Warship Olympia Tattoo Arts Convention, July 21-23
Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, PA
The Warship Olympia Tattoo Arts Convention wins the award for the most unique location in which to get a tattoo – an actual battleship.
Docked at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River waterfront, in Philadelphia, the Cruiser Olympia was first launched in 1892 and is the oldest steel warship currently afloat. It served in the Spanish American War and World War I. The cruiser also brought home the Unknown Soldier for burial in the United States after World War I.
More than 50 tattoo artists boarded the Cruiser Olympia the past July for a three-day tattoo show; booths were packed inside the galley and passageways of this hulking battleship. Contests were held up top on the deck and bands played amidst the ship’s canons.
“The ship wasn’t built for comfort, it was built for war, so it created a really unique vibe to the event. . . the ambiance of the ship was its own entertainment,” says organizer Troy Timpel, artist/owner of Philadelphia Eddie’s Tattoo.
It was a fitting venue for an event put on by Villain Arts and Philadelphia Eddie’s Tattoo, a bastion of American traditional classic tattooing. Timpel even brought out some vintage flash, and some of the tattooers used utilized acetate stencils, which are part of an original collection of Philly tattooing legend Eddie Funk. The Independence Seaport Museum, which owns the warship, has also staged tattoo-related exhibitions.
The poster for the event features old school artwork of the warship surrounded by mermaids and an bald eagle, but a broad variety of styles were represented by the artists in attendance. Elijah Nguyen, of Skin Story Tattoo, in Spring, Texas, earned a Best of Day and Best of Show award; Cody Reed, from Ism Studios, in Saginaw, Michigan, also turned in a Best of Day tattoo. Notable special guests included the “Grandmother of American Tattooing” Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand and Alli Baker of “Best Ink.”
“The Philadelphia Tattoo Convention is one of the biggest in the world, so doing a little thing like this is really fun,” Timpel says. “It’s definitely a very different experience.”