Reymond Hernandez and Theresa Bae have been bringing their Ink Masters Tattoo Show to Anchorage and Fairbanks for seven years, but this is the first year they’ve added Juneau.
“Alaska requires a license that’s good for 30 days,” explained Hernandez. “I decided to use it for another week – and everyone picked Juneau.”
About 5,500 people attended the show in Anchorage last week. Less than 90 minutes after the doors opened in Fairbanks on Thursday, 105 people had come through and more were lining up. He expects about 4,000 people at the Juneau event at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall Aug. 24-27.
They’ve been holding tattoo expos since 2009 and plan 43 nationwide this year. At this stage of the business Ink Masters moves like a carnival, setting up in each new town with much the same crew. Hernandez said Juneau’s event will feature 90 tattoo artists, two in each of the 45 booths.
But it’s more like a rock show in terms of having followers.
“We have clients who fly to the shows,” he said. “They get a vacation and they get a tattoo.”
Someone is flying from Russia to Juneau for a tattoo next week, because that’s when he could get time with the artist. Others just like the expo and show up at multiple events.
Don’t think this is like some weekend events that start out slow.
“Thursday is a big day for us,” Hernandez said. “People know the artists get booked up and if they are serious about getting a tattoo this weekend they need to get on the schedule.”
The company markets its events extensively on social media. The Facebook event page for Juneau had about 3,300 responses by Aug. 17, one week before the event. It’s an inexact science, but it definitely beats the average book signing.
Prepping Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall will take a little longer than is typical for big events, said Chatham Timothy, the front office house coordinator. The booths require plastic flooring and the event has other safety protocols, but that won’t take that long.
The challenge is scheduling. Everything has to be in place before the health department visits.
“We set up on the 23rd, and we have the health inspection at 9 a.m. on the 24th,” he said, adding that new hand-washing and sanitizing stations, and other equipment, have already arrived.
“I like buying everything brand new,” Hernadez explained later. “When people ask them, ‘oh, where did you get that tattoo,’ they won’t remember the artist, they’ll remember the name, Ink Master.”
Hernandez and Bae launched the business in 2009 in California. It grew quickly, but the big boost came when the show captured the attention of reality television show producers. The reality show, “Ink Master,” launched in 2012. It featured a competition format and ran five seasons, with several spinoffs since then.
Hernandez no longer works in the tattoo booth and has taken up oil painting when he’s home. Bai doesn’t have a single tattoo, something that has prompted a lot of tattoo artists to make suggestions over the years.
“She loves tattoo art. She just doesn’t like needles,” he said.
At this point the couple is content to focus on the expos and their seven tattoo studios, most of which are in Texas. They live in San Antonio when they aren’t traveling. Their plan is to run the business until its 20th anniversary, but that won’t be the end of the show.
“I’m training my youngest son so he can take it over,” Hernandez said.
Contact Meredith Jordan at email@example.com or (907) 615-3190.
Know & Go
What: Ink Masters Tattoo Expo
Where: Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, 320 W. Willoughby Ave.
When: Thursday and Friday, 1-11 p.m.; Saturday, 1 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: $25 each day, $40 for weekend pass. Save $5 on Thursday and Friday before 5 p.m.