The topic is prickly, but Tattoo Machine is a charmer. Jeff Johnson is a sharp-eyed master tattoo artist, and an extraordinary writer. His own remarkable story of up-from-under redemption weaves through this engaging, gritty, and meticulous examination of the shadowed art of personal symbolism. As co-owner and manager of the famed Sea Tramp Tattoo shop in Portland, Oregon, Johnson has 18 years of hard-won insider knowledge. He presents that expertise with lyrical prose, savage humor, and enormous compassion. In the process he documents a seismic shift in cultural attitudes.
Thirty years ago, when I first started looking at tattoos in a serious way, skin art was commonly associated with criminals and drunken sailors. Cops assumed any woman with a tattoo was a prostitute. There were artists and mystics who flaunted the outlaw aura of their tattoos. But there was also a secret world in which engineers, business tycoons and surgeons hid elaborate tattoos beneath their suits and scrubs. A prim, strict trauma nurse of my acquaintance took years to complete the storm of Japanese plum blossoms that whirled around her torso. Only her closest friends knew what she considered her true identity.
Now, that secret world has exploded into the light. More than half the working adults in the United States casually sport at least one tattoo. Johnson gives us not just the why but the how of this transfiguration. He provides an entertaining dictionary of tattoo lingo, and a primer on what to look for and what to avoid in shopping for a tattoo. He explains what’s going on in the needle, the mind of the artist, the skin of the tattooed, and the back room, basement and latrines of the tattoo shop. He tracks the rapid evolution of the art and the fierce rivalry of different schools of design and technique. And he does all this with vivid characters, mesmerizing human tales-within-tales, and plenty of scabrous shenanigans. Tattoo Machine is informative, intelligent, and beautifully written. Marked or un-marked, the reader comes away with wiser, more generous eyes.—Katherine Dunn--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I spent almost as many years in retail as Johnson has spent tattooing, and if my stories are better than the ones chronicled here (and they are) there are only two possibilities:... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jennifer Grey
Learning about an unfamiliar subculture. I enjoy Mr. Johnson's "NO, REALLY!" style of character description and development. All in all, a good read.Published 7 months ago by jkp0430
Greatly written. I enjoyed this book so much I read it page to page twice in one night. The part about "the collector" spooked me....everyone will enjoy this book. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mike Branley
Had this book for a while. Very tough to put it down after you open it. Humor, frightening, shocking, and informative. Days of a bygone era. This for sure, is an easy read.Published 13 months ago by JOHN DOWDEN
If your a tattoo artist or just love tattoos you'll love this book. The stories are great and enjoyably funnyPublished 13 months ago by Jason N. Yamasaki
And by that I mean, it is full of truth. JJ has given us a rare look into a fascinating world, and while I am no personal stranger to this world, I still found much that was noble... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Kelly R. Bell
The tattoo business worldwide is experiencing some major changes with the influx of many new, fresh, and very talented artists entering the trade. Read morePublished on January 20, 2013 by Mr. Sean Hobden
I am a tattoo artist/owner of my own studio for 18 years. Jeff did an excellent job bringing the reader into his world. Read morePublished on February 29, 2012 by tikiguy
In the past few years I have seen more and more people with tattoos, I personally will still get a weird look or judgmental glance, but on the norm most people seem to like them or... Read morePublished on February 13, 2012 by Vampyre Mike