Perhaps it’s no surprise that double takes were in abundant supply at the annual Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention.
You could easily give yourself whiplash — did that chest piece really say “His Bitch”? Was that guy sporting giant subdermal implants, like horns, atop his head? How can the girl getting an 8-inch tattoo on her ribcage be so relaxed that she’s playing Candy Crush Saga?
At the 16th annual confab, which ended Sunday, one of the most shocking sights was maybe a 6-year-old girl getting a tribal tat on her bicep — until it became clear the grizzled, decorated artist was using a Magic Marker, the girl’s mother looking on proudly.
Carlos Alvarez and his team, The Top Notch Tattoo Shop, made the trek from Twentynine Palms, Calif., to take part in the convention. His wife, Christina, said they’ve noticed the contrast between West and East Coast styles of tattooing.
“Black and gray is a West Coast thing, and traditional color is East Coast,” Carlos said.
“Maybe it’s because everyone’s more tan [on the West Coast] — color doesn’t show up as well,” Christina said with a laugh.
“The ’90s was all tribal, then [tattoo trends moved to] realism, black and gray’s been around forever, and writing is really popular again now,” Carlos said, adding that tat trends tend to be cyclical.
Rotary tattoo machines are increasing in popularity, too, said the Alvarez duo, mainly because they’re quieter.
Brooke Michael Englehart, a tattooist and illustrator from Rockford, Ill., said the crowd this year seemed to comprise tattoo collectors — those looking to add to their already extensive spread. She also discussed being a woman in the world of body art.
“Actually, in my shop, there are four female tattoo-ers and only two guys, which is unusual,” she said. “It’s more accepted now. It used to be the only women who got tattoos were whores. Maybe now the whores are becoming tattoo artists.”
Englehart said that as far as trends, she’s seeing a lot of the “splattery” look, which has a watercolor feel that looks as though it’s been painted on with a brush.
At the con, among the tattooing, piercing, music, burlesque and special appearances — Brian O’Halloran, who’s best known as Dante from Clerks showed up; we forgot to ask if he has any tattoos — there were many older guys and gals sporting sleeves of art with the distinct green edges of tats from long ago. But there were also a lot of young people making, perhaps, their first forays into the world of body modification.
A teenage girl, her wrist plastic-wrapped to protect her new ink, was overheard on the phone with someone, presumably discussing her mother’s reaction to her body art — “Yeah, I just told her. She was so-o-o pissed …”
Relax, Mom. It could have been worse — she could have gotten a tattoo like Englehart’s.
“I have a really crazy back piece,” she said. “It’s Satan having sex with a woman.”