Cliff Raven

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Cliff Raven
Cliff raven.jpg
Birth Date 24 August 1932
Birth Place East Chicago, Indiana
Death Date 28 November 2001
Occupation tattoo artist

Cliff Raven (born August 24, 1932, died November 28, 2001) was one of a handful of artists (along with Sailor Jerry Collins and Don Ed Hardy) who pioneered the adoption of the Japanese tattoo aesthetic in the U.S. Cliff started his career in Chicago at the Chicago Tattooing Company on Belmont Street. Later, he moved from Chicago to California, where he and his brother, Bob, operated Tattoo Works—two sister studios, one in Los Angeles (now known as Sunset Strip Tattoo) which was, for years, located on the edge of West Hollywood on the famed Sunset Strip, and one in San Francisco (now defunct). Cliff was unusual in that he was an openly gay man in a profession that, at the time, was strongly homophobic (as was society at large). Cliff commissioned a gay erotic artist Rex to produce a special TattooWorks logo for the shop, which became a fairly well-known image.

In the early 1980s, Cliff retired from tattooing and moved to 29 Palms, California where he ran a used/rare bookstore, Raven's Books, until his death in 2001. While retired, he infrequently continued to tattoo a select group of long-term clients, although he was largely withdrawn from the world of tattooing.

The importance of Cliff's contribution to tattooing—and particularly with respect to the gay tattoo subculture— cannot be underestimated. Cliff was a resource for many gay men who began to explore the fetishistic aspects of tattooing. Some of Cliff's work featured the first overtly homoerotic tattoo images.

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