Triangle Tattoo Museum

Published: 25 January, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 137, September, 2006

The History or Tattoo (and the artist's who love it)

 

It seems now a days that you will find an abundance of Tattoo Studio’s in every town throughout the world. The art of Tattooing has become alive and flourishing in the mainstream of life. They have landed in Shopping Centers and are found resting next door to Corporate America.

What was once found on the back streets of cities with stereo typical images of drunken sailors having “Mom” inked upon their arms, has now stepped into the main stream of the business world. America has discovered the ancient tribal ritual of the tattoo and the numbers grow each day of those who want to walk on the wild side and have their own mark placed upon their body. While many do know, there are those who are not aware of the history of this ritual they are having placed upon their flesh. To some it does not matter, but  other’s who walk in the world of tattoos hold the legacy close to their heart and continue to search for understanding to share with others. 

Nestled in the sleepy coastal town of Fort Bragg, California, you will find two fascinating people who treasure the history of this ancient art. Mr. G and Madame Chinchilla have not only placed incredible ink upon thousands of bodies, but have also continued to maintain the integrity of the history of tattooing. They live tattoo to the max even “Sleeping on the Needle” as the old timers use to say. Through the years their collection has grown and since 1986 is now resting in their Studio high above Main Street. Since day one, Mr. G wanted to have the ambiance of stepping back in time when walking into Triangle Tattoo.  Appropriately, the building itself is filled with history, dating back to the 1880s giving Triangle that extra punch of going back in time as you climb up the steep stairs. Mr. G‘s vision of his life as a tattoo artist is one of the reasons for the success of Triangle Tattoo Museum. “Our studio is a street shop, preserving the old days of tattoo. We do any style for anybody who walks in our door. We like being challenged by doing all styles of tattooing. We never know who’s going to walk in our door or what they are going to want. Our styles are diverse; we enjoy tattooing flash off the wall or a totally unique custom piece.  Everyday it is a pleasure to start our tattoo machines and create a new tattoo, one that is enjoyable for the artist as it is for the client.” His reverence for this ancient ritual is apparent, “To mark someone for life is a great responsibility that involves a deep understanding of the history and craft of tattooing, passed down to us by our teachers. Whoever marks a person is responsible for all whom he marks. This process is deeper than we wish to acknowledge. The tattooist initiates the ceremonial process with the person wanting the tattoo. And even though there are no drums beating or chanting, this is perhaps one of the oldest rituals on earth. Recently, he was invited by the producer of the 2005 Historical Tattoo Convention in Green Bay Wisconsin to speak about the history of the electric tattoo machine. He is currently working on a Power Point presentation for educating the general public on the development and invention of the electric tattoo machine from the mid 1800’s.

In between “pushing ink,” the sound of the keyboard continues to sing through the night as Madame Chinchilla writes a series of books documenting in ink the history of tattooing. Sending queries throughout the world, she has produced some fascinating books on those who are compelled to tattoo.  Black and white photos give not only a name, but a face and answer for the curious, as to why they became tattoo artists. “Electric Tattooing by Women 1900-2003” celebrates the lives and art of the female tattoo artist, sharing their feelings on why they are driven to express this art form. The male version, “Electric Tattooing by Men 1900’s-2004” has the infamous, Lyle Tuttle on the cover wearing only his tattoo suit. Yes, she can get a man to take his clothes off in public. Hot off the press, the revised addition of “Stewed Screwed & Tattooed” brings even more history alive that includes a page on tattooing without consent.  She is currently working on her next book, the life of “Captain Don Leslie.” 

