The black-gloved hand of iconic tattooer Franco Vescovi dips his needle into a cap of silky, onyx Indian Motorcycle Ink. He hovers his Bishop rotary machine over the collarbone of legendary motocrosser Carey Hart who sits shirtless and smiling in his garage. Hart is in his happy place. In his workshop rows of motorcycles lay in wait including his wife’s (the singer Pink) Indian Chieftain which he is decking out to pay tribute to WWII bombers; the walls are adorned with moto-inspired art, skate decks, the pit board Pink used to propose to him, his daughter Willow’s drawing and a photo of his infant son Jameson; way above the tattoo artist and Hart hangs the motorcycle he rode when he was the first to backflip a 250cc bike during a competition—it appropriately is suspended from the ceiling upside down. Vescovi looks over his design one last time. They both take a breath in unison while the tattooer’s deft hand eases his sharp toward Hart’s taut skin. The needle pushes the black ink into Hart’s dermis. Exhale. He is now the first person to have his motorcycle tattooed into his body.
Riding has always been in Hart’s blood. He is a third-generation motocross rider. “I was riding a motorcycle before a bicycle,” Hart said. “I came downstairs on my fourth Christmas and there was a bright, shiny, new 50cc bike sitting there waiting for me. I was riding the next day. Probably a month later I had my first race and it was all downhill from there.”
There were downhills, uphills and some epic jumps. By high school graduation Hart was a professional rider on the AMA Supercross circuit and then became an absolute rockstar in the Freestyle Motocross movement with a trove of medals, the backflip and a trick he pulled that has henceforth been dubbed the “Hart Attack.”
He’s also put his name on a franchise of quality tattoo shops and culture clothing with the Hart and Huntington Tattoo Company. The shop’s art and antics begot his A&E TV show Inked, which ran for 40 episodes.“There is definitely a connection between riding and tattooing for me,” Hart said. “When I was younger I was going down the path of being, hopefully, a championship Supercross racer. At that time the racing model was very traditional. They wanted a very clean-cut image, you know, a collared shirt and perfectly cut hair—like in NASCAR. But a handful of guys including myself rebelled against all that and the first thing we did was starting getting heavily tattooed and coloring our hair all kinds of crazy colors. We rebelled against that and did our thing.”With that spirit, Hart reached rarefied air and a relationship with the venerable Indian Motorcycle. In homage to their mutual admiration, Indian pondered, “What do you get the guy who has achieved everything?”
A new tattoo—but not just any new tattoo—the first ever tattoo made of the carbon from a motorcycle.
Indian consulted with the editors of Inked magazine (no relation to Hart’s former show) about the feasibility and while we had never considered such an endeavor, knowing the makeup of tattoo ink, we gave a tattooed thumbs up.
Hart is absolutely covered in tattoos, some of our favorites done by the bishop of black-and-gray Vescovi, who also happens to make incredible ink with Jack Rudy under their brand Nocturnal Tattoo Ink. We gave Vescovi a call.
If you have never had the distinct pleasure of meeting Vescovi at a tattoo convention, he is beyond affable. Though he is on the Rushmore of OG LA inkers—a city with plenty of persnickity tattoo-artist-celebrities—his demeanor reminds you that in tattooing’s core it is still a service industry. When we presented him with the idea, he was stoked about the concept but above all he expressed that he was honored that we would be able to create this special experience for his client and friend.
“Carey and I go back over a decade now,” Vescovi said. “I used to take trips out from Southern California to Vegas to tattoo in his Hart and Huntington shop and be on the Inked reality show. Carey introduced me to a lot of people. It was a really pivotal part of my tattoo career. When we have our tattoo sessions there is just this fun dynamic where we have a mutual bond. Our relationship has to do with tattoos and then another part of it has to do with just my respect for him as a father, as a husband, as a creative and as someone who has passion. We are similar in that way, his passion for motorcycles and mine for tattoos.”
Vescovi said there were many ways to extract carbon from Hart’s bike, but taking a belt sander to the machine would not distill the soul into the ink. Instead, to capture the essence of Hart’s riding style, Vescovi had another idea.
We travelled a few hours north of Los Angeles to Hart’s home garage. Set in a vast golden valley, it was easy to discern which residence was his, as by the time we arrived no other structure was visible on any horizon. The host shook Vescovi’s paw with his hand that has H-A-R-T tattooed across its knuckles and then pulled his friend in for a hug with his other hand that reads L-U-C-K. Hart got into his gear and rolled out one of his Indian motorcycles that was customized to work on a dirt track. He mounted the machine just outside the garage door set against a massive landscape of amber hills and a serene blue sky. He gripped and ripped the motorcycle, sending the V-twin engine into a roar and the tires into a bellow while the countryside disappeared behind a lacteous wall of smoke.
With one more flick of the wrist, Hart stopped spinning his wheels and rifled into the scenery. Vescovi strode over to the scene of the burn-out, collected residue of melted rubber, and put it into a sterile vial. Then a few minutes after his joyride Hart thundered back and cut the engine, allowing Vescovi to swab the exhaust for the carbon synthesized by the Indian engine. He took the resin to his lab “where we turned it into a carbon powder through an alchemy process of fire and soot,” Vescovi said. “Then we separated all the toxins and sterilized them to make sure that they would be safe. From that point we mixed it, separated it and made sure that the blend was worthy of ensuring that the tattoo will be solid.” He then added that concoction to his overall ink-making process and the first bottle of Indian Motorcycle Ink was created.
Now what to tattoo?
“Aside from my family, motorcycles are the the most important thing in my life so that’s a great way to bridge the two,” Hart said. “Six years ago when my daughter Willow was born, Franco tattooed an angel on my neck with her name. We’re going to add Jameson underneath that. I’m running out of skin so that’s the best I can do right now.”
“Do you think this will hold up?” Hart asked Vescovi.
“Yes,” the tattooer said of his handiwork. “Definitely.”
“Thank you,” Hart said. “It’s pretty cool to be the first person that has their motorcycle tattooed in their skin.”
The moment isn’t lost on Vescovi. “This project is very unique to me,” he said. “As a tattoo artist, I’ve been asked to put ashes of loved ones in the ink, which is powerful, and the DNA of this motorcycle has the entire spirit and energy of the Indian brand in its molecules. If you think about a tattoo, it’s a permanent mark in your skin so therefore it’s a part of your living organism. It’s in your blood.”
While the tattoo is being applied—soldering his son to his motorcycle—Hart thinks he’s passed down the riding gene. “My son, my daughter, my wife, we’re all bonded by motorcycles,” Hart continued. “We ride. My daughter’s been riding since she was three. I got my wife riding the day we met. My little boy’s going to probably ride when he turns two or three so there’s no question that motorcycles are a huge bond in our family. To be able to take the essence of the Indian bike, have it be worked in with the ink and actually go in my body for my son’s tattoo is pretty amazing.”
America’s first motorcycle company is now in the Hart bloodline.
Learn more about artists using Indian Motorcycle Ink.