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Master Tattooer Zeke Owen: The Evolution of the Art

Home » Tattoo History » Master Tattooer Zeke Owen: The Evolution of the Art


“Master Tattoo Artist: The Story of Zeke Owen” is a film directed by Michael Houghton offers tribute to the late tattoo artist, Zeke Owen. The film has been remastered by Karen Houghton, the film uses never before seen footage from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The film covers a significant period in the history of tattooing, as the industry was undergoing major changes with a new generation of artists introducing new artistic elements, improved sterilization, and different business approaches. Through this film, viewers get an intimate look at Zeke’s passion for his craft, his contributions to the evolution of tattooing, and his thoughts on the industry at the time. Although Zeke has passed away, his legacy lives on through his art and the impact he had on the tattoo world.

The film delves into the personal journey of Zeke Owen, tracing his early days as a teenager learning the art of tattooing under the guidance of Ernie Sutton in Los Angeles, to his time working with notable tattoo artists such as Bert Grimm and Sailor Jerry Collins, and his eventual establishment of his own tattoo shops in Seattle and Vancouver. The film provides an in-depth look at how tattooing was evolving during this time, as well as the impact that Zeke had on the industry.

Throughout the film, Zeke speaks candidly about his experiences and the challenges he faced as a tattoo artist. Reflecting on the evolution of tattooing, including the blending of different styles and the impact of new technologies on the industry. Paying tribute to the greats of the past, such as Bert Grimm, and the peers who he worked alongside, such as Don Nolan and Tom Yeomans.

The film highlights the period of transition in the tattoo industry, which was opening up to a new generation of tattoo artists who brought fresh artistic elements and new approaches to the trade. This shift expanded the reach of the industry and welcomed a much broader customer base with diverse tastes and interests. It also created a dynamic feedback loop between tattoo artists and their customers that saw tattooing evolving along with the pulse of society.

One of the most engaging aspects of the film is its personal touch. Zeke’s passion for his craft and his nurturing of it crown the conversation. Throughout the film, he attests to tattooing’s continual absorbing and renewing of knowledge and tradition. Zeke heralds the recent fusion of Japanese tattooing with the American Traditional style. He pays homage to the previous generations’ greats such as Bert Grimm, and he gives kudos to peers like Don Nolan and Tom Yeomans for their contributions. To the same end, he celebrates just how refreshing it was to have a growing, more diverse customer base, consisting of people from all walks of life.

The film also explores the challenges that Zeke faced as a tattoo artist during this period, such as the lack of sterilization in tattoo shops, which led to a number of health concerns for both the artists and customers. He talks about how he and his peers were working to improve sterilization in the industry and raise awareness about the importance of cleanliness in tattooing.

In addition to its historical and personal significance, the film is also an artistic masterpiece, showcasing the incredible talent and skill of Zeke Owen as a tattoo artist. A must-see for anyone interested in the history of tattooing, as well as for anyone looking to gain insight into the mind of one of the most talented tattoo artists of his time. The film is a tribute to a man who dedicated his life to his craft, it is a fitting legacy for a true master of the art.