Bob Shaw

Occult Vibrations Book Shelf: LOST LOVE

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Bob Collins

Things go in cycles.
Back in they glory days of the 1990s, before large publishing houses realized that there was money to be made by mass producing generic tattoo books, we had it good. The books that were available pretty much fell into three basic categories:

Independent Press.
Scholastic./Medical.
Art Books.

1579927_10203135474375783_1196755382_nWhile clearly for profit, these books were niche sellers, made for a specific demographic (though in the case of Scholastic or Medical texts, often a shared one) who generally had to seek them out. I spent almost every Saturday during those years driving to Ybor City to check out the new pickups at Cindy Wheeler’s Three Bird’s bookstore; a one-stop-shop for zines, cult authors and tattoo books. The majority of my Hardy Marks collection came from those visits; Rocks of Ages, Forever Yes, Pierced Hearts and True Love… the best of the tattoos books were put out by and for tattooed people.

Things changed. Things always change. Someone realized that books on tattoos- culled from stock photos with a hack-for-hire to churn out ‘expert’ text illustrating biomechanical, tribal or newschool tattoos for casual readers in middle America- were a guaranteed seller. You went from Permanent Curios to The TOTAL Tattoo Book! overnight.

For a while it was absolutely possible, with due diligence, to track down and purchase almost every commercially released tattoo book available, and what’s more,  most were good. Better than good really. Some transcended and became iconic. Then things went a little crazy, with books by authors or photographers you never heard of flooding retailer shelves, each more bland then the one before it. The soul was gone.

After the mass production/consumption phase, we were in a black hole. Hardy wasn’t releasing books with any regularity. The internet became a depository for a quick fix (after all- photos could be uploaded real time from conventions and shops the world over; no more waiting for the latest issue of Tattoo Revue or Hardy compilation to be released) and things got stale.

Lost Love preview.

Lost Love preview.

The cycle thankfully started to shift back in our favor a few years ago when tattooers began investigating the self publishing world, and thanks to online retail, were able to skip the middleman and find a global audience hungry for content. Dave Fox’s HAUNTED, Grime’s TWO YEAR AUTOPSY and a handful of others became instant classics and started a wave that we’re now fully enjoying.

For my money, the best and brightest in this new generation of tattoo publishing has to be Yellow Beak Press. Started by tattoo collectors Scott Boyer and Kayla Grosneth, YBP burst onto the scene with 2012’s mammoth undertaking ‘Tattooing as you like it: The Legacy of Milton Zeis.” The book was an instant success; Boyer and Grosneth not only researching the life and times of Milt but also gathering 95 of the world’s top tattooers to reinterpret classic Zeis designs.

They followed it up with my personal favorite Yellow Beak offering, 2013’s ‘Born Weird’, a companion book to the art show of the same name with 29 amazing tattooers contributing disturbing, vile, prurient tattoo flash for a no holes barred adult audience. It remains my most recommended tattoo book that was released in 2013 though I admit given it’s lower than lowbrow designs it has a hard time ingratiating itself to casual readers.

1477700_10202668090211471_567420024_nFor 2014 they’ve taken another look into the past with ‘Lost Love’,  collecting (some for the first time) classic tattoo flash by  icons like Cap Coleman, Sailor Jerry Collins, Stoney St. Clair, Percy Water,Owen Jensen, Bob Shaw,  Zeis Studios and more. The pages lovingly highlight the roots of European/American tattoo designs that we all but take for granted today; dice, cards, snakes, panthers, Girl heads, Skunks and Ducks, Hotstuffs and Horses… 260 pages packed with designs that are as “ancient as time, as modern as tomorrow.” Scott and Kayla present the flash sheets along with archival photos, newspaper clippings and ephemera that influenced what went on to be classic designs and very little in the way of text. These images speak for themselves and will undoubtable influence a whole new generation of artists.

With more and more publishing being done digitally and Kindle and iBook editions starting to take market share, it’s nice to see a small publishing house stick to tradition and release honest to goodness print books, particularly when it comes to tattoo culture. With their third book they’ve proven themselves to be committed to properly documenting the best of tattooing’s past, as well as the brightest of it’s future. 

