The sound of several tattoo guns buzzing simultaneously filled the air at the Ricochet sports and events center in Imperial during the Second Annual Desert Sunsets Tattoo Expo.
More than 40 vendors participated in the event that took place from Nov. 16-18. It was organized by Juan Gamez, owner of El Centro’s iconic tattoo parlor Incredibles.
“This year we had several local artists participating. We had artists from all over California, Arizona, and even from a shop in Chicago,” he said.
Gamez invited Mestor “Mero” Cisneros from the far-away Windy City to attend the event through a mutual friend.
Talking about his individual style of tattooing, Cisneros said, “Our shop in Chicago is a street shop. We get a variety of people who want different tattoos. My goal is to make sure people get what they want.”
For the uninitiated, the art of tattoo may seem only taboo. Education is an important part of every tattoo artist’s job.
Cisneros said, “I do a consultation with all my clients before each tattoo. This is where I can educate them, find out what they want and get the jist of their personality.”
Junior Faumui and his wife Jeanette own Speakeasy Ink Lounge in Bullhead City, Ariz. and traveled to El Centro for the event.
When asked about Imperial Valley’s tattoo artists Junior said, “All the artists are great here. There are a few people in the Valley that are really talented and people here are really humble.”
Faumui began working on his tattoo rendition of the three wise monkeys--see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil--for his client, Steve Gingrich.
Gingrich, who had been designing the tattoo over a year, explained, “Tattooing is a great way to express my life philosophy through art.”
The event was well-attended and at some busy moments it seemed every artist in building was working on a tattoo. A tattoo artist might specialize in different types of tattoos such as black and white, portraits, or lettering. Every genre of tattoo art was adequately represented throughout the weekend.
Ink Mindset Studios brought two artists to the expo. Despite it being their first time in the Valley, they had completed eight tattoos in the first two days of the event.
Ink Mindset manager Oreo explained how one becomes a tattoo artist, saying, “At our shop we do a two-year apprenticeship program where you learn all aspects of tattooing. We only accept people with backgrounds in art.”
The tattoo industry has developed its own unique self-regulated apprentice standards.
“You start tattooing on synthetic skins and give away the first 50 tattoos,” Oreo added. “We have two spaces opening this January 2nd for apprentices at Ink Mindset studios. Anyone in the Valley interested in learning can reach out to me.”
The popularity of tattooing has grown exponentially in the Valley in the past 25 years, local artists said.
Pleased the with healthy evolution of the local tattoo community Gamez concluded, “When I started there was nothing here. It’s good to see artists and the public become more educated and (artists) implementing safer tattooing practices.”