Despite all our advances in technology, the basic needling technique used to insert pigment into skin hasn’t changed all that much over time. The biggest change came when the electric tattooing machine was first patented in 1891. That technology has remained relatively stagnant since–aside from prisoners’ ad hoc redesigns, in which a cassette recorder, an electric razor, or electric toothbrush can be used as a motor. These jailed tattooists’ inventions show just what desperate lengths people will go to to turn a boring patch of bare skin into something that better expresses the self underneath.
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Sleeve tattoos are a collaboration between a tattoo artist and customer to demonstrate a personal and unified artistic theme. Other times, a sleeve is created when a person has many smaller tattoos on their arm and later has them connected with background tattooing to form a sleeve. Planned sleeves generally require many long hours of tattooing and can take weeks, months or years to complete.
The Japanese word irezumi means "insertion of ink" and can mean tattoos using tebori, the traditional Japanese hand method, a Western-style machine or any method of tattooing using insertion of ink. The most common word used for traditional Japanese tattoo designs is horimono. Japanese may use the word tattoo to mean non-Japanese styles of tattooing.