You can purchase Lost Love directly from Yellow Beak Press.

Bob Shaw Interview.

I could sit and read these interviews all day. Another one from the very gracious Jonathan Shaw; this time interviewing the legendary Bob Shaw. Bob (1926-1993) was known as an innovative flash painter and letterer. He had full sleeves from Bert Grimm by the time he was sixteen years old and later went on to run Bert’s shop at the Pike. If you haven’t already read the Col. Todd interview I posted, check it out!

Originally Published in 1993, International Tattoo Art magazine Vol. 1 Number 5.


Bob Shaw: The Life and Times of a Tattoo Hero.

Paul Rogers and Bob Shaw.

This interview was conducted with Bob Shaw, several months before his death, at his Aransas Pass home. His frankness, humor and generosity of spirit are clearly felt through his words and anecdotes. Even at death’s door, he was never too preoccupied to share his all with the tattoo world to which he lovingly dedicated to his life and times.

Jonathan Shaw: Bob, you’ve been tattooing for a long time now, over fifty years, right?

Bob Shaw: Fifty-one years.

JS: Fifty-one years. Thats a long time to be doing anything. How did it all start?

BS: It’s kind of strange, I guess. My father died when I was a kid, and my mother remarried when I was 13, and the fellow she married wasn’t very good at taking care of the family. Everything I did was ass-backwards. My brother two years older than me had left home and went into the city about six months before that, and he invited me there in the summer of 1941.
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Jonathan Shaw Interviews: Col. William L. Todd

In the 1990s, Tattooist Jonathan Shaw interviewed an iconic lineup of Tattoo Legends for ITA magazine. With his kind permission, Occult Vibrations is going to be digitizing these must-read interviews.

The first interview is between Jonathan and Col. Todd.
It originally ran in ITA Vol 1. No. 1, 1992.

Enjoy.


Back in the early 1970’s, when I first became interested in the mystery of tattoos, tattooing was a closed world, almost a secret society. Most tattooers were very tight-lipped about their secrets, and tattoo supplies weren’t openly available. Col. William L. Todd was working alongside his long-standing partner, Bob Shaw, at Long Beach, in California’s famous Nu-Pike, a sprawling amusement park surrounded by military bases and studded with a dozen tattoo parlors- a very different scene from today’s genteel tattoo/art studio scene. The Pike is an important location in tattoo history, a place where history and tradition came aline for those of us who were fortunate enough to be around the the words, action and technically superior tattooing of guys like Col. Todd.

A tattooer’s tattooer of the old school, Todd is a perfect southern gentleman with a streak of the badass bootcamp drill sergeant. He always ran a tight ship!

Today, the amusement area of the Pikee is gone, paved over by developers in the endless drive for progress. All that remains of the glory days is one lone tattoo shop where the famous Bert Grimm tattooed for so many years.

Jonathan Shaw: We’re at the Bert Grimm Studio, probably the oldest tattoo shop in the country.

Col. Todd: That’s what they say.

JS: Col. Todd, when did you first start tattooing?

CT: I started in 1947. I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I’d always been interested in tattooing. I had a couple of officers who were heavily tattooed, one of them having been in the Navy. I was raised on a farm where you didn’t see tattooing unless it was with a carnival or something like that passing through. I went into town in San Antonio, went up and down Houston street, where all the tattooers were, and down toward the end of the street was a circus trailer set up on blocks by itself that said “Tattoo”. It belonged to a gentleman named Jack Tyron. Anyway, Jack told me that he was tattooed all over when he was 16 by Charlie Wagner. He traveled with the circus for years then he bought a commercial lot and the circus trailer and set up shop. It’d be odd to see something like that today.

I went in, and after talking to him I got a little tattoo and asked him about buying a machine. Oh yeah, he said he’d sell me a machine. He started telling me about the mail order places.

JS: Zeis? Was it Zeis back then?

CT: Yeah, Zeis was in business in those days. I didn’t know the connections. I didn’t know how to go about it. It wasn’t as easy in those days. It wasn’t easy to learn, it wasn’t publicized in magazines like today. And the tattoo artists weren’t giving up their secrets. They wouldn’t give you any information.
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