Studio: Golden Rule Tattoo Camelback – Location: Phoenix, Az
Style: Traditional – Years tattooing: 11

Your Instagram page describes you as “profoundly deaf.” Could you elaborate?

I was told I was able to talk, walk and play just like any typical one-year-old baby. When I contracted spinal meningitis shortly after turning one, it was as though I was a brand-new baby again.  I had to relearn everything . . . My parents put me in a special school that taught deaf kids how to speak and hear using high powered hearing devices and practice reading lips, so I would not be restricted to only living/working in deaf culture. I ended up never learning American sign language . . . I believe it forced me to live a more inclusive life.

What was your apprenticeship like?

I loved my apprenticeship. It was everything an apprenticeship should be. Scrubbing, cleaning, sterilizing, painting, drawing, learning about tattoo machines, and tattoo history . . . I am grateful for those shitty years. I believe you shouldn’t be tattooing if you didn’t first pay your dues.

In a time when tattooing has expanded into so many genres as it has, what attracted you to traditional? 

I enjoy the fact that something so complex and technical can be so simple. I like how these mostly flat designs look on a moving growing three-dimensional body . . . Plus, the tried and true really works. Trends come and go. People love to reinvent the wheel, but the classics stay strong.


Outside of tattooing: Alberto Vargas, Frazetta, Sorayama, and Patrick Nagel.
Old time tattooers: Doc Forbes, Dietzel, George Burchett and Ben Corday.
Local tattoers: Aaron Coleman and Mario Gonzales.
Tattooers in general: Matthew Houston, Cheyenne Sawyer, Tony Nilsson, and Rafa Decraneo.

Most important lesson learned as a tattoo artist? 

Stay humble, always keep learning, and be thankful. Every tattoo, big or small, serves a purpose and provides me the ability to live my life with my family the way I want to.

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d like to mention that I am extremely thankful for my wife, Justice.  She pushes me to do my best work everyday . . . I don’t think I could be where I am now with out her continual support and love. I love her and our little family. They make me keep pushing on to make sure that the next tattoo I do is always the best one yet.
Instagram: @tattoopaulski
Facebook: @paulskitattoos

Celebrity Profile: Chavonna (Bang) Rhodes

Chavonna (Bang) Rhodes is a tattoo artist from season 9 on Ink Master “Shop Wars” and is a versatile artist tattooing in Atlanta, GA. Originally from Boston, MA she has 5 years’ experience tattooing and full time for 2 years. She is making waves in the tattoo community with her positive attitude, fresh perspective, urban and fine art background.

She is also a hardworking, soldier in the US Army reserve. She is currently a 1st Lieutenant and should be making Captain by the end of the year.

Bang studied all things art especially illustration in college at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She has been trained to create fine-art drawings, bringing ideas, characters and personalities to life using both traditional and digital techniques. When approached to try tattooing she considered it another form of fine art.

Bang began tattooing out of her dorm room in college before becoming an apprentice. After graduating college and commissioning as an Army Officer, she says she stuck with art and tattooing to continue on a positive path in life. The Georgia artist, whose styles include photorealism, portraits, sci-fi and surrealism, is on a mission to prove that artists of color are a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
[email protected]  = to book a tattoo

Examples of Bang’s Tattoo Art:

Pain Classic: Rob Haze in 2014

Pain Classic: Rob Haze in 2014

by Austin L. Ray

[Editor’s note: These days, Rob Haze is a promising young comedian who lives in Brooklyn and, according to his website, “can be seen on the latest season of Adam Devine’s House Party on Comedy Central and the new Viceland show Flophouse, [and] is cohost of the Kanye West Podcast The Book of Ye.” But back in 2014, he was still living in his native Atlanta and grinding it out every night at clubs in the Peach State capital. He’s come a long way, baby.]

It’s an unseasonably cold November evening at a lousy Old Fourth Ward sports bar where a handful of people, most of them comedians, are watching college football. The place feels oddly out of time, and early aught hits from the likes of Incubus and Dave Matthews Band blare overhead in agreement. There’s going to be comedy here later, but the group of frat boys at the bar doesn’t realize it yet. Nearby, two comics are discussing Hannibal Buress’s recent sold-out show at Buckhead Theatre, and gossiping about local funny people. It’s moments after they start praising Rob Haze that he walks through the door.

