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Hey, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day! So who else could we feature in this section but our resident Celtic Artist, Irish Jay? You may remember in last Saint Patrick’s Day’s newsletter, Irish Jay wrote about some of his favorite traditions of the holiday: the corned beef, the cabbage, and the insanity. Well, this year, we’re gaining some insight into the man behind all those Irish traditions: Tattoo Lou’s very own Irish Jay.
Irish has been a member of the Tattoo Lou’s family for nineteen years—his entire tattooing career has been with Tattoo Lou’s, and he’s among our most talented artists. Irish Jay got his start in an unexpected place: he went to art school and studied graphic design. “After I graduated, there was nothing available—no jobs. A buddy of mine knew Lou and asked if I wanted to be a tattoo artist,” said Irish. Irish noted that this was about the time that tattooing exploded in popularity and traditional methods of drawing tattoos were pushing to a more graphic-advanced artwork—perfect for a man trained in graphic design. Irish Jay adds, “It was the start of the ‘not just tough guy’ tattoos”. And the rest, as they say, is history.
For anyone who’s seen Irish Jay’s portfolio, you know that his style is wide and varied. “I pride myself on being as versatile as possible,” Irish Jay says. “I don’t want to just do one thing”. His favorite styles (if he had to pick a few – it was hard!) are realism and black and grey. Being varied in his style of tattooing keeps clients coming back and his reputation high: Irish Jay was about to tattoo a client, Mike, 20, of Farmingville, right after our interview, so we grabbed Mike aside for a few words. When asked why he chose Tattoo Lou’s and Irish Jay, Mike said, “I originally went to other shops and wasn’t as impressed with their work. I work in a bar, and everyone there has tattoos. You don’t have to go far to know Jay – he has a great reputation”. Clearly, Irish Jay’s work speaks for itself—it truly is the best endorsement. So what does this world-class tattoo artist do when he’s not inking up Long Island? It may come as a surprise, but Irish Jay is a family man. “If you met me on the street,” he said, “you would not know that I was a tattoo artist.” With his wife and three children at home, Jay says he spends a lot of time playing dad—changing diapers, warming up bottles, and wiping up. “I live vicariously through my coworkers, ” he adds. “Most people think I have a cooler life than I actually do!”
So what is Irish Jay doing for Saint Patrick’s Day? “Well, now that I’m a father, it’s not as cool as it used to be!”, he says. The days of drinking all day and night may be gone, but there is one Tattoo Lou’s tradition that Irish Jay will uphold: his corned beef and cabbage. Irish said, “some of the old-timers have already started corresponding with me about it. We have a staff meeting every year, and I bring the corned beef. I don’t mess around with that”.
The Irish have celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years, since Saint Patrick’s death on March 17, around 460 AD. Saint Patrick’s Day falls during the Christian season of Lent, and on March 17, the Church would waive all restrictions against the consumption of meat and the people would eat, drink, and be merry. Obviously, this traditional continues today – every March 17, we gather for corned beef and cabbage (though the Irish traditionally ate good Irish bacon and cabbage) and plenty of beer and good Irish whiskey! But who really was Saint Patrick? Rumor has it, he banished all snakes from Ireland, but that’s an old wives tale! Really, Saint Patrick was a Christian deacon taken prisoner by Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. He was held in captivity, and during this time, he worked as a shepherd, living outdoors and away from people. He turned to his religion for solace, and it is believed that Patrick dreamt of converting the Irish to Christianity during his captivity. After six years, Patrick escaped, walking 200 miles from County Mayo in Ireland to the Irish coast. Although he made it back to England, Patrick quickly decided it was his journey in life to convert the Irish people to Christianity, and he returned to Ireland. Because Patrick was familiar with Irish language and culture, he incorporated traditional pagan Irish beliefs into lessons of Christianity. He, in fact, is the man responsible for the Celtic cross – he superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross, so that the worshipping of the cross would seem more natural to the sun-loving Irish people. Due to the rich culture of oral tradition and storytelling present in Ireland, it is no surprise that tall tales of Saint Patrick’s life have taken over his legacy.
