On Friday, Aug. 2, the Blaisdell on Oahu will erupt into tattoo culture for the weekend in what founder Danny Casler has called one of the top three largest conventions in the world. The Pacific Ink and Art Expo drew more than 20,000 attendees last year and brought in over $3 million in revenue. For this year, they’ve upped the game with more headlining celebrity artists, main stage entertainment like Nesian 9 and Kapena, and a barber battle hosted by Stylist D.
“Our expo was created and put together by four Hawaii-raised individuals: Tama Hall, Kevin Read, Palani Fernandes and myself,” says Casler. “We have this awesome team. It was an INSANE amount of work to link the Department of Health (DOH) with what we had planned to ensure safety. We spent many days down at the state capitol talking to senators and working to push this concept into effect and change old laws that were actually hurting the tattoo industry in Hawaii. Fortunately, enough tattoo artists came down to these Senate hearings and some things went into effect. It opened up a door for change in policy and because of that, the future for Hawaii tattooing will be better.”
Today artists can get licensed by taking an online test–before, it had to be done in person in front of a DOH employee. It’s a small change and Casler says there are plenty more laws that need to change, like sales of tattoo machines and needles to unlicensed teenagers.
“It was costing the state a lot of money to hold testing two times a year and bring on employees to watch the people take the test and review and grade and all that stuff,” says Casler. “Manpower was being wasted. We helped them implement a new modern testing platform that allows artists to get licensed 24/7 online by taking a state exam which also acts as their bloodborne pathogens test. They still need to go get their blood work done but it removes an old archaic and expensive process and replaces it with one that over the next five years alone will save the state so much stinking money it’s not even funny. ”
The rush of getting tattooed by a special artist you don’t usually have access to is a huge draw for the event. For Maui artists flying over to participate, the plus is gaining new clients. Rachel Gonzalez at Exotic Eye Tattoo in Wailuku will tattoo at the expo, as will Justin Yates at Paia Tattoo Parlor. Maui based tattoo sharing iphone app SnapTat will also have a booth.They will join the 180-plus headlining artists, celebrity artists and cultural practitioners like Lyle Tuttle, Gil Montie, Freddie Negrete, Su’a Suluape Peter, Roman Abrego and Tatu Baby.
The convention runs from August second to fourth and the schedule is packed with tattoo contests like Best Tramp Stamp and Best Polynesian and ends each night with Best Tattoo of the Day. There will be bikini contests, hula dancers, a sub eating contest and a live human suspension show on Sunday. There will be an official Pacific Ink and Art Expo after-party at the Republik on Saturday night, too. For more information go to PacificInkandArtExpo.com.