When I started tattooing in the early 1990’s the scene was nothing like the one we see today. Ordering inks was, for us working in Sweden, something that had to be done by letter. If you owned a Fax machine you could of course use that if the supplier had one as well. Communication was slow and mail equally so, and you had to be on your toes. If you ran out of red it could be two weeks before you could colour that rose.
The same went for inspiration or guidance. The tattoo magazines had just started to show up, making the transformation from biker periodicals where you could see a shitty wizard on a drunk woman’s boob in a report from the yearly gathering of bike riders in Sturgis, South Dakota. Now there was actually an emphasis on the tattoos in their own right as culture and possibly (at that time in history) art. Still, the understandable attempts at raising tattooing from back street to high street mostly resulted in naïve flirts with realistic pen drawings and photography. Since the “old school” had used black shading and bold lines the “new” tattoo very much embraced the fine line and the smooth grey wash. Since the “old school” had not so much, because of lack of community, discussed technical quality, the “new” tattoo soon found itself obsessing about the very same. Technical became the standard with which to discuss the new art produced. Today the most common words to describe a tattoo are still solid, smooth, sharp etc. Of course, anyone involved in presenting their work through any of the internet’s social platforms must have by now learned the new vocabulary of critique consisting of sick, dope and some OMG’s.
In the midst of these bland attempts to revitalise the face of tattooing there were a few artists that rapidly started to influence a select part of the community. There were people like Filip Leu, Luke Atkinson, Scott Sylvia, Eric Maaske and, of course, Mick. These were innovators that by keeping what was vital from the Old moved ahead into the New.
During the later half of the 1990’s I was working at East Street Tattoo in Stockholm. It was a good shop that really sought to redefine itself all the time. Moving ahead was important to us there and then, and we tried to always hang the flash that we wanted to do in the front room. For many years there were a couple of dragon sheets from Mick that became a fixture on those walls. Whenever I had business there, going to the bathroom or going out for lunch, I always looked at them. They were like magic on paper. No one drew dragons like that. I always thought to myself “man, these dragons are crazy looking”, but slowly they became part of the standard for what a dragon could and should be. They were Mick dragons. Everyone that’s been around for a while knows exactly what that term means.
I was not personally introduced to Mick until the release of our book “Kokoro” at the Milan Tattoo Convention 2011.My partner in crime and friend Alex Kofuu Reinke Horikitsune, an old friend of Mick, made the introductions. He immediately seemed like someone I had met many times before. There was a calm integrity paired with an old style genuine friendliness that made me at ease immediately. He bought several copies of “Kokoro” and also ordered more at later dates. I was told he usually gives them away to friends. That is porbably the best review we got on that title.
When Alex later told me that Mick had approached him about possibly making a book project together with us I was immediately thrilled and felt deeply honoured. After spending more than one hundred hours editing Alex’s photographs as well as the ones from Mick’s private collection, dedicating myself to the design of this book, and at the same time reading the words written by his old friends, my respect for this man has deepened and I regard him as a living legend and a vital part of history and heritage.
Matti Senju Sedholm, Umeå, Sweden August 2014