Last March 14th, the 3rd annual Asheville Tattoo Convention opened its doors to the locals of an awesome, little town nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. After 17 years of tattooing and attending multiple conventions, my experience actually working at them is limited. But, with as many conventions that occur on a monthly basis, I feel any opinions are valuable input for other artists. So, here’s my summary of the 3rd. Annual Asheville Tattoo Convention.
The Ashville Convention is hosted annually by: Scotty Whittaker, J.R. Yarnall and James Vaughn. This was a great convention, however I tend to favor any show when I get to see the extraordinarily talented Mr. Vaughn. All that aside, there was a great crowd and good vibes all the way around. Southern Hospitality was abundant.
One of the best things about this convention was there were a smaller number of artists in attendance. I’m going to guess right around one hundred. I really love this concept, because I believe smaller conventions can better uphold a higher standard of artists by keeping the artist list from getting to big. Besides, there isn’t a ton of room to host much more over a hundred artists anyway. But, this was part of the charm of Asheville. It wasn’t a really big place. It was an adorable, artsy kind of town. The scenery couldn’t have been more beautiful and the locals couldn’t have been any sweeter. Not sure if was the spring in the air or the amazing collection of artists all gathering in one place which set the tone for infectiously positive energy, but it was a great atmosphere.
In one of the most heartfelt displays of tattoo camaraderie; it was announced that the Tattoo Convention would be taking up a collection for Marshall Bennett’s brother. Just before the Asheville tattoo convention last spring, Marshall Bennett’s brother passed away. Now, if you are from an alien planet far, far way and you aren’t familiar with Marshall Bennett; let’s just say he’s one of the nicest guys in the business. Marshall is the kind of guy who is super talented and one of the most kind, egoless tattooers I’ve ever met (http://www.marshalltattoo.com/home.htm). No doubt, anyone in the industry who’s met Marshall feels the same. (Unless their an asshole) It seriously brought a tear to my eye when I discovered how many people donated items and participated in the raffle to raise money for Marshall’ brother’s expenses. It made me feel so proud to be part of such a great community of people.
Regarding people, I was stoked to be able to once again see the beautiful, talented Sarah Miller. Always a pleasure and never a time goes by when we meet and she hasn’t made me laugh. I was pretty happy to once again be entertained by the very funny Dr. Blasphemy. He was the official announcer at the convention (http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-1310639162/drblasphemy/photos). He’s cute, full of personality and my favorite announcer thus far at any convention I’ve attended. His pink goatee reminds me of Dime bag Darryl. What’s not to like? My hat goes off to any promoter smart enough to invite Carl as their announcer for their conventions. Being able to work with Sarah Miller, James Vaughn and Carl Blasphemy kept a smile on my face all weekend. Being busy tattooing all weekend made me even happier. It’s great to hang out with a superior group of tattooers all weekend, but making money is part of why I made the drive.
Let’s get down to the real stuff. Who got tattoo of the day? Well, in an epic and impressive show of skill like a big cup of awesome; tattoo slayer Lefty Colbert (http://www.leftycolbert.com/) took tattoo of the day three days in a row. This isn’t a feat often seen at many conventions and it’s exceptionally impressive given the level of talent in attendance. Despite Lefty’s notable display of the equivalent of a tattoo “hat trick”, Josh (http://www.ascendgalleryinc.com) came in at the end of the weekend and scooped up the coveted “Best in Show” award. Best part of Josh Payne winning the “Best in Show” award was when he decided to auction off his prize of a Waterloo Tattoo work station, so that more money could be raised for Marshall Bennett’s brother. In my book, Josh Payne is not only a “Paynefully” good tattooer, but also a class act for donating his prize to such a worthy cause.
