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Tattoos on Tour

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The Faith In The Future North America Tour has been filled with unique experiences from start to finish, but some fans took that idea to new heights: turning their business into a fandom-wide experience unlike any other! 

Allow me to introduce Running Water Tattoo, three Los Angeles-based fans who took off across the country to tattoo people before and after Louis’ shows. With appointments based out of hotel rooms and Airbnbs, they gave Louis- and Harry-related tattoos to hundreds of fans across America and offered a selection of temporary tattoos for anyone wanting to jump on the bandwagon without the permanence of a real tattoo.

I got my very first tattoo from them in Morrison, Colorado. Me and four of my friends – who I met in a Larrie Twitter group chat! – booked appointments together on the day of our show. Showing up at a small cottage in Colorado and listening to Louis and 1D songs while I got tattoos with my best friends is a lasting memory that will always make me smile. The RWT women were so nice and friendly! Despite it being my first tattoo, I wasn’t nervous since my friends were right next to me and the artists were so encouraging. (@freedomrry and friends at their tattoo appointment! Featuring @sunflouervol6, @boyfriendspark, @itjustrosie, @angelbbylouis, @freedomrry, and tattoo artists Alina & Julia. Photos: @freedomrry and @itjustrosie)


I got the chance to talk with Katie, Running Water Tattoo’s social media and booking manager. She shared some of their experiences from the tour and how their business changed because of a “how cool would it be” idea. 

Ella (@freedomrry): Would you mind introducing yourself and your team for anyone who hasn’t heard of you before? 

Katie: My name is Katie. I’m the one who runs all social media, client booking, and tour management. The artists are two of my best friends: Alina Naumenko and Julia Silverman.

Ella: What inspired you to do something like this?

Katie: The idea of combining going to multiple shows of my favorite artist, traveling, tattooing, becoming a part of a fandom, and spending the summer with my best friends seemed like the wildest dream and we really wanted to see if we could bring it to life.

Ella: What about this experience was the most daunting? What was the most rewarding?

Katie: The most rewarding part was 100% the fans. The nicest, kindest, most patient people we’ve ever met. We have so much fun meeting hundreds of new friends, exchanging stories of meeting the guys from 1D, trading bracelets and just feeling welcomed to the community. The toughest was definitely the lack of sleep because when the shows are back to back we had to travel at night to make sure we can tattoo as many fans as possible before the show. I don’t think we had 6 hours of sleep at night at any point.

Ella: That’s real dedication! I can’t imagine how hectic all that travel must have been. Everything you accomplished is that much more impressive, with how exhausting it was. Speaking of impressive, “as many fans as possible” turned out to be hundreds by the time tour was over. Which tattoo has been the most popular? Which one is your favorite/the artists’ favorite one to tattoo? 

Katie: Louis’ xx smiley face, faith in the future in his handwriting, and paper airplane from the Louis flash. Butterfly and we’ll be alright from Harry’s, and hands from Larry. Artists’ favorites were all the handwriting quotes – we were joking by the end of the tour we can write anything in their handwriting even though they’d never actually done it.

Ella: Having gotten Louis’ smiley from you guys myself, I can totally see why it was one of the most popular ones. It certainly is an iconic symbol in our fandom. The experience you offer – getting tattoos declaring your love of an artist and belonging to such an incredible fan community, right before seeing that artist’s show – is so unique, it makes sense that there has been a lot of excitement surrounding it. How has the fan reaction to your tour compared to your expectations? 


Katie: We were absolutely blown away by the fans’ response. Everyone was really excited about this idea, people would bring us bracelets with our company name, treats, coffee – this is something unbelievable to me and I will never not tear up when I think about it. 


Ella: I remember doing that when my friends and I came for our appointment in Colorado. We were the first booking of the day before Louis’ infamous Red Rocks show. I brought my bracelets along to trade while my friends were getting their tattoos and I was waiting for my turn. For many fans, these tattoo appointments are a bonding experience with their friends and will become lifelong memories. I know it was for me! How does it feel knowing you are creating such special moments for people? 


Katie: I myself was always leaning towards artists/bands who not only release music and have great live shows but also create amazing communities for fans to be part of. So to realize we made something like this is absolutely out of this world; I have no words to describe what this all means to us.


Ella: You’re already planning which artists to follow on tour next, so is it safe to say this has been a fun experience? What have been some of your favorite moments over the past weeks that you have been doing this? 


Katie: The response has been overwhelming and fans want us to keep going and there is nothing we want more as well. It’s safe to say it was the best experience of our lives. Coming to the shows every night and seeing dozens of familiar faces, new and already healed tattoos has been the most remarkable part. We would work all day and immediately see the results every night – the fastest evaluation any business can get.


Ella: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and share about this experience. Is there anything else you would like to add that hasn’t been covered? 


Katie: Just a huge thank you to all the fans who showed up and trusted us even though we did it in hotel rooms and would only share the address the day before the event itself. Thank you for giving us your time and energy; it’s crazy to think we actually became friends with so many people instead of just doing the classic “service for pay.” Oh and also our last stop in New York where we got a chance to do it in a hotel where “Perfect” was filmed was very special and would not be possible if we didn’t get so much good feedback at the very beginning. About 85% of fans who got tattoos in NYC already came to see us before in other states so it felt like a really special way to wrap up our and Louis’ tour.

Up Next

Running Water Tattoo’s next stop is The 5 Seconds Of Summer Show. Booking is available for Chicago, Cuyahoga Falls, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and New York. To support their work and see where they go next, give them a follow on Instagram (@RunningWaterTattoo) and Twitter (@rwTattooOnTour). Support the artists on Instagram: @lina.ua and @jk.painting. Katie can be found on Instagram at @katiekatya.

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