To manage an appointment at the studio of Bailey Hunter Robinson, according to those who have been lucky or patient enough to do so, is to experience many things at once. A glimpse of a lost art made real and whole again, a rendezvous with a craft that once defined an entire stratum of American society, and yes, most importantly, the chance to see a truly great artist at work.
Bailey’s roots are in the Deep South—Alabama, to be exact—but he came to New York City to perfect a style of tattooing that was very much born there in the 19th century, back when the city was a hub for sailors, longshoremen, and Bowery toughs, many of whom advertised their vocations and general all-around scrappiness with a unique variety of American tattooing. Working heavily in black ink, and with the bold, primary palette of the era, he puts a unique, artistic spin on a legacy whose origins stretch back centuries in time, but began within spitting distance of his Brooklyn studio. A session with Bailey has become a defining experience for many an ink enthusiast, with more than a few willing to trust wholly in his judgment and allow him to use their skin as a blank canvas—an act of faith and esteem that’s seldom seen in the medium.