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I was looking forward to the Portland Tattoo Expo knowing that I had several friends working it and fun and debauchery would ensue. The show drew in some great artists including Russ Abbott, Myke Chambers, Corey Miller, Big Gus and the crews from Artwork Rebels, Super Genius Tattoo and Black Shamrock just to name a few.
I have amassed a large collection over the years, consisting of thousands of cards, but also including stickers, matchbooks, pens and key rings. After looking over my collection I found that each of these cards are as individual as the artists.
In the 1980s and 1990s the most impressive cards were those by Jack Rudy, Brian Everett, Sailor Moses and his California Tattoo Studio in Biloxi. As the year 2000 approached, a new generation of tattooers emerged, and business cards evolved by becoming more elaborate. Cards nowadays have extravagant fonts and overlaid imagery, as well as examples of the artists' capabilities. Take a look, and you will see how a business card is an important tool, expressing who you are as an artist and the quality of the studio you work at.
I am including some great examples from my collection of some of the best business cards of the last 25 years. Going to London and getting to experience the convention there is unlike any other convention. We were lucky to share the room with Phil Holt, Tim Hendricks, Lindsey Charmichael, Charlie Roberts, Grant Cobb, Dan Smith and a few others. If you have never had a chance to go to the London convention, I highly suggest putting it on your calendar for next year. This was a really difficult write-up for me because there is so much information and such a wealth of folklore surrounding these creatures, it is quite overwhelming. The second type of Kitsune, and the ones we will be focusing on are the Nogitsune or wild fox. They do not even have a communal code of right and wrong; like humans you find Nogitsune that are benevolent and attempt to assist those in their immediate vicinity, and others that are just malicious and thrive on causing mayhem. There is also, in some stories, a ball (Hoshi no Tama) that is believed to either hold part of the Kitsune’s spirit, making it vulnerable to anyone who manages to gain possession of it, or hold a portion of its power, enabling the Kitsune to possess mortals. Kitsune are always given feminine attributes and among their litany of powers they are considered gifted shape-shifters, with the ability to transform into anything found in nature.
She brought about the destruction of the king of India, killing thousands of his subjects before fleeing to China where she was responsible for the fall of the Chou Dynasty, only to reappear later in Japan as a courtesan of Emperor Konoe where her wisdom and beauty became legend. The Kyubi no Kitsune is another one of the creatures featured in our upcoming book Japanese Mythical Creatures. Some were easier to reach than others and there’s a list of artists at the bottom that I didn’t get to in time or I just couldn’t reach. But the main thing I am trying to do here is bring to light some great artists that aren’t always right in your face.
Few people realize that tattooing the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally rivals any convention with an intensity all to its own.
I counted somewhere around 90 artists on Main Street alone, that’s not counting all the ones off of Main on Lazelle Street and all the side streets in Sturgis proper, or all the tattooists at the campgrounds and all the venues outside of town and all the small towns around Sturgis as well.
Sturgis has its air of a carnival midway, with an infusion of the hardcore biker, with the odd mix of the everyday motorcycle enthusiast, it takes all kinds. For those that tattoo Sturgis, it’s been dubbed “the Iron Man of tattooing” by an article Todd Evans wrote in 1999 about the rally's tattoo experience. The shops in Sturgis during rally range in all sorts from permanent shops, convention style set-ups, and portable shops in trailers and buses.
One of the shops that goes all out is Rosini’s, when they are done setting up it looks like it’s been there all year-long, with  six stations all on tiled stages with tiled pony walls, an office and a reception, no one would think it all breaks down and goes into the basement every year.
Some tattoo artists don’t work the Rally but still continue to come to be part of the show. Some of the Crews stay the same almost every year, at Rosini’s over 75 percent of the crew have worked there for over 10 years, and the crew at Sturgis Tattoo can say the same.
Over the years camaraderie has formed between all the shops And at the end of the Rally a group of artists from Rosini’s started an all artist dinner (a tradition started over 15 years ago) at the Franklin Hotel in Deadwood.
It has now turned into a big to-do, with over 80 people attending this year’s banquet hosted by the Rosini Tattoo Family, and tattooist took over 60 percent of the rooms and almost all the suites in the hotel for a night of fun, food, gambling and of course a good night’s sleep in a real bed. The veranda of the Franklin is where the Rosini Family has taken their yearly shop photo the past two years, a new tradition possibly.
