Pain show council Bluffs

Photo by Shovey Photography

2nd Council Bluffs Tattoo Arts Convention

February 14-16, 2020

Iowa in February is the perfect setting for a tattoo show. With temperatures barely reaching the freezing level, only the bravest (or craziest) people were showing skin outside, but inside the Mid America Center the atmosphere was warm and welcoming at the 2nd Annual Council Bluffs Tattoo Arts Convention.

According to event emcee “Dr. Carl Blasphemy,” the Council Bluffs show, being in mid-America, has a more “exclusive” feel to it than many of the major shows. Still, 300 artists were in attendance and more than 5,000 tattoo fans visited over the three-day event.

We bring in a bunch of different high caliber artists, not only from the local area, but from around the country. We’re helping to expose people to tattooing other than what they see on television,” Carl said. “It was a really solid show — the artists were busy all the way up until we shut the doors.”

Tattoo contest winners in the color categories were Adam Aguas, Jake Pasons and Alexandria Barrett; top spots for black & gray went to Jae Gomez, Jordi Pla and Pete Whitlow. Best of Show was awarded to Jake Parsons, Blackwood, Adam Aguas and Patrick Oleson. All the winner earned an Axis Rotary Tattoo Machine and Holy Water numbing spray by Saint Marq.

Florida permanent makeup artist Candy Dunbar is one of the regulars on the Villain Arts tour. Not only do she and her Ink Master husband Kyle tattoo at the shows, Candy is one of the official contest judges.

“She has a great eye and everybody respects her,” Carl said. “She will straight up tell you what about your piece put it over the top or why it didn’t win.”

The convention featured not only live tattooing, but live acts including Alakazam the Human Knot, The Enigma, Olde City Sideshow and dynamic human suspension. One of the new additions to the Villain Arts shows is a giant projection screen which literally added another dimension to the stage acts and give people a judge’s eye view of the tattoos in the daily contests.

“This was a very leisurely, laid back weekend. Everyone who came to the show was really nice. There was a real family feel,” Carl said. “A lot of those who came out the first year we’re back again and it was great to see them and say hi.” If there’s a tattoo show happening it’s a good bet it’s put on by Troy Timpel and the gang at Villain Arts. They’re nearing two dozen shows a year including events in major cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. They’ve even expanded westward with shows in Denver and Portland. The month of April alone has Villain Arts setting up shop in Louisville, Asheville and Baltimore. “A big part of what we’re about is giving back to the artists and bettering the industry,” Carl remarked. “We’re crazy busy. It’s like, ‘Has shows will travel.’”

DC Tattoo Expo

With all the talk about what goes on in D.C., a person could be cynical about the people who live and work there — at least where politicians and government fat cats are concerned. Tattoo artists on the other hand, represent all that is good, creative and inspiring to come out of our nation’s capital. And of the past 10 years, the DC Tattoo Expo has been bringing them all together.

“It’s a really unique culture. DC itself is such a melting pot of people from every culture you can imagine tit’s a lot easier to get a tattoo subculture going,” says Anna Carswell, communication director for the annual event.

The DC Tattoo Expo is put on by Exposed  Temptations  Tattoo  and  Baller,  Inc. Greg Piper (founder of the event and owner of Exposed Temptations Tattoo in Manassas, VA) is very much of the old school vibe. He was mentored by Jack Rudy and Brian Everett, and so for him, the expo is an opportunity to blend the cultures that include the legends of tattooing, new school artists, tattoo celebrities and the growing number of tattoo enthusiasts.

“Being our tenth year, we wanted to do something big as a Thank You to everyone who has made it a successful show,” Carswell says. “One thing that was pretty special, is that we brought out Chris Nuñez (tattooer and owner of Handcrafted Tattoo and Art Gallery, and contestant and judge from Miami Ink and Ink Master) to hang out and judge the tattoo contests. He had people lined up to meet him and it was a really amazing experience for everyone.”

More than 400 artists, representing some 200 studios, filled the show floor at the Crystal Gateway Marriott for the three-day event, January 10-12th. Attendance was off the charts at more than 10,000.

“One thing that was a little different this year was the most highest number of international artists ever. We had artists from Spain, Italy, Germany, England, and China,” Carswell says. “It adds a wow factor for people because these artists have such unique styles and it’s a one-in-a-lifetime chance to be tattooed by them.”

Fans were kept entertained by burlesque performer Cervena Fox, the world famous Captain & Maybelle “Vagabond Side Show” and a Miss DC Pin Up Contest. But the real action was in the booths where artist were turning out living inkworks. Carmelo Gomez, from Lucky Gypsy Tattoo, Midlothian, VA, won Tattoo of the Day and Best of Show, and Ink Master Laura Marie, from Atomic Roc Tattoo, Rochester NY, earned two consecutive Best of Day awards.

