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At tattoo convention in Carlton, they’re in it for the ink

Shane Danner of Maplewood, Minn., relaxes in the chair as he lets Jeff Schmidt of Schmitty’s Tattoos in White Bear Lake, Minn., create a freehand tattoo design on his chest at the Tattoo You Minnesota convention at Black Bear Casino on Friday. (Bob King / / 3
Taya Flaim watches her dad, George Flaim, get a tattoo to complement hers from Patrick Marshall of Primo Ink Tattoo in Grand Rapids. The two, both from Cloquet, wanted father-daughter tattoos. (Bob King / / 3
Kyle Dunbar, a tattoo artist and former competitor on the reality TV show “Ink Masters.” (Bob King / 3 / 3

Kyle Dunbar has stuff on his hands so he bumps elbows instead of shaking.

The tattoo artist, still pretty fresh from getting bounced from Spike TV’s reality competition “Ink Master,” was in the middle of setting up his booth at Jokes Pokes and Chokes II, a Tattoo You Minnesota convention that runs through Sunday at Black Bear Casino in Carlton.

Dunbar is up to his ears in ink, literally, and he has a puff of strawberry blond hair at his forehead’s peak.

The somewhat controversial figure is one of the attractions at this year’s event, which includes on-site stops for new tattoos and contests to show off old work. There is also rock ’n’ roll, piercing, belly dancing, comedy and a small tent for body work such as massages and eyelash lengthening.

The doors open at 9 a.m. today and Sunday for the event at the Otter Creek Event Center.

Dunbar left the show last month after an altercation with judge Chris Nunez, a bit of name-calling and chest bumping that ended his second stint on the show.

For as fiery as the topic still makes him, Dunbar said the show has helped him build a fan base filled with people he can relate to. He gets recognized three to 12 times a day, he said.

“You get to know when people know you,” he said. “They’ll say ‘Ink Master’ and keep going.

“You know, (I’m not) anybody more than a (guy) off the street. I’m you, dude. Know how you struggled to pay rent this week? Me, too.”

Dunbar speaks in paragraphs about the future (a shop in a warm tourist destination), and his surprise about young fans (“My kid doesn’t watch me [on TV].”).

In the middle of a bit comparing driving to gambling, a small arm pokes out from beneath a cloth draped over the table holding his case of ink.

His son David, 7, has a small cot set up and called it his napping area.

Dunbar lifts his pant leg to show the tattoo David gave him: A boxy version of Robin from Minecraft. It was easy tattooing for the kid after he stopped worrying about hurting his dad, they said. Tattoos have been done by younger artists, but not much.

“Let’s see a 1-year-old try it out,” David Dunbar said.

Darron Baker secured Dunbar’s first tattoo time slot of the convention.

He was looking for an image of The Joker with a zombie makeover.

Baker said he is about to begin an apprenticeship at Primo Ink Tattoo in Grand Rapids — which also had a booth at the convention. Baker has about 25 tattoos, including the words “dues paid” in green on his skull. His first tattoo, a demon done by a “scratcher” – a nonprofessional – has been covered with red and black flames.

Baker is a fan of “Ink Master” and booked his appointment online.  

“It’s neat to see people from the industry,” he said of the show.

As for Dunbar’s altercation with Nunez: “I wish (Dunbar) would have knocked him out,” Baker said.

Dunbar sketched out The Joker image with a ballpoint pen on two clean areas of skin, Baker’s calf and on the back of his arm.

“I have a spot I forgot about,” Baker joked about his nearly fully-covered body.

Jokes Pokes and Chokes II featured booths for artist specializing in portraits or Celtic images. Laminated art samples were on display in three-ring binders or full-sized paintings. There were gauges for ears and dangling jewels for navels.

A shirtless man with a tattooed torso bobbed his head to the sounds of Oasis playing on the sound system.

Troy Barnes, co-owner of Primo Ink Tattoo, once was on the TV news near San Francisco getting simultaneous tattoos: One on his side and one on his knee. Barnes, who has a California-shaped tattoo along his jawline, planned to spend the weekend mingling. And maybe win a contest with the portrait of Jason Voorhees in “Pulp Fiction” attire that he had done on Baker’s back.

George Flaim and his daughter Taya Flaim got father-daughter wrist tattoos. His says “figlia” (“daughter” in Italian); hers says “padre” (father), and both feature an anchor — to represent his time in the Navy.

“He’s my go-to person,” Taya Flaim said of her relationship with her father.

Polly Nelson showed off eyelash extensions by Amber Eckman, which have become a regular part of her aesthetic regimen.

“I feel bald without them,” she said.