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.

To view more of Bailey Hunter Robinson’s work, you can click here. And if you’re in the market to be needled by the steady hand of a true master, go ahead and see if you can’t get yourself an appointment—it’s an experience that will more than likely stay with you for a lifetime.