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Johnson, Jeff

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ISBN 10: 0385530528 / ISBN 13: 9780385530521
Published by Spiegel & Grau, New York, NY, 2009
Condition: NF Hardcover
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Mount Vernon, WA, U.S.A.

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About this Item

Hardback in Near Fine condition with Near Fine dust jacket.; 8vo 8" - 9" tall; 249 pages; Inscribed by author on title page. ; Signed by Author NF; Hardback in Near Fine condition with Near Fine dust jacket. Bookseller Inventory # 42331

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Bibliographic Details


Publisher: Spiegel & Grau, New York, NY

Publication Date: 2009

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: NF

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

About this title


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 he’s 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, he’s inked gangbangers, age-defying moms, and sociopaths; he’s 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. He’s 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–it’s 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.


Katherine Dunn Reviews Tattoo Machine

Katherine Dunn is the author of three novels, Attic, Truck, and Geek Love, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Read her guest review of Jeff Johnson's Tattoo Machine:

The topic is prickly, but Tattoo Machine is a charmer. Jeff Johnson is a sharp-eyed master tattoo artist, and an extraordinary writer. His own remarkable story of up-from-under redemption weaves through this engaging, gritty, and meticulous examination of the shadowed art of personal symbolism. As co-owner and manager of the famed Sea Tramp Tattoo shop in Portland, Oregon, Johnson has 18 years of hard-won insider knowledge. He presents that expertise with lyrical prose, savage humor, and enormous compassion. In the process he documents a seismic shift in cultural attitudes.

Thirty years ago, when I first started looking at tattoos in a serious way, skin art was commonly associated with criminals and drunken sailors. Cops assumed any woman with a tattoo was a prostitute. There were artists and mystics who flaunted the outlaw aura of their tattoos. But there was also a secret world in which engineers, business tycoons and surgeons hid elaborate tattoos beneath their suits and scrubs. A prim, strict trauma nurse of my acquaintance took years to complete the storm of Japanese plum blossoms that whirled around her torso. Only her closest friends knew what she considered her true identity.

Now, that secret world has exploded into the light. More than half the working adults in the United States casually sport at least one tattoo. Johnson gives us not just the why but the how of this transfiguration. He provides an entertaining dictionary of tattoo lingo, and a primer on what to look for and what to avoid in shopping for a tattoo. He explains what’s going on in the needle, the mind of the artist, the skin of the tattooed, and the back room, basement and latrines of the tattoo shop. He tracks the rapid evolution of the art and the fierce rivalry of different schools of design and technique. And he does all this with vivid characters, mesmerizing human tales-within-tales, and plenty of scabrous shenanigans. Tattoo Machine is informative, intelligent, and beautifully written. Marked or un-marked, the reader comes away with wiser, more generous eyes.—Katherine Dunn

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