An Atlanta-born UGA grad, Haze lived in Orlando during his childhood before returning to the metro area. His jokes are delivered with an easygoing cadence, and they seamlessly range from the topical — gluten, Uber — to the absurd — basketball analogies connecting the audience to his material. He remembers his first brush with humor as a Snaps book his dad got him for Christmas. Think: “yo’ mama” and other irreverent types of insult comedy. After that, it was Chris Rock’s 1996 HBO special, “Bring the Pain.”

“That was the first time where it was, ‘Go to your room, we’re going to watch comedy,'” he says, remembering his parents’ orders. “Normally, it was like, ‘There’s guns and murder, go to your room.’ This was the first time [it was just] a dude on a stage.”

Haze kept a steady diet of Comedy Central, “Saturday Night Live,” and Woody Allen movies. He goofed around with friends, but “was never cool enough to make the whole class laugh.” He had comedic aspirations, but people didn’t see his point of view. His sister told him that it was “the worst job you could have, making fun of people.”

His weirdness and persistence has paid off. Haze is now five years into a blossoming career. After showcasing in Los Angeles at NBC talent search “Stand-Up for Diversity” in 2013, he signed with an agent and performed a couple of college tours. 2014 was Haze’s first year doing it on his own.

“[Students] respond really well … when they’re there,” Haze says. “Sometimes, they’ll have me at lunch. No one knows a comedy show is happening, and they’ll just have me in there. I’ll feel like I’m heckling people eating.”

Mostly, his sets go over well, though. He’s a regular at Cloud IX, Star Bar, Laughing Skull Lounge, the Hangar, and Kat’s Cafe. He opened for Dave Chappelle at the Tabernacle in 2013, and averages about seven performances a week. When he goes up at the lousy Old Fourth Ward sports bar, the room changes. The host says, “This next guy is going places.” The frat boys in the back leave the football game for a few minutes. Haze easily gets twice as many laughs as any of the other comedians that night. 2015 seems poised to be a big year.

“Right now, I’m focused on stand-up, but I would like to act,” Haze says. “I would like to write. I would like to have a book. I’d like to make a film that’s an extension of the things I do on stage. I don’t wanna rule out any of that.”

9th Annual Minneapolis Tattoo Arts Convention

Venturing to Minnesota in the heart of the winter months might seem downright crazy to some people — especially when do so means taking off some articles of clothing. But that’s just what more than 8,000 attendees did to show off their ink at the Minneapolis Tattoo Arts Convention.

The 9th annual event, held at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis (indoors, thankfully), played host to some 700 tattoo and piercing artists.

“There were people from all over the country — the west coast was represented in a really large way, and they were all hanging out here in Minneapolis where it was negative seventeen degrees,” says event promotor Elizabeth D’Ambrosio.

Twenty-year veteran tattoo convention organizers and promoters, Villain Arts, is well-known for their World Famous, star-studded, traveling tattoo conventions in US cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Kansas City – to name a few – once again put on a spectacular show. In attendance were a number of celebrities from reality TV tattoo competitions, like Ink Master, Best Ink and Tattoo Nightmares. Visiting artist seminars for professionals in the tattoo industry are also a feature at the shows, and include topics on social media/marketing, technical tattoo application techniques for working artists, and Q & A’s with longtime tattooers and legends in the business.

A pre-party at the Gamut Gallery Minneapolis, where party-goers got a look at the “Spit Shade” exhibition curated by tattooo artists Lindsee Boyer and Nathan Varney, kicked off the event.

The three-day convention was the big draw (pardon the pun), and included live tattooing and piercing, a variety of sideshow acts including performances by the Enigma, Marlo Marquise, Black Hearts Burlesque, Olde City Sideshow, Hell-Cat Penny – something unique we might see more of at tattoo shows was a drone racing course run by another kind of buzzing little machine.

For artists and tattooed enthusiasts there were more than 40 contests where they could show off their best best ink —- categories included everything from Most Unusual and Color Infused Black & Gray to Original Flash. The Best in Show award, for a piece that specifically created at the convention, was won by Luis Inda, a California artist from Killer Tattoos, Los Angels, who inked a “West Coast style” black & grey inner forearm design that meshed a rose, heart and filigree. Luis also earned one of the top spots in the daily competitions with a black & grey calf piece of a Native American warrior and grizzly bear.