The Sturgis Rally has definitely made its way into the hearts of tattooers and motorcycle enthusiasts, alike. My name is Dana Helmuth and I tattoo full-time at Independent Tattoo on Fenwick Island, Delaware, three miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and just north of the coastal town I grew up in Ocean City, Maryland.
He has big holes in his ears where he used to wear enormous plugs and his pants are too tight, but he sits like a rock and has a nice laugh. I was working with Horizakura from the Horitoshi Tokyo Family at the time, so I was very focused on making things look like they were "supposed" to.
Since starting on Brandon's backpiece in NYC, I think I've worked on him in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Delaware and even from an outdoor summer studio I set up in a screen tent behind my house in my gardens. On the back of his right leg the piece transitions down to rocks and clouds and a red oni with battle-axe standing on a giant skull.
When finished I felt good about having finished the grey in a very difficult area to tattoo and doing all the red, gold and brown in the oni. Wednesday arrived and I headed to work very excited to finish a sleeve begun two years ago.
I did a small cat memorial piece on her and some sakura and branches, and after that she would bring cooked Korean barbecue to the shop for us on a regular basis.
I added some more blossoms in a little bit larger size than the previous additions, to give it a more natural look and show more depth, and then I layered a little more Sumi [black ink] in some areas, particularly adding some new silhouettes; I think it came together very well, and fits her character perfectly. Fast forward a few years to a beautiful fall Saturday, three miles from the Atlantic Ocean with a hint of saltwater always on the breeze; it had been about nine months since our last session and he had added a son to his tribe since then so there was a lot of catching up to do. In the five-hour period I did all the pink in the fleshy parts of the arms and fingers and palms and lips, all the gold in the beard and whiskers, and all the hair and horns.
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It all started with the first shops I worked at, extending to every tattoo convention I attended.
The early cards were simple and professional looking, (just like other business cards from various professions) over time they have developed into everything from impressive hand drawn pieces, to digitally enhanced artwork, and still some feature photos of the artists' work. Cards were no longer just black and white standard cards, they changed into impressive two-sided cards with full-color and even photographs of the artists' tattoo work. Every year for the past five years I have traveled the London convention, stayed at the same hotel with a family of friends and shared a booth with my good buddy Hunter Spanks. There is so much inspirational art and energy there and everyone is so happy to be apart of the convention.
For the first time I was able to take my wife, and hunter and I added an addition onto our booth. There are about 10 or so small glass rooms that hold about 10-15 booths in each room, some of the larger ones have 25-30 booths. It features some of the biggest and baddest tattooers from around the world not only tattooing, but attending the convention, just to come see friends and family. Kami or Spirit Kitsune, which are considered benevolent beings who serve as messenger to Inari, the Shinto spirit for rice and agriculture.
It should be noted that mortals who are being plagued by Nogitsune, often appeal to the Myobu for assistance. Through tricks and magic they expose human flaws, often by encouraging it to the point of calamity.
As a yokai they become more powerful with the passing of each 100 years and they are given another tail to mark each passing.
To transform, it is said, a Kitsune must place reeds, a broad leaf or a skull over its head.
They are white, silver or gold in color and are believed omnipotent -so great is their power. She bewitched the emperor and when discovered, is rumored to have fled to the plains of Nasu where she was finally trapped and shot with an arrow.
So I sent messages to all the guys who I admire for their contribution to the tattoo community. A lot of these fellows are shy or just a bit anti-social or just don’t give a rat's ass about the race. Surprisingly, all of the guys I got in touch with responded to me in such a way that this is going to be a long blog!!! I sought them out because they deserve to be recognized for the outstanding work that they do. There is no way you can cover them all so I am going to focus this article on the shops on Main St.
Sturgis has drawn massive attention when it comes to their concert venues, but this year took the cake, every night a blockbuster show guaranteed to please the crowds from 18 to 80 years old. Sturgis there are 10 major tattoo shops, the Shop in the Hell's Angels' building next to Gunner's, Rosini Gypsy Tour Tattooing which is the oldest shop in town, Judy Parker’s Shop in the Dungeon Upstairs, Fat Cat’s Studio, Buddah’s Body Art, Asylum Tattoo, Main St.
