“If there’s any place that needs a tattoo museum it’s New York City,” says Michelle Myles, tattoo artist and co-owner of Daredevil Tattoo in China Town, NYC.
Along with co-owner Brad Fink, Michelle is attempting to build a permanent home for tattoo history which will house artifacts that celebrate the roots of modern tattooing.
“Over 150 years ago, a sailor named Martin Hildebrandt opened the first ever tattoo parlour in the United States,” say Michelle. “It was just a few blocks from where Samuel O’Reilly later patented the first electric tattoo machine. Because of this, NYC has fostered the title of being the birthplace of modern tattooing.”
Michelle’s aim now is to build a resource for others to connect with that history through a collection of artifacts and documentation of the early roots of tattooing in NYC. “We hope for the museum to be a destination for the tattoo community.”
So where did it all begin?
“Well, we opened Daredevil Tattoo on the Lower East Side when tattooing was re-legalized in New York City in 1997,” begins Michelle. “Brad has been collecting tattoo memorabilia for over 20 years and has amassed a collection of items including a Thomas Edison engraving pen (that the O’Reilly patent was based on) and original O’Reilly artwork.”
Michelle and Brad have clearly been undertaking extensive archival research…
“Small businesses are having a harder and harder time staying in place in New York City. After we were priced out of our old shop with a 50% rent increase we chose our new location. We’ve managed to secure a forever home for the collection but we need help to finish a few more things.”
So how can you get involved?
“Everyone can help by going onto our Kickstarter page and pledging for rewards before the campaign ends on 10th July. Rewards include t-shirts, prints of artwork in the collection and prints of the map I have been working on that documents all of the old Bowery tattooers and some other really cool stuff too.”
I ask Michelle what happens if the fundraising isn’t successful.
“It will just take a lot longer to complete the museum and display the rest of the collection if we don’t meet our goal. The first thing we will do with the funds if we raise them is finish the front display case so Brad can bring in the Thomas Edison engraving pen. That is the device that inspired the first electric tattoo machine.”
“Getting to where we are now was the hardest thing we’ve ever accomplished. It’s been worth it because we have something valid to contribute to the heritage of the Lower East Side, and also something to contribute to the tattoo industry in general.”
I’d definitely agree.
Picture of Tattoo Pen: The Villager, NYC
Other Pictures: Daredevil Tattoo Website, Facebook, Kickstarter