Villain Arts is on road again with upcoming shows in Atlanta (March 16-18), Chicago (March 23-25), Louisville (April 13-15), Baltimore (May 4-7), Houston (May 18-20), Kansas City (May 25-27) and Denver (June 22-24). If you’re anywhere near one of their conventions you’ll want to mark down the dates as a must-see happening.


Main Line Ink

Danny Siviter’s path into the world of tattoos was anything but conventional.

Having grown up in the evangelical church during its heyday in the 80s and 90s, most of his earliest doodles were more than likely found on the margins of Sunday school curricula and church offering envelopes, media that don’t exactly pair well with pin-up girls and pirate skulls. Nevertheless, the trade would become his livelihood, eventually leading him to his current role as co-owner of Main Line Tattoo in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Now five years in business, Main Line Tattoo has quickly evolved from a fledgling, downtown owner-operated studio to Chattanooga’s number one ink destination. As of this past year, that is no longer an arbitrary statement; their name just made the top of the list of tattoo parlors in the local paper’s annual “Best of the Best,” an honor that came as a total surprise to Danny.

“Anyone has the opportunity to go online and vote so its literally the people of Chattanooga who decide,” Danny explains, “Which in my opinion is one the best awards a local business could ever receive.”

Tattoo by Jennifer Edge

There are any number of reasons why such an honor was bestowed on the shop. It could have been the inviting atmosphere augmented by the open floor plan and rugged, but aesthetically pleasing décor. That was an aspect on which Danny and his partner, Jennifer Edge focused from the very beginning.

“Since we had an empty shell of a building, we got started fresh with no walls,” He recalls. “We decided to instead of building separate rooms we built half walls. It keeps the vibe open, so we can all talk to each other as well as greet every person that walks in.”

But then again, it could also be the diverse and highly skilled team of artists who man (or woman) the chairs. When the topic is broached, Danny wastes no time singing their praises like the choir boy he could have become.

Tattoo by Anier Fernandez

“Anier Fernandez is a phenomenal artist from Cuba who just came out of his apprenticeship with us and is out of the gate swinging. Kitty Konniption . . . does incredible illustrative tattoos, taking her inspiration from her love for Anime and Japanese culture as well as her love for traditional tattooing. Josh . . . can do it all. He’s the kind of artist that will take a sharpie and freehand a masterpiece. Jennifer Edge works her magic doing abstract illustrative tattoos. Her creativity and imagination never run dry. I’ve been doing a lot of black illustrative and dot work style lately.

Of course, each factor plays a part, but when pressed, Danny points to the general attitude of the staff.

“Being nice, good customer service; that is what put us there more than anything. Of course, we strive to put out the best work we can, but a tattoo experience goes far beyond the tattoo. If you hate the attitudes or someone is a dick to you, you’re less likely to ever go back.”

Tattoo by Danny Siviter

Considering his upbringing, one might logically assume Danny’s choice in profession to be a departure. Given, the passage in the Bible that forbids marking or cutting the body also instructs the reader not to wear fabrics of mixed thread or trim the corners of their beard, but the church’s general attitude toward tattooing has never been much better than begrudging tolerance. But assumption will most often lead to inaccuracy, and this instance reflects the rule rather than the exception.

“I do still hold on to my faith,” he states, unapologetically. But don’t expect a sermon. In fact, don’t expect much beyond open conversation. “I never force my beliefs on anyone and I respect anyone’s beliefs no matter how different they may be to mine,” he continues. “That’s where Christianity often gets it so wrong. They are so quick to judge and so slow to love. It’s not always as difficult as Christians make it out to be. We were taught to love . . . Sometimes I get questions and sometimes I get criticism. But no matter what, everyone has been respectful because they can see that I give the same level of respect.”
Instagram: @mainlineink
Facebook: @mainlineink

Buying and Selling Gold Body Jewelry

Dear Elayne,

From talking to my friends in the industry, I know that a lot of shops are now selling more gold than ever. Even though I’ve been in the piercing business for over a decade and take pride in having a great selection of quality body jewelry for my clientele, I never managed to get on board with the gold thing. I mean I have placed some special orders, but I don’t keep any in stock.

Now I can see that I’m missing out, and I am pretty sure that my customers are going elsewhere because when they have asked for gold, I’ve had to say I don’t have it. To be honest, I’m nervous because it is so expensive and I don’t feel like I know enough about it to jump in. How should I begin and what do I need to know?

Thanks a bunch, Y.