Speaking of Ink Masters, as a special event, Marie joined Dani Ryan, Frank Ready, Jason Vaughn, Josh Payne, and Creepy Jason in a Rematch with the Masters Tattoo Competition. Each contestant was given the starting design of an eagle and a knife, and allowed to finish the tattoo in their own style. The skin belonged to local veterans and the winning artist — Frank Ready, earned a prize for himself and a donation to his favorite charity.

DC Tattoo Expo

January 10-12, 2020

Arlington, Virginia

NorCal Tattoo Expo

November 1-3, 2019

Win-River Resort & Casino Event Center

Redding, California

Event promotors Josh and Brenna David have staged bridal, beauty, and health & wellness expos. One key to the success of such events is putting the right audience with the right vendors. They developed the NorCal Tattoo Expo through visiting other tattoo shows around the West Coast, networking with artists and actually collecting business cards from those they’d like to invite to their own event. “We met a lot of artists with really awesome portfolios and who were super friendly and down to earth — those were the kinds of people that we wanted for our show,” says Paul, a tattoo collector himself, and that being his inspiration for the event. “Our goal was to really focus on the artists — no live music or other exhibits — we wanted it to be like an artist gathering.”

“Redding is a small town with only a handful of tattoo shops, and people locally aren’t exposed to much unless they travel to get tattooed,” Paul adds. “The expo really gives the local tattoo community here a really feel for what else is available out there.” The NorCal Tattoo Expo welcomed 85 artists in its second year. The 2019 gallery included 40 specially selected guests who could then bring along another artist from their own studio or a favorite in thier area. The majority of artists came from California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and one travelled all the way from Norway.

“Everybody was super chill and there wasn’t any kind of egocentric atmosphere. Artists were even getting tattooed by other artists,” Paul says. “With everyone staying together in the same hotels, and hanging out and eating and having beers together, there was a really cool vibe.” A thousand people through the doors over the thee-day event might seem like a small turnout compared to big city shows, but then again, the population of Redding is just over 90,000 and the Win-River Resort & Casino Event Center is fairly small in itself. In all, Josh says the size of the expo felt just right.

“Alot of the artists who returned from year-one, we’re booked with clients who they’ve met previously and had been waiting for them to come back so they could get tattooed,” Paul remarks.

Among the notable artists represented were: Curt Baer (Iron Mountain Tattoo); George Campise, Greg (Taco Monster), Ben Cheese and Dana James (Warhorse Tattoo); John Wilson (Scapegoat Tattoo); Wrath (Bulldog Tattoo); Thomas Asher and Lisa Del Toro (Last Chance Tattoo); Jeff Houston (Trigger Happy Tattoo); Khalil Justice Linane (Project Tattoo); Caitlyn Gale (Death or Glory Tattoo); Chris Astrologo (Captured Tattoo); and Jacui Alberts (Moonlight Tattoo).

Brian Wilson, owner/artist at Scapegoat Tattoo, in Portland, Oregon, won Best of Show honors. He earned prize package from Kingpin Tattoo Supply, CBD infused aftercare products from Pure Source Ink, a custom hand-painted award courtesy of Scott LaRock (Sideshow Signs), 200 bones to play at the Win-River Casino, and of course an invite and comped booth space for the 2020 expo.

“When I’m walking around, and every booth is busy, and you hear the machines running the whole weekend, it makes me super stoked,” Paul says. “It’s super cool when the artists come up here, have a good time and make money as well as having a connection with other artists. Getting to be a part of all that is the reward for all of us involved with putting on the expo.”

Victoria Tattoo Expo

Victoria Tattoo Expo

Victoria, BC, Canada

October 25-27, 2019

The Victoria Tattoo Expo is the only gathering of its kind in Victoria, British Columbia, on the Southwest edge of Vancouver Island. Within the local community is a unique fusion of arts and culture, and tattooing is a big part of that confederacy.

“There’s a lot of indigenous culture and traditional tattoos are very welcome on the Island,” says Ash Woods, who with husband Will, tattooer and owner of Peppermint Hippo, are the organizers of the event. The pair also stage a show in Lethbridge, Alberta, where Ash says there’s a preference for “minimalist tattoos” with fine line, minimal shading and ornamental kinds of designs.

“We try to bring as many different styles of the industry together as we possibly can, just to give the public an idea of what’s out there,” Ash says. “We try to bring together a wide variety of artists and attendees, so everyone can build their network — they’re not only doing tattoos for the weekend; they’re also growing their families.”

The Victoria Tattoo Expo hosted 137 tattoo artists — the majority hailing from the Canada, and drew more than 4,000 fans over the three-day event. The number of tattoos that get done throughout the weekend — some 1,500 by Ash’s count, is pretty amazing, especially when you consider that less than a hundred thousand people live in Victoria.

The plan, according to Ash, is to keep the show at a manageable size so that everybody is able to be involved in the entire experience. Prior to the doors opening this year, Ash gathered artists for a whale watching excursion where they got up close and personal with orcas and humpbacks. To close out the show, everyone got together for a goodbye dinner party.

