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Tattoo Artists Ink Up At Oklahoma City Convention

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Tattooing won't be legal in Oklahoma for almost three months, but that's not stopping dozens of tattoo artists from inking up at Oklahoma City's first tattoo convention.

Oklahoma become the last state in the nation to authorize tattooing this year when the Legislature agreed to regulate and license tattoo artists and parlors. The new law goes into effect on Nov. 1, but several tattoo parlors have already opened.

About 50 tattoo artists from across the United States are attending the convention, the state's second this year.

``There was one in Tulsa in February, and we didn't have any trouble,'' said Jake Thompson of High Octane Tattoo in Tulsa.

With the wide range of artists, a variety of tattoos can be created. And there's quite a range to choose from: custom, traditional, tribal, black-and-white, portraiture and pinstriping.

``One of the hottest thing's I'm doing right now is the Von Dutch-style pinstriping,'' Thompson said. ``A lot of the hotrod, rockabilly types are getting these done. What's difficult about pinstriping is that you only get one take and it has to be right, if you mess it up, you've got a big piece of tribal art on you.''

Tattoo artists are a different breed, said Ian Masserli, an artist from Smilin' Rick's Tattoos in Denton, Texas.

``Most people that get into tattooing don't wake up in the morning and think 'I'm gonna do this.' First of all, you don't wake up in the morning, it's more like you wake up around three in the afternoon, stick yourself with a ball point pen and think, 'I can do this.'''

The outlaw status of tattooing in Oklahoma has driven some artists away. Lance Kellar of Lance Kellar Studios in Chesterfield, Mich., has been tattooing for about seven years but was an Oklahoma City resident for 30 years.

``I moved to Michigan to tattoo because my wife had family there and it wasn't illegal. I'm here to see my family, do some tattoos and go home,'' Kellar said.

Moe Jordan, who recently opened Big Daddy Tattoo Company in Oklahoma City with artist Chris Autry and son Eric, has been doing tattoos for more than a decade. Since he couldn't open a shop here, Jordan's been a regular on the tattoo circuit.

``I think its a blessing that my kids can now be proud of what I do,'' he said. ``When someone at school asks what their daddy does, they don't have to be embarrassed or ashamed that I'm a tattoo artist.''
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