“Tattooing, at that time [the 80’s] in the United States, was huge. People were starting to develop black and grey styles, and they were starting to develop detailed color – nobody was doing detailed colors, so those were the years when those things started popping out. I started from black and grey, when other artists started developing that kind of street style into a refined art. From that, artists like myself and other artists from the area said, ‘Why can’t they be done with color?’ So we started doing detailed color and changing what had been done into what would be, hoping to always have that growth in a better direction which it did start to do.” – Kari Barba
For Kari, being a tattoo artist is more than just an occupation. It’s the passion that drives her.
Kari Barba is the proud owner of Outer Limits Tattoo in Long Beach, CA. Originally from Minnesota, in 1980 Kari came to Long Beach in search of owning a shop. By April 1st, 1983 she had achieved her dream and attained her first shop. At the time, there were no shops in Anaheim, CA, making it a prime location for tattooing.
Outer Limits Tattoo’s studio location is rich in historical significance. First opening its doors in 1927, it had a hand in the evolution of the tattooing industry and was owned by some of tattooing’s greatest legends. In 1954, legendary tattooing pioneer Bert Grimm owned the studio. Later, in 1970, it was passed on to another legend, Bob Shaw. Acquiring the spot required serious effort and dedication due to its age. Having been built in 1921, the entire site had to be redone according to city regulations. Kari was up for the challenge and with hard work and dedication brought the old studio back to life and into the modern tattoo scene.
It wasn’t until she was 19 that Kari began tattooing. Before then, she was artistic and enjoyed drawing and painting. When the art of tattooing was introduced to her, she took hold of it and fell in love. Kari has since been at the front lines of the art, pushing boundaries and helping to establish not only a broader range of colors and styles in tattooing but a wider social acceptance of the art as well.
For Kari, being a tattoo artist is more than just an occupation. It’s something that she loves doing. It allows her to meet all kinds of people, regardless of where they come from, what they come from, or where they’re going. Individuals from all walks of life come to get tattooed.
A tattoo is not just a drawing for Kari. It’s a commitment more serious than marriage. Despite modern tattoo removal techniques, individuals looking to be tattooed are still asking for something to be done permanently to their skin. The intimacy of meeting interesting people and tattooing their life stories is what makes the art so special for Kari.