by madeleine wagner
Tattoo conventions are weird places. Walking into an otherwise mundane mid-level hotel conference room, and instead of seeing grey suited marketing managers and associate sales directors, seeing a cacophony of bearded, pierced, and tattooed men and women (fewer beards on the ladies though). Either way, lots of exposed flesh.
For the most part, tattoo conventions are like any other convention-interesting only to aficionados and trade members-almost. It’d be disingenuous to pretend that tattoos and the people who choose to wear them aren’t interesting. There is a seductive quality to thumbing one’s nose at conventional ideas of beauty and acceptability. Plus the images, the art can be beautiful and the desire to possess it can be almost overwhelming.
Jacksonville has over sixty tattoo shops within its limits. It is home to one of the most famous shops in the tattooing world, Inksmith & Rogers, and has a host of other quality shops, with dedicated artists. However, it wasn’t until 2005 that the first Tattoo convention was hosted in Jacksonville. Now, it’s an annual event that gets better (and more entertaining) each year. This year, the Jacksonville Tattoo Convention is from September 11-13, at the Wyndham Riverwalk (1515 Prudential Drive).
For collectors and artists alike, conventions are an opportunity to meet favorite artists, get work done by hard-to-find/hard-to-get-to artists, collect prints or score a few t-shirts. For visitors the lure isn’t just to get a tattoo, but to feel a part of a larger culture. Though most tattoo artists are more than the sum of their tattoos, there is a certain satisfaction gained from mingling with those who share some of the same interests.
Nick Wagner, the owner of Black Hive Tattoo in Riverside, (and in the interest of full disclosure–my husband), weighs in: “I do it to showcase the people I work with to the wider public.” As for what visitors get when they go to a convention, he says, “They get to see many styles of tattoo artists side by side. It widens their view of what is available as far as tattooing.”
However, there are a few rules of etiquette that deserve to be mentioned. Even at a tattoo convention, its impolite to stare, gape-jawed at the fellow who tattooed sideburns on his face, or grab the arm of the girl walking by to get a closer look at her work. Ask, and be nice about it. Most people are happy to show off their tattoos. Also, most artists have portfolios with them at the show, before asking a bunch of silly questions, take a look at what they do…and if you don’t see the style you want, or imagery you like, ask…chances are they’ll know someone who’ll be happy to do it. If you have an appointment to get tattooed during the convention, be on time and sober…in fact, lots of tattooers won’t work on a drunk subject. Finally: remember to tip your artist, it’s not just tradition, it’s the nice thing to do.
by madeleine wagner