Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion Samantha Hayes inks a tattoo on customer Misty Stowell's leg at Ink Works Tattoo Studio in Kenai on Nov. 8..

Pet project: Tattoo studio raises money for Kenai Animal Shelter

In October, the Hayes family’s dog Opie went missing. Mina Hayes said that she found Opie later in the Kenai Animal Shelter — after he had been hit by a vehicle.

“Luckily some nice people who had hit him, up by Tesoro, picked him up and took him to the pound. We didn’t find out until later that night, but Cora over there was just wonderful,” said Mina Hayes, referring to Cora Chambers, Kenai’s Chief Animal Control Officer.

“She got a hold of me about 7 or 8 that night, to let me know he was OK, and met us there at 6 in the morning so we could pick him up and take him to the vet. There’s some really nice people over there. That’s what gave us the idea to try and help them out,” Mina Hayes said.

The Hayes family — Mina, her husband Joe, and their daughter Samantha, or Sam — own and operate Kenai’s Ink Works Tattoo Studio, 11887 Kenai Spur Highway. This month they are soliciting donations for the Kenai animal shelter through a promotion: customers who make donations to the shelter will have twice the amount of their donation taken off the price of their tattoo. The deduction is given as a gift certificate, which Mina said allows it to be transferred between customers. In addition to cash, Ink Works is accepting donations of pet supplies as well. The amount spent on supplies, as shown by a receipt, is used as the amount of the donation. So far, four customers have contributed bags of cat and dog food, litter, and blankets.

Ink Works has offered previous deals of this kind. In September, they sent their customer’s donations to the Salvation Army to buy school supplies for local students. They raised around $200, Mina said, which “is a lot of notebooks.”

Mina plans to make the donation deal a monthly event. In December, she wants to raise money for the Salvation Army again, this time for toys.

At the Ink Works shop, Joe and Sam both work in studios upstairs while Mina sits behind the reception desk or in the office downstairs. Mina fills the management and bookkeeping roles of the business, while Joe and Sam are the artists. The family has had their shop in Kenai for the past two years, although Joe worked as a tattoo artist for 10 years at the family’s previous shop in Seward.

“I used to be a builder, working on residential houses,” said Joe. “I did tattooing as a hobby. When I hit 40, I switched. Now I build on my own terms, and tattoo professionally.”

Joe said he currently has 55 tattoos, including the first tattoo that Sam did when she was 14. She learned the craft from her father, finishing 380 hours of formal apprenticeship under his instruction to earn her tattoo artist’s license two years ago. During her apprenticeship, she took some time off from tattooing to earn a degree in illustration from Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Now she is back in the family business.

“It’s definitely on its own, as far as a medium goes,” said Joe of tattooing. “Every skin type is different. Everyone takes ink differently. I have four drawers of different needle groupings that I use. Each one has its special purpose. It’s like having 500 brushes when you’re painting.”

The family’s dog Opie is one of five. The Hayeses currently own a malamute and her three puppies, which are collie/malamute mixes, and a beagle/Lab. Mina said that she loves dogs.

“I want to go to the shelter and volunteer, but when I see their dogs I just want to adopt them all,” said Mina. “I’ve already got five dogs. So I thought we’d help out through this fundraiser.”

For Chambers at the Kenai Animal Shelter, the incoming donations came as a surprise. Chambers said that the shelter, which receives its normal funds from the City of Kenai, currently has no special plans for the donated money.

“We’ll see what we need most,” said Chambers. “It could be general operating supplies. We might do a purchase of food or litter. Or there might be a special project that we need here at the shelter. Since we weren’t planning on having these funds, we weren’t planning on doing a special project. But it’s definitely a great opportunity, since we have such great support from the community and from Ink Works.”

As of Nov. 6, the Kenai shelter contained 10 dogs and 20 cats.

“They should eat good this month, anyway,” said Joe Hayes.


Reach Ben Boettger at

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion Samantha Hayes inks a tattoo at Ink Works Tattoo Studio in Kenai on Nov. 8.

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion Joe Hayes inks a tattoo on customer Ami Stowell’s leg at Ink Works Tattoo Studio in Kenai on Nov. 8.

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion Joe Hayes inks a tattoo on Ami Stowell’s leg at Ink Works Tattoo Studio in Kenai on Nov. 8.

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