of his back pieces. It depicted a Uesugi Clan Princess ( I forget her name) taking a magical protective helmet across Lake Biwa to her lover a Takeda Prince (I think it was Takeda Katsuyori). There's more to that story but the point was to bring up the Takeda of Kai and Uesugi of Echigo. Both were powerful clans during the 1500s with legendary leaders who actually once met eachother and dueled during a battle (the 4th battle at Kawakajima, a really popular print subject). Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen. The Dragon of Echigo and the Tiger of Kai. Dragon vs Tiger. Heaven vs. Earth. (Sidenote: I almost chose them dueling as my backpiece had I gotten my sleeves paired as dragon and tiger rather than phoenix and dragon). Shige basically described how they were historical badasses that really existed even if the story about the helmet may be mythical.

Well that's all I have. This was a very quick and extremely abridged, possibly slightly inaccurate description of some of the things that were talked about with a bit of my own bits of knowledge thrown in. Not to be taken as gospel. Always dig deep and do your own research for peace of mind and even then go to someone who knows better and has the knowledge.

BTW, check out this link:

Kuniyoshi Project

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Update, that story about the cave? I was totally wrong. Like I said, I really wasn't sure about it from memory and completely horrible with the really old stories/myths. I stumbled upon this story though and I think this is the story Shige explained at the convention:

"The oldest sources for Susanoo myths are the ca. 680 AD Kojiki and ca. 720 AD Nihon Shoki. They tell of a long-standing rivalry between Susanoo and his sister. When he was to leave Heaven by orders of Izanagi, he went to bid his sister goodbye. Amaterasu was suspicious, but when Susanoo proposed a challenge to prove his sincerity, she accepted. Each of them took an object of the other's and from it birthed gods and goddesses. Amaterasu birthed three women from Susanoo's sword while he birthed five men from her necklace. Claiming the gods were hers because they were born of her necklace, and the goddesses were his, he decided that he had won the challenge, as his item produced women. The two were content for a time, but Susanoo, the Storm God, became restless. In a fit of rage, he destroyed his sister's rice fields, hurled a flayed pony at her loom, and killed one of her attendants. Amaterasu, who was in fury and grief, hid inside the Ama-no-Iwato ("heavenly rock cave"), thus effectively hiding the sun for a long period of time."

Just wanted to clear things and not spread BS.

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