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 adventure.
"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.