Years of tattooing have given Madame Chinchilla the awareness, “Being a tattooed person is different from not being one. We become different in our own skins, and to the world around us. We are empowered, individual, we become walking, and talking, indelible art statements, and this requires a certain self-confidence. We are no longer just Tom or Jane. We are the person with the butterfly on our shoulder or the man with the tiger on his bicep.  It is an adventure and socially interesting to be “Art with a Pulse.” In January of 2006 Madame Chinchilla was the featured speaker at the 11th Marked for Life International Women Tattoo Artist’s conference in Orlando Florida. Her Historical pictorial review, “Images of Women in Tattoo” from 1900-2006 was filled with images of women who were placed upon the flesh of men through out history. Many of these photos and flash were from Triangle Tattoo Museum’s collection.  Her Journey to India in November of 2005 now has a collection for the museum of the tattooed women of India. She is planning to add to this collection in the year to come. Madame and Mr. G are constantly adding to the museum and history of tattoo through their travels. Mr. G’s current project is the billet machined tattoo frames that he has created for the seasoned tattoo artist. Make sure to check out his limited edition tattoo frames being sold on Triangle’s web site for collectors. 

SKIN DEEP found Triangle’s museum contains a wealth of information, so bring a cup of coffee and prepare to be bombarded with tattoo images that will dazzle your senses for hours. It also includes a showcase of their trips to Asia, Thailand and Japan and the tools that were used for their tattoo experience in each country. You will see traditional portraits of Moko tattoos on Maoris in New Zealand during the 1800’s and also in 2004, as well as traditional cultural tattoos from centuries past resurrected to the present. Climbing up the stairs, the walls are filled with the American Patriotic Tattoo Exhibit with traditional military tattoo designs from WWI to the present. Exhibits from various cultures worldwide and displays of the hand tools used in tattooing before the invention of the electric tattoo machine. There is an exhibit of disturbing photos of tattoos that were forced upon people; Germany during the Holocaust, Russia, China and other countries that marked their criminals and hostages. Those of sadistic pranksters marking their victims during drunken orgies will make you think twice about whom you drink with.

The Japanese Exhibit is a fascinating display of antique hand tattoo instruments and portraits of the tattoo masters and samples of their beautiful work. Your walk down the hall to Mr. G’s studio displays walls filled with the history of tattooing in the Circus Sideshow world. You will discover colourful collections of designs, photo’s and the retired costumes of the last of the living tattooed Circus Sideshow Sword Swallower’s; Captain Don Leslie. Portraits of tattooed women from various cultures and eras grace a wall to give the female visitors a peek at their sister’s who dared to be a tattooed women in the days of taboo, living in a fearful world. The Studio is constantly gathering relics from the past and is open to any art that you would like to share.

Stepping back into History once again, Mr. G and Madame were flown to L.A. to be part of the cult show, “Carnival” which is based on the great Depression Time in the United States. You will see Madame ‘C’ using a Borneo hand instrument upon Mr. G’s back. While on the set watching the actors prepare for the scene, the “G Man” consulted on the proper way for the two actors to do the tattooing.  scene. The edited version of Madame and “G” is a quick shot, showing her hands tapping upon his skin, so keep your eyes open.

Mr. G and Madame Chinchilla have been featured on many television shows, watch for the Triangle Tattoo Crew on the Discovery Channel. Eleven segments of the documentary; “Tattoo Beauty, Art and Pain” was filmed at Triangle Tattoo and Museum. The one hour program includes interviews shot in the studio and great close-up stills taken from many of the museum’s exhibits. If you dig Tattoo’s you do not want to miss this documentary. Gregory M. Vogel, Segment Producer, “Tattoo” ABC/Lane Production 7/22/98 said it all, “visiting Triangle Tattoo was like panning for gold and finding it. Our documentary crew went wild as we explored the treasure trove of tattoo history, lore and culture.  Madame Chinchilla and Mr. G have compiled a wonderful collection of tattoo art and artifacts, which by itself is well worth the trip to Fort Bragg. But unlike a traditional museum, this is also an old style, working tattoo parlor. In a sense, the collection at Triangle Tattoo grows with each tattoo customer. “Long Live Triangle Tattoo.”  

If you would like to step back in time and take a peek at this fascinating museum, head for Fort Bragg California. Triangle Tattoo and Museum is located on Main Street. You can’t miss the sign, a red heart with the word TATTOO upon it. If you would like to have a new tattoo to add to your collection call them before you come for an appointment. (707) 964-8814 or get online and check out their website www.triangletattoo.com.

Credits

By Elaine ‘Deva’ Proffitt

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Skin Deep 137 1 September 2006 137
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