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A Short History of Tattoos

The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian "tatu" which means "to mark or strike something.”

It is arguably claimed that tattooing has existed since 12,000 years BC. The purpose of tattooing has varies from culture to culture and its place on the time line. But there are commonalties that prevail form the earliest known tattoos to those being done on college students on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.

Tattoos have always had an important role in ritual and tradition. In Borneo, women tattooed their symbols on their forearm indicating their particular skill. If a woman wore a symbol indicating she was a skilled weaver, her status as prime marriageable material was increased. Tattoos around the wrist and fingers were believed to ward away illness. Throughout history tattoos have signified membership in a clan or society. Even today groups like the Hells Angels and U.S. Marines tattoo their particular group symbol TV and movies have used the idea of a tattoo indication membership in a secret society numerous times. It has been believed that the wearer of an image calls the spirit of that image. The ferocity of a tiger would belong to the tattooed person. That tradition holds true today shown by the proliferation of images of tigers, snakes, and bird of prey.

In recorded history, the earliest tattoos can be found in Egypt during the time of the construction of the great pyramids (It undoubtedly started much earlier). The Egyptians expanded their empire, the art of tattooing spread as well. The civilizations of Crete, Greece, Persia, and Arabia picked up and expanded the art form. Around 2000 BC tattooing spread to China.

The Greeks used tattooing for communication among spies. Markings identified the spies and showed their rank. Romans marked criminals and slaves. This practice is still carried on today. The Ainu people of western Asia used tattooing to show social status. Girls coming of age were marked to announce their place in society, as were the married women. The Ainu are noted for introducing tattoos to Japan where it developed into a religious and ceremonial rite. In Borneo, women were the tattooists. It was a cultural tradition. They produced designs indicating the owners’ station in life and the tribe he belonged to. Kayan women had delicate arm tattoos which looked like lacy gloves. Dayak warriors who had "taken a head" had tattoos on their hands. The tattoos garnered respect and assured the owners status for life. Polynesians developed tattoos to mark tribal communities, families, and rank. They brought their art to New Zealand and developed a facial style of tattooing called Moko which is still being used today. There is evidence that the Mayan, Incas, and Aztecs used tattooing in the rituals. Even the isolated tribes in Alaska practiced tattooing, their style indicating it was learned from the Ainu.

In the west, early Britons used tattoos in ceremonies. The Danes, Norse, and Saxons tattooed family crests (a tradition still practiced today). In 787 AD, Pope Hadrian banned tattooing. It still thrived in Britain until the Norman Invasion of 1066. The Normans disdained tattooing. It disappeared from Western culture from the 12th to the 16th centuries.

While tattooing diminished in the west, it thrived in Japan. At first, tattoos were used to mark criminals. First offenses were marked with a line across the forehead. A second crime was marked by adding an arch. A third offense was marked by another line. Together these marks formed the Japanese character for "dog". It appears this was the original "Three strikes you’re out" law. In time, the Japanese escalated the tattoo to an aesthetic art form. The Japanese body suit originated around 1700 as a reaction to strict laws concerning conspicuous consumption. Only royalty were allowed to wear ornate clothing. As a result of this, the middle class adorned themselves with elaborate full body tattoos. A highly tattooed person wearing only a loin cloth was considered well dressed, but only in the privacy of their own home.

William Dampier is responsible for re-introducing tattooing to the west, in 1691 via the Cape of Good Hope, Dampier returned to England, penniless but in possession of his journals. He also had as a source of income the famous painted (tattooed) Prince Giolo, whom he had purchased as a slave and subsequently exhibited in London; He was put on exhibition, a money making attraction, and became the rage of London. This also got him a lot of publicity while he worked on a book based on his journals it had been 600 years since tattoos had been seen in Europe and it would be another 100 years before tattooing would make it mark in the West.

In the late 1700s, Captain Cook made several trips to the South Pacific. The people of London welcomed his stories and were anxious to see the art and artifacts he brought back. Returning form one of this trips, he brought a heavily tattooed Polynesian named Omai. He was a sensation in London. Soon, the upper- classes were getting small tattoos in discreet places. For a short time tattooing became a fad.

What kept tattooing from becoming more widespread was its slow and painstaking procedure. Each puncture of the skin was done by hand the ink was applied. In 1891, Samuel O'Rtiely patented the first electric tattooing machine. It was based on Edison's electric pen which punctured paper with a needle point. The basic design with moving coils, a tube and a needle bar, are the components of today's tattoo gun. The electric tattoo machine allowed anyone to obtain a reasonably priced and readily available tattoo. As the average person could easily get a tattoo, the upper classes turned away from it.

By the turn of the century, tattooing had lost a great deal of credibility. Tattooists worked the sleazier sections of town. Heavily tattooed people traveled with circuses and "freak Shows." Betty Brodbent traveled with Ringling Brothers Circus in the 1930s and was a star attraction for years.

