Last-modified: May 15, 2005
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This FAQ is maintained by Stan Schwarz <email@example.com>
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The FAQs are also available on thw World Wide Web at
The rec.arts.bodyart Tattoo FAQ is broken up into 9 parts:
2/9--Getting a tattoo
4/9--Conventions <---YOU ARE READING THIS FILE
6/9--Care of new tattoos
Subject: WHAT THIS FILE CONTAINS
This file is structured as a traditional FAQ in the form of questions
and answers. Questions answered in this file:
Rec.arts.bodyart FAQ Part 4/9: Tattoo conventions
- When and where are upcoming conventions?
- Tattoo Conventions: What are they all about?
- What types of conventions are available?
- Why would I want to attend?
- What's the atmosphere?
- What kind of tattoo contests are there?
- Can I actually get a tattoo at a convention?
- What else can I find at these conventions?
- Tattooing and traveling
COPYRIGHT AND DISSEMINATION
Under the Berne Convention, this document is Copyright (c) 1997 by Lani
Teshima-Miller, all rights reserved. Permission is granted for it to be
reproduced electronically on any system connected to the various
networks which make up the Internet, Usenet, and FidoNet so long as it
is reproduced in its entirety, unedited, and with this copyright notice
intact. Web sites are included. Individual copies may also be printed
for personal use.
Subject: WHEN AND WHERE ARE UPCOMING CONVENTIONS?
The best list of upcoming convention I know of is on the
tattoos.com web site:
Subject: TATTOO CONVENTIONS: WHAT ARE THEY ALL ABOUT?
People go to tattoo conventions for various reasons. Enthusiasts may go
to visit with or meet out-of-town artists, get new tattoos, look at
other people's tattoos or show off their own. Artists may go to purchase
flash work from other artists, visit with old friends or to gain more
visibility in the field.
If you are interested in finding out what's going on in the tattoo
world, the convention is the way to go.
The one thing that I find marvelous, wonderful and so exciting about
tattoo conventions, is that you can meet excellent and well-known
artists "in the flesh" and see many of them work! What other kind of
convention can you go to, where fans can openly admire the artists? The
only one I can think of off-hand is Fan Fair in Nashville, for country
music fans (and then it's the STAR versus the FANS--still not quite the
WHAT TYPES OF CONVENTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
Conventions range in size and length, from very small shop-sponsored
conventions that last a day or two, to international
organization-sponsored events that span four days.
Conventions are usually held over a weekend, and usually include
contests (closed to official registrants only) and exhibit floors, where
artists may be selling their merchandise or tattooing. The exhibit floor
is usually open to the public on a one-day admission fee, for those who
don't want to pay the extra fee of registering.
Most of the larger conventions are fairly well organized. While not in
the same caliber as an academic conference (that might have many
workshops, board meetings, poster sessions), convention organizers
usually have arrangements with travel agencies and hotels, to provide a
good deal for participants. This allows attendees to obtain a lower
"convention rate" for both hotel and airfare.
Convention rates vary: Registration for a national four-day convention
may run around $30-$40, less for a shorter convention. Daily admission
passes usually sell for about $10 per person and are only good for the
Official registrants are usually given a color-coded hospital-style
wristband, while those paying for just the day may get their hand
WHY WOULD I WANT TO ATTEND?
Have you ever wanted to get a tattoo from a certain artist who lives in
another country, or another part of the country? Have you ever wanted to
feel a sense of belonging with a group of people who understand your
desire for tattoos?
People attend conventions for different reasons--the main thing to
remember is that these conventions allow you the unique opportunity to
be immersed in the tattooing world, where staring at other people's
tattoos, or people staring at yours aren't meant as an insult or an
You might have read and perused through tattoo magazines and thought "No
way! These guys are way too radical for me!" Just remember that
everybody was born naked with no tattoos or extra holes in their body.
We're all the same, and there is no reason to feel intimidated by others
who have bodmods. Also, remember that the magazines will often publish
the most outlandish subjects. Otherwise, it's boring and not newsworthy!
So sure, you'll see somebody with very bizarro tattoos or with 100
pierces on their body. So what? This is your opportunity to chat with
them or otherwise find out what drives them!
You think bikers are too rough? Sure, they might be tough-looking; but
they are some of the sweetest, friendliest people I've ever met! Word
is, a lot of the convention and hotel staff come into these tattoo
conventions with some trepidation, then discover, much to their delight,
that the attendees are some of the most polite, fun-loving, nicest
people around! If you have an appreciation for motorcycles, you'll find
some fine examples in the parking lot. However, you'll discover that
convention attendees run an entire gamut and that you can't pigeonhole
them into any one classification.
