Toy art collectors and tattoo enthusiasts share some common ground. Both enjoy art forms that exist at the fringes of mainstream art culture, both are willing to put their paychecks into their passion, and both the pursuit of designer toys and the process of tattooing offer a fleeting rush of endorphins that many consider to be addictive. After seeing Ron Hollatz’s toy art tattoo sleeves by the extremely talented Hannah Aitchison, I became fascinated with people who have decided to make their collections mobile by getting tattoos inspired by art and toys. Your flesh is the new canvas.
Richie Farina is a sous chef for Moto Restaurant in Chicago. He’s also a big fan of popular toy artist, Joe Ledbetter. “I’ve been lucky: tattoos are a common thing in the culinary world, and they’re well-accepted,” he explains. “Everyone I meet says that my tattoos are sick.” Farina spent just over a year and seven sessions with Jason Vaughn at Deluxe Tattoo in Chicago to achieve the Ledbetter tattoo sleeve shown above. The sleeve combines five of Ledbetter’s paintings, and is populated by characters released over the years as vinyl toys (which Farina also collects). It cost Farina $2,500 and was “worth ever penny.” An original piece of JLED toy art might run you $1,500 and sit on a shelf at home. On the other hand (or arm), if you save up another $1K, you could have a full-bleed canvas of inspiring character design that’s always with you. “I would have to say that getting tattoos is more addicting; most of my body is covered in ink,” he says. “There is just something about hearing the sound of a tattoo gun that is very addicting, it’s really hard to explain.”
I found another Jeff adding toy art tattoos to his body on Flickr. This Jeff began with a Dia de los Muertos theme in 2008, working with Will the Tattoo Guy at Randy Adams Tattoo Studio in Fort Worth, TX. His flesh features tattoos inspired by art from KAWS, Martin Ontiveros, Jeremy Fish, Dalek, Joe Ledbetter, Buff Monster and Veggiesomething.
Amy Greenwood writes a blog devoted to the art and toys of the Circus Posterus collective. It should come as no surprise that she has decided to cover both of her arms with the art of CP’s founders, Kathie Olivas and Brandt Peters. She’s been at it for about two years to the tune of about $2K with Julian Tapia at Body & Soul Tattoo in Toronto, Canada. Greenwood sees toys and tattoos as a “marriage of two passions”:
I feel that they’re two halves of the same whole. I’m as passionate about my toy collection as I am about using the body as a tool of self-expression. I collect because the art speaks to me. I pierce myself, tattoo my skin and dye my hair because it’s how I speak. Their art is the yin to my yang. Surviving through a long sitting and seeing a beautiful new piece on your body is just as elating as finally scoring your ‘grail’ of toys.
Greenwood has full sleeves mapped out and will continue to work on them as finances allow. She said she’s never had trouble with her tattoos in a workplace, but job-hunting can be discouraging. However, she’s let go of that and won’t be settling anytime soon: “I realized I’ve always been happiest at places that accept me for who I am.”
Finally, before we move on to 100 tattoos inspired by toy art, here’s one more notable full sleeve. For those who aren’t familiar, tokidoki is sort of Italy’s answer to Hello Kitty. The super-cute characters appear as toys, clothes, gadgets, jewelry and really everything else in a worldwide craze popular with, though not limited to, teenage girls. Well, since 2007, tokidoki has maintained an archive of their fan ink (example above). One thing becomes readily apparent: tokidoki tattoos appeal to more than just teenagers and not only girls.
Without further ado, click through to view 100 tattoos paired with the toys that inspired them. If you have additional information on the tattoo artists responsible for this work, please get in touch through the social icons in the upper right hand corner.