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So...what's the deal with tattoo conventions?

Updated: Feb 16

historical image of people from first tattoo convention

Over the years, I've had many clients ask me what exactly a tattoo convention is and what actually goes on at these things. Simply put: a tattoo convention is where tattoo artists, enthusiasts, and vendors come together to celebrate the art of tattooing. It's an opportunity for both the artists and clients to appreciate the craft. It gives the client the opportunity to get tattooed by some of the best in the industry, and it gives the artists a chance to learn, compete, and make connections.

How did it all begin?

To truly understand we need to go back to a time where tattoos were not on TV, not accepted in the workplace, and actually illegal to perform in some parts of the country. In 1976, amidst the underground world of tattooing, Lyle Tuttle and David Yurkew organized the world's first tattoo convention in Houston, Texas. This groundbreaking event would forever change the perception and trajectory of tattooing. Lyle Tuttle, who first brought tattooing into the mainstream when he tattooed Janis Joplin in the early 1970's, stated "the event changed tattooing forever" making a significant step from the underground to the spotlight.

tattoo artist working at a tattoo convention

My first convention: Organization within the chaos

Over two decades ago I found myself, in Philadelphia, working at my first tattoo convention. I was young and new to the industry. Wrestling with anxiety and insecurities, the overwhelming noise, the distractions, working around all the amazing and intimidating talent.... truth is, I hated it....


I embraced the discomfort; I powered through and overcame my anxieties. I did a convention the following year and two the next. With each subsequent convention my confidence grew. It was within the noise, the throngs of talented artists and distractions that I grew as an artist. Looking back, I'm grateful for the challenges I faced during these early tattoo conventions. They pushed me to confront my fears and insecurities, paving the way for artistic and personal growth. These early conventions became a catalyst for building and expanding my skill set and finding my place within the tattoo community.

group of fun alternate human beings at a tattoo convention having a wonderful time

Why are they special?

Now I'm no longer the scared child racked with anxieties, no longer the "newbie." Hell, I've been doing this for over 25 years, what do conventions mean to me? Well today, tattoo conventions hold a special place in my heart. They've been instrumental in helping me forge profound connections and lifelong friendships within the tattoo community. Tattoo conventions are more than just events, they are the very threads that weave together a tight-knit community of passionate artists and enthusiasts. In some ways they are the life blood of our community. They nourish my soul and ignite creativity, serving to remind me why I fell in love with this industry in the first place.


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