I'm the proprietor of a Humboldt tattoo studio as well, and also have serious issues with the Blue Lake expo. My partner has worked conventions since the 1980s (Shotsie, you may remember him as Dino, back when he was with Gypsy. They worked the conventions as "Something Wicked.") and we are both dismayed by the lack of respect Blue Lake has shown to local shops. Basically, Blue Lake Casino has decreed that one or two local studios are "in," and rejected all others. What this does to politics/rivalry/conflict/backbiting between studios in this small area is devastating. As well, Humboldt has a strong "shop local" ethos which is getting us all through this economic downturn. Blue Lake's actions in organizing this convention have proven their lack of loyalty and business ethics. Glad to say our 2-day alternative Tattoo Circus at our studio was a rocking success and hope that perhaps all this drama will resolve in a stronger and more vocal Humboldt tattoo community. I have attached the Open Letter to Blue Lake Casino that we have submitted to the media. Dean, thanks for being so vocal.
Blue Lake Casino Tattoo Expo organizers,
I have received no response to my letter to you dated January 12, 2011, in which I wrote to you of my disappointment that you could not accommodate our request for a booth at the Inked Hearts 2011 Tattoo Expo. Thank you for returning my check, as that did save me some bank fees.
Ancient Arts Tattooing & Piercing was one of four local tattoo studios, and the only Arcata studio, that participated in the first Inked Hearts Tattoo Expo of 2010. Our participation in your event required a leap of faith on our part. The tattoo convention market is quite saturated, and the 2010 Expo was a first-time event held on VERY short notice. As such, we had no guarantee that the expo would meet with success for either the casino or the participating studios. Nevertheless, we took a chance on you, and were pleased that the event was moderately successful.
Given our prior participation, I was surprised to learn that my studio was placed in a “lottery” for inclusion in the 2011 event. I was especially dismayed when I realized that two other studios that had participated in 2010 were not subjected to such a lottery, as they have been listed on the Inked Hearts site for some time. I have also noticed from your website that apparently, no other local studios than those two have been included since then. Did no one "win" your lottery?
Surely, it cannot be said that my application was tardy, as I submitted it on November 17, 2010, though, it must be noted, I received no acknowledgement of its receipt until I contacted you in early January. Were there other considerations at work? And if so, by what criteria were some studios admitted and Ancient Arts rejected?
Surely, the reputation of Ancient Arts is as good as that of other local studios. A brief perusal of our website (Ancient Arts) or our Facebook page will suffice to show anyone that our tattooing and piercing skills are on a par with any others, and conducted in accordance with the highest levels of safety in the industry. Ancient Arts enjoys a large local clientele that includes not only college students, but a cross-section of professionals including judges, police officers, non-profit administrators, teachers, clergy, professional athletes, mental health professionals, medical personnel, and so on. Ancient Arts is renowned throughout Humboldt County for our support of charitable organizations both through donation of our services and through our well-publicized “Give ‘Til It Hurts” fundraisers (most notably our recent “Paws for a Cause” event which benefited the Companion Animal Foundation and saw us profiled in all local newspapers as well as Channel 3 news). Both tattoo artists Lydia and Damien are also artists working and exhibiting in other media; Damien’s bas relief sculptures have hung at the Morris Graves Museum and Accident Gallery (among others), and Lydia was recently commissioned to paint the poster for the Arcata Eye Ball 2011. In addition, Ancient Arts is the home of this area's only professional female tattoo artist.
You cannot be ignorant of the fact that Humboldt County has a very strong commitment to promoting local business. Given that, why would you import out-of-town tattoo artists while simultaneously shutting out local tattoo studios?
As I stated in my letter of January 12, I am not writing to request a revision of your decision but rather to apprise you of my personal and professional disappointment in Blue Lake Casino. I wish you all success in your event and hope that in future your office will develop better communication and fairer business practices.
In the mean time, I will be holding a Tattoo Circus event that expands upon the circus theme that I had planned to implement at the Ancient Arts booth at the Tattoo Expo. We plan on having a great time here in our studio and, in the end, hope that you all have as much fun as we assuredly will.
"Lydia" Lauraine Leblanc, Ph.D.
Proprietor, Ancient Arts
1065 K Street, Arcata, CA