IS A CONVENTION FOR *EVERYBODY*?
A kind word of warning here. If you love tattoos or are very intrigued
by them, and you want to meet others of your ilk, the conventions are
very good places to go. However, these conventions are not for
everybody. For one thing, these conventions are mostly geared toward
adults. Unless you are a tattoo artist and your toddler has lived her
entire life among the heavily tattooed and pierced, this may be a very
upsetting place to go.
Those who are sensitive to smoke or asthmatic should know that the
convention floor often becomes one big ashtray.
Finally, if you are trying to convince your partner to accept tattooing,
and your partner gets very upset about the topic in the first place, the
convention may be a very shocking and frightening experience that causes
the opposite of what you want.
WHAT'S THE ATMOSPHERE?
Conventions are always pretty congenial and relaxed during the sessions
that are open only to registrants. Welcome receptions usually allow time
for a lot of socializing, where friends can catch up on old news and
share their new tattoos with others. Quite a few people take their
cameras along, snapping shots of tattoos and people. This period is also
the time to see the real serious tattoo enthusiasts and artists, since
these are the ones who usually register for the entire convention. This
means that you are likely to see people with very serious pieces of
custom work on their bodies.
The exhibit floor, when it is still closed to the public (usually on
Fridays during a four-day convention) are not too crowded. If you want
to get some work done from an artist who has rented a booth, Fridays are
a good time to get it done. This would be a good opportunity to visit
various booths and actually talk to people.
Once the weekend hits and the doors are opened to the public, the
atmosphere will change greatly. You will see a lot of "gawkers" and
various curiosity-seekers, who may or may not have any tattoos (or if
they do, they might be some mediocre flash). The convention floor takes
on somewhat of a carnival environment.
Attendance seems to depend largely on where the convention is being
held. No tattoo convention is so large as to take up a city's major
convention center--most conventions occur in hotel ballrooms. Thus if
the hotel is in a rural section of town, or the convention is not
appropriately advertised, you will not get a very high local turnout. On
the other hand, well-advertised events will be so popular that they will
have to limit the number of bodies in the room.
Note that the National Tattoo Association has a policy (which some
regard as archaic) that bans facial and visible body piercings (outside
of the ears) because it believes that these promote the side-show-freak
atmosphere, which is not condusive to the mainstreaming of tattooing.
While I will not condone the purposeful breaking of any policy, I can
state that I have seen enough various body piercings at NTA conventions,
that it seems if you keep it low key they will not bother you. With the
current popularity of body piercing, I would like to counter that some
pierces (eyebrows, navel, nipple) have entered into the mainstream, and
are now actually used in advertisements. I don't know why NTA still
maintains this policy, when many tattooists have their own in-house
piercers and the tattooists themselves often sport body pierces
WHAT KIND OF TATTOO CONTESTS ARE THERE?
Contests are limited to registrants during the larger conventions, while
they may be open to everyone at the smaller ones.
Categories seem to differ greatly, however some of the more standard
ones you can expect include: best black & gray, most unusual, best
tribal, best portrait, best overall.
Judging is done either by popular vote, or by a panel of experts
(usually composed of veteran artists). Obviously those by popular vote
are often judged by the contestant's looks or personality, and not
necessarily just by their tattoo.
If you plan to attend a contest, I suggest you bring a pair of
binoculars. The contestants are usually herded around on stage, and it
is often difficult to see the tattoos well. This is especially pertinent
if the contest is audience-judged.
Some contests are better organized than others; however I have yet to
see a contest where everything runs on time. Many contests do not limit
the number of entrants in a category, or limit entrants to one category.
This can cause long waits and long lines.
If you wish to take photos of these contests, plan to bring a telephoto
lens. A tripod would not be a bad idea either.
CAN I ACTUALLY GET A TATTOO AT A CONVENTION?
One of the biggest advantages of attending a convention is that you can
book an appointment with a well-known artist who does not live near you.
One of the biggest *disadvantages* of booking an appointment for the
convention with a well-known artist who does not live near you is that
you might not get as good a deal as you would if you were to visit the
artist's studio. That is, the exhibit floor is noisy, full of smoke,
crowded, and generally hard for anyone to concentrate in.
