On days off, Kirk Hjelmstad and his household like to go to the graves of tattoo artists.
They’ll spend time within the cemetery and take rubbings of the headstones which the Hjelmstad’s later body and cling on the partitions of their South Tacoma store.
These aren’t even essentially the most distinctive objects you’ll find inside South Tacoma Manner’s Homage Tattoo.
A show case with classic medical gear, posters of early twentieth century circus acts, and a taxidermy menagerie, together with a bear, a snake, an owl and a deer sporting a high hat and sun shades embellish the inside of the store.
Within the areas between, Hjelmstad has framed a whole lot of unique tattoo prints, relationship again to the early twentieth century.
For Hjelmstad, the decorations are all about honoring the historical past of tattooing and the long-lasting artists of the previous who paved the way in which.
“What I’m attempting to do is make it so the whole lot hanging up is unique,” he mentioned. “I’ve stuff from the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s.”
Hjelmstad, his spouse Melissa, their 13-year-old son Merik, and their good friend and enterprise companion Matt Steward, 32, all head to the Seattle Tattoo Expo this coming weekend, representing Tacoma as featured artists.
Over 100 tattoo outlets from throughout the nation, in addition to outlets from Germany, Poland, and Mexico, will ship artists to the Expo this 12 months.
Although the group has gone to the annual occasion many occasions previously, this would be the first time Melissa Hjelmstad and Steward will likely be featured. The store will e-book appointments and tattoo prospects on the Expo all weekend.
“It’s a giant deal to get invited,” Steward mentioned. “They bring about in tattooers from all around the nation, most likely from all around the world. The folks which might be going know that everyone they’ve introduced goes to be top-notch. It’s an enormous honor.”
Although primarily centered round tattooing, the occasion additionally will characteristic dwell music and performances, together with a burlesque present. Seminars on sustaining tattoo machines will assist artists hone their craft.
Kirk Hjelmstad mentioned he’s been attending the Expo because it began within the Nineties and has gone almost yearly with Melissa and their kids.
He mentioned he loves the sense of neighborhood on the Expo, spending time with tattooist associates and watching their favourite artists get recognition for his or her work.
The Hjelmstad’s will carry one other group member to the Expo this 12 months: their massive taxidermy fox, which sits within the again room of their Tacoma store.
“He comes with us to all of the conventions,” Hjelmstad mentioned, recounting a time a couple of years in the past when a photograph of the household, with Merik holding the fox, made it right into a tattooing journal.
“We stroll round with him on the conventions, and folks generally flip round and catch a glimpse and get startled. After which I’m like, ‘Shhhh, he’s sleeping,’” he laughed.
The group is thrilled to signify Tacoma on the occasion. Just one different studio, The Black Bison Tattoo Studio, will ship featured artists to the occasion this 12 months.
“I really like Tacoma,” Hjelmstad mentioned. “I actually respect the preservation of Tacoma … the folks that truly care about it and it’s historical past.
“It’s nice. Tacoma’s superior. We have to signify in Seattle extra usually,” he laughed. “They’re all coming down right here so perhaps we should always go take over up there somewhat bit.”
‘Not likely work in the event you prefer it’
Kirk Hjelmstad, 40, can nonetheless bear in mind the primary time he encountered tattooing. His lifelong ardour started throughout a go to to Tacoma.
“My dad had parked in downtown Tacoma,” he mentioned. “He simply occurred to park in entrance of a tattoo store. I lastly seemed over (and) I noticed a man who I’ve now discovered is Rex, and he was tattooing a topless gal. I simply bear in mind being overwhelmed.”
That probability encounter sparked Hjelmstad’s creativeness. He began drawing tattoo designs and asking his dad and mom to take him into tattoo outlets. When his dad and mom couldn’t take him, he’d go by himself.
“At a extremely younger age I used to be strolling into tattoo outlets to get thrown out,” he mentioned. “It could turn out to be a recreation to see how lengthy I might make it earlier than they’d throw me out. I might journey my bike tremendous far to go to a tattoo store.”
After time, Hjelmstad mentioned, the folks within the outlets started to acknowledge him.
“They could allow you to hang around for a few minutes or take out the trash or one thing like that,” he mentioned. “You’re getting there lengthy sufficient to have the ability to stare round and hope you’ll be able to see one thing you need to draw.”
Melissa Hjelmstad’s fascination with tattooing began at a equally younger age.
“Once I was a child, my grandpa had this big tattoo on his arm, so I assumed that was type of cool,” she mentioned. “I used to be actual artsy as a child; I drew quite a bit (and) began portray once I was an adolescent.”
Her curiosity in artwork led to her getting a few tattoos, then beginning to attract tattoo designs for her associates. As soon as she was drawing designs, studying to tattoo herself was “pure development,” she mentioned.
“I used to be like, maintain on: I understand how to attract them; how about I learn to do them?” Hjelmstad mentioned.
Raised on the East Coast, Hjelmstad moved to Washington in 2006 and received her first tattoo apprenticeship in Olympia in 2008. After that, she by no means seemed again.
The group created Homage Tattoo rather less than three years in the past. Melissa Hjelmstad and Steward had beforehand labored in a store two doorways down, however when Kirk Hjelmstad joined the group, they determined to relocate and begin a store as a gaggle.
“That is positively one of the best store I’ve ever labored in as a result of we’re all so shut,” Kirk Hjelmstad mentioned. “It’s similar to household. The purchasers respect the vibe. Individuals can are available in right here and chill out and have time.”
Merik spends time along with his dad and mom within the store and is studying to tattoo as properly. He’s working to construct his personal tattoo machine and has accomplished a few of his first tattoos on his dad and mom.
All of them appear to like what they do.
“I get to have enjoyable all day on a regular basis,” Melissa mentioned, smiling. “I get to do what I need to do. I believe that an important half is having enjoyable and having fun with what you do. It’s not likely work in the event you prefer it.”
‘Tattooing has given me the whole lot’
The group works lengthy hours on the tattoo store. Kirk Hjelmstad begins every day at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 1 a.m. or later.
He says that many individuals don’t perceive the hours which go into tattoo artwork, particularly the behind-the-scenes work drawing the designs prospects request.
“I prepare, draw, go to the gymnasium, come to work, draw, get the store clear, draw, then do the tattoo, attract between appointments. Then you definately go house and also you draw. In your days off you draw.”
Wherever between one and 10 purchasers will come to Homage Tattoo every day, and most are available in with designs in thoughts that they need. He mentioned most designs they’ve taken off Instagram, Pinterest or different web sites.
Hjelmstad mentioned it takes hours to rework these designs into tattoos which can look good within the places folks need them, and particularly to verify they are going to age properly.
“If we have been to essentially spherical out how a lot we make an hour, it will most likely be like six bucks,” he mentioned. “We now have completely no lives. That is it.”
Hjelmstad doesn’t thoughts the lengthy hours and says he loves his work.
“For me, tattooing has given me the whole lot; it’s made me who I’m,” he mentioned. “I’ve realized most of my classes in tattoo outlets. I’m attempting my greatest to offer again to tattooing the way in which it’s given to me.”
Seattle Tattoo Expo
The place: Seattle Middle Exhibition Corridor
When: Aug. 16, 2-10 p.m., Aug. 17, 12-10 p.m., Aug. 18, 12-8 p.m.
Price: $20 for a day move, $50 for a 3 day move