"I am fully willing to book a plane ticket and get a hotel just to get a tattoo at Hart & Huntington Las Vegas"
Longtime Hart & Huntington Las Vegas clients Kelly Woo and Kai Delen-Briones have turned getting tattoos into a lively travel adventure from San Francisco to the Hart and Huntington Las Vegas Tattoo Shop. For these girls, it's more like taking a trip to visit friends as much as it is for the "sick ink."
Kai: My first impression of H&H was feeling at home the minute I stepped into the shop.
Kai: Everyone was so welcoming and so friendly. They made me feel so comfortable there.
Kai will be the first to laugh and tell you that she was a little caught off guard by how warm and welcoming everyone at H&H was. It was not how she imagined a "stereotypical" visit to a tattoo shop.
Kai: I've always been intimidated by tattoo artists because I think they are such incredible people, and I don't feel like I am part of the cool crowd. There's just an aura tattoo artists have that's so cool to me. And I always feel like, 'Oh, I'm not that cool.' But because they are so friendly and our conversations have been amazing, it eased my worries of being an outsider.
Kelly echoes her friend's sentiments.
Kelly: I agree. I think that there's also a stereotype of heavily tatted people who are in biker gangs. But then, when you walk in, you don't get that vibe at all, and it's a cool place to be.
The vibe drew Kelly and Kai in from the start. Now the friends frequently make the road trip to H&H Vegas not only to get great tattoos but also to hang out with some pretty cool people.
Kai: H&H is just such a cool place to hang out, and you don't even feel like you're there just to get a tattoo. I really feel like I am just hanging out when I am there. It’s like a big hangout session because everyone is so welcoming.
So, how exactly did two spunky friends from San Francisco fall upon a tattoo shop in Las Vegas?
Kelly: I was 20 and had been wanting a tattoo forever. We were going to Vegas, and I said, 'Let's get tattoos.' So Kai looked online and booked with Lacey. We all looked at her art, and thought it was amazing.
Kai: Yep. It was a Yelp search. That's how I find tattoo shops. So I found H&H, and I told Kelly. We just all decided at the same time to get a tattoo.
The two friends who share the excitement of getting tattoos had two distinctly different experiences with them growing up.
Kelly vividly remembered coloring her uncle's black-and-gray tattoos with sharpies. At the same time, for Kai, raised in a traditional Catholic Filipino family, tattoos were taboo.
Kelly: My uncles both had stereotypical Asian tattoos on their arms. And they were black and gray. So, when we were sitting and watching a movie, I would color them in with markers, which was really cool. And then they'd wipe it off, and I'd get to do it all over again.
On the other hand, Kai's family didn't embrace tattoos…at first.
Kai: It's very different for me because I grew up in the Philippines in a very traditional Catholic family. Tattooing was a big no, no. I'm one of the first people in my family to get a tattoo. I desensitized them, though, because I get so many now. I would travel and return to the Philippines with a new tattoo and they don't even react anymore. They're like, 'OK, cool.'
Kai's first tattoo holds a very special meaning. And, the family that once shunned tattoos has not only embraced them, but taken part in getting one.
Kai: It's a sad story, but my mom passed away from pancreatic cancer almost ten years ago now. I never remember the date because I don't want to. Anyway, to remember her and pay tribute to her, my whole family got a tattoo of her signature. So that was my very, very first one. My two sisters and my dad, we all have the same tattoo. And that's how I first got into tattoos.
Kelly's first tattoo—at Hart & Huntington with Damien—was a bit more whimsical.
Kelly: My friends and I got a little cowboy boot with flowers sticking out. There really wasn’t a specific meaning behind it, just that I like country music, flowers, and my best friend. That was two years ago. And now I have a lot more.
Courtesy of H&H, of course.
Kelly: Damien did my first tattoo, then I got one from Eric. I got two for Yuba One and will get my third from him next month. They are all just so easy to work with and so personable. They are just good at what they do and are so talented. They will let you know if something needs to be changed or if they can make it look better.
Kai has also worked with many of the Hart & Huntington Las Vegas tattoo artists.
Aside from their stellar personalities, the girls are blown away by the artistry and skill that goes into each tattoo.
Kai: My husband got his second tattoo from Damien, and it's this beautiful tiger. It's so sick; it's amazing. I got so jealous, so I booked my appointment with Damien right then and there.
Kai: I was in awe of the artistry. I love working with the artists because I give them an idea and have a hard time describing what I visualize in my head. But they are so patient with me, and once I see it on paper, it’s incredible. They nailed my vision.
Conversations. Incredible artistry. There are so many reasons Kelly and Kai keep H&H Vegas on rotation.
Kai: We are so excited to go in December. Kelly will be with Yuba. I'll be with Damien. I asked him if he had an animal tattoo he's been wanting to do. He showed me about 50 pictures. He had this cheetah. It was incredible—the colors, the light shining on its face. I was so inspired by my husband's tiger that I had to get something like that.
Kelly's next tattoo will be a nod to Mexico.
Kelly: I've always wanted an angel. We went to Cancun, and the logo of my newfound love, Centenario Tequila, is a really cool angel. So I am getting that to honor Mexico.
From angels to cheetahs' cowboy boots to the script, Kelly and Kai will tell you whatever you want, the artists at H&H can deliver.
Kelly: You can't go wrong at H&H. No matter what artist you pick, they are so talented, but each of them specializes in different forms of art or different styles, so pick one that goes with your vibe.
And, Kelly and Kai are all about the vibe.
Kai: We enjoy going there. We're from San Francisco and fly to Vegas; sometimes, it's not even to get a tattoo, but we still end up at Hart & Huntington.
Kelly: That is very true!