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Hitting the Road with Kyle Dunbar: A Party with Friends

Former Ink Mastercontestant Kyle Dunbar has packed up his tattoo equipment and hit the road looking for adventure. With his family in tow, Dunbar will be traveling the country and trying to make a living as a roving tattoo artist. Over the coming months Dunbar will share his tales of the road with us here on Part 1.Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.Part 5.Part 6.

Back on a plane. Leaving from Boston to Baltimore. We came for the Sturbridge Massachusetts Tattoo and Art Festival. We’ve been doing this purposely intimate show for six years. It is small too, usually only 60 to 80 artists. This show is relatively unique in that it is one off the few shows left that are invitation only. The promoter Joe (Zaza) Peterson and his much better half Irene (don’t be offended Irene—you're a Masshole through-n-through but Joe epitomizes the term) personally invite every artist who is there. This keeps it close like a family.

Each year we see many of the same happy faces and we celebrate with them. What do we celebrate? Well, the artists invited are the type that don’t need much reason. The party starts after your last tattoo is done. It then moves from the isles of the Sturbridge Host Hotel convention center to the bar of the same name. After the bar everyone that doesn’t end up in the hot tub takes the party to their rooms 'til the neighbors complain. Then it’s on to the “Presidential Suite” that Joe opens to everybody. This year he had Sailor Jerry rum girls serving free drinks. Funny thing about Sailor Jerry—he hated drunks. He would have had plenty to be mad about in the “presidential suite”.

The party ends when your next tattoo shows up. At some point in there I’m sure we sleep. Not exactly sure where... but it only makes sense. I mean how could we tattoo all weekend while drinking heavily, without sleeping too, no, no I’m sure that’s impossible. I’m sure we must sleep some time in that itinerary.

Kyle, Shawn and Boston Mike having a good time.

Kyle, Shawn and Boston Mike having a good time.

Invitation only helps to keep the problems down. Making each year more fun than the last. I have to pace myself for this one or I'll show up an hour late to the floor each day.

This year was no different. A few missed faces and a few fresh ones. Marshall Bennett couldn’t make it and was sorely missed. Some day remind me to tell you why he is the coolest m'fer I know. Living legend Lyle Tuttle was there as usual. Lyle doesn’t tattoo regularly any more but he will ink his name on one person a day at the show.

I have always been too timid to ask but one day I do hope to have his name on me. If only to make myself a complete jackass for all the times I ripped on people getting name tattoos.

This year they surprised Joe’s apprentice Squirrel for his birthday. They blindfolded him and told him Joe was going to tattoo a surprise tattoo on him. When the blindfold came off he saw that Lyle had actually signed his name on him. He was stoked…… Fuck you Squirrel! Even though you may be one of the few apprentices who deserves it.

I did some really fun tattoos at the show and afterwards my wife Candy and I worked at Zaza Ink in West Boylston for a little over a week. And damn, did we work. A couple of Joe's regular artists had some time off and my wife and I picked up their walk-ins and appointments.

Kyle's son David on a tour of the Borg Design plant in Massachusetts.

Kyle's son David on a tour of the Borg Design plant in Massachusetts.

Joe runs a very professional shop and his steady flow of clients through the door is the proof. We went through almost all our supplies, and if we don’t have a package of needles waiting for us at the hotel in Baltimore we won’t be able to do more than a few tattoos there.

Baltimore is another Villain Arts show, that means it’s going to be busy. But I can’t help but look forward to getting back to the weather in Florida. Even if it is only to start driving to Indiana the day after we arrive.

Oh remember all the shite I was yammering on about in my last blog? No? Well go read it. Let’s get on the same page. Actually a lot of that was unedited and I feel badly that it made it out to you like that. I had wanted to take some of the venom out of it to avoid putting anyone off. But, it was actually perfectly timed. I was bitching about bad convention promoters and it just so happens that after my bitching was published one such promoter made the news in Texas.

David Dunbar finding some time for school work.

David Dunbar finding some time for school work.

She allegedly never paid any more than the down payment for the convention. The convention center allowed artists to work Friday with an agreement that the promoter would pay hourly from the door attendance until the balance was paid. But after a few hours into Saturday they said it became clear she could never pay at the rate she was collecting. She was escorted out by the police for her own personal safety. The convention center kindly allowed the artists to work for the rest of the day, but I’m sure it was little consolation for those that had traveled hoping for a profitable return on their expenses. If she didn’t pay the venue I’m sure she also didn’t invest enough into its advertising so attendance was probably terrible. If you didn’t have appointments finishing out the day on Saturday is pointless. And if you did have appointments you were still screwed for your appointments on Sunday.

My wife and I almost attended this show. The promoter had contacted us earlier in the year and we tentatively agreed to go. Until Joe posted the dates for his show and luckily they were the same weekend. If they weren’t I’m sure I would be ranting more lividly about how it sucked.

Oh good, we just landed. But while all the part-timers are jockeying for position to start the mad dash toward the front of the plane I think I have enough time to finish one last thought. I’m not writing these blogs properly. Too much editing and I’m always trying to write a damn essay. That’s not a blog. Blogs should be quick and unedited. Raw and uncut. My plan is to write and post more often. I’ll try to write anytime I’m traveling and maybe a few times when I’m settled in a guest spot.

Alright, they are moving forward six rows ahead. I gotta get ready to let the prick who just bum rushed the aisle and got stuck right next to me that we're going to be exiting wedding seating style, and my family and I are going ahead of him.