Mr Z has conquered another session. He drives up from Austin to get tattooed here in Dallas. This work in progress is executed with the traditional and singular black ink of Japanese tattooing, sumi. It must be hand ground and prepared for each tattoo, one at a time. I am very proud to work with this magic tool. It is a distinction that marks the work of most japanese tattoo masters, and very few American tattooers. I am lucky, as this gift was given to me by my teacher, Derek Jefferson, who has always had a passion for using the best equipment he could make the connections to obtain. We used to call up Rollo on the phone, asking what machines he had available that week. When once again we had to admit we couldn’t afford these handmade masterpieces that cost more than the rent on our shop, Mike would share machine tuning tips with us, and we would run back to our stations to implement these ideas immediately… One of my favorite parts of writing here are these trips back in time my mind takes me on, even when i had planned to write something else… Mr Z […]

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  Japan is the jewel center of the arts. Stretching backwards into time, nothing has been undone, or taken away. The rich tapestry of symbols, of images, of virtues, has only been added to. Modern glass buildings spring up around Shinto shrines that are hundreds of years old. Uniformed schoolchildren bounce past monks under large, pointy hats. Bullet trains cut through the countryside, where trees shoot up in dense forests and farmlands unfold in aged plots. The maple leaf is as important as the skyscraper. A grain of rice is equal to a slice of sashimi. Everything locks together in a kaleidoscope of expression, of aesthetic beauty. The stoic faces on the subway seem to meditate around us. The hum of the city is unstoppable, unending. The country opens up to us, pointing inward at itself, revealing to us these jewels. The red faced bartender is laughing, disappearing into the kitchen to return with another round. The help of a random passer-by, whoever is closest, is complete and extremely hospitable. The culture is beginning to show itself to us. The subtleties are unfolding like the brocade of a concubine’s kimono, extremely alluring, if you can catch a glimpse… The culture […]

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What to say of this, a piece I worked on for years, on a great friend and a great artist, who’s strength is equal to his talent… Over and over what impresses me is the ability of my customers to stand up to the intense physical pain of tattooing… This pain is especially excruciating when doled out across large areas of the body- and the back is the largest area we have. This is called turtle back horimono, kame no koh, and represents the ultimate achievement in tattooing outside of the full bodysuit. It was my pleasure to work on this piece, again and again, month after month, year after year. Hours would pass when a single conversation unfurled like a flag slowly blowing in the wind. It was relaxed, as if we were fishing, or sitting around enjoying a smoke. But all the while we were hammering, hammering… The armature pulling down, magnetized, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand times… a hundred thousand holes in the dermis letting the sunshine of pigment in.  As I man the machine he tries his best to become a piece of paper, a lay down table… We talk on, then, take a […]

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Sitting up late working, maybe its not tattooing, not painting… Strangely, its writing, one of the first art forms I ran to, after I had read the lyric sheets for everyone from 7 Seconds to The Smiths, even as I recoiled from the reading assignments in english class… school sucked. I had my friend draw green sharpie tattoos on me so at least i’d look cool and have something to stare at while I was bored to tears in class…. now the writing serves my website, supports my true work of tattooing… you can’t just tattoo anymore, now you have to post pictures everywhere of what you did and where and when and sometimes even why. And then you’re expected to stay glued to your phone and look at what everyone else did. it’s exhausting work, truly. I shouldn’t complain. The work gets out there. It gets seen. I remember when photos of my work only sat in a portfolio on the rail, living in darkness, until a rare customer wandered in to flip through it’s pages in a manner somewhere between disinterested and distracted… And I do, I love it when customers come here to my site, my little […]

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Every customer is just as important as the next one. “You are only as good as your last tattoo.” And yet, there is an added pressure when you know the tattoo will be seen more than others, or, when you know that you will see the tattoo more than others. But it is a pressure filled business. I like to fondly recall my first five years of tattooing as one continuous nervous breakdown. But now as I sit in California on my future in-laws patio deck and write, I am far away from that anxiety. The breeze blowing in off the ocean is cool, I can see it down there, the great Pacific, shimmering at the bottom of the hill. I am thinking of my next project, a full sleeve for the guitarist for a prominent hardcore band. He wants to make the long journey to the land of irezumi. If I stare out at the horizon, past the ocean, I can almost see Japan. Mr. N has given me a feel for what he wants, describing a couple two or three images he would like to see in his sleeve. But they are disparate images, how can i bring […]

