By Erin Boyle
I think there’s something to be said about searching for an artist you can trust with personal symbols and parts of the self. I stumbled upon Melissa Fusco’s portfolio by pure chance after searching 4 years for artists in a different style; I was instantly swayed. I found her work captivating and unique: her craftsmanship was soft, colorful and organic, and I saw hints of depth and spirituality in her portfolios – these things really clicked for me. I had consulted with many artists over the years, and the request to tattoo over my scars was nothing new to me – I even met some who refused to work on scars. Finding a good fit was important; the artist would, after all, be spending several hours confronted with these scars and whatever it brought up for them. I was looking not just for the quality of an artist’s work but also the personhood of the one applying it, Melissa’s warmth and professionalism really showed through during our consultation process. Though she had no idea of my story at the time, I told her, “but really, who gets out of life unscarred in one way or another”…everybody has their thing…it’s all in what you do with it.
Now, I’m not much for telling soggy and dramatic tales about my life, much the reason why I chose this particular flower for my tattoo – but I’ll get to that later. The Buddha once said, “every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind; the goal is to find it”. I, like many, was blessed with a difficult childhood; abuse and neglect were my reality for much of my childhood and adolescence. Though high achieving, at 17 there came a point where my goals took a backseat and I thought there was only one way out. This thought became not just a memory, but left behind the scars to prove it.
Every good story has a twist; mine came a few years later after coming out of an abusive relationship. At that point I looked long and hard at my life, I spent a lot of time healing old wounds and rebuilding the Self. Mindfulness, courage and sacrifice were essential building blocks in my process of change and moving towards doing what I love and loving what I do. I threw away my masks of success and achievement, gave up my fancy title and hefty paycheck, got a second bachelors degree in pre-clinical psych, and began working at a Residential Treatment Center for youth with mental illness. In other words, for mere pennies I worked with teenage boys who liked to break shit, especially your face, and taught them how to give and receive love. This is what makes sense for me; this is what life is about, using our humanity to help others grow.
The paradox of my story is that no matter how much I healed and evolved, I still had my past written on my arms along with the judgment from others about what that means. No amount of success, forgiveness or compassion would ever make that go away. However, life with this tattoo is different. Not just myself, but others see beauty and strength where shame and secrecy once lived. In a way it removes the stigma I once felt. I don’t perceive myself as a victim or a survivor, I see myself as a person with the drive and motivation to create and sustain social justice through guiding others to lead the best possible life they can. As an Art Therapy graduate student en route towards doctoral research, I’ve found that having the permanence of this image in my skin helped ignite this fearless internal integration of my personal and professional lives. It’s closure, it’s dignity, it’s confidence, and in a huge way it is taking ownership of my body while standing grounded in authenticity and unapologetically residing in my own identity and truth.
Embedded in the image also lies the memory of the process. To match my initial impressions, Melissa was grounded, focused, caring, calm, gentle, warm, empathic, funny, respectful, edgy, and an incredibly skilled independent female artist in a male dominated field. She made the process personal and relational, and that’s not something I got from any other tattoo artists I reached out to. I don’t know if I would have found another talented artist that I felt as comfortable with during this process, not to mention one who honored the experience. I’m grateful to have found her, and look forward to collaborating on future work.
As a symbol of the self, this phoenix of a flower holds no mythology – only truth. Coming from one of the oldest families of flowers on earth, whenever a wildfire ravages the area the King Protea is the first sign of new life. In fact, wildfires are central to their evolution – just as challenges, failures and setbacks are to ours. As I see it there is no fantasy in real life – our results come from our own hard work…or as Melissa would say, there is “no progress without sacrifice.” I couldn’t say it better myself.
To see more work by Melissa, or to get in touch with her, go to:
By Dan Mcnab
I’m a tattoo artist in the city of Huntington Beach, Ca. I own and work at The Tattoo Gallery with four of my very close friends. After years and years of leaking trash bags, I decided one day to put an end to it once and for all and created RinseCup CleanUp.
When I designed this product I made sure it is the best that exists and can not get any better. Also, it’s non-toxic because our trash gets put into landfills and that would only hurt the environment. I believe as a whole, us humans do enough of that! Disposing of our rinse cups and ink caps this way is the safest method and eliminates cross-contamination in our trade due to the contaminated liquids we produce.
