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Tattoo Expo Brings Body Art to Humboldt County

Photo by Alex Anderson | Tori Reibel gets a tattoo of her dogs on her forearm from artist Megan Koehler at the Inked Hearts Expo.

by Emma Sjostrom

Tattoo artists, enthusiasts, piercers and piercers alike came together this past weekend for the 13th annual Inked Hearts Tattoo Expo at the Blue Lake Casino and Hotel. Featuring over 30 artists, the three day event allowed attendees to get tattoos, piercings and to simply witness tattoo artists’ work. 

Not unlike the planners and artists themselves, some patrons have been looking forward to the event for weeks. Take for example, Ashley Juarez-Mazariegos who came to the expo for a long-awaited tattoo. 

“It’s my first time at the expo so it’s exciting,” Juarez-Mazariegos said. 

As music rang and tattoo needles buzzed, attendees excitedly chatted with artists and meandered around their booths. Expo goers were not the only ones excited. What started as a rushed event scrambled together in 3 months and just a $15,000 budget back in 2009, has turned into a much-anticipated showcase of art that draws numerous tattoo artists from Humboldt County and beyond. Co-hosts and owners of NorCal Tattoo Ted and Amy Marks spoke about what an event such as this brings for the community. 

“Humboldt gets to see the best work they’re ever going to see, and artists get to see Humboldt for the first time,” Ted Marks said. 

This so-called heart-to-heart connection is what in part inspired the convention, and the logo for that matter. According to the Marks’, the event allows for local artists to work alongside artists who have traveled great distances to get to the event. 

Ventura Tattoos for example made the over 600-mile trek from Southern California to be in Humboldt for the event. Artist Danny Rentevia expressed excitement for the convention, despite what he described as the stress and jarring nature of leaving the familiarity of their shop and coming here. 

“It’s a great event, it’s a great time,” Rentevia said. “It’s just fun to be here.” 

As a local, Amy Marks touched on how the expo has grown into the event that it is now and what that has brought for the community. 

“I love [this event], especially growing up here there was never anything like this,” Amy Marks said. “Nobody’s done it up here, so it’s fun for us to work together.” 

Photo by Alex Anderson | Former Eureka high teacher, 63 year old Craig Carroll shows off his tattoos at the Inked Hearts Expo.

More than just a prime time to get a tattoo, featured tattooists say the event serves as a sort of celebration of the art form, or at the very least a chance to interact with other artists. The event allows for artists to speak of their work with each other and clients, be highlighted in daily contests, and even get tattooed by fellow artists. 

“This cannot be replicated, I guarantee it,” Ted Marks said. “[Large shows] are cool and sometimes there’s a lot of people, but none of the artists talk. And art doesn’t grow in that environment.” 

As a relatively small event, Ted and Amy marks have gotten offers to expand their operation, offers that they have readily denied.

The Marks’ also commented on what Cal Poly Humboldt students have brought for their shop and expo. Ted Marks  mentioned his pride from seeing new students come to their shop to bond with new roommates and friends to witnessing them graduate. 

“It’s amazing, without [the students] we’d be done,” Ted Marks said. “Cal Poly keeps us going.” 

While the event has passed, students have not missed their chance at a tattoo. Artists featured at the event can be found through the event’s Instagram page @inkedhearts_tattoo. Students can also enjoy discounts for good grades at NorCal Tattoo. They are located at 750 16th St., in Arcata, and can be contacted by phone at (707) 496-7034 or Instagram @norcaltattoo707.

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