Dear Y.,

You are absolutely right! Gold is in hot demand now and it is important to be able to satisfy your customers’ cravings for it. However, you are not required to launch in with a massive order initially; you can begin slowly and build up your inventory over time. And don’t worry, it isn’t difficult to learn what you need to know to be successful at stocking and selling gold body jewelry.

If you’ve been paying attention to what shoppers have been asking for, then you likely have a pretty good notion about some of the items you should be carrying. Solicit ideas and opinions on what your patrons are interested in wearing, and take note any time you get a new inquiry or request. You may want to start announcing now that you’ll be getting gold in “soon” and offer to record contact information so you can let people know when it arrives. That could help diminish defections to other shops, especially among your most loyal piercees.

I’d suggest that you start by purchasing some gold pieces for the most prevalent piercings you do in the most common sizes you already use. These should be easy to move and make it simple for existing clients to upgrade into gold for their healed piercings. Unless you have heard comments to the contrary, it might be best to focus primarily on yellow gold (and rose, if people have asked for it), since the white is more similar in appearance to what you already stock.

It is likely that some of the jewelry companies you currently buy from manufacture gold too. It makes sense to shop from their lines initially, since you’re already comfortable with their quality and business practices. After learning more about gold and gems, gaining some experience with the new merchandise, and assessing demand, you may decide to branch out and include other reputable companies that specialize in precious metals.

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has an eLearning course, “Jewelry Essentials,” (i) that would give you a great education to prepare you for selling fine jewelry. They also have a free online gemstone encyclopedia, (ii) which is an excellent resource.

If yours is like most studios, you’re probably doing an abundance of ear work and nostril piercings these days. Stocking an array of press-fit (threadless) ends is a great way to start—assuming this is the style of jewelry you’re using. If not, see my article, “NeoMetal’s Snap-Together Jewelry” in a former issue of Pain Magazine.

Easy-to-sell options include ends with prong- and bezel-set gems, either natural or lab created, in clear stones and the colors that you commonly use. Over time you will be able to assess whether your clients prefer genuine stones. Note that white CZs are suitably sparkly and diamonds elevate costs significantly. They may be best left until you are more versed in fine jewelry sales, though you should welcome custom orders for them.

Septum piercings are also quite the rage in many regions. Gold clickers and seam rings with and without gemstones are currently hot specialty items for ornamenting the center of the nose. If there are other piercings you do with great frequency, you might want to purchase a small assortment for those as well.

Along with more standard designs, it could be worthwhile to elevate your showcase impression and display some eye-catching creations, if your business can handle the investment. Humans are not generally predisposed to delayed gratification, so shoppers are more likely to buy when they actually see an exceptional piece of alluring jewelry—and walk out the door wearing it. That said, have ready access to jewelry catalogs to show individuals who wish to requisition something that is not in stock. Requiring a 50% deposit for custom orders will guard against an out-of-pocket expense if the customer fails to complete the sale.

Get into the habit of placing gold pieces on a velvet jeweler’s pad or other special surface when you bring them out for closer viewing. This is particularly important with luxury goods to accentuate their value. Alternatively, for tiny items like threadless ends, it is common practice to securely situate them in hemostats and allow customers to hold the jewelry up near the area in question to see how it would look. This can be especially helpful when they’re deciding between two or more sizes, colors, and/or gem settings. Bright lighting is essential for exhibiting this jewelry at its best, both in your display case and near your mirror where shoppers do their visual checks.

Don’t offer gold only to those who ask for it. Any appropriate gold pieces should be presented along with the other options every time you discuss jewelry selection. Further, never assume that a shopper can’t afford higher-end jewelry based on their appearance.

Sound jewelry sales technique involves having robust product knowledge and sharing the particulars during your presentation. This important in order to appear professional and inspire confidence. Learn the language and volunteer information on gold karat, the safety of the alloys (“nickel free!”), gem types, sizes, and cuts, the names of stone settings, and any distinctive techniques used in the production.

It is sometimes hard to close the deal if the customer is focused on price, but stay away from a hard-sell approach. Try to identify what taps into your customer’s emotions and steer the conversation toward the overall value and benefits—how the jewelry makes them feel. Gold enhances prestige, self-confidence, and self-worth. It reinforces individual identity and supports other emotional needs. Maintain the position that they deserve a decadent indulgence, especially if it will make them feel happy and satisfied. Gold is a purchase that will last, that they can enjoy every day for the rest of their lives! Buying gold jewelry is an investment in a precious metal that always retains some resale value, as compared to steel and titanium. Finally, sometimes the best sales technique is to say nothing. Let the client look at the jewelry for as long as they need to; gold often sells itself. Furthermore, you can make an inspiring example of yourself: if you like gold jewelry, wear it!

