Justin Weatherholtz & The Pagoda City Tattoo Fest
Tattoos by Justin Weatherholtz
Recently, on the SwallowsnDaggers blog, Justin Weatherholtz announced that he and co-founder Joe Johns are putting on the first annual Pagoda City Tattoo Fest (PCTF) in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. It's a planned East Coast extravaganza with a ton of talent and what Weatherholtz has already called a "no bullshit lineup." Slated for the second weekend in August, Weatherholtz already has top tattooers on board like Scott Sylvia, Steve Byrne, BJ Betts, Chad Koeplinger, and is showcasing talent from shops like Three Kings, Olde City and, of course, King's Avenue. We've got a few months until kick-off but we caught up with Justin to get a little more info.
You've stressed the East Coast a lot in getting the word out about PCTF. Is that a big deal for you?
It is, actually, I'm from Reading, and Wyomissing is basically the town right next door. Berks county is where I grew up, where my family and many friends still are, and it's where I served my tattoo apprenticeship under Joe Johns, who I'm organizing the show with.
So has this part of Pennsylvania had a convention before?
It has. When I was doing my apprenticeship under Joe at Wizard's World, there was a show put on every year but they stopped doing it a while ago. After I moved to New York to work at King's Ave., I'd come back for the convention and it always felt like a homecoming of sorts. Since then I'd always hoped it would return but it just never did. Joe approached me a few times about having one again but the time never seemed right.
Until now, yeah. I've always had a strong connection to home, like so many of us do, and I've always thought that Reading was a great centrally-located part of the northeast with New York, Philly, Jersey, DC, and Baltimore all being so close. It's a good size venue and the caliber of artists that are coming and the seminars we're putting on is definitely reason enough to attend. We've already got seminars lined up with Bob Tyrrell, Joe Capobianco, Jime Litwalk. You know, it's funny because I never set out to be a convention organizer... but [PCTF] came about because we just wanted to bring a show back to my hometown. That was my motivation.
The response has been great so far. What kind of feedback are you getting?
The feedback from tattooers has been really great. I've been hearing from tattooers that its refreshing to see that tattooers are putting on the show, not just promoters who are trying to take a bite out of tattooing's popularity and make a profit. The industry people who are involved seem really excited to be part of the show, too, and I feel like we can organize a show that will be a great weekend for all concerned -- the tattooers, the people attending the seminars, getting tattooed or just coming to hang out and be a part of it. Pagoda City is just about bringing a positive show to the area that caters to the artists and puts the focus on where it should be.
You've been at King's Avenue for the better part of a decade now. You've obviously evolved from Wizard's World but also evolved with King's Ave...
Serving my apprenticeship under Joe was great. I was fortunate enough to accompany him on a lot of convention trips, where I was exposed to so much in the tattoo world and met so many talented people just by being associated with Joe. So when I was looking to leave PA, it was based solely on the idea of being in a new town and new environment. Getting that call from Mike made the decision easy.
[Working at King's Avenue] has been such a game changer for me in so many ways. My tattooing and drawing has matured exponentially working around Mike, Grez, and the crew and the guest artists we have coming through. I've made friendships with so many solid people from the industry I otherwise might not have ever met. And I work among some of the most dignified, funny, and creative people on the planet that I have oceans of respect for.
If you want to learn how to handle yourself as a man, spend some time at Kings Avenue. Seeing the shop grow and being a part of something that you can actually feel the magic in, is pretty awesome. Especially since the Bowery location opened. Being a part of the energy of the city has been great for Kings Avenue and myself.
What do you find yourself tattooing these days? Traditional has become super popular but you seem pretty comfortable across the board.
One thing that I've always made a point of is not going too far in one direction. Versatility is a priority. If I see my schedule going too hard in one direction, I'll lean the other way and post different styles online or on Instagram just to change it up. I would hope that my drawing style is the one constant that comes through no matter what I'm tattooing... and that's what makes it mine.
Where is there left for tattooing to go?
It's like music. For example, take rock and roll. There will be genres and sub-genres and styles that grab the general public's attention for that moment in time. But a solid, well-drawn tattoo or well-written rock song always holds up. If there's sincerity in it, it comes through.
Travel plans coming up for folks not on the East Coast?
I've pumped the brakes a bit on traveling since we started organizing Pagoda City. After Pagoda City, I'll be attending the London convention in September.
And, of course, I just want to say a huge thank you to my business partner and the guy that brought me into tattooing, Joe Johns. Also a big thank you for all the support from tattooers that are a part of this, and to the many hands we have helping through this whole process. It's gonna be a great weekend!
More info available at www.pagodacitytattoofest.com. See more of Justin's tattoo work on the King's Ave site and Instagram.