The Asheville Tattoo Convention captured the Renascence Hotel, Downtown for the weekend. The Hyatt had one the best hotel workout centers I’ve been in. The view was spectacular, the equipment was clean and there was a decent assortment to pick from. The rooms were nice, the staff was friendly. What more could you want? Well, how about sponsors? You can’t have a convention without good sponsors. Like my personal favorite, Eternal Ink. Metal Mafia was present, offering some great body jewelry. H2Ocean was there but then again, I think I see H2Ocean at nearly every convention. Tattoo Afterlife was there (http://www.tattooafterlife.com/). I dig that Redemption stuff. If you haven’t heard of Redemption, check it out at the Tattoo Afterlife site. Ink Addict and Steadfast were both there and they have some cool stuff but I prefer to buy from independent artists. It’s nothing against Ink Addict or Steadfast but it’s nearly the tattoo artist’s uniform around Detroit, so I like to branch out a little. You get the weirdest stuff from individual artists and I like weird shit. Like this awesome tank I picked up from Ink Sanctuary (http://www.inksanctuary.com/). It’s got a very artsy silhouette of a chick on a toilet! It’s my favorite tank top right now. Sailor Jerry was there serving up free shots. Yes, I said FREE. I resisted the temptation of their spicy sweet rum for fear I would end up taking home a Sailor for myself.
Things I also feel are worth mention at the convention was having the opportunity to meet Kris Richter who is the founder of Think You’re Ink (http://thinkyourink.com/). It’s a group dedicated to tattoo education for the consumer. I think it’s a great idea. I also discovered for the first time, Pin Ups for Pit bulls (http://pinupsforpitbulls.org/). I love what these lovely ladies are doing to save our beloved, four legged, furry friends. Now if that isn’t hips and tits for a good cause, I don’t know what is.
There was so much I liked about this convention; it’s hard to find a negative. If I had to think of a down side to anything, I could count two things. The stencil room got pretty messy. You think people would pick up after themselves? Found myself picking it up several times, because I’m seriously OCD. I do the same thing at the Motor City Convention every year. Tattoo artists can be so messy! Also, I would’ve liked to see more signs pointing to the other part of the convention. It was an interesting layout with a larger room and a smaller room connected by some hallways. I think it took some people a minute to realize there was a whole entire room full of other artists. So, more signs might help that. It’s a perfect spot for artists who prefer a little quieter atmosphere, because it wasn’t in the same room as the main stage. In fact, anyone reading this who would like to have a little less noise that’s on the list for next year, contact the promoters and mention it to them. Scotty Whittaker is a super cool dude and he really cares about keeping his artists happy. This was also something I liked about the convention. The promoters genuinely care about the artists attending and they’ll go to great lengths to make sure that everyone is happy and comfortable. I really appreciate that about these guys. Speaking of promoters, I was lucky enough to catch up with Scotty last weekend and ask a couple of questions about the Asheville Convention. When I asked him how someone can go about getting in on this for next year, he said;”It’s sold out every year before the convention is over. Only way to get a booth is if someone cancels, or dies.”
There were too many great artists attending for me to pick a favorite( I had like twenty favorites at this one). However, I can say my favorite break dancer/tattooer award goes to Billy Vegas. There was an importune dance off Saturday night. It was then that I discovered Billy Vegas’ superior break dancing abilities. All he needed was an Adidas jumpsuit , a matching pair of shoes and a fat gold chain. Who knew? Other positives; There was a pretty cool patio area for everyone to gather in and the weather was perfect for outdoor socializing. The hotel janitor was very gracious to allow a bunch of us girls to have a quickie dip in the hot tub even though it was slightly after hours.
Despite the amazing weekend I had around great artists and even better people, there was one big turd of an ending. This of course has nothing to do with the promoters or the Asheville Convention directly, but I feel the need to warn anyone planning to attend next year. Sunday night, a large group of us decided to eat at a high end restaurant called “The Chop House”. Reservations were made and we all piled into this pretentious, over priced place literally across the street from the Hyatt. It was evident that the assholes working there don’t appreciate tattooed patrons. The treated us all like shit and when there was a reason for a legitimate gripe, they wait staff immediately panicked. There was a point where the manager mentioned calling the cops because he was so intimidated by the gentleman tattooist trying to talk to him that he could scarcely keep from wetting himself. We were all treated like second class citizens simply because of our appearance and that sucks. So, the Chop House isn’t a place to go if you’re heavily tattooed. The food cost too much and those guys are dicks. So, as to not end this blog on the negative side, the 3rd annual Asheville Tattoo Convention was such a great time. Definitely a convention not to miss!
For more information about the Asheville Tattoo Convention, try this link: http://ashevilletattooexpo.com/