In the upcoming VICELAND series Needles & Pins, tattoo artist and host Grace Neutral goes around the world to explore how the tattoo community differs from place to place. When Neutral makes a stop in Las Vegas we learn that what happens in Vegas may stay there, but a heck of a lot of tattoos make their way back home.
Throughout Vegas there are tattoo parlors unlike any we have ever seen. These are often palatial sized shops nestled in the middle of strips of high end shops, where you can be assured that you will be getting tattooed no farther than 100 feet from a craps table offering the opportunity to win the cash so you can turn that banger into a full sleeve. If this glitz ridden experience isn’t your bag of tea, you need to step into the heat and find your way over to Pussykat Tattoos where Dirk Vermin is doing things the old school way.
When Pussykat’s doors opened in 1999 it was the first shop in Las Vegas to offer custom tattoos, and they’re still going strong, which is really saying something in this town. “I think everything comes and goes in Vegas,” Vermin tells Neutral. “It’s a transient town. We blow up casinos if they aren’t pretty enough.”
“When I first started tattooing it was not easy to look like this,” Vermin continues. “I literally remember moments on any street, or in any store when people would get out of my way.”
Vermin works in mostly American Traditional with a dash of old school punk rock/rockabilly flare to it. With everything changing rapidly around him, Vermin’s art has remained true to itself — his lines are bold, his colors bright, and his pinups curvy. Given his hometown’s propensity for rash decisions made on a whim, Vermin has found it wise to specialize in helping people fix past mistakes — he is an excellent cover-up artist.
In the last decade the number of shops in Las Vegas has exploded, and with the influx of new artists Vermin is very worried that not all of them have the reverence for the craft that the old timers do. “I talk to these tattoo artists that just got into it a few years ago and they’re like, Sailor Jerry, pffff!” Vermin says. “And I’m like, you motherfucker, that needle you’re using was designed by Sailor Jerry. We sterilize our tubes because of Sailor Jerry. You cannot dismiss who this man was.
“Tattooing is so artistic and so incredible now, but a lot of these tattoos aren’t lasting,” Vermin continues. “They are forgetting, bold lines, big fields of black, bright colors, that’s a tattoo. They’re doing these incredible pieces for the photograph for Instagram, you look at it weeks later and it’s gone.”
As all of the standards of old Vegas get imploded in order to pave the way for more gaudy monstrosities, and everyone of those places has an overpriced tattoo parlor attached, it’s comforting to know that Dirk Vermin and the rest of the crew at Pussykat Tattoos are out there doing things the right way and keeping it old school.
This article was made in partnership with VICELAND. Needles & Pins airs on Tuesdays at 10PM in the US and Wednesdays at 10PM in the UK.