HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of tattoo artists converged in Honolulu for the first-ever Pacific Ink and Art Expo, which opened Friday at the Neal Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall. It's evidence of how the so-called tattoo culture has exploded.
Veteran artist Lyle Tuttle started in 1949, and has tattooed Janis Joplin, Cher and others during his career. He's amazed at how tattooing has grown. "It was primarily servicemen and young men in and around town, you know. And now it's everybody," he said. "It went from almost a compulsion type thing for a certain amount of people to a trend and a fad today."
Still, there's an element of rebellion in getting a tattoo.
"Some people view the television shows that came out and athletes having tattoos as a negative thing because it was kind of a subculture, but now it's being shared by everyone and I think that's a great thing," said tattoo artist Jacob Hanks, whose father also was a tattoo artist. Hanks has a business in Portland, Oregon, but grew up and started in Hawaii.
There are some 300 tattoo artists at the expo, and it seemed that there were dozens more getting fresh ink, not only using the modern method with tattoo machines, but also traditional ways, including tapping the ink into the skin, a process that could take five to six hours to complete a tattoo.
"Hawaii is filled with so much community, there's so much culture that goes into tattooing, from Samoa to Tonga, to American-style tattooing, to Japanese, and Hawaii has it all," said expo co-founder Danny Casler.
According to organizers, there are strict requirements before someone can be licensed to be a tattoo artist in Hawaii. Out-of-state artists had to pass the same licensing test and meet even more requirements before they could set up a booth at the expo.
"You have to have a blood-borne pathogen certificate. You have to have a TB test. A syphilis test.Then you have to come out here and study and take a Hawaii exam, and it's not an easy exam," said Casler.
"A certain number of people did not pass, and they did not get to tattoo at this expo," Casler added. "And that's the downfall of it, but it's also a good reminder to me and my team and the Department of Health that we're creating an environment that ensures safety."
The State health department also monitored the expo, requiring such things as disposable needles. There were also portable sinks where the artists could clean up and sterilize. There were also four health department inspectors roaming the expo, checking on every exhibitor.
"That's a good security system that Hawaii has to ensure that the people who are tattooing should be tattooing here," said Hanks.
The expo will continue Saturday and Sunday at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.
Related Link: Pacific Art & Ink Expo