For someone who isn’t familiar with the tattoo world you could be forgiven for wondering what is a tattoo convention? For the uninitiated, they can be rather intimidating.
What is a Tattoo Convention? – History
They have a quite long history going back to the year 1976 when the first tattoo convention took place in the US. Nowadays tattoo conventions have become a staple of the tattoo industry. There are more events happening than ever before in cities all over the world. Usually 2-3 day long events showcasing many different tattoo genres and artists from all over the world. All working alongside each other under one roof.
Generally they are exhibition style events where each artist has their station located in their own booth.
Never been to a tattoo convention and you want to know what you can expect from this type of event? Here’s a roundup of Tattoo events around the world
Why are Conventions Great For Clients?
For many tattoo fans and collectors, conventions are the only opportunity to get work done by their favourite artist. Tattoo conventions give you access to the most talented artists from around the world working today. For example, you can travel to a local convention and get tattooed by an artist from the New Zealand, Japan, USA etc.
Conventions and Tattoo Etiquette
Tattoo conventions are very different to an artist’s shop. The calm of the studio is replaced by the madness of thousands of people walking around and hundreds of artists working side-by-side. Not to mention the noise and the smells of performances! I have worked a convention where my booth was only a few metres from 3 motocross bikes screaming around what can only be described as a giant hamster-ball!
If you are attending a convention as a client or spectator, please be conscious of an artist’s working space and be mindful that they are there to work. Most artists working conventions are happy to answer any questions you might have about their work or availability. But some find it very difficult to concentrate so headphones are quite often worn!
Are Conventions worth it for artists?
Personally having worked loads of conventions over the years I think they are. When I started doing them it was really important to help promote my work. no one really knew what those red and black tattoos were all about at the time. They weren’t even called Trash Polka back then. Some called them Avant Garde some called them Art Brut, some called them the Photoshop Style. Most artists weren’t sure if they were even tattoos! So the easiest way to show people what it was all about was to go to shows, show off my work and explain them to clients. So that’s exactly what I did. Travelling around the world, show to show for years was the next decade of my life and I had a blast promoting my work. I found it to be a very effective way of getting the message out there about the graphic style and I think the same is true these days too.
I really enjoy them and I’ve met a lot of really good friends on the convention scene and a few dickheads of course – you know who you are.
These days I only work a few. Not because I don’t like them quite the opposite I really enjoy them and miss it but I’m just really busy at the shop and I can’t be out of the studio that much anymore
What is a Tattoo Convention – Be selective
With there being so many these days I think artists just have to be more selective about the shows that they work and find the kind of shows that fit with what they enjoy – organisers all have different ideas about what makes a good show but sometimes it not what we think makes a great show.
I worked in what could only be described as a garden centre once. Complete with a woman walking round serving tea off a trolley! That was weird. One show had some bloke balancing glass balls on his head as entertainment! And of course quite a few of them have some very odd compares!
Visit a few, pick the ones you like the vibe of and apply to them. You’ll meet cool people have a load of laughs and promote yourself to people who are really serious about tattooing. After all they are spending their Saturday or Sunday or both visiting them.
Conventions remain a massive part of the tattoo world and we should support them. A lot of us owe them – at least in part – our careers.