The steady buzz of tattoo machines provides a subtle soundtrack inside Prison Break Tattoos on Washington Avenue. But the buzz about this local first responder-themed tattoo studio is about to get louder. Filming for a nationally televised reality show wrapped in October. The show, "Hero Ink," is scheduled to air on June 6 on the A&E cable network.
Opened in 2013 by Houston Police Department Sgt. Bryan Klevens, Prison Break Tattoos attracts a nationwide and international clientele, primarily those who work in the military, law enforcement, fire and emergency services.
The studio is heavily decorated with memorabilia – from heavy iron bars and barbed wire, to prison beds, fire hydrants, a handmade electric chair replica, handcuffs, and signs memorializing those who sacrificed their lives.
Clients can even get inked by a Houston firefighter. When he’s not working for Houston Fire Department, Robbie Carson has a part-time job as a tattoo artist at Prison Break Tattoos.
Prison Break’s popularity spread quickly and garnered attention from multiple media outlets nationwide, including a 2017 article in City Savvy.
That exposure brought reality television production companies to Klevens’ door, he said.
“I was approached by about five production companies before I found one that matched my vision and focus.
These folks found me through the article in Texas Monthly Magazine,” he said. “I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I know some tattoo reality shows from the last few years focused on the artists, their personalities and drama in the studio. I wasn’t interested in that at all. I wanted to feature our first responders, tell their experiences and stories behind their tattoos.”
While the show was in production, Klevens adjusted his HPD work schedule and tattoo studio business hours to accommodate filming for 10-12 hours a day. He worked early shifts or took vacation time from HPD. The tattoo studio needed a facelift before filming could begin, Klevens said.
“We had to close the business for several weeks and remodel to make it more TV ready and support the types of lighting,” he said. “The changes are for the better. It’s a much more open environment. You can see all the memorabilia that I’ve collected, which can be a conversation starter.
I’ve seen first responders and their families look around, open up to share their own stories of heroism and loss. This isn’t just a tattoo studio. I truly believe in my heart we can be a place of healing. We’re family here, and we can support our first responders because many of us have shared similar experiences.”
When the show airs, Klevens said some Houstonians will be featured on the show, but the production company sought out first responders and guest tattoo artists from across the country to share their stories.
“Filming the show has been an amazing experience thus far,” Klevens said. “I got to meet a lot of interesting people, a lot of heroic first responders and amazing artists who assisted us.
From the production company to the production assistants and show runners, everyone was 100 percent supportive of my dream, and we were more than thrilled to have these folks here for the last eight weeks. Right now, I’m just waiting to see how the show does and where it takes us.”
For more information about Prison Break Tattoos, read Public service is more than skin deep at Prison Break Tattoos.
Prison Break Tattoos , 5306 Washington Ave., Suite A, Houston, TX 77077, Phone: 713-465-3387 (713-INKEDUP) prisonbreaktattoos.com