Even if gold doesn’t appeal to you personally, it is well worth the effort to learn about fine jewelry and to hone your skills at selling it. When you become a jeweler as well as a piercer, you can see payoffs in both customer satisfaction and higher profit margins.



March 2018

Bloodborne Pathogens

Last month we discussed new and emerging pathogens and the importance of protecting yourself as a body art specialist. Although exposure to blood and body fluids by tattoo artists and piercers is relatively low, practicing universal safety precautions is extremely important in the body art industry. A single drop of blood could contain enough disease-causing organisms to cause significant illness. As a body art facility owner or employee, you have no idea what illnesses clients bring in through the front door. Although Hepatitis B is one the biggest viral concerns, other bacterial illnesses can be contracted during contact with small amounts of blood or body fluids during procedures. Depending on the bacterial or viral organism, the incubation period could be anywhere from 3 days to as long as 30 days or longer. That means when the organism is in your system, symptoms of the illness may not appear until days later. During this time, you’re shedding large amounts of the organism without showing symptoms. The Hepatitis B incubation period can be as long as 55 days so during this asymptomatic (no symptoms) period, large amounts of the HBV virus is active and available in your client’s blood during a tattoo procedure. There are more than 200,000 cases of HBV in the United states every year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 257 million people world-wide are living with a Hepatitis B virus infection. Because the Hepatitis virus can live outside the body for as long as seven days, conducting a procedure without using universal precautions can expose a tattoo artist to the virus and a serious illness can start the infection process very quickly.

Symptoms of bacterial and viral infections include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Most of these illnesses go unreported and people do not visit an Urgent Care facility because symptoms usually go away with no need for treatment. If you do visit a medical facility, most doctors will assess the symptoms and decide to prescribe anti-biotics especially if the symptoms involve a fever. A prescription will most likely involve penicillin or a penicillin related drug. Let’s go back in history and take a quick look at the beginning stages of penicillin. Penicillin was considered a wonder drug and saved thousands of lives starting in the 1940’s. Prior to its discovery in 1928, there were no treatments for bacterial infections such as strep throat, tuberculosis and a wide variety of other bacterial infections. If you were lucky, your own immune system may have beaten the infection but that was tremendously rare, and most people died from bacterial infections. Simple cuts, scratches and abrasions almost always resulted in a slow, agonizing death.

Penicillin and its related drugs have been used for over 80 years and have triggered a very efficient defense mechanism in the bacteria they are used to treat. Production of the drug in the United States jumped from 21 billion units in 1943 to 1,663 billion units in 1944 to almost 7 trillion units in 1945. By March 1945 penicillin was distributed through the usual channels and was available to the consumer in his or her corner pharmacy. By 1949, the annual production of penicillin in the United States was 133,229 billion units and the price had dropped from $20 per 100,000 units in 1943 to less than ten cents.

Synthetic manufacture of Penicillin – photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The cooperative efforts of American chemists, chemical engineers, micro-biologists, governmental agencies and chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers placed penicillin on a fast track unlike any other drug at the time. As one scientist stated, “Too high a tribute cannot be paid to the enterprise and energy with which the American manufacturing firms tackled the large-scale production of the drug.” He added that had it not been for their efforts there would certainly not have been sufficient penicillin supplies by D-Day in Normandy in 1944 to treat the enormous casualties by both British and American soldiers during that invasion.

Although the discovery of penicillin was a true turning point in human history, even the sharpest and most creative scientists and micro-biologists did not anticipate the repercussions on a molecular level. Bacterial organisms have responded to our fight against them by mutating and protecting themselves against anti-biotics. The molecular fight has taken many years but it appears the tiny microbes are winning the battle and outsmarting our best medical efforts to control and kill them.

Next month, we will continue to discuss anti-biotic resistance due to the misuse of the drug once considered the wonder drug of all time.

Interview with TEGAN SHMEGAN

Interview with TEGAN SHMEGAN (one of Metal Mafia’s beautiful brand ambassadors) on what got her into the industry and how she is planning on shaking things up for 2018!

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