Celtic artwork and tattoos have been around for thousands and thousands of years. Some of these older Irish designs can date back as far as 400 BC. Recently, though, these ancient tattoo designs have had a resurgence, growing steadily in popularity over the past decade.
To the Irish people, Celtic designs hold special meanings. Like Scottish Tartan or English shields, some design work represents the crest of a family; others represent pagan gods and goddesses worshipped before Christianity was introduced to Irelands. And then there are designs that archaeologists and anthropologists still don’t know anything about. What makes a true Irish tattoo is the technique used to draw the patterns. Celtic tattoos that contain knot work uses a method called the “dot system” in order to draw it. The Celtic tattoo is an Irish artist’s way of showing their love for their culture and heritage.
Butterflies: The Celtic people were pagans, and they lived closely to the natural world. Meanings were given to everything from the sun and the stars to the rocks and the grass, and to the Celts, the butterfly is a symbol of rebirth and renewal. It was believed that butterflies and other winged creatures had souls. According to Celtic lore, butterflies would fly around in search of a new mother, and when that mother was found, the butterfly would conceal itself in her food and be swallowed. It would then impregnate the woman and be born as a human. Inversely, a butterfly flying at night was an omen of impending death. Example 1
Celtic Cross: The Celtic Cross design is essentially that of a traditional Latin (or Christian) cross with a ring in the intersection of the cross. Originally invented by Saint Patrick himself, the Celtic Cross has taken on a life of its own since its creation. This design symbolizes the bridge between Heaven and Earth, with the vertical arms acting as the spiritual world and the horizontal arms representing the earthly world. The circle inside the cross represents the creator’s unending love. This is exemplified by the many interlinking spirals and strands within the circle. If you look closely, the lines used to create the cross don’t have a beginning or an end, showing the immortality of spirit and love. It is also a symbol thought to protect wearers from harm. Examples 3-9
Triskele: The triskele, or triple spiral, tattoo is composed of three interlocked spirals. The spiral was a popular symbol of the Celts, used to represent the sun, the afterlife, and reincarnation. It is also believed to be a symbol of pregnancy, because the sun describes a spiral in its movements every three months. Three spirals represents nine months – the period of human gestation. Triskeles also invoke Celtic concepts of the three domains: earth, water, and sky. The interlacing of the continuous lines of the spirals symbolizes the connection between the physical and spiritual world – this is a popular theme in Celtic art. Double spirals are sometimes also found – they are a sign of balance and represent equinoxes, the time in which day and night are equal. A spiral that moves clockwise represents the sun, growth, and expansion. Example 18 – 21
Shamrock: Even today, the shamrock remains the most famous symbol of Ireland and of Irish lore. Celtic shamrocks are renowned for having mystical power and meanings – according to legend, it’s petals will stand upright to warn of approaching storms. The Celts regarded the shamrock as sacred because its leaves form a triad – three leaves joined together as one. As previously mentioned, three is a Celtic sacred number. During the time of the Christian Inquisition, wearing a shamrock was thought to be a sign of rebellion, and those who did so were hanged. Clover was typically planted on or near graves to symbolize the hope of new life. Ireland exports a great deal of clover to other countries, especially around the time of Saint Patrick’s Day! Examples 14 – 17
Triquetra: The Triquetra, also known as the Trinity Knot, symbolizes the Holy Trinity of Christianity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). It also represents three fishes – when Christians were persecuted, the fish acted as a secret and valuable symbol. The circle in the triquetra represents unending love for and from the creator and for man and woman. This symbol is commonly found inside other types of Celtic art. Examples 22 – 24
The Claddaugh: As the legend goes, an Irish man by the name of Richard Joyce was fishing off the coast of Galway when his boat capsized and he was captured by pirates, a mere week before his wedding. He was sold into slavery in West Africa and managed to escape after several years. Upon his return to Ireland, he sought out his love, who he found still single and waiting for him. He shaped a ring for her with three symbols: hands, signifying friendship; heart, signifying love; and a crown, signifying loyalty. They settled in the village of Claddagh (which no longer exists) and the ring was born. Even today, the Claddagh ring and symbol are worn by many as a symbol of love and devotion. Example 2
Celtic Knot: Every Celtic Knot tattoo has a different meaning, often representing different clans or families of Ireland. The designs are very complex and date back thousand of years. Example 10 – 13
Everyday, millions of military personnel, police officers, and firefighters risk their lives to protect and serve our country. They do it without being thanked, and they do it with a smile – their bravery, loyalty, and dedication to our country and to their jobs are “just another day’s work” for them! Tattoo Lou’s wants to show our love, support, and appreciation for the people who risk their lives everyday to keep us safe. We are now offering 30% off tattoos and piercings for all military, police, and firefighters! It is truly impossible to thank these brave men and women enough for all that they do, but Tattoo Lou’s wants to try. If you or a family member or friend is military, police officer, or firefighter, come on down to Tattoo Lou’s, and bring friends and fellow officers. The Tattoo Lou’s family wants to give you a hug, a handshake, and hopefully, some new ink!
