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Skin is their canvas

Bill Hardie can handle powerful ink — whether it comes from a needle or Jerry Brown’s pen.

The producer of MusInk, the annual music and tattoo festival at the OC Fair & Event Center, didn’t flinch much when the governor signed recent legislation strengthening health standards for body art. This year’s festival mandates hand-washing stations in each vendor’s booth.


And that’s all that’s different, according to Hardie, who for years has made a point of making his festival as clean and friendly as possible.

“I just thought I could make it a little cleaner, a little easier, a little better,” said the Laguna Beach resident, who founded MusInk five years ago. “Some of the places you go to are just — I wouldn’t say unsanitary, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting a tattoo there.”


MusInk, which began late Friday afternoon, will continue through Sunday night with dozens of vendor booths lined up indoors. Although California law prohibits minors from getting tattoos, the event is open to all ages.

As in past years, the festival also has a rich music lineup — Bad Religion and the Vandals were among those set to perform Friday, while Pennywise and Reverend Horton Heat are scheduled to play Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Are the band members all tattooed? Hardie said it isn’t a requirement. But he added, “For the most part, yeah.”



A two-year wait

Hannah Boyd’s two years were up when she arrived at the fairgrounds Friday to see the design for her new right-arm tattoo.

The Long Beach resident had asked her skin artist to draw a muse — a woman in long, flowing robes, signifying creativity — that would extend from her shoulder to wrist. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment choice, though.

“I like art, and because I do arts, I like the idea of getting art on my body,” Boyd said. “I have a rule that I have to want something for a couple of years before I get it.”


Boyd already had a heart tattoo on her left arm in tribute to her daughter, plus an elaborate collage along her collarbone that she designed herself. Another customer who came to add to his collection was Erik Chaplen, of Rancho Cucamonga, who had Bible-inspired designs up and down his body and sought to add a compass, an anchor and a scroll on his ankle.

Those images, Chaplen said, were inspired by Ruth 1:16: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” — a sentiment prompted by his recent marriage.

“Those were our vows,” he said.


‘It’s not unpainful’

Some of those in attendance Friday said they were veterans of the show. B.J. Betts, who operates a parlor near Philadelphia, set up his booth for the fourth consecutive year.

When he was a teenager, Betts said, he got his first tattoo out of a desire to rebel. He’s since added so many that his body resembles “one big tattoo,” he said.

As an artist, Betts specializes in lettering. He does intricate designs but says he passes on some requests — nothing racially tinged or gang-related, for example.

Hardie, who has two tattoos of his own, said he’s seen society’s attitude toward body art change. A quarter-century ago, he said, a person with tattoos and ripped jeans was often viewed as a roughneck. In recent years, even his grandmother has gotten a shamrock applied to her skin.

For Hardie, getting a coveted image is worth the discomfort of the needle.

“It’s not unpainful,” he said. “There’s definitely some pain involved in getting them. But if you take the right tattoo, you’re stoked when you see it.”

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

If You Go

What: MusInk Tattoo Convention & Music Festival

Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: Noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Single day $25 (VIP $75); three-day pass $50 (VIP $150)