Defying (the) Convention

THEY are trying to destroy my love of tattoo conventions. They fill bigger and bigger halls with more like them. The crowds that are attracted to the strange ghoul of tattoo television stardom are a sad lot. Where conventions of the past focused on a few really talented artists who were known only to a small portion of folks who were genuinely interested in tattoos, these days the draw is far less talented tattooers who have had the (mis?)fortune to be “reality television stars“. The results at this weekends Baltimore tattoo convention were too plain to ignore. Moved into a cavernous and soul sucking vault from the previous years cozy hotel ballroom, the enormous number of booths were filled with a depressingly mediocre and untalented pile of shops and artists pumping out $30 and $40 dollar tattoos hoping to siphon some semblance of a living from the trashy rubs who equate being on television with some form of magic. It was silly, it was sad, it was filled with people whose only love of tattooing is based on the flawed idea that if you are on the glowing light of a television that you, somehow, must be a somebody.

Fortunately for tattooing the aforementioned core group of tattoo aficionados are still there, still loyal to quality work and still happy to go to a place where their chosen artists are assembled into one place. They gamely walk the gauntlet of hook hangers, bad “burlesque” shows, the horrible tattooers with 2 pictures of (bad)  tattoos in their portfolio and 50 of them posing with guns in front of a beemer, and the brain dead rubes hoping to get  a picture with some half talented tv tattooer, with an eye for the quality work that  still draws them to these shit shows by the fond memories of past years conventions before the organizers decided that the tattooers were to be second to the almighty dollar. I have done this show for years and the progression from a room full of talented artists sharing stories and pushing each other to newer and better heights into a grim vault of rum dumb barely skilled hacks and sideshow bullshit is nearly complete. Personally Im done doing this (and most) conventions, there are good ones out there still and if I ever wanted to do another one I  will be focusing on those rather than wasting my time and money supporting people for whom tattooing is just a paycheck.

Did I say that I wasted my time? Well, that is not exactly true since we got to hang out with a ton of our friends and to enjoy Baltimore itself, which is always really fun! Cara and I also did some really fun tattoos on great people who made it a pleasure to deal with the ocean of goofballs filling the cavernous Baltimore convention center. Before we got to the “charm city” Cara and I stayed with and worked at the fine folks of Black Thorn Gallery in Mechanicsburg Pa. Not only are they incredibly talented, but Ryan, Landon, Tim, and Tiffany are the kind of tattooers Cara and I like to describe as “our people”. All the talent in the world is wasted if you are a jerk and the Black Thorn crew are super good people as well as damn fine tattooers. One of their shop regulars Cody let me tattoo an umbrella Yokai on the side of his knee.

On day one my Sunday appointment asked if I wasnt doing anything would I mind working on his piece instead of waiting. Since neck tattoos are always the scariest for me at conventions I was thrilled to get this one going while I was still fresh and we turned out this skull and roses on Joel’s neck.

I did this lil cake on our friend’s elbow/forearm area in honor of her mom (and on mothers day no less!) I can’t say that I have tattooed many bunt cakes, but this one was super fun!


A customer I tattooed in 2009 at the convention stopped by and showed me the healed chrysanthemum on her forearm, I was happy to see that it was still solid and that she was ready to turn it into a full sleeve!

We did a couple little ones on some very cool folks and I tattooed one repeat customer who apparently has an orgasm every time I tattoo her (I cannot guarantee these results for every customer) and who brought her own towel in order to “keep your chair from getting all wet”. Keep in mind that this tattoo was just on her shoulder not in any “erogenous” zones.i feel like I should have added an extra $50 for the happy ending. . . . the things we do for our art!

On the last day I ended the whole thing by tattooing Heather’s hand! Not only is she engaged to a Pittsburgh tattooer, and part of the tattoo was a coverup,  but she has two really awesome sleeves which puts the pressure on high especially tattooing a hand at a convention where the light isn’t quite what you are used to and the distraction factor is pretty substantial. But I did my best and both of us  were happy with the result.

Other highlights included getting a grip of maternity clothes and baby furniture from the amazing Jen Reid, eating with our good buddies til were ready to blow up 3 days in a row. Being in the same booth as Ryan and Landon, being able to spend time with their awesome wives and kids, being next to Cyn and the whole Cirque du Rouge crew and being inspired by folks like Timmy Tats, Krooked Ken, Tahiti Gil, Jakoh, and dozens more who are true tattooers and keep the flame alive for Cara and I to be inspired by. We wont be working this show anymore, but we will definitely be using it as an excuse to hang out in Baltimore with some super cool and dedicated tattooers and friends.

Categories: Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Defying (the) Convention

  1. Pingback: Conventions.......Just don't seem the same! 4 | Tattoo Forum | Last Sparrow Tattoo

  2. Bunny Switchblade

    Thank you for saying what I have been thinking for a while now, Jason!!!
    it was awesome to see you and Cara there at the show… well as all of my other friends…..but these shows just lack “life”!

  3. i have worked the baltimore convention for the past 3 years. and the past 2 have been less than enjoyable. i can not say this is directly due to the promoter, but i wasn’t even able to break even. that was the major deciding factor as to why i did not bother to work it this year. the philadelphia show this year was also much of the same as your description of baltimore. it was huge, loud, and full of tattooers that shouldn’t have been there. when i first started doing conventions, there was a very strict application process before you could even try to get a booth. it seems now that anyone with a twenty dollar e-bay starter kit can get in. there are the few smaller shows i do year after year and i will continue to do them, but for me, baltimore is off the list.

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