Once in the landfill, RinseCup CleanUp slowly releases the water and improves soil conditions through aeration. It’s less expensive than using paper towels and safer than dumping it down a sink. When that method is used more toxic chemicals are needed to clean the area it was dumped in, which leads to poisoning our environment even more.
Now we are in many countries and the response is amazing. So much support from this trade! The only advertising I have done is thru IG. It’s spreading like wildfire and I’m excited to see where it goes from here. It’s only been about 6 months since I released it for sale!
For more information about Rinsecup Cleanup, email:
By Melissa Fusco
For a few years now, I have had a strong desire to visit the land of my great grandparents and become immersed in my ‘genetic roots’. Italy, my much anticipated trip, has arrived…
Outside of conventions, guest spots and gatherings in the states, I crave a culture change and new scenery at least once a year. I was meeting a friend here in Venice, unfortunately for good reason she was unable to make the first leg of the trip. So I prepared as best as I could to be in Italy for 6 days before the Rome convention, alone.
For more than half of my life, about 20 years now I have traveled alone more times than accompanied by a travel companion. No doubt I would enjoy a companion on my travels, however, there is something precious about solo travel and how it contributes to my inner self. It helps build my confidence and aids in my personal growth. For me, when I travel, I prefer to live amongst the locals, so first thing off the plane, I find my way to the small water taxi dock. I purchased a water taxi pass on-line that would take me from the airport to the nearest taxi stop from my hotel destination. After the taxi makes a few stops along the way, I finally arrive at my exit and play the alley way game to find my hotel. Hotel Tiepolo, is settled down the alley that runs directly along side the Piazza San Marco. One of the most visited tourist landmarks on the S. Marco Island in Venice. I thought I was a little further away from this touristy area and at first was a little let down by the busyness of the surrounding areas. However, I feel I couldn’t have picked a greater location.
When I depart from the front door of the hotel, which is located at the end of an alley, I weave my way through narrow alley ways that ended at the water front Palazzo. I quickly find myself amongst the crowd. The sounds of sea gulls, water taxi’s, sales men, and tourist chatter fill the breezy ocean air. Kiosks filled the waterfront walkway selling duplicate Venezia souvenirs, scarf’s, hats and Italian leather handbags. Landscape artists work amongst rip off Coach bag sellers, and not to forget the slightly annoying single rose auctioneers. The phrase “ no thank you” leaves my lips more times then I could count throughout the day. I quickly head to the water taxi stop titled S. Marco Zaccaria.
By Kayla Matthews
1. Your standards are the only ones that matter
Of course not everyone will think that your new chest piece is as gorgeous as you do, but why should that matter?
As long as you love the way it looks and feel great about yourself because of it, those stares on the street are laughable.
2. First impressions aren’t always right
Anyone with tattoos or a heavily tattooed friend can tell you this life lesson is true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched perfectly nice, loving, and intelligent people get judged because of their ink.
Having tattoos and knowing people with tattoos teaches you to not place value on appearances and, instead, spend more time getting to know new people.
3. Pain is temporary
This, for sure, is something every tattoo-ee can attest to. Regardless of your pain tolerance, you’re bound to encounter one tattoo that hurts like a B. But making it through a painful tattooing experience just makes you more proud of the end result.
Sometimes we forget that painful things can lead to great things, but I think tattoos are a fabulous reminder of that.
Tattoos by Chris Stuart
Skee. TV presents Marked Up Episode 1 featuring pro BMX rider Rick Thorne & Celebrity tattoo artist Danny Balena. Marked Up is a new look into the culture and lifestyle of the art of tattoos. In this series we will talk to celebs, tattoo artists and people of all ages and aspects of life to see what their tattoos mean, the story of why and why not to get them and how the culture has evolved thus far.
By Jacob Gersham
Randy Harris worries that lawyers are leaving a stain on the tattoo world.
A court tattooist to basketball royalty, Mr. Harris says he has inked dozens of NBA players, drawing everything from a giant tree on Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis, to a beady-eyed owl on Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, to a basketball-toting angel on Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
Recently, he has found himself shaking his head at the litigious direction of his image-conscious occupation as the question of who owns a tattoo has become a source of tension.
To him, it’s simple: “Once they paid for the tattoos, man, they paid for it,” he said from his shop south of Atlanta.
