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Tattoo Interview with Rick Harnowski

Tattoo Interview with Rick Harnowski

TFI: Rick, you are the organizer of the 11th Green Bay Tattoo Convention. When did you start organizing tattoo conventions?
Rick Harnowski:
My first convention started in 1982. It started in the back of a tavern we had about 100 people and artists from the area near us here, and it grew and grew, but it was not an annual thing it was more whenever we could get one organized. Eventually over the years it kept doubling in size and from the tavern we went into a wedding hall then we started working with hotels and it still got larger and larger and we started meeting people from further away and this is pretty much how it started.

TFI: This is the 11th convention now. Since when have you been busy with this?
Rick Harnowski:
We started organizing about two years ago. It was two years of planning with my son Dan and Josh and their girlfriends made world wide contacts and started inviting some of the finest artists.

TFI: What where the biggest hurdles organizing this convention?
Rick Harnowski:
Getting commitments from people that come from all over at this time of the year. Because of the sponsor we had to plan it in January in the middle of the holidays and that is pretty hard on everybody.

TFI: ...which would have been my next question anyway: Why January?
Rick Harnowski:
Yes: I had to work with the sponsor. It is such a large event, we needed the entire hotel conference complex.

TFI: Will this become an annual event?
Rick Harnowski:
Maybe every couple of years because it takes a good two years to plan it. And the reason for the two years is also, when you advertise in magazines the ads have to almost be a year ahead of time.

TFI: Looking back on the convention – we are on the last day, what is the verdict?
Rick Harnowski:
It’s kind of like a relief almost, everybody has been working the four days all the show helpers all the volunteer helpers, but everybody learned their job and it is kind of easy now, it is feeling very nice.

TFI: Let’s talk a little bit about you as a tattooist and not as a convention organizer. The artists that influenced you that impressed you, what are the names that come to mind first?
Rick Harnowski:
That would be Ed Hardy, Jack Rudy – I always admired their work and I’d say they are my biggest influence.

TFI: Which tattoo style do you like best (to look at and to tattoo yourself)?
Rick Harnowski:
I really admire all styles of tattooing – there are endless possibilities and each artist has their own thing. I admire looking at work from Australia or Japan... It’s an endless list.

TFI: Which style do you like to tattoo best yourself?
Rick Harnowski:
I’ve tried a little bit of everything in the 36 years that I’ve been tattooing – started with a little traditional and black and grey work, I enjoy tribal tremendously. My challenge right now is portraits. I have been working portraits for ten years and I still have work to do there.

TFI: Which tattoo on yourself is the most important or meanigful to you?
Rick Harnowski:
Actually the very first one I did when I was 14 years old, not realizing what it actually meant till I was 25. It was a Christian cross with my name on it and a snake wrapping around and what it really signifies is: My name in the cross means I’m a Christian and the snake wrapped around the cross choking it is the struggle between the good and the evil in life.

TFI: OK. The shop is closed, all flash is drawn all workplaces are clean. What do you like doing in your spare time?
Rick Harnowski:
Well: The shop is only closed one day and I’m back in the grind come Tuesday. I don’t have much free time I spend anywhere from 10 to 14 hours a day in my shop with my sons. We have very long hours but I really enjoy it. Once in a while every couple of years we take a family vacation and I enjoy doing pencil drawings or pen and ink is my favourite and that’s what I want to do if I ever get away from tattooing, to go back into the paintings and drawings.

TFI: ...and when this happens your sons will take over?
Rick Harnowski:
Yes my 2nd oldest son Josh is currently studying and majoring in graphic design. My other son Dan is also practicing art design he is pretty good with tribal work and yes, they are both already tattooing. It will take them a while but I think they enjoy it.

TFI: If there is one thing you could change about the tattoo business, what would it be?
Rick Harnowski:
I was already responsible for quite a few changes in the Industry in the Wisconsin area: rules and regulations and licensing back in the 80’s. That was a major thing. Now the only thing in the industry is just that stereotype that will always be with us -- the thing between the tattooed people and the non-tattooed people.

TFI: You have been around tattoos for a long time now, you have seen a lot of tattoo history. But where are tattoos going? Where will they be in 10 or 20 years?
Rick Harnowski:
It think [the art] is going to continue climbing. There are such fabulous artists that are coming into the industry. Obviously the best of the best will stay in the business and obviously the not-so-good will fall out of the industry, but I really think it is a never ending cycle: everybody will continue to outdo the other.

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