“We did this in hopes of stopping house parties. There’s too much disease,” said Rico Sandoval, owner of La Mancha Tattooz in San Diego and organizer of the Hasta La Muerte Tattoo Fiesta.
House parties, Sandoval said, are when would-be tattoo artists and those seeking tattoos get inked at a residence rather than at a licensed and regulated professional establishment.
Although the craft of tattooing has been practiced for centuries, it isn’t without risks. “Scratchers” — unlicensed amateurs who tattoo people in their homes — put their clients at risk of blood-borne viruses like HIV and hepatitis, Sandoval said.
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Besides raising awareness of the benefits of professional tattoos, the fiesta was an opportunity for artists to recognize each other’s work, meet fans and mingle with like-minded souls.
Joshua Couchenour came from Baltimore. The artist described his style as a combination of traditional Americana and “sci-fi” nerd. His portfolio features well-known characters from the Star Wars movies, like the Ewoks and Darth Vader.
Noel Terracina came from Las Vegas. Terracina’s work is colorful and evocative, but she stands out in the field for another reason. She is a woman.
Terracina said female tattoo artists are not always taken seriously, that some “treat you like a novelty. It makes you tougher.” She said she has been tattooing professionally for six years and praised the tattooing community for being supportive.
“People are very open,” she said.
For some, tattoos can be a bonding experience.
Valley resident Carlos Padilla, who was getting a tattoo on his left arm, said he appreciated the fiesta because he oftentimes has had to go out of town to get the quality of tattoo he desired. But, more significantly, the fiesta was an opportunity for him and his son, Matthew, to get matching tattoos in celebration of Matthew’s 18th birthday. It was to be Matthew’s first tattoo.
“I’m nervous,” he said.
Staff Writer Antoine Abou-Diwan can be reached at 760-337-3454 or email@example.com