I have to admit I have no tattoos. You might say that I’m a rather boring guy who isn’t particularly edgy at all. There is no ink on my skin, no brandings, no scarifications,no piercings, nor are their giant hoops in my ears, lips or anywhere on my carcass. Maybe that is why for years when I’d see the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention on the news year after year I’d not only be riveted to the screen but I’d feel all down and melancholy like a sorry little lamb for missing it.
OK, maybe not that sorry, but I have to admit I’ve always had an affinity for those who willingly to stray from convention and do their own thing. One of many ways people set themselves apart, besides becoming a Buddhist Monk of course, is to get tattooed. Tattoos have been around for thousands of years and look better than ever. You rarely see the blurry, illegible, green tattoos that your grandfather has anymore. Now tats are sophisticated and mark a sub culture of people who view their bodies as very personal works of art.
The Philadelphia Tattoo convention brings tattoo artists from all over to show off their art, show off their ink, show off their tools and, most of all, show off their ability to tattoo.
The Tattoo Convention held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia PA. I can’t say for sure if this is held every winter or if the show date changes from time to time. I do know that this is held year after year and I was fortunate enough to attend this year.
What The Set Up Is Like
The convention was set up in a room that felt pretty big. How big? Geez, I can’t say for sure. Football field size? Probably smaller than that but still a pretty big venue. There are dozens of rows perhaps 100 feet long (more? less?) with booths on both sides. 80% of the booths are tattoo artists working live and displaying the variety of tat art they specialize in. Most of the booths have someone actively getting a tattoo put onto their body.
The giant concrete floor room is very austere looking with high ceilings with exposed heating and air conditioning apparatus. Perhaps appropriate considering getting a tattoo is a very blue-collar, rugged form of personal expression.
What The Crowd Was Like
Before attending the Tattoo Convention, I honestly thought this event would be a crazy display. I expected loads of people showing off extreme body art. It really was not that sort of circuls event. There were some folks of course with tats covering the face and body, some with spiked Mohawks, some with plenty of studs drilled into their skulls but I was able to count the number of these people on my fingers.
The visitors to the Philadelphia Tattoo at a large population of heavily tattooed people but not to the point where I was shocked.
There were plenty of wimpy folks like me there too so at no time did I feel as though someone was going to rough me up, pound me down, berate me or force a Mike Tyson-esque tattoo on my head. Not at all. I’m joking about this but my point being, if you feel as though you will be out of place, you won’t be. Broad spectrum of people. All races. Probably 60-70% male, teen to 50′s) and the rest, I’ll saying being a guy, a rather a attractive tattooed female population of all ages probably up to 40′s.
That Isn’t To Say This is a Wimp-Crowd
Don’t get me wrong, for every one pansey-looking visitor like me there were two tough looking tattooed guys. That said, everyone was very nice and courteous even with the crowd swelled. At one point in the dense mob I came chest to chest with a bunch of guys who probably could audition for Orange County Chopper or Sons of Anarchy. I immediately made a mental note of how I wish my funeral would turn out, but they were all really friendly, excused themselves etc. I didn’t suffer one beat-down and everyone seemed pretty happy to be there.
How Were The Displays in Each Artists Booth?
The displays after a while looked rather redundant. Ever go to a big rock concert and see those black booths selling the dark and brooding concert jerseys? At first glance this is how the entire event looked. The fun though, is in the details. Each booth had someone getting a tattoo in just about every (G to PG rated ) area on their bodies imaginable. The art displays were fun to look through and the tattoo artists and their staff were all very ready to answer any question in a friendly and engaging manner.
What Else Was on Display Besides Besides Tattoos?
There were tons of booths that did not focus on doing an actual tattoo on the spot. Whole booths were filled with tattoo tools and needles. It was neat to see all of the styles and some of these tools looked to me to be handmade works of art themselves.
Some booths were full of a bizzillion varieties of tattoo ink on display for sale.
There were also plenty of artists that specialize in piercings, scarification, branding and just about any way you could stab, pound, cut, twist, gouge and burn your epidermis into a work of art, if that’s your thing that is. I saw a guy laying on his back and someone jammed this giant rod into it. I overhead someone say it is Japanese tattooing. It looked more like Sepuku to me.
There were a couple displays that featured hoops of all sizes. If you ever watched National Geographic, you might recall some tribes that increase their ear piercings to the point where you could pass a trash can through the ear lobe hole. A couple displays had these hoops and it was neat to see the variety of sizes and colors. I didn’t see someone getting a hoop in their lip or ear or wherever but I’ll be you could have gotten one right there on the spot.
There was a rather large area in the corner of the room that featured body painting. There were a dozen women or so (give or take) getting their bodies painted for the event. I think there was even a contest involved but I didn’t investigate enough. I was too busy likely drooling over the models. Kidding… sort of….
A few booths were dedicated to more traditional art as well. Some paintings, clothing, and sculpture. Not many but enough to add a little variety to the program.
So It’s Pretty Clear I Can Get a Tattoo Here Right?
Yes, you definitely can get all inked up at the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention for sure. One observation I made though was that some artists were clearly more popular than others. It takes sense as some of the artists in the esoteric tattoo world are quite famous. There were a couple celebrities there too. We stopped to chat very briefly with Sarah Miller, a former contestant on the show “Inked” who had her own tattoo booth going as well.
My suggestion is that if there is an artist you like, you target them early for an appointment. I noticed some tat artists telling potential customers, “Hey, I can get you in, in about 4 hours” Other artists look like they’d take you on the spot. For the most part though, the vast majority of artists were actively tattooing someone as I walked by.
What If I Want a Tat Design That I Personally Created?
There was a table near the Convention Center entrance where people were handing in drawings of their own tattoos. This booth would then scan the drawings in and hand them a template to take to the artist. If you have that tweedy-bird riding a Harley image you created, they can get you inked no problem if you bring it with you.
Good way to pass an afternoon. If you like tattoos, you’ll be in heaven here. If you don’t but want to experience a whole other side, check it out.
Where is This Event?
It was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is typically a yearly event and subject to date and venue change.
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