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Local tattoo shops to ink food tattoos for hunger relief

Gabe Ripley, owner of Off  The Map Tattoo, in Easthampton.

Gabe Ripley, owner of Off The Map Tattoo, in Easthampton. CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

— Thanks to the idea of Off the Map Tattoo owner Gabe Ripley, tattoo studios in the Pioneer Valley and around the world will be inking customers Sunday to raise money to feed hungry people.

For the one-day “Food Tattoos for Hunger” event, his shop and over 80 others around the world will offer food-themed tattoos to customers and donate the proceeds to local food support systems or donate them to Feeding America, a national hunger relief charity. He hopes the collective effort will mean $150,000 to help fight hunger.

“I got government food when I was a kid,” Ripley said last week at his Easthampton shop. “And people like to get food tattoos.”

He said the artists at Off the Map have organized very successful fundraisers in the past, including doing water-themed tattoos to raise money for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup. Last year, they donated $3,747 to the Emily Williston Memorial Library after completing 61 Harry Potter-themed tattoos in 13 hours.

Ripley also owns TattooNOW, a business that designs websites for tattoo studios and provides an online platform for tattoo artists to show off their work and connect. With the number of artists and customers he can reach on TattooNOW — the site gets 2.5 to 3 million visitors a month, he said — he saw an opportunity to do a more international fundraiser.

“I thought with this network, we could do it 100 times bigger,” he said. “One hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a pretty lofty goal, but I hope we can get there.”

A few different tattoo artists have designed the “flash art,” or pre-designed tattoos, that customers can choose from. The designs, which include a cupcake, lobster, pizza, vegetables, and other food and drink, are relatively small and simple so artists can complete many tattoos fairly quickly.

Local shops taking part in the benefit, in addition to Off the Map Tattoo, are Blueprint Gallery in Hadley and Bang Bang Body Arts in Northampton.

Other participating shops are spread across the United States and Canada and even include a few shops in Poland, Tanzania and other countries.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer for a lot of shops,” he said. “A lot of them already do benefits, so all we’re bringing to it is the coordination to do it on a bigger scale.”

On Sunday, people can watch the tattoos being inked live on www.tattoonowtv.com or at www.offthemap.com, and the shop will also use Skype to videochat with other participating shops around the world.

Tattoos will be first come, first served, not by appointment.

For information or to view the tattoo designs, visit the websitefoodtattoosforhunger.com.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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