Joe Stump on How Japanese Sleeve Tattoo Expresses Personality

In Chapter 10 of 16 of his 2009 Capture Your Flag interview, Internet entrepreneur Joe Stump shares the story behind the North Pacific Giant Octopus sleeve tattoo wrapping around his right arm. Done in traditional Japanese style, Stump uses the tattoo as a metaphor to reflect his personality.


Erik Michielsen:  What inspired the sleeve tattoos and how do they reflect on who you are as a person?

Joe Stump:  I’ve always appreciated the art and have considered the tattoo an art form.  It is an interesting art form in that it takes traditional artistry on a very difficult canvas and intertwines a human with a piece of art.  They are inextricably tied at that point.

It is very intimidating to walk into a tattoo parlor with all these rough and tumble guys and what not and I never felt comfortable doing it.  I had always wanted a half sleeve.  That was something I always wanted.

Then I went to Thailand for the first time and I saw them doing bamboo tattoos which is a traditional hand pump – prick, prick, prick – … and they do it out in the open out on the beach kind of thing.  I saw it and I was like “I gotta to do this.  I gotta get this done.”  That’s when I got this first half sleeve, which is a large lotus and a dragon.

And I had this idea formulating once I got this one done that I wanted a north pacific giant octopus wrapping down my whole arm.  I found a guy in San Francisco who is a six-foot three total white bread dude who was born and raised in Japan.  His native tongue is Japanese.

The thing with traditional Japanese style tattoos is that they normally tell a story, there is a lot of folklore involved and there are very strict rules. So I had him do the North Pacific Giant octopus.  And I got that because the octopus by nature are mischievous creatures, they are solitary creatures, and the North Pacific giant octopus is enormous and prefers the Pacific northwest and I felt there were a lot of analogies to my own personality.