Other tattooists say the issue isn’t that clear, especially in the case of sports videogames, which digitally re-create not just the bodies of athletes, but often their body art as well.
Phoenix-based tattoo artist Chris Escobedo took an intellectual property rights training course and in 2012 sued now-bankrupt videogame developer THQ Inc. over a mixed-martial arts game in which one of his tattoos—a large, scowling lion on the right rib cage of Ultimate Fighting Championship star Carlos Condit—makes a cameo appearance.
Last year he settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum, he said.
“They’re doing it without consulting the original artists, and that’s what makes it illegal,” he said. “I’m the little guy in this situation.”
Such lawsuits have left a mark. When videogame giant EA Sports, a brand of Electronic Arts Inc., EA +0.11% developed its own fighting game featuring Mr. Condit, which will be released this week, it left out the lion, causing gamers to growl. Electronic Arts declined to comment.
By Indigo del Castillo
Sculptor Jessica Harrison has forever changed how we see Victorian-era ceramic figures with her works involving ladies in fancy dresses sporting badass tattoos or their own blood and guts. In this exclusive interview, she talks more about her roots as an artist and her unique take on ceramics. [read our original posts about her sculptures here and here]
How did you discover your passion for sculpture?
When I was little I wanted to work in animation – there were quite a few great children’s tv programs on in the 80’s that were made with 3D models and I decided quite early on it looked like the best job in the world to mess around with clay all day.
Let’s talk about your grotesque ceramic ladies with severed heads and misplaced body parts. Where did you get the inspiration for this collection? What was the message you were trying to convey here?
That series is called ‘Broken’ as the pieces are made using found ceramics that I have quite literally taken a hammer and chisel to.They present an impossibly fair-skinned ‘perfect’ woman and my attraction to these works was precisely because of this image they portray of the female body – my aim was to counter it and present its opposite within itself.
This was simple to do, by breaking apart the hollow cast pieces and ‘revealing’ the interior, a standard formula in Western knowledge for making discoveries about the body. The female interior is a space still laced with taboo in a way that the male interior is not, and for me this gender bias of what is most often an invisible space in our everyday lives was a fascinating and important one to address. This series, like my other works in stone, ceramics, silicone and ink comes from exploring shared ideas about the body, unraveling shared experiences of different spaces, textures and shapes.
Do you have any memorable reactions and responses regarding the macabre ceramics?
Not really, the pieces from the ‘Broken’ series are very bland to me before I break them. I think they make more sense in their altered form.
Seeing as you’ve been into sculpture all your artistic life, how difficult was it to move into tattoo art in your series about the Victorian-era ladies with tattoos?
It wasn’t difficult as it is not something different. I’m using the tattoo in this series to explore the skin space rather than creating any tattoo art itself, which is a completely different thing. Tattooing is not a painting or a drawing onto a static plane, it is incredibly sculptural, literally threading ink into a moving surface, one that has no flat surfaces.
So although the pieces are called ‘Painted Ladies’ in reference to the old term for a tattooed woman, they in fact draw from something incredibly sculptural and active in space, the skin.
The tattoo imagery I have used is all from war-time source imagery, to recall a time before the popularity boom of the tattoo when it may be pointed more towards a particular kind of harsher life. The idea was to present opposing outer layers, contrasting skins, where masculine illustrations are intertwined with overtly over-idealized feminine costume. The viewer is presented with the question of what we are supposed to consider beautiful, which costume to believe.
How long did it take you to finish a piece?
A long time, that’s why there are only a few, and why there are unlikely to be any more!
Do you have anything you’re currently working on that we should look out for?
I have an exhibition opening at Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh this July. It’s going to be very pink…
Tattoos by Victor Policheri
Heidi Hay Tattoo
Having tattooed for the last 25 years, I’ve seen my fair share of tattoos that have healed badly due to the client simply sleeping in their bed. Usually these tattoos have incurred most of the damage, infection and hard healing from when the client sleeps with their fresh, new tattoo with unseen dangerous elements lurking in their bed. Sleeping is definitely one of the greatest moments during a new tattoo collector’s day to do the most damage to their new artwork. When people sleep, they are for the most part completely unaware of pain or minor discomforts, allowing them to be completely unaware of their new tattoo sticking to sheets, seeping onto the sheets and exposing their skin to possible other irritations to the new tattoo. Some of the most common issues while sleeping with a new tattoo is simply sticking to bedsheets, but it’s what’s on those bedsheets that matters during the healing process.
