words by Sean Herman.

words by Sean Herman.

 I had been keeping up with Jason Cornell for quite a bit longer than I originally thought.  I had been a huge fan of Shawn Barber's work and have always followed when he puts new stuff online, which I am sure is a practice of amount a million people, because he is amazing.  He did a tattoo of a small group of skulls on the side of a knee, and it just looked so dang awesome.  It is one of those pieces you tend to always remember.  So when I was looking at another skull piece from another tattooer, I was surprised to see the skulls Shawn did right above it.  I kept seeing all these awesome skull tattoos by these amazing tattooers, and then realized it was all on one guy, Jason.  Once Jason's leg was finished, he put it up online for the world to ogle at, and we did.  It was awesome to see so many great tattooers, with totally different styles, meshed together in one area.  A supreme collection.

A few months later I got an email that honestly, I didn't expect.  It was Jason saying that he wanted to get a skull tattoo from me at Hell City.  He was working on his arm now and wanted me to tattoo his forearm.  Wow, talk about an honor.  As a tattooer we know that forearm is prime real-estate.  So, like any sane person would, I said, "Yes sir, that would be awesome."  Jason is probably one of the most professional and prepared people I have met.  He came up to the booth with a bag all ready with snacks and drinks to stay hydrated.  This wasn't his first rodeo, and he had become a seasoned vet in the art of getting tattooed.  All his preparation payed off, I have never tattooed skin like that before, it was perfect.  Almost no bleeding, no liquid, no redness, nothing.  He isn't human, he is super human.  His attitude is the same way.  One of the most positive people that is just in love with tattooing, and it glows off of him.  I think now, looking back on it, that is the main thing that ties these guys together, they are so positive.  Tattooing has created this amazing positive impact on their lives, and it's infectious.  

Here's Jason's story about how he first was exposed to tattooing, and how he became a collector.

"First, I wanted to sincerely thank Sean Herman for inviting me to be a part of this project. It is an honor to be considered among all the incredible collectors out there. Well, where to start… It’s funny thinking back to four years ago… a lot has changed in my life since then. Four years ago I had a few tattoos but was not a serious collector in any way. That all began changing when we found out we were having our first child. Well, it turned out he was going to be born smack in the middle of the sign of the Lion. This is when I started doing my “tattoo homework.” I was on a mission to find someone who could create a realistic lion cub.

After my research, I stumbled upon Mike Devries website. That was it, I was completely sold. I made the appointment and LUCKILY he had quite the waiting list. I say “luckily” because my son decided he didn’t want to be a Leo but instead a Virgo. Well, I had the appointment set up so I thought long and hard and decided to have Mike tattoo a skull on me. That was the real start of my tattoo collecting. After doing so much research, I had created a list of artists that I wanted work from. I called it my “tattoo Dream Team list.” I decided to continue the skull theme on my entire leg. I think the tattoo gods were looking down on me because everyone I started contacting from my list was excited to be a part of my project. Artists that had year-long waiting lists were suddenly getting me in a few weeks later.

I am grateful and humbled to have been so lucky. The more artists that came on board, the more “obsessed” I became with collecting. Looking back now to when I first started, I think initially it was the thrill of the chase that was so appealing. Getting work from these “bigger” name artists that so many people could not get, was exciting in a way. I know that sounds very shallow now… and it is weird for me to admit that to myself, as it is completely not me anymore. More recently in my collecting, tattoos have begun to take on a whole new meaning for me. 

Of course I am incredibly grateful to wear such amazing works of art, but it has become so much more than just that. It has become the experience. I love the whole process, from getting in touch with the artist, to traveling to them, to going to the conventions, to the tattoo session itself. Actually I don’t like the term “tattoo session.” I like to call it the “tattoo encounter.” Session to me sounds so impersonal, whereas encounter is something that has the potential to change your life… and it has for me!

I love the experience of getting the tattoo. I love the interaction with the artist. There are not many things in this life that are as personal as someone permanently modifying your body and having the ability to interact while that process is happening. There is an unparalleled level of trust that happens. It is an opening of the mind and soul for me. 
Also, because of the art of tattooing, I have become a part of a whole other family.

