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Meet Kari Barba of Outer Limits Tattoo in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kari Barba.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started tattooing by the interest and suggestion of a great friend and tattoo artist Neil Grant. He saw some of my artwork back in 1979 and suggested that I try tattooing. I loved it. It leads from one to another until I thought that maybe, I could make a living at tattooing. I loved doing single needle black and gray, as it was how I drew at the time.

I later started doing detailed colorwork and color portraits. I got laid off my job in my current state of Minnesota and decided to head to California. Thinking someday we could open a shop there. We had family in the state so allowed for an easy start. By 1982 I was working weekends in a tattoo shop and eventually stopped my regular job and started tattooing full time. In 1982, I also tattooed at my first convention on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. It was an awesome show and I was busy the entire show. Sitting next to seasoned artists, I felt inspired. For the past few years to break into the business, I had been drawing flash (designs tattoo artists put up on the walls), and a large set hit the market at the convention under Spaulding and Rogers supply company. Huck Spaulding had put all the design in a book form and hung a large banner over this booth stating Flash by World Famous Kari Barba. Many artists were purchasing it and asking me to autograph their set. It was great. On April 1st, 1983 we opened Twilight Fantasy, which was my first shop in Anaheim, CA. A line was out the door on our first opening day.

Since that time, I have owned seven shops in different cities. I currently own two, one in Long Beach and one in Costa Mesa, CA.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Struggles are real… Many times I had customers come in, choose my work, and then seeing I’m a women refuse to be tattooed by a women. One man saying,” I ain’t gettin’ tattooed by no chick.” It’s the way it was. I think in many ways, I was luckier than many as the men I was working for were good to me. I was lucky in most cases. Once I opened my own shop, I didn’t have to worry about that any longer as I could pick and choose my clients. As a tattoo artist in general, we were faced with many judgments from the public, based on stereotypes.

I also hit hurdles/stereotypes from my city regulators relating to opening my studios. There are times in our history when tattoo has been looked down upon. People have believed that only bad people or criminals got tattooed. Which has never been the case. People of all walks of life have always gotten tattoos but possibly hid them due to these stereotypes. Tattoos go far back into ancient times, markings for medical reasons, for reasons of cultural status and just beautification. The city didn’t want any more tattoos shops. Landlords don’t want to rent to tattoo shops. It’s always been a struggle. When I was doing a remodel, they found one reason or another to deny me to move forward. It took three years to redo electrical and plumbing. It was crazy.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Outer Limits Tattoo – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Outer Limits Tattoo is a tattoo studio in Long Beach, CA that dates back personally to 1983, and the location itself is the oldest tattoo studio in the Americas, second oldest in the world, dating back to 1927. We are in itself a museum. Holding a collection of tattoo memorabilia that covers many years from the past at the tattoo “PIKE” amusement area shops in Long Beach, CA. We also have a studio in Costa Mesa, CA that does tattooing and piercing. Our piercers are APP level, the highest level achieved in piercing. Our jewelry selection is stated to be amazing. Our staff ranges from myself, tattooing for over 40 years, to my partner at 25+ years and many others in the teens.

We specialize in many different diverse styles and hold the highest level of personal responsibility to constantly improve as artists and piercers. I myself do many styles but have lately been asked to mostly do realism. I love to do Octopus and have had a piece in the Natural History Museum LA. The Natural History Museum LA, along with many other museums have also borrowed much or our collection for exhibitions, which was an honor for us to share and allow people from all walks of life to learn about Tattoo. We are diverse not only in style but in ethnic backgrounds. We believe that all people should be able to tattoo. I myself am gay and married to a wonderful woman. We don’t care what color you are, what religion you are or what your beliefs are… We believe in inclusion… acceptance of all.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
As a constantly growing group of artists, we wish to continue to strive to be better, the best that we can be. We recently remodeled and are looking forward to enjoying working in our newly changes spaces once we get this Pandemic. Many of us have painted much more during these times and wish to continue to create on canvas along with creating on skin. Hopefully selling prints and incorporating this more into our business.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 22 S. Chestnut place, Long Beach CA 90802
    2981 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa CA. Unit B4 Costa Mesa, CA 92626
  • Website:
  • Phone: 562-437-9121 for LB and 714-241-8287 for CM
  • Email: personal email and for the shop
  • Instagram: Outerlimitstattoo, outerlimitscostamesa, karibarba
  • Facebook: Kari Barba – Artist
  • Yelp: Outer Limits Tattoo for LB and Outer Limits Tattoo & Body Piercing for Cost Mesa

Image Credit:

Greg Conraux Photography – photo of me

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