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Rememberin’ back when i knew every tattoo shop in town… Next came the era when I actually knew most of the tattooers… Of course i started tattooing in Amarillo, and spent the bulk of my career tattooing in Ft. Worth, and am now tattooing in Dallas, the big city, the Big D… But then again I remember knowing most of the tattooers in Dallas too. It’s still a tight knit group when I think about it, I reached out to a Ft. Worth guy just this morning, and it was just a couple of weeks ago i called across town to a fellow tattoo artist to catch up on industry standards… Those that are outside the loop are lone wolves, they don’t share in the history of the whole, they don’t have a place in the overall hierarchy of the tattoo caste… Our closed system… It’s members only and you need a lot more than a tattoo to join… Ultimately it is about your level of respect for the mark, the mark of the tattoo… It is about your allegiance to it, to the whole… It is about the black, about the color… It is about the machines, the matacide, […]

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This will be my last shared post from Carlhallowell.com to Facebook, for a while at least. I want to keep all content exclusive from site to site, including my instagram feed @featherhand and the shop feed @elmstreettattoo. The purpose of all of these accounts is primarily to showcase my traditional tattooing and traditional japanese tattooing, or irezumi. As most of you know, I left Fort Worth to tattoo in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of downtown Dallas years ago. This area has long been known for it’s concentration of tattoo shops, and tattooed people. It has been a great 7 years tattooing in Dallas already. I really miss having my own shop but destiny has brought me here for the time being, and blessed me with many great opportunities, which I have seized to the best of my abilities! I wish to thank all the customers of Liberty Electric Tattooing from the bottom of my heart. Thanks to those of you that followed me to Elm Street Tattoo, and thank you to all my new customers in Dallas.  Thanks to those of you I’ve tattooed in Hollywood, California as well, my customers at True Tattoo. Finally, thanks to those of you […]

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The old way is tired. The new way is fresh. The old attitude is jaded, the new, exuberant. Clinging to old ways, old habits, prohibits renewal. Renewal is natural, renewal is springtime, renewal is vital. Renewal is not stopping the mind. Not stopping the mind allows it to be everywhere at once. This is the teaching of Fudo Myoo. This is why he is said to be the immovable one. Let us allow ourselves to shed the skins of old. Allow ourselves to break with those things which do not work for us anymore. Change is the keystone our lives pivot on. Let us then be agile with change. Let us veer from maintaining a preference toward what we already know; let us abandon preference for freedom! Let us become new again everyday. Imbibing our lives with this dynamicism, will we not live more fully? This is Zen, this is not tattooing. This is Buddhism, this is not irezumi. Is it not? Being able to let go of the pain from moment to moment is essential in the act of overcoming the pain of sitting for a tattoo. Being free from the constraints of the last drawing, you can produce […]

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Tenka Gomen
div class="listing_meta"> July 7, 2015 by Carl Hallowell in autobiography, City, Creation, Flash, In-Progress, Irezumi, Japanese, Nature, People, Store, Tattoos, Tradition, Traditional, Uncategorized

Ohayo gozaimasu! Sujibori irezumi today. I am practicing the japanese language now, in addition to studying it’s great images, which I have been pursuing for over twenty years. I am also studying Yamato’s written languages, and the calligraphy practice of shodo to write them. It is a slow journey, but it is a passion that burns quickly. I love the layers of meaning inherent in the designs. I love the fact that you must put in work to “read” the images. They truly do tell a story to the heavily initiated. There are many rules. I only try to respectfully to learn and follow them. The closer I get to understanding, the better my work becomes. Books pile up on the bedroom floor. On the coffee table. On the kitchen table where I do my painting. Much of what I have learned has been forgotten already. It is like a language, you have to speak it to retain it. I am okay with forgetting. I know that the essence has been absorbed. I am thankful that I have such an interest in this work. I am beyond thankful to those who have helped me. Deep reverence is reserved for those […]

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Liberty School
div class="listing_meta"> June 27, 2015 by Carl Hallowell in autobiography, City, Creation, Flash, In-Progress, Irezumi, Japanese, Nature, People, Store, Tattoos, Tradition, Traditional, Uncategorized

Liberty Electric Tattooing was my tattoo parlor I opened in 2002 and ran until 2009. I was run out of my hometown of Ft Worth, Texas by city planners, gentrification, and big business. I fought like the samurai the tattoo business had taught me to become. But my two swords were no match for the big guns and war planes of chesapeake energy, the bass brothers, and conservative, rich, little Fort Worth. You can kill the body, the spirit escapes. The vehicle is lost, but the soul carries on. Nothing that has ever been created can be destroyed. The outside is demolished, that was my 7th steet location of Liberty Electric. The inside remains, that is the Liberty School. Built on tradition, history, and respect, the Liberty School attempts to keep tattooing true and strong. My apprentice, Joe Haasch and I are its core members. I hope too, that the others we’ve worked with along the way carry some of these values forward. In fact, I know they do. It is not a visible organization, waving a flag from the rooftops. It is surreptitious, only those that know will know. The copycats will not notice us. The fast buck businessmen […]

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