This year Snake Yates, Cap Szumski, Don and Sharon Brouse and many others came to the Rally.
It was a way to wind down from the show, eat a good meal, sleep in a real bed, and let your hair down after the long hours and all the hard work.
The energy in the shop has been awesome, everybody in high spirits with busy schedules and the cool fall weather just making it fun to drive to work with the windows rolled down and some good tunes blasting from the dashboard.
Horizakura was a huge influence on me and working with him every day for almost two years was something I could never replace or compare anything to. He had gotten stuck in traffic on the way so his six-hour drive took a little longer and shortened the amount of time we had to work on the tattoo. Next time he comes we plan to finish the other side and then in the following session I should be able to complete the details of the dragon and the kimono patterns on the main portion of the tattoo, above the waist. We both had moved around a bit in the time since it was started so it probably didn't help in the speed in which it was finished. Making a cool sleeve is great, but when it looks cool and also really matches the person wearing it, then it just adds extra mojo! If you took all those spaces and hooked them together and laid them out flat it was probably about the equivalent of a sleeve's worth of skin: we got all that colored in on him in one session. I saw Seth Ciferri whiz by my booth several times on his skateboard, I saw some really cool tattoos and watched Damon Conklin paint in the booth next to me all weekend! Whenever I travel and stop by a tattoo studio I make it a point to pick up business cards, stickers, whatever advertising they have.
Rosini was another one who always went out of his way to make an impression through the medium of the business card. With the new millennium computers became more capable and the possibilities became limitless.
As I look back, business cards have changed as the generations of tattooers themselves have changed. Mike’s tattoo guru, Frank Romano, talks about the many ways in which Mike has surprised him throughout his career with his work hard, play hard mentality that leaves no room for vacations. Every year I am so stoked that I have been able to pick up long-distance relationships with friends right on the spot and add some new ones.
Foxes play a huge role in Japanese mythology -they are both loved and feared by the Japanese people. As rice was the main currency in Japan for much of its inception, it is sacred, and homage is paid to Inari in hopes of fertility and prosperity in the form of bountiful harvests.
These Kitsunes are considered yokai or evil spirits, and they are treated with caution in Japanese culture.
While they are hard to stereotype, it must be noted that Kitsune do adhere to a code of ethics, albeit according to their own unique standards, and they are staunch defenders of this code.
They are passionate about "outing" people who fall short of their ethical standards, for Nogitsune this is sport.
They most often appear as a beautiful and amorous young lady, who then either expose a lustful or adulterous man to his peers, or reward a virtuous one by becoming his paramour. These powerful creatures, again, do not always use their strengths for the betterment of humankind.
Her spirit transformed into a rock, now called Sessho-Seki, the killing rock, because it killed any living creature that came in contact with it, so powerful was her evil.

Some of them have been tattooing for along time and have been more influential than then know. In 1999 he began designing tattoos and shortly after opened Inkside Tattooing in the heart of downtown Vicenza. This year performances by Ozzy Osbourne, ZZ Top, Motley Crue, Bob Dylan, Tesla, Scorpions, Kid Rock, The Doobie Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Disturbed and several others hit the bill, and this was just at the Buffalo Chip. Tattooing the Rally is a long-winded affair as the hours are long and the work load can be heavy, most shops open between 8 and 10 in the morning and go 'til midnight or later.
There are three shops in Sturgis that are set up as full-time studios all year around, Main St. Other artist came out of retirement to give it one more go, Gil Montie worked at the Broken Spoke County Line with his Tattoo Mania Crew (which I hear he will be doing every year) and Bryan Adams worked the Dungeon with Judy Parker. Eventually, other shops were invited and a banquet was set up, which originally was a sit down dinner, but when the hotel remodeled they took out the restaurant, they started catering the affair in a special room with its own bar in the basement. As always after the banquet everyone meets at the #10 Saloon for after-dinner drinks and gambling, a band and to say their hellos and goodbyes 'til  next year’s Rally comes around. I can’t wait to see who is in attendance at the 75th Rally, I know I’ll be there, ready to tattoo the Rally masses for another year.
