Pagoda City Tattoo Fest Redux
Rose Hardy tattoo above.Todd Noble tattooing.
Joe Capobianco & co-organizer Justin Weatherholtz at the Kings Avenue Tattoo booth.Dream team Heather Bailey, Rose Hardy & Virginia Elwood judge the Saturday tattoo competition.
After back-to-back NYC tattoo shows, I was feeling a bit burnt out on conventions and figured I'd take a break this summer. I had a blast at those shows, of course, but big conventions can be intense with the crowds, cameras, competitions and general creative chaos. But after writing my post on the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest, I decided to drive down to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania this past weekend to check for myself what my friends had been talking up since last year's premier of the convention.
On the way there, I passed by billboards that promised damnation for abortion, special deals on rifles, and mega-mall retail therapy. And then there was the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest billboard--a good sign, literally, that all would be welcome to the party.
Just minutes after walking into the Crown Plaza lobby, filled with banners for the fest, I got hugs from friends who also traveled to be a part of it. At check-in, hotel employees were wearing the super-cool designed convention tees, just one of the many ways the hotel welcomed the tattoo take-over.
I dropped my bag off and headed to the convention area of the hotel, where I was warmly greeted by Joe Johns and, soon after, Justin Weatherholtz, co-organizers and well respected tattooers. This was a hands-on operation, not run by an outside convention company, but by tattoo artists for tattoo artists and collectors.
The Pagoda City Tattoo Fest is a small boutique show with very select tattoo artists of the world's best. As I walked up and down the aisles, I kept thinking as I passed by the shop booths, "Woah, she's here, he's here...in Wyomissing?" [The amount of talent is too much to name. You can check the artist list here.] And so many of them -- who have endless studio waiting lists -- were taking walk-ups. I wondered if those who just came in off the street knew how lucky they were.
While the focus was heavily on excellent tattooing, I also felt the strength of the show stemmed from the intimate community feel. I didn't just get to hang out with old friends; the way it was set up, with a great outdoor communal space by the pool and laid back vibe, I had the opportunity to meet new people, have a drink and share stories. It wasn't a bunch of posing tattoo models or reality TV tattooists holding court with fans. People were really connecting. It was ... lovely.
That's not to say there wasn't some hardcore partying and 3am splashing in the pool. Dirty jokes, dirty laughs, & dirty tattoo tales will always be my favorite part of shows. [I never get tired of hearing veteran tattooer Mike Skiver keep telling the story of how he mistook my butt for his wife's at a convention 14 years ago -- a grab that began our friendship.] Sex, whiskey and rock-n-roll will never leave conventions (even if I, myself, went to bed sober at a reasonable hour).
Because I was having too much fun, I didn't take many pics, but you can see a few on my Instagram and Flickr album. Find more on the Pagoda City Tattoo Fest Instagram.
Claudia De Sabe tattoo.
Zack Dunn painting.
Booty out with Mike Skiver.