michellerpower, October 17, 2009 (view all comments by michellerpower)
If Tony Bourdain had been a tattoo artist instead of a chef, this is the book he might have written. I've been tattooed all over Portland (including twice at Sea Tramp, though not by the author), and I all but devoured this book. I even learned a few things about tattooing (according to Jeff, ALL tattoo ink is vegan), and I've been a tattoo devotee for over 15 years. This book is a must-read for just about anyone who ever wanders off the beaten path - especially if they're wandering into a tattoo studio.
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A memoir like no other: entertaining, wise, heartbreaking, frightening, and, of course, hilariously bizarro. Johnson shares his stories with us, stirring them into the brilliant blood bath that is Tattoo Machine. I highly recommend this book.
by Juniper Winters
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Tattoo parlors are showcases for the socially disreputable, the brazenly nonconformist and the indelibly creative, all on display in this colorful memoir. First-time author and veteran tattoo artist Johnson has a million tales of the tattoo demimonde, who come to his Sea Tramp in Portland, Ore., as well as tattoo shops around the country. Into his shop walk scamsters and freaks; a gangster whose gun-toting posse rattles Johnson into misspelling their boss's tat; a punk femme fatale who lures him into a trap; and a probable serial killer who has the names and Social Security numbers of his victims emblazoned on his skin. Ruggedly individualistic artists are part of the show, as is Johnson himself: 'I have no shoes and no driver's license and I've been smoking gooey Mexican heroin and snorting piles of coke off a switchblade for three days straight,' opens one tale. (In a grungy management primer, Johnson offers tips on customer service, employee relations and the importance of bathrooms so clean that 'some daisy-assed pantsuit could feel safe and secure' in them.) The book is little more than a collection of shaggy-dog stories, but Johnson's stingingly profane prose, storytelling chops and offbeat sensibility definitely get under the reader's skin. (July 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day"
by Gerry Donaghy, Powells.com,
"As a business guide, Tattoo Machine maintains a reasonable equilibrium between personal iconoclasm, the value of teamwork, and the motivations for success. " (read the entire Powells.com review)
by Gus Van Sant,
"An amazing firsthand account of all things you wondered about tattoo shops. I loved it."
by Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love,
"Tattoo Machine is meticulously observed, savagely funny, and deeply compassionate. It's a tale of up-from-under redemption through the shadowed art of personal symbolism. Jeff Johnson is a sharp-eyed master tattoo artist and an extraordinary writer."
by Random House,
A behind-the-scenes tour of the fabled tattoo industry on the arm of a swashbuckling insider and natural-born storyteller.
In the eighteen years hes been a tattoo artist, Jeff Johnson has worked on everyone from nervous young coeds who turn green at the sight of his needle (chudders) to cocky would-be artists with fancy design degrees and weak constitutions (night hogs). As the proprietor of the legendary Sea Tramp Tattoo Company, hes inked gangbangers, age-defying moms, and sociopaths; hes defused brawls, tended delicate egos, learned to spot and avoid bunnies, and made it his mission to perpetrate ingenious and awful practical jokes on his fellow Trojans. Hes a true swamp panther: He knows all the tricks of the trade and, more important, he knows how to keep his legendary shop in Portland, Oregon, from becoming the scene of a nightly bloodbath.
In Tattoo Machine, Johnson lifts the curtain on an art form that has undergone rebirth and illuminates a world where art, drama, and commerce come together in highly entertaining theater. A tattoo shop is no longer a den of social outcasts and degenerates–its a workshop where committed and schooled artists who paint on living canvases develop close bonds and bitter rivalries, where tattoo legends and innovators are equally revered, and where the potential for disaster lurks in every corner.
Discussing everything from his days as an apprentice to some of the greatest inkers in the trade to the incredibly vivid nightly spectacular over which he presides, Jeff Johnson has written a sometimes riotous, sometimes harrowing, and always riveting memoir about what it means to be on the front lines of a global art revolution.
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