Friday, December 10, 2010

Kung Fu, Jasmine, and The Master Bald Bill

As you all know, once again it is Kung Fu Friday!!  Woo hoo! Yesss!  Well, this week, as I believe in the synchronicity of things, the Kung Fu, the client and the master all fit together to make this finely tailored post.  This last week my lovely Bride- to-be suggested that people may want to know a little bit of history on where I came from.    Not in the world, but in the world of  Tattoo.  You see in the tattoo universe you have traditionally a master and apprentice scenario.This is not unlike Kung Fu .  Knowledge is passed down from Sifu (teacher) to Todie (Student) for generations.  Through tracing these lineages, we are able to see from where nuances in the arts stem  . In the world of Tattoo my Teacher, and long time friend has been none other than Bald Bill Henshaw.  I met Bill about fifteen years ago and that is where my journey began.  I was on what I like to call my last great vacation.  I signed up for a semester of community college in Burlington following my four years at Johnson state where I was seeking a degree in studio Art.   A degree I never finished in light of my chosen path.   Road traveled, passport not stamped.  But oh well, I know plenty of people that got those degrees that were not lucky enough to use them for full time work.   Luck and karma has a big part in all of this.  I remember when I was a kid and I had this very, the world will provide attitude about most things.  I was selected in High school to attend a special summer session of art courses taught by professionals in their respective  fields. I couldn't afford to go, but somehow a scholarship came into being and I went!  One of the best experiences of my young life. Me surrounded for the first time by a large group of aspiring bohemian types!  My Mom said it was like I found my people.  I didn't really want to come home after that. (but it reinforced this notion that things would just come to me)  Then I remember once Mom was giving me a lecture in the car as we were going to a McDonalds drive through to get some food for dinner.  The memory is as crystal clear as Marley's ghost (you like that? Slid a little early Christmas reference in there for you )  Anyway, she is trying to tell me that I need to take a more active role in making things happen and how I can't just wait for the universe to provide for me.  All the while I am ordering our food at the drive through speaker.  The next thing you know I hear these giggly girl voices and one of them asks me if I am  I reply what you would expect, that I am indeed me, and by the time we reach the pick up window, the girl smiles at me and hands me three bags brimming with all these extra cheese burgers and says have a great day Jim!  My Mom then Rolled her eyes and the universe made it's point. Hard to argue with the Universe.  Now I am older and i don't believe that my Mom was wrong by any means. It is more like the hybrid of the two concepts. The universe at large is there for you and offering you these paths, and you in turn have to have the clarity of vision to see them, and actively if not aggressively jump on them and forge  your destiny.  This is how I met Bill.  I was on this  last great vacation of mine.  In Community college showing up once a week and taking that semester's financial aid money and spending six months doing nothing but painting from morning to night.  It was glorious!!!!  Every day I would walk to the corner store for a sandwich, and soon I notice this dude building a tattoo shop.  At the Time Bill was in his early forties, not much older than I am now, and also had been tattooing as about as long as I have now tattooed. He was and still is a wild eyed, scurvy story telling ,pirate, with a sense of youth that is untouched by the weather of the world. I remember thinking wow this dude is like a real pirate!!!  Bill Grew up in the worst part of Massachusetts in the projects in the 60s and 70s.  At some point as the legend goes, some of the older kids realized that he was good at art and boom!!  Bald Bill's life journey began!!  Hand poking kids in the projects.  I should like to thank those little scoundrels, for the echo of that action brought me to this point and writing to you today.  So The Bald amigo slowly and over a number of years climbed  his way up the tattoo ladder.  He worked for the phone company after high school as a line man, and then joined the Navy to be a salty dawg (back when you could still grow a big beard and be a gnarly sailor) and was unofficial ship's tattooer.  After getting out he returned to the phone company and found his way into the Art department.  Here he spent a number of years mastering graphic art well before the computer was the tool of the trade.  Bill swings a T-square and triangle like no other!  A true master of the drawing board.  Eventually to the dismay of his colleagues, Bill quit the phone company after six years to become a gypsy Tattooist.  From there on the rest is history. Bald Bill spent years on the road working all of the biker events from Sturgis to Daytona to Easy Rider rodeos and eventually ,like every tattoo convention known to man!  In fact Bald Bill became known to so many people, he was like a traveling rock band. Always on tour and often the last man working at 1 am while security was trying to close the show down.  He worked in New England when it was warm and when the snow flew he hit the trail once more.  Eventually he was brought under the wing of The late great Sailor Moses whom like others in the past mentored him and chained him to a chair and taught him life lessons pertaining to the trade.  By the time I met Bill it was 1996 and I was just 22.  We became fast friends and eventually  the Universe presented once more a strange opportunity in my path, and  I jumped on it aggressively.  I became a tattoo apprentice, making needles and drawing and playing Cinderella cleaning up the shop, doing the sterilization of the tubes  and watching the man work.  I learned to work hard and the years and the stories and adventures with my friend Bill have been enough to write a blog of it's own.  He has taught me much and has been an unwavering friend in some of the hardest times in my life and I am quite thankful for him coming along.  And all I have to say to follow that little story is, It aint over yet old friend!

So now I have touched on  the Kung Fu and the Master Tattooer.  Next is for a little reflection on some past work.  Hey everyone meet Jasmine Liu!  Say hi to the people Jasmine.  Miss Jasmine was our front desk girl for some time.   We share a love of Harry Potter and Kung Fu, and Vampires (even though she does like those weird True Blood Vampires and I think they are silly, but I still love her) . But that is another matter.  Anyway we did a lovely sleeve on Jasmine that showcases a little Chinese boy in his traditional coat with the frog buttons, blowing bubbles across a dreamy landscape of clouds, pear blossoms, and traditional Asian  flowers. I am most happy about how it turned out! Thanks for letting me make you prettier Jasmine. And below and through this post are some pics of Jasmine, Bald Bill, and even one of me doing my Morning Kung Fu by the ocean! Have a great day my friends!
Practice your Kung Fu!!


  1. Hey Jim! Awesome sleeve and pics... she looks amazing. And a very good read today ... Weird that I never thought to ask you how you started tattooing. I guess I always thought it had something to do with Duane, even though I was of course aware you had apprenticed w/ Bill. Have a great Kung Fu Friday!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Your daughter wrote the first comment, but I do indeed know you.