The cultural view of tattooing was so poor for most of the century that tattooing went underground. Few were accepted into the secret society of artists and there were no schools to study the craft. There were no magazines or associations. Tattoo suppliers rarely advertised their products. One had to learn through the scuttlebutt where to go and who to see for quality tattoos.

The birthplace of the American style tattoo was Chatham Square in New York City. At the turn of the century it was a seaport and entertainment center attracting working-class people with money. Samuel O'Riely came from Boston and set up shop there. He took on an apprentice named Charlie Wagner. After O'Reily's death in 1908, Wagner opened a supply business with Lew Alberts. Alberts had trained as a wallpaper designer and he transferred those skills to the design of tattoos. He is noted for redesigning a large portion of early tattoo flash art.

Tattooing was declining in popularity across the country, in Chatham Square in flourished. Husbands tattooed their wives with examples of their best work. They played the role of walking advertisements for their husbands' work. At this time, cosmetic tattooing became popular, blush for cheeks, colored lips, and eyeliner. With World War I, the flash art images changed to those of bravery and wartime icons.

In the 1920s, with prohibition and then the depression, Chatham Square lost its appeal. The center for tattoo art moved to Coney Island. Across the country, tattooists opened shops in areas that would support them, namely cities with military bases close by, particularly naval bases. Tattoos were known as travel markers. You could tell where a person had been by their tattoos.

After World War II, tattoos became further denigrated by their associations with Marlon Brando type bikers and Juvenile delinquents. Tattooing had little respect in American culture. Then, in 1961 there was an outbreak of hepatitis and tattooing was sent reeling on its heels.

Though most tattoo shops had sterilization machines, few used them. Newspapers reported stories of blood poisoning, hepatitis, and other diseases. The general population held tattoo parlors in disrepute. At first, the New York City government gave the tattoos an opportunity to form an association that self- regulates, but tattooists are independent and they were not able to organize themselves. A health code violation went into effect and the tattoo shops at Times Square and Coney Island were shut down. For a time, it was difficult to get a tattoo in New York. It was illegal and tattoos had a terrible reputation. Few people wanted a tattoo. The better shops moved to Philadelphia and New Jersey where it was still legal.

In the late 1960s, the attitude towards tattooing changed. Much credit can be given to Lyle Tuttle. He is a handsome, charming, and interesting and knew how to use the media. He tattooed celebrities, particularly women. Magazines and television went to Lyle to get information about this ancient art form.

Today, tattooing is making a strong comeback. It is more popular, mainstream and accepted than it has ever been. All classes of people seek the best tattoo artists. This rise in popularity has placed tattooist in the category of "fine artist". The tattooist has gained a respect not seen for over 100 years. Current artists combine the tradition of tattooing with their personal style creating unique and phenomenal body art. With the addition of new inks, tattooing has certainly reached a new plateau.

How tattoos affect skin cells; Part II

Although allergic responses to tattoo inks are rare, if you're concerned, find out the list of ink ingredients ahead of time and discuss these with your doctor. Consider having a few small pin pricks of color made to pre-test your sensitivity. An allergic reaction should be treated by seeking medical care typically; your physician will give you antihistamines and/or corticosteroids. Watch out for unusual swelling and redness.

There's always some risk of a severe allergic reaction like anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock requires an initial exposure to ingredients in the ink that sensitize your immune system. It's on subsequent exposure that you may experience a reaction that affects your whole body. Anaphylactic shock is very dangerous and can affect your breathing almost immediately. It can be treated with a shot of epinephrine, but because of its suddenness of onset can be life-threatening. This kind of response is very rare and unfortunately hard to predict.

After You Get Your Tattoo

koiThere will be redness and tenderness around the tattoo, but changes in skin color around the tattooed area, excessive redness and tenderness and excessive bleeding can all be signs of infection. You may be susceptible to a viral infection (e.g., hepatitis), bacterial infection, or skin irritation (dermatitis). If you have eczema, a tattoo may also cause a reaction. While it's theoretically possible to get AIDS from an infected needle, there have been no reports of AIDS infections in the U.S. from tattoo needles. However, as discussed below, it's very important to use a studio that's clean and follows good health and safety practices. You should see your artist open all your equipment new if you don’t, don’t get a tattoo from that studio or artist! Find a Professional Tattoo Studio, preferably REBEL INK

The one you choose should look clean. Most of the equipment will be disposable, so your tattoo artist should be using a new pair of gloves, mask, needles, when she starts your tattoo. What's thrown away shouldn't be tossed into an open trash bin, but instead should be placed in a special container that's typically labeled with a bio-hazard sign. Needles should be disposed of in a container for sharp instruments. What isn't disposed of should be sterilized using a special piece of equipment called an autoclave (a pressure pop that boils using steam and pressure to sterilize killing microorganisms by over-exposing them to high temperatures and pressure.