I have met so many incredible people and made the most amazing friends. You all know who you are, and I thank all of you for being on this great ride with me! I love all of my experiences that have happened in my life as a result of tattoo collecting and I cherish them all! There are three things that are the most important in my life, my wife, my son and my tattoo experiences. I can’t even really remember a time when all three of those were not in my life and I could not imagine life without any of them. I want to thank all the artists who have contributed to my collection to date. They are: Aric Taylor, Mike Devries, Carlos Torres, Jeff Gogué, Bugs, Nikko, Robert Hernandez, Bob Tyrrell, Stefano Alcantara, Phil Garcia, Goethe, Adrian Dominic, Jeff Ensminger, Sean Herman, Jonathan Montalvo, YZ, FAT, Carlos Rojas, Jason Butcher, Derek Noble, Juan Salgado, Shawn Barber and Joshua Carlton. Thanks for listening to me rant!"


Concluded in part 3.



The Serpents of Bienville

words by Sean Herman.

words by Sean Herman.

I love where I live, where I have grown up.  Huge live oaks, with arms outstretched, spinning to the ground, with moss hanging town, creating canopies, shading all  from the harsh summer sun.  There are sunsets on the bay that you can never explain to people, you have to see it, the colors fading down to nothing.  Natives considered this land sacred land, and I can see why, with the bay giving up jubilees that to this day cause families to gather early in the morning and scoop up all different kinds of sea life that wash ashore.   We are one of only two places in the world that this happens.  It took me 33 years to finally understand that though you may disagree with a history, with actions, with wars and conquests, you can still love the place you live, love the community you walk with, and learn from all of these things to create something new and sacred again.

I started The Serpents of Bienville project in January of 2015, but it is really something that I have been thinking about for a long time.  Growing up on the Alabama Gulf Coast, I would hear little stories here or there revolving around long gone eras in this area.  After moving away at 17, and coming back at 26, I began to really have an appreciation for the history and folklore that resides here.  In May of 2014, we opened a new shop and were trying to decided on a name, which is never an easy task.  This is where my research into the folklore of the area really started.  One of the things I found that fascinated me was the story of the founder of Mobile, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville.  The story revolved around Bienville getting tattooed by local native tribes in order to gain their trust.  I was amazed that this story was in my area and I never really knew about it.  I became obsessed with the idea of tattooing being a sacred oath that Bienville took with this native tribe.  I began to research deeper into the topic, and found out that this oath may have been more real that I ever could have thought, with both participants stories ending in the same dark way.

I continued researching and reading, and finding more stories that tied to other stories, that tied to other people, that tied to other myths.  Some of these myths and stories had elements that I was proud of and some had elements that I was completely opposed to.  Growing up in a DIY Punk Rock community, I spent so much time focusing on all of the things I was against, all of the people that I thought were doing wrongs.  Protests, boycotts, rallies, all fighting a clear enemy, something that is very black and white.  The older I have gotten I have learned that grey is thrown in there, and things may be more complicated than I had previously thought.  This doesn’t mean to give up like we hear about movements time and time again, but to research more, and to learn from the things that cause anger in our hearts.  Researching these myths and stories showed me that more and more, also that I have a lot to learn.  There was more grey, more questions, more varying answers.  In taking on the things that turned me off so badly at the beginning, and continuing my research, I began to find lessons in these stories that I had never seen before, lessons I would have missed at a younger age because of wanting to throw away everything that was ugly to me.  No longer looking at people as good or evil, and their actions not being for a greater cause, I began to find the humanity in all of these stories.  Humanity can be beautiful, but sometimes it is the ugliness in humanity that we can truly learn from. Finally, at the age of 33 I am starting to accept my ignorance and my need to learn, and these stories have been a door way for me to do that.

The Serpents of Bienville has become a labor of love, reflecting that fondness for where I grew up, along with the hard lessons learned.  Now, the final vision of the project has come into focus, and the first phase is starting.  I am taking thirteen myths, stories, or folklore, and breaking them down.  I create a representation of each story on 11”x17” boards.  Each piece corresponds with a story, with each story having an essay explaining it in a historical context, and then taking a sociological look at how it applies to present day lives.  Thirteen stories will be presented, eventually leading up to a book containing all of the prints and essays collected in one place.  Starting July 7th, and then every following quarter a new set of three limited edition prints will be released (along with shirts, buttons, stickers, and more), leading up to the final release of the book in 2016.  I am only releasing 30 packages on this first run.  Prints, apparel, and more can be purchased at  Portions of the essays will be published here at  Each print will include a short exert about the the piece, with the final full essay being available in the final book release.  I hope you enjoy learning about these stories, and the lessons learned from them as much as I have.  This project is one that will continue growing, and I will probably be working on for the rest of my life.  Keep checking back for more releases and essays to be published.