Lyle Tuttle: How to be a real tattoo artist
Covered a tattoo convention over the weekend for the Star, and had a chance to interview Lyle Tuttle, the man who made tattooing safe for women, back in the 60's, beginning most famously with Janis Joplin. (And here she is, displaying her armband, courtesy of Tuttle.) Here's his part of the story:
Tuttle said that when he started working professionally after World
War II, tattoos were like stickers on luggage — mementos of travel and
"Now seems like everyone in the world has them," he said.
Tuttle thinks there is beauty in body art but also thinks that too
often people get tattooed for the wrong reasons, such as out of peer
pressure or drunkenness, and he has reservations about tattoos on the
neck or hands. "If I was to get a neck tattoo, I would in essence be
alienating myself from society," he said. He added that he's troubled by
people who want a tattoo on their hands or neck as "the first rattle
out of the box."
Tuttle said he no longer works professionally. He told a story of
refusing to give a tattoo to a woman who came in to his shop who
couldn't decide on a design. Instead of trying to talk her into buying a
tattoo she didn't really want, he talked her out of it.
"You have to have a conscience to be a real tattoo artist," Tuttle said.