When you’re about to go out on the town with your friends, choosing a place to go is hard. Everyone has their own favorites. Your favorite bar is like a family member – you can talk about it, but if anyone else has anything to say, it means war! Tattoo Lou’s is here to help you figure out your Saint Patrick’s Day party place. Check out these great Suffolk County Irish pubs and restaurants – hopefully for good beer and quality Irish whiskey!
Cavanaugh’s Restaurant & Pub – 255 Blue Point Avenue, Blue Point
Celtic Crossing – 83 Pulaski Road, Kings Park
D.S. Shanahan’s – 515 Old Dock Road Kings Park
Declan Quinn’s – 227 Fourth Avenue, Bay Shore
Doc Ryan’s – 741 East Main Street, Kings Park
Dublin Deck – 325 River Avenue, Patchogue (seasonal)
Finn McCool’s – 101 Old Riverhead Road, Westhampton Beach
Finnegan’s Restaurant – 5 Wall Street, Huntington
Irish Coffee Pub – 131 Carleton Avenue, East Islip
Irish Times – 975 Old Patchogue-Holbrook Road, Suite B, Holbrook
Katie’s – 145 W Main Street, Smithtown
Lily Flanagan’s – 345 Deer Park Avenue, Babylon
Lily Flanagan’s Islip – 528 Main Street, Islip
Limerick Irish Pub – 742 Middle Country Road, Selden
Meehan’s of Huntington – 371 New York Avenue, Huntington
Molly Malone’s – 124 Maple Avenue, Bay Shore
Mulcahy’s of Wantagh – 3232 Railroad Avenue, Wantagh
Mulcahy’s of Centereach – 1702 Middle Country Road, Centereach
Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub – 15 East Main Street, Smithtown, 229 Laurel Avenue, Northport, 275 Route 25A, Miller Place
The Nutty Irishman – 60 E. Main Street, Bay Shore, NY
Reese’s 1900 Pub – 70 North Ocean Avenue, Patchogue
Staying with our Irish theme for Saint Patrick’s Day, Tattoo Lou’s Flick of the Month for March is the Irish cult classic Boondock Saints. Now, this movie is pretty polarizing: most either love it or they hate it! Well, we at Tattoo Lou’s love it! The plot is this: two Irish brothers (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus, who are both great in their roles) accidentally kill a few mafia thugs. Feeling their Irish Catholic guilt, they turn themselves into the police and are released as heroes. They see this as a calling by God to start cleansing the world of all the bad guys: murderers, drug dealers, and mafia members. A detective (the always great Willem DaFoe) is assigned to the rash of killings by the brothers, but the closer he gets to solving the crime, the question grows: are the brothers doing the right thing? This indie-movie-that-could proves that you don’t need a Michael Bay-sized budget to create a terrific action film! Although the movie is a bit violent, it’s not violence for violence’s sake – the gore is character driven, and it doesn’t overwhelm the plot of the film. The dark humor of the film adds a great spin to the film, as well. As the movie ends, the viewer is left with some serious questions: is the brothers’ killing spree justified? Should they be punished for their actions? If you like movies in the style of Quentin Tarrantino and Stanley Kubrick, Boondock Saints is a great pick! Put it on your Netflix queue – Tattoo Lou’s said so!