Cliff Raven Ingram was born in a little town outside Chicago on August 24, 1932. He was one of a handful of tattoo artists (along with Sailor Jerry Collins and Don Ed Hardy) who pioneered the adoption of the Japanese tattoo aesthetic in the US.

After attending Indiana University and receiving a BA in Fine Arts, Cliff took on part-time contract work in print and graphic arts for Chicago’s Spiegel retail stores. Cliff gave himself his first tattoo but later received tattoos from the legendary Phil Sparrow and soon found himself immersed in the tattoo subculture.

After some part-time work as a tattoo artist in an arcade, Cliff Raven opened his first little shop in Chicago, the “Old Town Tattoo Studio“, 1953 North Larrabee. Then he opened his most famous tattoo shop “Chicago Tattooing Co.” who was located in 900 West Belmont Ave. Cliff also found- ed Chicago Tattoo Supply and ran it out of his shop. They were well known especially for the red color in attempt to stay away from mercuric sulfide red. They called it “safe red“.

Cliff Raven, water-colour by Pepe
Cliff Raven, water-colour by Pepe

Cliff subsequently swapped his interest in the Chicago operations for the West Coast ones. He and his partners, Buddy Mac McFall and Dale Grande, quickly established “Tattoo Works“: two sister studios, one in Los Angeles, “Cliff Raven Studios” (now known as “Sunset Strip Tattoo“) which was, for years, located on the edge of West Hollywood on the famous Sunset Strip, and one in San Francisco (now closed). While in Hollywood, Cliff had various Hollywood clientele and he tattooed iconic celebrities such as Cher, Ringo Starr and many others. The Cliff Raven Studio was one of six studios featured in the 1982 publication The Rock Star Tattoo Encyclopedia, by Patricia Steur.

Throughout his career, Cliff mentored other prominent tattoo artists such as Pat Fish, Larry “Bone$” Haddick, Robert Benedetti, Robert “Mad Dog“, Robert and Greg James, amongst others. Cliff was unusual in that: he was an openly gay man in a profession that, at the time, was strongly homophobic.

Cliff retired from tattooing in 1985 and moved to 29 Palms, California where he ran a used/rare bookstore, “Raven’s Books“, until his death on November 28, 2001. His legacy lives on at “The Chicago Tattoo Co.“, 1017 w. Belmont Avenue, one block west of the original location.