In addition, some artists try to pay for their trips and booth fees by
the appointments they do during the convention--so the more tattoos they
do, the more money they make. It is possible that you may be overcharged
for a tattoo that is not up to the regular standards of the artist.
How to avoid this pitfall? Phone the artist WELL in advance. Explain
your interests and reserve your time for the convention beforehand--the
earlier the better. Give your artist enough time to do some rough
sketches as well, that can be drawn up before the convention.
If you have been dying to get a tattoo from someone great and famous,
why take the risks that the artist fills up that appointment book before
you can get to that booth? Reserve in advance and avoid the headache.
Should you decide to "wing it" and hope to find someone you like once
you're there, you will have a much better chance of securing a time slot
if you visit before the public is admitted (which means you have to
register for the convention). Chances are, they will want to get a
deposit from you immediately (some people make appointments during
conventions then fail to show without notifying the artist--very
You have been warned, though. Caveat emptor.
WHAT ELSE CAN I FIND AT THESE CONVENTIONS?
Even if you don't plan on getting any tattoos, there is still plenty to
do on the exhibit floor. Most booths sell merchandise; many booths give
away stickers, business cards, etc.
Chuck Eldridge from the Tattoo Archive in California usually has a booth
at the larger conventions. If you've ever wanted to pick up an
out-of-print publication on tattooing, visit his booth!
Ever wonder how people get their pictures into the tattoo magazines? In
addition to photos submitted by the artists themselves, many of the
photos are taken at the conventions! Keep an eye out for signs that
identify tattoo magazines. Most of them set up portable studios in
nearby rooms. You will be required to sign a standard model release
form, and will have to inform them who your artist was (that's actually
more important to them than your own name). How to tell if the photos
were taken at a convention? Take a look at the wrists of the models in
the magazines. Do you see a color-coded hospital wristband? Does the
background look like a professional backdrop, versus the inside of a
Unfortunately, the magazine people won't be able to tell you if or when
your photo will appear in publication. Most of the time, you just have
to look at the issues that appear about three to four months after the
convention. The only time they will phone you is when you get a major
spread/feature, or if you've made the cover. If this is the case,
payment usually comes in the form of extra copies. Ask for as many as
you feel comfortable asking for (a couple dozen would not be out of
line, although I wouldn't ask for 500 copies unless you had an
incredibly large family).
Sometimes, the magazines will issue a special issue dedicated to the
specific convention you were at. These often include candids and photos
of contestants, and may include a photo of you!
Many convention organizers also contract a video production group to
tape the show. These are usually sold at an on-site booth.
In recent years, seminars geared towards artists have been added at
larger conventions, with topics such as "Creative Coloring", Care and
Tuning your Machine", "Spit-Shading - Watercolor", "Tribal Tattooing",
"Preventing Disease Transmission in Tattooing." Unfortunately, these are
usually open only to professional artists. I would personally like to
one day see sessions geared towards tattoo enthusiasts. Sessions
focusing on disease transmission prevention from the customer's point of
view, or the history of Polynesian tattooing, are two such examples.
Subject: TATTOOING AND TRAVELING
Getting a tattoo at a convention poses a number of potential problems,
especially if you are used to getting tattooed near your hometown. Of
primary importance is the need to decrease your level of stress during
your travel. Thanks go to "convention trooper" Michele DeLio, formerly
of _Tattoo_ magazine for some of these pointers.
VITAMINS: Begin taking vitamin supplements a few days prior to traveling
to the convention. A multi-vitamin supplement is fine, although in
particular, you are recommended to take vitamins B and C, and Zinc. Some
people cannot tolerate zinc supplements alone--in which case a
multi-vitamin supplement containing zinc would suffice. Pack enough
tablets to last the duration of the trip.
NUTRITION: Without sounding too motherly, eat yer vegetables! Vegetables
and fruits are particularly healthy and help cleanse your system prior
to your trip. Your digestive system tends to go haywire on the road, so
eating fiber (bran cereal, etc.) will also help. Stay away from
particularly spicy or greasy foods while you are traveling as well.
WATER: Most importantly, you should drink what you might consider
*excessive* amounts of water during your travel. Airplane cabins are
notorious for their aridity (sometimes as low as 10% humidity), and most
experienced travelers recommend that you drink eight ounces of water for
every hour you are flying. This will help your body flush out toxins,
and keep your skin fresh and hydrated for your new tattoo.
