The 15th annual Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention was held this past Feb. 8, 9 and 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, located on 1101 Arch Street in Philadelphia. Here, some of the world’s best artists gathered to tattoo, pierce and sell art, photography and jewelry. However the main purpose of the event was for artists to compete in multiple categories to determine who are the best in the business.
Although there were some big names and interesting entertainment at this year’s convention, the door price did not reflect it. A one-day pass for the convention cost 20 dollars and a weekend pass cost only 40 dollars.
To no surprise the buzzing of tattoo machines and smell of A&D ointment was inescapable throughout the convention. Row after row tattoo artists went to work, displaying their art on human canvases.
“600 to 700 artists” attended this year’s convention, according to self-proclaimed “booth bitch” Mandy Bartram, an employee at the convention center.
According to Dave Hurban, a body piercer from Dynasty Tattoo out of Newfield, New Jersey said, “people out of countries all over” were at the convention promoting, selling artwork and competing.
Although there were many of the worlds top artists and famous shops at the convention such as NY Ink, LA Ink and contestants from the T.V. show Ink Master, according to Villain Arts web page, not all of the artists attending were up to par.
According to Matt Sager from White Lotus Custom Tattooing and Body Piercing out of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, said “Unfortunately,” you do not need to submit a portfolio to get into this show. He added, “A lot of the good shows are invite only.” Sager revealed that there were no talent requirements needed to enter the convention.
Although there were some shady artists at the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention, Sager was more than willing to give people looking to get inked up at these conventions some advice before going under the needle.
For one, Sager said there are “way more bad tattoos out there than good tattoos” and “way more bad shops than good shops.” Sager implied that you have a greater chance of running into a bad artist and or shop before stumbling upon one with talented artists, worthy of tattooing your precious skin.
Sager’s next statement really caught my attention when he said, “they don’t have licenses for talent, they have licenses for being clean.”
A license to tattoo has nothing to do with an artist’s artistic ability, but rather their cleanliness.
According to education portals website, “In general, tattoo artists earn a license based on completion of a training program and passing an exam that measures their ability to understand and follow formally established health and safety protocols, not their creative ability in designing or applying body art.”
Although all the artists will most likely tattoo you without infecting your body, not all of them are capable of creating quality art for the customer.
These conventions are where many of the world’s top artists gather to display their skills and tattoo customers. With that in mind, to get a tattoo at a convention will more than often cost you a little bit more than at your local tattoo shop.
“This isn’t a discount convention,” Sager said. “People don’t understand how much it costs for us to come out here. You might get ten different prices for a tattoo but each one will be different,” he said, really stressing that you will get what you pay for when it comes to these conventions.
If you’re trying to get a piece of art permanently engraved on to your body, bargain hunting probably isn’t the best idea. Spending the couple extra dollars that you could have saved will almost guarantee that you receive a tattoo worthy of being on your body.
Abigail Schwendeman, a first year Liberal Arts student at Mercer, was at this years convention. When asked what brought her to the convention, Schwendeman said, “I really like seeing all the styles.” Adding with a chuckle, “I’m also getting a tattoo. The body’s a temple so why not decorate the walls?”
Whether you’re trying to purchase a piece of art to decorate your actual walls or your skin like Schwendeman, the convention offered it.
Unfortunately, I was unable to catch this year’s winners at the convention and Villain Arts is yet to post this information on their web page. However the winners will be posted soon according to, Rebecca Allan an employ for Villain Arts.
If you’re looking to get tattooed sometime in the near future, this listing will point you in the right direction to good artists and what they specialize in, whether it’s black and grey or color.
Like Matt Sager said, there are “way more bad shops than good shops.”