When everyone you work with on a daily basis is happy and smiling it just makes the day go by so smooth.
He came to me about three years ago while I was living in NYC and we started a full backpiece of Nyuu Unryu Kosonshou (from the Suikoden*) riding a dragon.
I had to change my game-plan for the day in order to strategically take the wisest course of action in order to accomplish the most work in fewer hours.
He drove down from Philadelphia to my shop in Salisbury, MD at the time, and I worked on him two days in a row for eight hours each day to complete it. I've gotten just that amount of work time down to a science with my stamina as well as my attention.
As the 90s progressed Paul Booth, Guy Aitchinson, Bob Montagna, Paul Massaro and many others came out with really impressive cards. I'm not talking about just people from overseas, but folks right here in the states that I only get to see once a year across the pond. We were in a corner spot which allowed us to open the booth and provide more room, and what better way to make use of the space than have more people in there with you to party? The Nogitsune are not all malicious, but they do not filter the world through the traditional human lens of good and evil.
The tails are considered marks of prestige and rank and can actually be rewarded to a Kitsune for a great deed or taken from it for a breach of Kitsune law or by getting themselves killed. Kitsune can possess mortals and many ill deeds throughout Japanese history, including the gassing of the Tokyo subway by the infamous Aum Cult, have been attributed to kitsunetsuki or fox possession.
Her spirit was eventually exorcised by a traveling Buddhist priest named Genno… but the infamous rock still stands in Nasu, and is given wide berth. Currently, this is all the information we have, but we will update this post when more information is made available.
In the Rosini Gypsy Tour Tattooing Studio artists put in 14 hours a day for 11 days straight, this used to be only 7 days, but as the Rally crowd started coming earlier and the hours expanded. For instance (just on arms) I started and completed 16 sleeves that year, as well as dozens like her's that have been a little more relaxed in their rate of completion. I had already done some blossoms and branches on her, so it started out in a good way, and now it was time to finish it in a good way.
He left with a great sleeve made of a snake and peonies and a Vajra with a cloud background, and we've been tight ever since. Other than the shop apprentice turning off T-Rex to put on some terrible excuse for music it was an epic day! That's one of my favorite parts of this tattoo so I'm really looking forward to that color session. They assist in harvests, save dying children at great personal sacrifice and sometimes serve as protectors to individuals they deem worthy. The most infamous is Tamamo-no-mae, who throughout her lifespan managed to infiltrate the imperial courts of India, China and Japan and wreak havoc.
The Sturgis Rally has been dubbed the "biggest motorcycle rally in the world" and with well over 600,000 riders coming through in two weeks this year, I’d say they hit the mark. Also there is Sturgis Tattoo in the same location for 12 years, and Tattoo Mania in the Broken Spoke and at the Broken Spoke Campground, which should also be mentioned because each of these studios have great reputations. Most of the shops in Sturgis are temporary affairs, with everything from convention style tables, pipe and drape and full-on stages with pony walls and the look of a full-time shop. On top of all that, I had some people on the schedule I have been anxiously awaiting to return for quite some time, which just added to my overall excitement. I had previously colored the swallows in an aqua green color and didn't really like the way it looked overall so I suggested we color over the aqua green with a light salmon to achieve a nice golden brown; I think it was very successful. She had spent several months travelling around the Southwest last year and it was nice to hear her stories and share my own stories during the course of the session. Two years after that initial meeting and doing his sleeve, he moved down and worked for me for about six months and then a few years later he came up to NYC and wanted to start a dragon backpiece.
Often they are depicted with Kitsune-bi or "fox-fire" floating around them… with balls of white light surrounded by glowing flames. The number of artists in each shop varies from four in the smallest to 31 in the largest shop. After having two days of quality, family time I was ready to jump in and cover a great deal of ground.
I first met her through an apprentice of mine at my old shop, Solid State Tattoo, about six or seven years ago.
I think the american Southwest is an amazingly powerful and beautiful place and I have also spent a lot of time there over the years exploring canyons, mountains and rivers.
Dan came over from his booth, set up in ours and our good buddy Steven Burlton and his lovely lady Liser showed up to help run the booth and sell some merch. They hold their own actions under close scrutiny and if one commits an unjust act, its own shame and regret can cause such self-loathing that it will perish.

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