Sleep has a profound effect on our mental, emotional and physical well being! Sleep is the time the body can undergo repair and detoxification, although it can also be a determining factor in healing up well or not so well. Poor sleep patterns are linked to poor health and slow healing. Those who sleep less than six hours a night have a shorter life expectancy than those who sleep longer and naturally tend to heal slower. Getting enough sleep can also help resist infection, as some studies of healthy young adults have shown that moderate amounts of sleep deprivation reduce the levels of white blood cells which form part of the body’s defense system, preventing the tattoo from healing quickly.
There are many dangers to a new tattoo that your bed presents nightly. On average, most people don’t wash their bed sheets and pillows often enough, providing the perfect environment for dead skin cells to breed, potential infection or cellulitis to begin in a fresh tattoo. Another aspect is that most people don’t consistently shower or wash their hair before they go to bed, possibly having sweat or having been exposed to multiple situations during the day. People also can have their pets or animals sleeping next to them every night which undoubtedly brings animal fur, dander and the often overlooked feces that are on animal paws from the ground or backyard in general, which is simply horrible news for a fresh tattoo. Animal fur and dander can cause cellulitis which in worse than just a mild infection. Dander is an informal term for a material shed from the body of humans and animals, similar to dandruff. It is composed of skin cells which can be a major cause of allergies and skin infections in humans. Cellulitis is a common skin infection that happens when bacteria spread through the skin to deeper tissues. It is caused by bacteria, most often strep or staph and a cellulitis infected area will be warm, red, swollen, and tender and usually needs extra attention and antibiotics to help the tattoo heal properly. Animal and human dander are typically the biggest problems with cellulitis or skin infections in fresh tattoos.
Some tips to help avoid an infection in your new tattoo while sleeping in your bed is to first be sure to wash your sheets before you get any new tattoo. Always wash your tattoo off before bed and immediately when you awake, this will help eliminate any infectious materials that you’ve collected on your skin throughout the day before resting for 6-8 hours. Covering your new tattoo with a breathable, non-stick wrapping right before you lay down is an excellent way to help prevent infection from the beginning, it not only protects your new tattoo from sticking to your clothing or bed sheets, it also creates a barrier between you and your bed and helps keep potentially dangerous elements in the bed off of the new tattoo while the pores in the new tattoo seal up and stop seeping plasma. Remember to always wash the tattoo off and allow it dry with no lotion, etc before wrapping it at night. Wearing a protective piece of loose, breathable clothing also helps create another barrier between your new tattoo and infectious bed elements. Be sure to sleep on the non-tattooed side of your body, A pillow works great to adjust and hold your body part in a position that’s comfortable. Try to keep the body part somewhat elevated above the heart to reduce pressure and swelling on the new tattoo. Always wake up, remove wrapping and wash immediately with anti-bacterial foam wash when you wake up.
The most crucial time for a tattoo to begin the healing process is within the first five days, these are the days when a new tattoo is at the highest risk for an infection from everyday situations. After the first few days of wrapping or being very clean and safe while sleeping with your new tattoo, you can go about your normal routine of antibacterial soap, bactine, non-scented lotions or ointments depending on how you normally heal your tattoos. I personally like to mist my new tattoo with Bactine, it helps the body to heal while it’s trying to do two things. One is to fight any oncoming infection, the second thing is to simply heal and repair the tissue. The Bactine simply reduces your bodies need to dedicate white blood cells to fight infection and allows it to focus more on actually healing. Remember, the first days of how you take care of your new tattoo will determine the healing process and ultimately it’s final look!
Photo and Caption by Michal Duchek
A fascinating culture of the Igorot people brought me and my girlfriend to Kalinga. Head-hunting ceased decades ago, however, the motifs of Kalinga tattoos and the way they are being tattoed remains the same (charcoal and an orange thorn). We decided to visit this beautiful tribeswoman who is the last Kalinga tattoo artist. After a few days, long hours spent on buses and jeepneys, we were lucky to find a local guide Francis who brought us to Buscalan. We were overwhelmed how hospitable and friendly she is. Her natural beauty and her tattoo tempted me to ask her for a pose outside her dwelling.
Location: Buscalan village, Kalinga, North Luzon, Philippines