Eight-Stone Press

Skin Deep

Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! COVER

To order a copy of
Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!
send $3
(check, money order, stamps, or cash) to:

Willam P. Tandy
c/o Eight-Stone Press
PO Box 347
Glen Arm, MD
21057 USA

Table of contents

Introduction by William P. Tandy
Word Made Flesh, by Rahne Alexander
Survivor, by Jeanne Surber
Gabriel, by E. Doyle-Gillespie
Wabbit, by Meghan Devine
The Bear, by Ian Andrew Erdman
Permanent Obsessions, by Davida Gypsy Breier
Celtic Cross, by E. Doyle-Gillespie
Ode to Shaun...Shane, by Jen Sanford
By a Nose, by Misty Lettz
Butterflies, by Yvonne L. Henderson
Electric Ink Mantra, by E. Doyle-Gillespie
Welcome to the Rock, by Meghan Devine
Collapsing New Buildings on My Back, by J. Gavin Heck
Enoch Flesh, by E. Doyle-Gillespie
Invisibly Inked, by Susan Beverly
A Slice of Life, by Corinne Parks
Nightingale Song, by J. Gavin Heck
In Memoriam, by Rashima
Trust, by Carrie "Sahffi" Grochowski
Towhomitmayconcern-ku, by J. Gavin Heck
Telling Time, by Andrea Calabretta
Ballast, by William P. Tandy
About the Contributors

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Tattoos tell stories, even when they don’t. They speak of who we are, where we’ve been, where we’re going. They demarcate (or, sometimes, establish solidarity between) both the viewer and the body in question, to which the photographs, poetry and prose within the pages of Skin Deep will attest.

Circumstance dictates that, at least for a while, my first tattoo will remain my only tattoo (but more on that later). So, to help broaden the issue’s scope, I ventured down to Fell’s Point to speak with the resident artists and staff of the Baltimore Tattoo Museum, who graciously offered their time and perspectives discussing their stock in trade.

“We meet people at their worst, we meet people at their best, and we meet them at every point in between,” says co-owner Bill Stevenson, who, along with Chris Keaton and George “Fudgie” Dobson, helped establish the combination working tattoo parlor and repository for tattooing memorabilia in 1999. “It’s never about the tattoo. It’s always about the person wanting it - and the personalities.”

Indeed, the motives behind getting certain tattoos are uniquely personal. Some do it for strictly aesthetic purposes, while others look to commemorate life’s watershed moments. And still others never tell, opting instead to quietly amass substantial private art collections never intended for public display.

But even the thousand-mile journey, as Confucius noted, begins with a single step. And for the Tattoo Museum’s Josh Griffin, that trip began at home.

“My dad had my mom’s name on his arm, and that was it,” recalls Griffin, who has been tattooing for eight years. “But all his buddies - they were all sailors - had tattoos, and they’d always come over to the house.”

“First one I ever got, I was about 15 years old,” he continues. “I was at a New Year’s Eve tatt party drinking a crazy concoction of booze, and this guy was giving out tattoos - just a motor from a cassette-player, a guitar string for a needle and a Bic pen for a tube. He had a little miniature portfolio with hand-done drawings. There was a big pot leaf in there...and I was like, ‘I want that!’ I was still drunk when I got home. I woke up the next day and showed my mom, and I was like, ‘Hey, look at this!’”

Luckily for Griffin, that ink - and the craftsmanship behind it - proved as fleeting as the impulse to have it done in the first place. In time, it faded from existence - though the lure of a properly-done tatt did not.

“My first real one - I got a small tattoo on my back that my girlfriend at the time bought for me for my birthday,” he explains. “It’s probably about a half-dollar size. She [also] got one, from her navel to her downstairs - this giant moon with the sky and stars. Insane.”

“She was a champ, man,” he laughs. “I was just like, ‘I’ll take that small one right there.’”

Like Griffin, Dave Drell grew up ogling the ink worn by his elders, and one uncle in particular.

“He was like the “bad” uncle - you know, the ‘black sheep’ of the family,” says Drell, who curates the Museum’s exhibits, in addition to performing numerous administrative duties. “He had a couple tattoos and drove a Camaro. He was rock-’n’-roll.”

Growing up in Prince George’s County, counterman Preston Coddington fondly recalls an elderly neighbor whose ink no doubt fueled his own juvenile thirst for “stick-on tattoos.”

“I had this neighbor across the street - his name was Mr. Poole,” Coddington explains. “He was a cool, old Navy dude - like, the guy who lied on his birth certificate and started in the Navy when he was 15. He was covered in old traditional tattoos, like the “True Love” across his knuckles. I wish I had pictures to hang up in here, but he’s passed away now, God rest his soul.”

From angels to the iconic hands clasped in prayer, Coddington’s faith informed numerous tattoo choices of his own over the years, as did his affinity for hardcore music.

“I was never like, ‘I’ll get a tattoo and try it out,’” he says. “I wanted to be covered in tattoos from day one.”

Interestingly, Stevenson and Drell - both Baltimore natives - never got inked until they were past high school, though each had spent years nurturing a building interest in the culture. Today, designs as varied in style as they are numerous adorn their bodies.

A tour of the exhibits, flash collections and artist books suggests that traditional tattoos are the Museum’s bread and butter, though the collective experience of its artists (Laura Rachel, for example, who specializes in gorgeous black-and-gray photorealism) allows the shop to accommodate designs of virtually any style.

“There are a lot of well-rounded tattooers here, because we only accept seasoned tattooers,” explains Adam Jeffrey, who has been inking clients for eight years. “This is a well-known space. You’re gonna get something nice.”

Indeed, the Baltimore Tattoo Museum, much like its ever-changing neighborhood, looks “forward to the past.”

“I definitely see trends,” notes Coddington. “But like Bill [Stevenson] says, ‘Everyone has everything.’ So, I think it really comes to a point where it’s not what everybody else has - it’s what you want to wear.”

Special thanks to Preston Coddington, Dave Drell, Josh Griffin, Adam Jeffrey, Laura Rachel and Bill Stevenson for their time and efforts in helping to compile Skin Deep.

William P. Tandy, April 2008

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