Ink Bomb

Amid the explosion of tattoo culture, these Las Vegans are creating a lasting art form

inkbomb.jpgIf you are old enough to read this without sneaking it from your parents, then the world of tattooing has radically transformed within your lifetime. Tattoos used to carry a stigma, and highly visible tattoos—on the neck, face or hands—were called “life ruiners.” A quick visit to any Vegas swimming pool shows a seismic attitude shift. Reality TV shows, celebrities and athletes have helped speed tattooing’s mainstream acceptance. Case in point: The 2005 hit Las Vegas reality show Inked brought tattoo parlors to casinos and eased the city’s zoning laws in the process, allowing studios to emerge from industrial-district exile into more prominent spaces. Custom tattoo shops flourished. For the commitment-phobic, InfinitInk even offers easier-to-remove black pigment (good luck convincing your tattooist to use it). These changes have thrown a once-insular and rebellious industry into the exhilarating chaos of pop culture. Members of the Las Vegas tattoo community are riding the new wave with methods as unique and individual as their own tattoos. Here are their stories.


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The Original

The tattoo boom has without a doubt benefited Pussykat Tattoo Parlor. But that doesn’t mean owner/artist/punk rocker Dirk Vermin likes it. “You’re more unique not to have a tattoo at this point,” laments the Las Vegas tattoo pioneer. | Read more…

 


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The Graffiti Artist

King Ruck hit his first train in the fifth grade. He spray-painted the word “bomb” on a boxcar, with a picture of a bomb in place of the “o.” “I was such a toy, a scallywag,” the 34-year-old says of his childhood. | Read more…

 


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The Mogul

King Ink, Mario Barth’s tattoo parlor/nightclub in The Mirage, is a glittering example of everything the tattoo industry has become: slick, shiny and glamorous. | Read more…

 


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The Collector

The first thing you notice about Phillip Limon is his skin. He’s covered in tattoos. They overwhelm his other features and even replace some—the guy has tattoos for hair. Because of his looks and his enthusiasm, you’d naturally assume he’s a tattoo artist, but he’s not. | Read more…


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The Islanders

According to legend, twin Samoan girls brought the sacred art of tattooing to their homeland more than 2,000 years ago. They sailed off to Fiji, where they got the basket of tools and learned the song of tatau (the Samoan word is most likely parent to our English one). | Read more…


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The Cover Model

When she arrives at the photo shoot—before hair or makeup—model Sabina Kelley already looks spectacular. She has that eternal beauty—hourglass figure, fairytale-princess hair and perfect features—that men paint on fighter planes and carve onto the front of ships. | Read more…


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The Family

Like countless young women across the country, Courtney Spencer was a teenager when she got her first tattoo. She graduated from high school and “ran right to the tattoo studio” with her best friend to get matching fairy lower-back tats. And like thousands before her, the then-18-year-old proceeded to hide her rebellion from her mother. | Read more…


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