Alicio's Barbed Cross

Here's a quick one.

Last Sunday at the laundromat, I ran into Alicio who had this simple tattoo on the inside of his left forearm:
Designs are never just designs.

Alicio explained, "When I was growing up, religion was a big part of my life, but it caused me a lot of pain. I wanted something to represent that."

Alicio got this cross, with barbs on it to represent the pain. The tattoo is about two years old and he had it inked in Tucson, Arizona, where he lives. He was in Brooklyn, visiting.

Thanks to Alicio for his willingness to share his barbed ink with Tattoosday.
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The First Two Elements of Omar's Sleeve

I was sitting in my local coffee establishment Sunday morning when I overheard some words that got my attention. Among the words uttered were “traditional,” “sleeve,” and “work”. I looked up to see a guy talking to the barista. He had a tattoo on his wrist. I waited until he was done talking to the guy behind the counter and spoke up when he walked by.

His name is Omar and he has two tattoos, both on his inner right forearm:

His first one is the nautical star, definitely a traditional piece:

He explained that, as he understood it, the nautical star tattoo is a common piece that represents a star guiding a sailor home on the right path. He had flames added to symbolize change, as it so often does in tattooing.

This was not inked at any shop, but by one of Omar's friends who is just learning the art of the tattoo. He pointed out that the line work was not perfect, but I wouldn't have noticed it without a harder glance.

The second piece is a traditional sugar skull, very similar to the one that appeared in Tattoosday's "Rad Tattoo from Nebraska" post:

Omar had first gone into Brooklyn Ink and discussed his second tattoo it was there that the artist recommended that he should stay traditional to be consistent with the nautical star.

He ended up in SoHo at Whatever Tattoo II where he had the sugar skull added. I'll be frank, I thought that the design was just a Day of the Dead piece and only recently learned of the significance of the sugar skull. These items are usually associated with the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, and are made specifically for the ocasion using colored sugar. In the context of the tattoo they represent the dichotomy of life and death. This tattoo is only about two weeks old.

Omar says he plans to have a full sleeve dedicated to traditional tattoo symbols. He next hopes to add to the background of the skull with some flowers and other designs.

Thanks to Omar for his contribution to Tattoosday!
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Tattoos I Know: Paul Part 2, or, The Traditional Japanese Sleeve

NOTE: This post was updated on March 31, 2008 with three additional photographs.

Here's a Tattoosday first: a repeat subject in this blog's history.

Paul appeared here first, showing off his first tattoo, a dragon. In this post, Paul returns, showing off a full sleeve on his left arm.

The sleeve consists of traditional elements: there is a dragon, a lotus, a mask, a lily, and a koi.

If you went back in a time machine 8 or 9 years to visit Paul's arm, you would have seen a grim reaper holding a skull on the bicep:

and some roses in a pattern on the forearm. These earlie
r tattoos have been covered by elements in the sleeve. Even when told where the original ink lies, it's extremely difficult to see the previous work.

So I will break this down into two sections: the upper arm and the lower arm.

The upper arm began with the dragon cover-up:

The dark rock below the dragon covered the old piece. This design, which included the aum or om symbol at the top of the arm, was inked by Carlos at Rising Dragon Tattoos in Chelsea back in 2001. The aum symbol is the Siddhaṃ script version and is a mystical and sacred symbol in Indian religions. Note that this om is different than the one that appeare din the first Tattoosday post here.

Paul was not 100% thrilled with the dragon, so when he decided to finish the sleeve, the following year, he went elsewhere.

The lower part of the arm, which is the more prominent part of the sleeve, was inked by Mike Bellamy at Red Rocket Tattoo in Manhattan, although at the time his shop was known as Triple X Tattoo.

The specific elements in the sleeve are all traditional irezumi, or Japanese tattooing, elements.

The largest piece is the koi. It appears to be a golden koi.

There's a whole discussion here on what koi tattoos symbolize.

In addition, one can read here about the symbolic nature of the lotus flower in tattoos.

Paul also
referred to the other flower as a spider lily.

However, there are so many different varieties of specific families of flowers, that I often have a hard time finding good pictures to represent the tattoos.

The additional element in the sleeve which is only a small part, but is still interesting is what Paul referred to as the "kite mask":

Masks are traditional parts of Japanese tattoo design, but this specific one is hard to pinpoint for me. Here are some Chinese mask kites. Yet, the fact that I cannot easily find one on the web, just fascinates me more.

Paul estimates that the whole sleeve (including the dragon from 2001) took about 20 hours of work, and he did it in 6-7 sittings, mostly in 2002.

Paul sent me the following photos from the New York City Tattoo Convention, where Mike Bellamy did some of the work on Paul's sleeve:

That's Paul and Mike on the far left of the photo:

Thanks to Paul for helping me update this post with additional shots!
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