Regulations vary from state to state, but tattoo studios generally have to be licensed and so do tattoo artists. Ask about this when you select your tattoo studio; a professional shop will be happy to make you feel comfortable. Your tattoo artist should wash her hands using germicidal soap and should wash the area of skin to be tattooed as well. After outlining the tattoo, your tattoo artist should clean you skin again, before adding color to the design. Blood should be wiped away using a sterile cloth, which should be disposed of as if it were a biohazard. The finished tattoo should be cleaned yet again.

Caring for Your Tattoo

Rebel Rub™Initially, the skin around your tattoo will be a bit swollen. You should keep a bandage on the tattooed area at least a day or just keep it clean I’ve found people are more likely to wash there tattoo 2-3 times a day if it’s not covered and in my experience it’s been more effective in the healing process to keep it clean rather than keep it covered for the first 24hrs.. Monitor your skin for pain, redness that spreads outward from the tattooed area, excessive swelling, or pus. Wash the area with antimicrobial soap. You don't want to use alcohol; it will just dry out your skin. Pat the skin dry with a soft tissue. You can rub an antibacterial or antibiotic cream into the tattoo. Give your skin time to heal and don't expose it to pool water, or even hot bath water do not let your fresh ink sit in any water for any amount of time don’t take baths when you have fresh ink as this will seriously effect the healing process negatively. Sunscreen is a good idea for any part of your skin.

How tattoos affect skin cells; Part I


How a tattoo is applied

To create a tattoo, a tattoo artist uses an electric device that contains tubes with ink attached to sterilized needles. By working a foot pedal, the artist injects the ink into your skin, moving the needles in and out to do so. So a tattoo is basically a series of puncture wounds puncturing the skin around 200 times per min.

Why Tattoos Last

skin_Layers_You may have heard that your skin cells are constantly being replenished. So why do tattoos last? Your skin is made up of a number of different layers of cells, including the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. When first injected into the skin, tattoo ink spreads from the puncture site to both the epidermis and the dermis. The upper layer of skin, the epidermis, contains keratin-producing cells, cells important for immune responses, and cells producing pigment. It's the epidermis that's regularly sloughed off and replenishes. And as your tattoo heals, this layer of skin does its job. Immune cells or phagocytes engulf the ink and epidermal cells flake off, carrying ink away. It's how your dermis reacts that makes your tattoo more or less permanent.

The dermis is the skin layer beneath the epidermis where you find collagen- and elastin-producing cells, hair follicles, oil glands, and yes, pain and touch receptors, this is where the ink has to go to stay and look pretty, so yes tattoos hurt.. The dermis also contains cells involved in immune responses and that recognize the tattoo ink as foreign. However, the dermis doesn't turn over its cells the way the epidermis does. Tattoo ink is trapped in the dermis in a meshwork of fibroblast cells and collagen that form granulation tissue. If a tattoo is done properly, tattoo ink won't reach the bottom layer, the hypodermis, which provides a layer of fatty tissue and more support for the dermis and epidermis. As you get much older, the tattoo pigment may migrate deeper into the dermis (that's why your tattoo may fade a bit over time), but for the most part, it remains at the upper portion of the dermis, closer to the epidermis.

Health Concerns

Because the punctures made in your skin to create a tattoo create a temporary open wound, there's a risk of infection. You should be immunized for hepatitis and tetanus before you get a tattoo. Though professional tattoo artists use sterile equipment, it's best to be safe.

If you have certain medical conditions, you're better off not getting a tattoo. For example, any condition that makes your immune system vulnerable makes a tattoo a bad choice. So if you have heart disease (which can worsen by infection), diabetes, or allergies, you should probably avoid getting a tattoo.

Allergies to Tattoo Inks

You also may be allergic to ingredients found in tattoo inks. The catch is that different color dyes will include different ingredients. Some inks include metals, others carbon or even plastic polymers. The FDA does not regulate the tattoo industry or the inks used for tattooing and so you accept a certain amount of risk when you get a tattoo and you should go somewhere you know you can trust the artist and the products the artist uses like at REBEL INK. Tattoo shops are not licensed or regulated by the health department like most people think. A lot of shops/studios get away w/ a lot of unsanitary practices & are not a good place to get a tattoo just because its looks like a professional place of biz. Your artist should be certified in CPR, AED & Blood borne Pathogens they should have a card they can show you that certifies them in these fields.

art-body_In addition to the basic ingredients that give tattoo ink its color, tattoo ink is often thinned before use with solutions like alcohol, purified water, witch hazel, and even Listerine. (This is not a practice at REBEL INK I shoot all my inks 100% pure how I receive them direct from the manufacture) Also, if you're allergic to latex watch out, because your tattoo artist will likely be wearing latex gloves, if you're allergic to latex you should let your tattoo artist know before they start your tattoo, also you should let them know if you have any other health issues.