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.