News-Antique.com - Feb 21,2010 - The industry also allows individuals to carve out niches and make a name for themselves. Margo Essman, better known as Bungalow Blondie, often dresses like the sexy pin-ups she sells. The specialist in ephemera, from 1930s calendars to World War II recruiting posters, is the queen of paper. In Margo's case, she has done more than just make a name for herself. She has forged ahead in a man's world.
Ben Pitts not only fits into the outsider category, he has carved out his own unusual niche in the antique world. He offers vintage advertisements, prints and photographs transferred onto t-shirts.
"It's a heat transfer process called chromoblast and its a digital transfer," the 40-something dealer explained. "You take the image and press it directly onto the shirt and the heat adheres to the shirt. It's very readable, lightweight and smooth."
Once the image has been selected and prepped it takes less than a minute to transfer an image onto a shirt.
When he is not making and selling vintage-inspired t-shirts, he works at the Long Beach Museum of Art as a curatorial assistant, switching out paintings and sculptures, and helping set up for gallery shows. He might be found removing a $2 million Kandinsky oil to make way for a Millard Sheets watercolor.
On the second Sunday of every month at 5:00 in the morning, Pitts is breaking open his boxes of t-shirts and setting up his canopy. He is preparing to not only sell his wares to the Rose Bowl's 20,000 attendees, but he is also gearing up for the psychological battering that may come from those who see his shocking appearance for the first time.
His face and most of his body are illustrated with tribal tattoos.
Pitts got his first tattoo 22 years ago; he was 18, in the Navy and admits he got the small rose inked on his body out of sheer boredom.
He did not get instantly hook. There was not an immediate infatuation with ink. It was six years before Pitts moved onto his second tattoo, a devilish pin-up girl on his forearm.
"The tattoo community is kind of strange," admitted Pitts. He claims half of tattoo fans are "totally opposed to anything hand, face or neck. It's a taboo...a line you don't cross so that you can still function in society."
Pitts has proven the stigma surrounding "tattoos that show" doesn't apply to everyone with a visible tattoo.
"I have skills and I'm good natured so I get along fine," he said.
When people ask questions, he's not insulted, even when they suggest he might be a trust fund baby.
"People can't even fathom that somebody would do this to themselves. Society is so concerned about what you do for a living and how much money you make. I just want to live my life and not worry about what others think of me."
Pitts isn't the only one that can be harshly judged. When Frank! posted a photo of Pitts