Tag Archives: british ink

Feature: Baltimore Tattoo Convention 2014

My coverage and photos from the Baltimore Tattoo Convention 2014

This was my third year of covering the Baltimore Tattoo Convention, yet the charm has yet to wear off on Charm City’s colorful display. A celebration of all things body art, it always remains str-ink-ingly communal in its spirit. Tattoos have long moved past the “freak factor” to make an indelible mark on the mainstream and become a very public, yet intensely personal form of self-expression. It’s art on a mobile canvass. The artists who create them and the people who commission them come from all walks of life and have an equally broad array of reasons for getting them.

Tattoo conventions are truly communal and inclusive. They present opportunities for people to show support for their favorite artists by getting tattooed there or entering competitions. For others, it’s a chance to meet and see the work of artists they would otherwise not be able to know about.
I had a chance to chat with James Haun of Fatty’s Custom Tattooz, whose area was honorably dubbed the “one stop metal shop,” for creating the most metal of tattoos known to man and for being in a ridiculously good black metal band appropriately named The Oracle (and playing with Corrosion of Conformity tonight!). This year, James did a Most Metal Tattoo Contest 2.0, asking for submissions on Facebook for “most metal tattoos” and picking a winner who received a free tattoo at the convention. The winner was Nancy Dove-Smith, a long-time James supporter, who wanted a “bleeding goat’s head, chopped off, tongue hanging out, eyes rolled back in its head with deer antlers with raw skin/meat hanging off the points, impaled on an and upside down cross.” James, ever so magnanimous, decided to give the goat not only deer antlers but goat horns as well. The Dark Lord was pleased with this offering.


Baltimore Tattoo Convention 2013 Report

My Report On the 2013 Baltimore Tattoo Convention

 This year’s Baltimore Tattoo Convention was slightly less raucous and frenetic than last year’s, but what it lacked in hype and clamor, it certainly compensated with the sights and sounds of hundreds of buzzing needles—almost all of the artists were assiduously tattooing, which is quite unusual considering how large the convention is. In other words, the “we are so busy” mantra I kept hearing translated to the convention as well. Tattoos are in(k) and they are here to stay, boldly splashing across the public’s imagination and remaining intensely personal yet defiantly public in their statements. Tattoos have firmly solidified their place in what is considered “art” and the artists who create them have fully reveled in the opportunity to showcase their work on mobile canvasses.
Tattoo conventions are truly communal and inclusive. They present opportunities for people to show support for their favorite artists by getting tattooed there or entering competitions. For others, it’s a chance to meet and see the work of artists they would otherwise not be able to. Then, of course there is the entertainment—sideshows, like The Enigma and Serana Rose, and suspensions (not for the faint of heart).
This year’s convention featured a lot of the local shops who were also at the DC Tattoo Expo, as well as some “celebratooists” like Ink Master winner, Shane O’Neill, and Ink Master finalist, James Vaughn, as well as the crew from VH1’s reality show Black Ink, who were funnily enough attracting Justin Bieber-like-hysteria levels of photo-op-seekers. Piercing guru Steve Truitt was also in attendance.
Marlowe Ink’s Steph Damiano and I shared a laugh over her being erroneously featured on the site as Stephanie Damiand, which she promptly called a “stripper name.” Anything referencing gemstones or diamonds definitely fits that category. James Marlowe, a really respected and sought-out artist, has been tattooing for 25 years and the shop attracts people looking for his custom work. Steph has “only” been tattooing for 5 years, but her folky, vintage-leaning style is really singular, fresh, and indelibly her own. “I have been getting a lot of requests for women’s faces with animals engulfing the top of their heads. Even though 5 years is not a terribly long time, I am going to stick with this. There is no other job where you feel like you are constantly learning and growing.”
Citizen Ink’s Joe Khay, who is originally from Georgia and has been tattooing for the last 10 years, also specializes in neo-traditional, Americana-influenced tattoos. “The tattoo industry has really changed from the 80s and 90s. The clientele has wizened up and we get a lot of people approaching us with this very European type mentality to the work—they have an idea of what they want, but also trust the artist to draw the piece. They give us more liberty and have done their homework more—it’s a matter of trust. Of course, we still get the kids that want to have ‘faith’ tattooed on their arm, but they are no longer the norm.”
Springfield’s Way Of Ink received several honors during the tattoo competition—1st place for large black & gray and 3rd place for small color. Duong has been tattooing for 15 years and specializes in Asian-themed pieces. The Way Of Ink table is also a testament to the bond that people develop with their artist—there is always a large crew, an extended family, really, who are all too happy to keep entering competitions and promoting the work of their favorite artist.
Virginia-based Rick’s Tattoos is the oldest shop in the area, having been around for 33 years.Rhiannon August, apprenticed with Rick, who has been tattooing for 43 years.  In response to what she has been tattooing a lot of this year, she responded “lots of pin ups and some abstract flower pieces.”
British Ink’s Aaron Trimiar was working for close to 4 hours on a beautiful back piece of a ship on a client who had literally just met him. “I have been doing a lot of Afro-centric pin ups this year, a lot of black and gray work. I feel like I am right where I need to be with tattooing. It allows me to constantly learn and grow as an artist. I am a tattoo artist, but I am also an artist, period. I am always working on sketchbooks and developing my art this way. It’s really the best occupation anybody could have.”
And that is a sentiment that seemed to be shared by many of his comrades in needles.

