It was a weekend of firsts for Cara and I as we headed off to the Motor City tattoo expo, I have never been to Detroit before and I will admit to having a few preconceived notions, mainly that the city was a burned out shell of a former industrial giant. And while we did see plenty of dystopian scenery we also saw that the people living there were as vibrant and hopeful as anywhere. Detroit also had the most efficient and nicest waitresses I’ve ever met.
We drove there and back with our friends Jason Angst and Mel with whom we were splitting the booth and who set the whole ting up for us in the first place. Cara and I always have fun traveling to and from conventions, but with these guys in the car it was great! the time flew and the conversation ran all over the place, I learned a lot and I’ve always felt that you could tell how you really feel about someone by being trapped in a car with them for a while. The verdict is that they are two of the awesomest folks I’ve met through this crazy tattoo world.
Another first was meeting Chris Conn and attending a workshop he was holding on how to draw and tattoo the female form. Not only was Chris one of the earliest inspiration for me in tattooing, his work is one of the few that has held me in awe exactly the same as it did 14 years ago when I began tattooing myself. Lots of people whose work i aspired to now seems not so magical or technically advanced as it used to, but Chris’ stuff still awes me in its elegant simplicity and his ability to tell so much with so little. His tattoos are a master class in the power of restraint and simplicity. So the seminar was excellent, we got to ask questions and generally shoot the shit on a technical level with about 30 tattooers in a small conference room, some of the things discussed were totally new to me, some of my vague leanings confirmed and in general a desire to practice drawing the ladies (twist my arm!) was fired up. Then on the final day of the convention I got to put a lot of what I had picked up in the seminar into practice on a big gypsy girl head I did.
The customer was a welder and tattoo fan who brought his own sketch up to be redrawn and endured the tattoo amid the chaotic convention conditions like a champ. He and his girlfriend exemplified many of the locals we met at the convention, friendly, hard-working, and excited about good tattoos!
On the second day I started off tattooing this big ol’ battle axe I had on the table as a “show special” , suer fun and he didn’t even mind that I ran this fucker right over his elbow! heh heh.
After that I did a tattoo of a can of Old Bay seasoning coming out of a cut on Pennsylvania tattoo Whitney Shiller . Unfortunately my only pic was on my android phone which decided to delete all my pictures today . . . . Old Bay, for you who don’t know, is like crack to people from Maryland, I’m pretty sure they snort it right out of the can.
Also on saturday I had a show special koi fish out on the table and a great gent came by and fell in love. I got to do a really fun piece and hang with a really nice guy.
Lately I have noticed that at tattoo conventions I’ve begun to agree to do tattoos for people based more on how I feel than on what work they want. If I get a douche-y vibe then I don’t care how cool their idea is and pass them on to one of the other 50 tattooers there, however if I find that I immediately like the person I usually say yes even if its tiny lettering or stars on ankles or whatever, I am more interested in spending my time with quality people than I am in making loot or padding my portfolio with “cool” pieces. Its been working out really well and gives me an all-over feeling for the conventions I would like to do again.
Cara got tattooed by Corey Miller on her tricep and while I was too busy to hang out much she did tell me he had a ton of hilarious stories about the tv show he was on and was super kind and genuine to her.
We drove back monday and I got a cold (apparently one was making its way through the convention) which finally kicked my ass fully today. I actually took a sick day for the first time in years! But despite the fact that I can’t breathe and my head feels like its full of lead I cant help but feel really grateful and excited to have met the people I have and to be part of the world of tattooing.
*from the album Michigan by Sufjan Stevens