Walk-ins: Lyle Tuttle Tattoo and Museum in San Francisco

I am not going to make here another portrait of the Legend Lyle Tuttle. It has already been done perfectly and you can find it here.

The Tattoo and Museum is the place to visit if you want to know more about the history of tattoos. By sharing his own collection to the world, Lyle Tuttle is the memory of that history.

Lyle Tuttle Tattoo & Museum
Lyle Tuttle Tattoo & Museum

This parlor used to be a bar named Tattoo Rose café, established in 1960. Lyle turned the bar into a tattoo parlor in 1989 when he left his original studio on the 7th and Market. They did open it again in 2012 as a tattoo parlor and Museum.

Lyle has stopped tattooing since the ’90s but he does it occasionally on special requests… so you may have the chance to meet him there. Now it is John who runs the place. A long time friend of Lyle Tuttle’s, he did learn the tattoo and its history with him. With a 6 year experience, he will offer you some of the most finest traditional American tattoos. Jonathan is the other tattooers who will provide you with what you are looking for! Both of them are so talented.

During my stay I had the privilege to meet one of the oldest friend of Lyle Tuttle’s: Flowers.

You can meet that guy hanging around Colombus Avenue. He is one of the first customers of Lyle Tuttle’s and got his first tattoo in the ’60s. Flowers is his real name which fits perfectly the man as he spends his money for daisy and rose tattoos, but no shading or color, only lines. He does has 40 tattoos!

He is the perfect example of the old time spirit that Lyle Tuttle and his staff want to preserve in the parlor. They keep doing Walk Ins only and first come, first serve!

«John and John» are not just tattooers, they are also the heirs of the American tattoo history. Take the time to talk to them, and walk into the museum with them, they have many interesting stories to share.

In the museum you will be able to appreciate original paintings by Lou Normand, Sailor Jerry, G. Burchett. original newspapers articles, original flashes, and photographs. Ask John to show you that amazing Sailor Jerry «Acetate» which is the ancestor of the stencil as you know it now. Ask him what Lyle Tuttle did (in collaboration with Rolling Stone Mag) for his dog (Chadwick) when his lover one passed away?

Visit the toilets painted in the memory of the first Lyle Tuttle parlor! They will also explain to you why Lyle Tuttle imagined the tattoo like a patchwork on your skin, his relationship with Lou Normand, the meaning and symbolism of tattoos and the history of each tattoo sign that you can see in the studio.

This a small part of Lyle Tuttle collection, but it is mind-blowing one! It would be very fitting for his collection to be in a larger museum!

Text and Photo by Zozios