Artists descend on Blue Lake for Inked Hearts Tattoo Expo

INKED HEARTS ORGANIZERS Amy and Ted Marks with Brutus. Janine Volkmar | Union

Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

BLUE LAKE – Ted and Amy Marks of Nor Cal Tattoo in Arcata are organizing their ninth Inked Hearts Tattoo Expo in partnership with the Blue Lake Casino. The expo runs from Thursday, Feb. 1 through Sunday, Feb. 4 in the casino’s Sapphire Palace and Kinetik Lounge.

“We bring some of the best artists in the world,” Ted Marks said. “Everyone has been so cool. Some of these artists are the best in the world and they are so humble. They say it’s like a Tattoo Family Reunion.”

And tattoo enthusiasts take advantage of the stellar lineup. Some tattoo artists, such as Liz Cook from Australia, are booked two years in advance at their own studios. Customers travel from out of state just to get an appointment to get inked at the expo with her.

This year’s expo will include four days of individual appointments, afterparties with the artists, contests, prizes, Steampunk goggles to the first 200 attendees on Saturday, and the best opportunity to see a variety of tattoo styles, everything from Polynesian traditional tattoos done with bird bone needles and octopus ink to the latest in modern tattooing, from the old traditional art style better known as flash to original designs by gifted artists from all over the world.

This is a family friendly event open to all ages. Tattooing is available to those 18 and over; piercings for those 16 to 18 years of age can only be done with a parent or guardian present.

Ted and Amy Marks are enthusiastic about the expo and the participating artists. “We cater to the artists and make them feel as comfortable as possible,” Ted Marks said.

Amy Marks agreed. “Every year they come a little earlier and stay a little longer. They take it as a vacation and they spend like a vacation. That money goes back into the community.”

The visiting artists have such a good time with after parties, Karaoke, Frisbee in the woods, and just visiting with the good folks of Humboldt. Many of them say it’s their favorite of all the tattoo expos.

“Everyone is hand selected,” Ted Marks said. “We’ve gotten rid of people with ego and attitude.”

There will be 34 booths and appointments available for tattooing 24 hours a day with advance notice.

“With no more space in the building, the only thing we could expand is the time,” Ted Marks explained.

Just looking at the posts on the official Facebook page for the expo is to glance through the history of tattooing. The wide variety of styles and approaches is what makes this expo so interesting.

This year’s theme is Steampunk and costumes are encouraged. Contests will include daily contests for best tattoos done on site in many categories, a bulldog pageant, a hot wings eating contest, and, in an improvement on gender issues, last year’s hot girl contest has been expanded to a hot guy contest and a hot girl contest.

The Blue Lake Casino is also featuring special menu items in its restaurants and free music in The Wave Lounge.

Friday night’s band is The Undercovers and Saturday’s is Agent Orange. Both start at 9 p.m.

Thursday and Sunday nights feature Karaoke starting at 8 p.m. and the tattoo artists all ask to make sure that is happening when they register because they’ve had so much fun at previous expos.

Often the overflow appointments get continued after the expo at Nor Cal. Amy and Ted Marks will take “two months off” to recuperate and then start organizing the tenth expo to be held in 2019.

The couple travels to other expos and is always on the watch for new talent. “We look at their work and try for a balance of styles – black and white, portraits, traditional,” Amy Marks said. “There are five new shops this year,” she added.

Brutus, their adopted Old English Bulldog is helping to organize the event but he will not be participating in the Super Bully Bowl Pageant.

Brutus is 6 1/2 now and came to the couple when his owner was going through chemotherapy. Brutus fell in love with Amy and stayed. His former owner is in good health and now owns two of his puppies so the story ended well.

“Brutus is the best present I’ve ever been given,” Amy Marks said. Brutus charmed this interviewer and basically ran the interview. If he was allowed to enter, he’d probably win several categories including Mr. Congeniality, Best Smile, and Most Handsome. Not that anyone is biased.

Ted Marks will be too busy making sure the expo goes smoothly to do any tattoo work at the expo but Amy Marks will be doing piercings. Stop by and thank them for all their years of hard work in bringing this event to our area.

Nor Cal Tattoo is located at 750 16th St. in Arcata.


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