CLOTHING: Regardless of your mode of travel, if you are going to be on
the road for many hours, try to bring clothing that will let your new
LEATHER: While a tattoo convention is a great place to look cool in your
heavy duty black leather clothing, these do not pack well. Try to limit
your heavy duty leather to just your jacket. If you must bring more,
choose those which are lighter weight. Bring an extra large diaper pin
(or a kilt pin), and use it to hang your jacket label up on the seat
back in front of you on the plane. This way, you will have arm room in
your seat, and will not have to risk having someone squash it with their
vanity case in the overhead. Remember also that leather does not breathe
well--if you are getting a tattoo, keep in mind that you will not want
to wear leather over it.
MOISTURIZER: The air in the cabin is EXTRA dry--pack a moisturizer in
your carry-on bag.
FRESH AIR: If you are a cigarette smoker, try to cut down on the amount
you smoke while you travel. At the convention, try to get outdoors as
often as possible--to get some natural light on your skin, as well as to
breathe some fresh air. Unless the building is zoned as non-smoking, the
convention floor will be a mass of ashtrays and smoke.
POOLS & HOT TUBS: If you are staying at a nice hotel for the convention,
you'll notice the swimming pools and hot tubs. Enjoy them before, but
not after your new tattoo. Your tattoo is simply too fresh to risk
immersing in public water.
STRESS: Excitement and tension often accompany long-distance travel. Did
you remember your airline ticket? Is your hotel room confirmed? Did you
forget anything? Just remember that most things can be fixed in a pinch.
Some stress-reducing suggestions:
o Try to pack as little as possible, and take all your essentials with
you in your carry-on (I always travel with one carry-on only).
o Make sure to leave your complete itinerary, as well as photocopies of
your tickets, with a trusted friend or relative.
o Most artists will accept traveler's checks as cash. Convert your cash
to these handy checks prior to traveling. Record the check numbers,
keep them separate from the checks themselves.
o Don't forget to confirm your flight 24 hours ahead, both before you
leave, as well as a day before you go home.
o Make sure to jot down your hotel confirmation number. With this you
should be guaranteed a room.
o Special meals on airplanes are HIGHLY recommended. These are
available at no extra charge, and include things like ovo-lacto
vegetarian (dairy/eggs), vegan (no dairy/eggs), Kosher, seafood,
Hindu, low fat, low sodium. Airlines will differ on some things
(United offers McDonald's Happy Meals with a toy for the kids or
kiddies-at-heart; American offers a Weight Watchers entree). My
favorite is the fruit platter. Guaranteed to be the freshest meal,
these usually include sliced melon, pineapple, grapes, strawberries.
Requests for special meals must be made 24 hours in advance. Special
meals are served before all regular meals (remind your flight
attendant prior to meal service).
o Wear ear plugs on the airplane to reduce engine noise. I prefer the
squishy spongy ones that snuggle right into your ear canal. Remember
that listening to your walkman will only mask the engine noise, not
o Many travel stores carry inflatable neck pillows shaped like the
letter "C" that crook your neck for napping. These will prevent your
neck from getting stiff and sore.
o Always ask for a glass of water along with your drink. Or bring your
own bottled water.
o Stay away from caffeine and alcohol during the flight. These will
dehydrate your body and potentially give you a headache (which, if you
remedy with an aspirin, would be a bad idea for getting your new
TATTOO CARE KIT: If you get a new tattoo during the convention, it may
be a few days before you get back to the tranquility of your home. Take
along a "tattoo care kit" with you to begin caring for your new tattoo
while you are still at the convention. I have outlined what I personally
use when I travel (Johnson's baby products travel pack) in the "healing
a new tattoo" section in the FAQ. I particularly recommend products that
are very mild and/or hypoallergenic, so you have less chance of skin
problems. Many pharmacies and mega-marts sell one- or two-ounce travel
bottles of soap, lotion, etc. I suggest you try some of them for a while
on a test patch on your skin to make sure you are not allergic. Red,
itchy swollen rashes due to an allergic reaction to skin lotion is not a
nice way to be traveling with a new tattoo.
If you are going to be flying for many hours, you might want to find a
way to cover your tattoo so it doesn't stick to your clothes. Any
barrier is fine (tissue, handkerchief), but put this on before you fall
asleep on your flight.
If you return home with your new tattoo and find that it is not healing
as quickly, dab a little bit of antibiotic cream on it for a couple of
days to see if it settles down. Whatever problems you're having with
your tattoo are probably attributable to travel stress.
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This ends "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ Part 4/9: Tattoo Conventions."
This should be followed by "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 5/9--Artist List."