In the nearly 15 years I’ve been plying my trade, I’ve known a great many different people along the way.  Getting to know other perspectives of the ins and outs of our industry, hearing the stories of the older days of the art, and the tall tales of the tattoo conventions.  Many of the artists I have been blessed (or cursed, case depending) to work with and grow with have attended tattoo conventions, or expos.  I, myself have done the Tucson Tattoo Expo almost every year since 2008, and intend to do as many as I can possibly manage throughout 2016.  On the other hand, I have also known many who, for various reasons, avoid conventions like I avoid exercise…and that’s a neurotic level, y’all.

We here at Trinity Art Collective thought it would be a great topic to bring into the open, especially with the Tucson Tattoo Expo coming up this spring.

Tattoo Expos are events, either invitational or open-vendor, wherein professional tattoo artists, shops, piercing services, tattoo culture clothing, materials, equipment vendors, and many more come together for a weekend Exposition, or Convention.  These events are often annual, with some areas having several separate events yearly.  Generally speaking, Tattoo Expos are open to the general public.  Day passes and Weekend passes can be purchased, and more often than not there will be a bar and some form of food available on premises.  All ages are usually welcome unless otherwise posted, but this artist might recommend you arrange a sitter for little ones.  This is grown up stuff, people.  Think about it.

From a John Q.Public viewpoint, a Tattoo Convention is a rare chance to completely immerse yourself into tattoo culture in a unique way.  For the Collector, an Expo is the perfect chance to get that special work done by an artist from out of town that they might not otherwise be able to travel to complete.  To the beginner, an Expo represents a fantastic chance to see tattoos of every possible style, color, placement, age, and level of detail.  Wanna know what that dolphin on your boob will look like in 50 years when it’s chillin’ near your belly-button?  You’ll probably see one if you keep a sharp eye, lads.  Ladies, you ever seen a 90 year old man wearing a full-body tattoo and a sumo-diaper?  Yep, been there, seen that.  From Sideshow Lovelies to full-on Amish, I have personally seen every kind of human I thought possible in one place, with unified purpose.  Tattoos.  Whether a curiosity to the uninitiated, a rite of passage, or a driving need to decorate,  It is on this note, we need to talk some serious stuff, here…

If you are new to this, understand that Tattoo Expos are not necessarily for the purpose of competition.  There is a lot of misconception out there that Expos are some sort of slug-it-out circuit, and the whole point of them is to collect trophies.  Yes, winning them is fun, it’s nice, it strokes the ego and makes the artist and the client feel recognized for their respective investments in the work.  The categorical competitions are a large part of the Expos, and are made available for those who wish to enter them, and I prefer to leave that decision in the hands of my client.  You can opt to schedule your time to specifically compete at an Expo, but it is important to remember that at the end of the day, a plaque or trophy means nothing at all.  How you feel about your tattoo is the only thing that matters.

Remember that we artists travel to these Expos.  We leave our shops, often our families, and put our hometown clientele on hold until we return.  We buy airfare, lodging, transportation, meals, vendor booth registration, supplies and equipment, and incur nightmarish schedules to attend these events and be available to tattoo the public.  Which leads me to this…

TOP QUALITY TATTOOS ARE GOING TO BE EXPENSIVE!  Ever wonder why you don’t see more mind-blowing tattoos walking around your hometown?  You know, the kind you see all the time on Instagram done by the dudes with like a billion followers?  Here’s a little secret: It’s not that there aren’t many fantastic artists out there…it’s that every third person seems to think their homie or cousin, who just bought a ‘tat-gun’ on EvilBay, could pull it off for about eighty bucks.  When you weigh in the costs of our overhead as tattoo artists, what we charge is nothing to complain about.  You can expect everything from $100-800 per hour, or negotiate large time-blocks at a special rate in certain cases depending on the artist and work involved.  Do yourself and everyone you are associating yourself with that weekend a huge favor, and don’t harass an artist about the price.  If you have a budget, make it known from the start, and try to work with it.

In closing, artists can benefit hugely from these events.  It’s a chance for us to come together, shake hands, share stories and get to know each other.  Networking and connections have always been the backbone of our industry, and that’s something that only seems to get more true as we move forward in technology, technique and connectivity in tattooing.  The public can also benefit, in my not-so-humble opinion, from attending these events.  It’s a golden opportunity to meet people from every walk of life, rub elbows with amazingly talented artists, musicians and entertainers, and maybe…just maybe…

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