Feature Story: DC Tattoo Expo 2013

My feature story for BYT on The DC Tattoo Expo 2013

The third annual DC Tattoo Expo certainly rivaled last year’s Baltimore Tattoo Convention in scope and substance.
Tattoos have long emerged from their subcultural roots and shed their “freak factor” cloak to boldly display their palettes, telling a story both about their owners and the artists who created them. Intensely public, yet simultaneous deeply personal, tattoos are pushing artistic boundaries in all sorts of strINK ways.
For many, conventions are the best place to get work done by artists they might not normally have access to. For others, it’s an opportunity to show support to their favorite artists by getting tattooed at the convention and showcasing the artists’ work. For others, it’s simply a chance to find some community and colorful camaraderie and enjoy the experience as an art show.


So what’s “in” in ink this year? “Portraits, divinity symbols of all kinds,” explains Paul Loh of Occoquan’s True Love Always Tattoo Studio. “Ribs are really big this year…probably due to workplace appropriateness concerns. The skin is really soft there, but it is super painful and people always move when I am tattooing them there. I am hoping the ribs become ‘the new tramp stamp’ because it is so hard to do them,” he says jokingly. When I spoke to him, he was tattooing an intricate African mask piece on Erick Atkinson, who had other similar designs in homage to his heritage. The time requirement–three hours…lest you had any illusions about how quickly even outline-only pieces take.
Fernando Prudencio, of the very popular H Street tattoo shop British Ink, chimes with his most popular tattoo requests: “Since we only do appointments and no walk-ins, we get a bit of a different client subset. A LOT of DC flags! And believe it or not, whatever celebrities are getting is really big. I did a TON of infinity symbols with the words ‘family’ or ‘love’ underneath this year. A lot feathers breaking into birds. When Rihanna got those Roman numerals…that too.”
Ink Master winner, Shane O’Neill,specializes in portraits, the hot item du jour for a good while now. As he explains, however, the portraits are not always in memoriam–they are often just a way to wear one’s heart and loved ones on one’s sleeve, literally. Annaliese Yoder got a portrait at Infamous Tattoos[Shane’s shop] of her grandfather, who is from Hamelin, the Pied Piper town in Germany. At the base of his feet are five mice, representing her aunts and nieces, a play on words. Ruben Cotreras got the face of Maria Felix, “Mexico’s Marilyn Monroe,” by Tommy Montoya in New York. Ink Master has been great in getting the word out about artists. Shane explains that before the show it might have taken 6-8 months to get an appointment; he is booked a year in a half in advance now, with frequent trips to Europe. Fellow Ink Master finalist, James Vaughn, was also staying busy, tattooing a sleeve on Tamara Ellis, working on his signature large Japanese-themed pieces.