By Kyler Locke
Nothing is more significant in the biker community than the tattoos they wear and all that they represent. Tattoos in the biker community can be traced back to the 1940s and 50s alongside the beginning of motorcycle clubs. Many of the first biker clubs consisted of ex-soldiers and served primarily as a means to continue the same sense of brotherhood many soldiers lost after coming back home from war. Even today soldiers get tattoos to signify their devotion to their unit and position in the military, so it only made sense that the trend would continue among bikers as well. Many look to have a permanent symbol for the things that they love, from the open road to the names of loved ones.
Northwest Harley-Davidson’s annual Ink & Iron show goes to show you that it is a perfect pairing. In its 2nd year, the event has continued to grow and is looking to expand to a twice a year event, once in the winter and again in the summer. Focusing on local tattoo shops around the South Puget Sound, Northwest Harley-Davidson invited some of the finest tattoo shops in the area onto their showroom floor, creating a unique atmosphere that both existing and new clients were able to enjoy as they got that new or first piece. The shops featured in this year’s show included Eclipse Tattoo out of Olympia, Rollin’ Gypsy Tattoo of Tacoma, Olympia Tattoo Co. of Olympia, AnewtattooInk out of Port Orchard, and Forever Tattoo World of Olympia. Each shop had multiple artists with them, and Devon Potter of Eclipse Custom Tattoos, brought in a piercer and a glassmaker to show the new offerings at his shop.
Throughout the day the crowd was treated to a dazzling display of artistry from the tattoo artists, who performed their skills on visitors looking for that perfect new piece. Howard Sleath, a guest at Ink & Iron, got a striking tattoo of a four-leaf clover featuring all four of his children’s names. Lovell Woolery of Shelton, WA got an insanely cool black & gray tattoo of a skull’s face. Over 200 people passed through the event making it a huge success. One individual who attended the event was not even looking to buy a bike, but decided today he was going to buy his first Harley-Davidson. Comments heard throughout the day by multiple visitors echoed that they wished the event would take place twice a year, and that it would become a two-day event.
The pinnacle of the event is the tattoo contest which featured six categories: Best Sleeve, Best Color, Best Black & Gray, Best Cover-Up (entrants had to provide a picture before the cover-up), Worst Tattoo (my personal Favorite), and of course Best Harley-Davidson (any tattoo related to motorcycles.) The winner of the Best Black & Gray category was none other than Brandi Potter, the wife of Tattoo artist Devon Potter and his piece of Jareth portrayed by late David Bowie from the 1986 classic “Labyrinth.” The winners of each category received a framed certificate and a $50 gift card for Northwest Harley-Davidson.
The judges for the event were members of the Northwest Harley-Davidson team, General Sales Manager – Toby Roberts, Marketing Manager – Kyler Locke, and Parts & Accessories Associate – Preyton Labuda. Both Preyton and myself are familiar with many of the participating artists work, and we both have had pieces done by Wilbur of Rollin’ Gypsy Tattoo. I stuck to an American Traditional style with the tattoos on my right arm. Wilbur contributed a black panther to my collection. Preyton has a variety of tattoo styles, but his current project is to get all of pop culture’s most famous robots tattooed on his arm. His most recent piece is the Iron Giant which was tattooed by Wilbur as well. The event did not seem to slow down after the award announcements; every artist had a consistent flow of traffic throughout the day.
In addition to all the great artists, the shop served up a delicious taco bar for the guests and featured a beautiful lineup of all the 2018 Model Year Harley-Davidsons®. General Sales Manager of Northwest Harley-Davidson, Toby Roberts said that “Ink & Iron is a great event for not just the shop but the riding community. It opens the door to people who may have never been in a Harley-Davidson dealership and provides them with the opportunity to experience Harley-Davidson® in a setting that’s more like a convention and not a trip to a dealership. The more we build the riding community, the better it is for all bikers.”
It is safe to say that this event has become a passion for Northwest Harley-Davidson and there will be more events like it in the future out of “The Friendliest Shop On The West Coast.” A post on Facebook from Caoimhin Cahill-Saylor says it all: “Host that again!” and Northwest Harley-Davidson plans not only to host it again but make it even better!
Northwest Harley-Davidson is located in Lacey, WA, just off I-5 at Exit 111.