“There are a lot of talented tattoo artists in Canada,” Ash says. “A lot of them are kinda quiet and don’t stick their faces out there — not everybody gets in a magazine or wants to be an Instagram star, so it’s nice to go to shows and be able to meet new artists you may not have known about before.”

Diego Chagall, a Colombian tattoo artist based at Dynamic Studios in Kelowna, BC, earned Best of Day and Best of Show awards. He received a Cheyenne Sol Nova tattoo machine and Hawk power supply, a thousand dollars cash and very unique trophy created from a resin sculpture of a hippo skull.

Monty and Leslie Ricken, a couple who give new meaning to collaboration, won Best of Day on

Saturday. The husband & wife tattoo team own Monster’s Ink in Medicine Hat, Alberta

Liz Venom, an Australian artist living in Edmonton, where she owns Bombshell Tattoo Galerie, captured Tattoo of the Day on Friday.

It was a full-on inked experience with freak show acts from Monsters of Schlock, burlesque performances and live shibari (Japanese rope bondage) demonstrations.

“The idea was to bring in different aspects of the tattoo culture to give people an idea of what’s out there and get them out of their box,” Ash says. “Everybody had a great weekend, everybody was busy and everybody has a great time.”23132132123135451561512315313215315165151

Roughrider Ink & Iron Expo

Photos Courtesy of Urban Toad Media

Roughrider Ink & Iron Expo

Fargo, North Dakota
September 27-29

Bikes and tattoos —- talk about a can’t miss show. The sixth annual Roughrider Ink & Iron Expo combines the skill, artistry, and expression of custom tattoos and custom motorcycles.

“We kind of go by the beat of our own drum,” says Courtney Ficek, Director of National Events for Jade Presents which put on this show as well as concerts, festivals, and live events that aim to connect local audiences with unique experiences. “We’ve really formed this tight knit community where there’s a lot of talent and it keeps more fierce every year.”

The Ink part of the expo is obviously tattooing. Iron refers to the bikes with more than a hundred beautiful machines on display.

“We’ve always said that it’s just a passion of artistry and it goes together well,” Ficek says. “This particular event has been a passion project for many of us because tattoos and bikes are in our blood.”

“Bikes and tattoos have always gone together, but the tattoo industry has come a long way,” Ficek adds. “We have a lot of people that just come for the tattoos (and visa-versa, the bikes) and it opens their mind up to the other side.”

More than 2,500 people came to the 2019 event where they were able to meet some 70 talented tattooers, not only from midwest states including ND, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as from around the world — and hopefully get some new ink form their favorite artists. Among the artists in attendance were Scotty Munster, Eli Bauman, Jake Meeks & the Fireside Tattoo Network, Kelly Severtson, Jay Purdy and Michael Seidling.

“We have a lot of local talent,” Ficek says. “There’s a real sense of community, and the expo is a great opportunity for artists to check out each other’s booths and learn different techniques — that’s one reason we’ve kept out show kind of small.”

On Thursday before the show, veteran tattooers Jake Meeks, out of Memphis, and Kelly Severtson, from Chicago’s Goodkind Tattoo, put on seminars covering subjects on finding your own style, digital design and dynamic color theory.

Tattoo contests in 27 categories were highly competitive. Justin Nudell, of Zoltar Tattoo, right there in Fargo, won Best of Day on Friday and Sunday, and Bence Kormos, from Hungary by way of New York, earned Best of Day Saturday and Best of Show. There’s also a “most regrettable” category of which the winner (or loser) received a free laser removal — Flaming Cheetos Eyebrows was a top (or bottom) contender.

The RIIE is held at Fargo’s Veterans Memorial Arena (typically home to hockey games as you might expect) and a side venue was turned a lounge where those 21 and over could hang out, watch live bands, like Jane Doe and the Johns, the Knotties, and Mikey D, and burlesque shows featuring Vendetta Vixens. Keeping with the “misfits” theme of the expo, kids had their own special day with face painting, temporary tattoos, games, and a performance by the students from Elevate Rock School. A portion of the proceeds from the “mini misfits” events, admission tickets and a silent auction for custom painted motorcycle helmets benefitted the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation.

“The camaraderie and the atmoshpere at the Roughrider Ink & Iron Expo is something I’ve never experienced before,” Ficek says. “It’s like a big party, everyone works their asses off and has a blast.”

2nd Annual New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention

Photo Credit: @photobyshovey

2nd Annual New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention

New Orleans Expo:

Facebook: neworleanstattooartsconvention

New Orleans is known for its cajun cuisine, music (the birthplace of Jazz), its annual celebrations and festivals, the world-renowned French Quarter, filled with artists, fortune tellers and street musicians, and Bourbon Street’s notorious nightlife. If you’re going to throw a party, there’s no better place than The Big Easy, and that’s exactly what Villain Arts did when they brought their traveling tattoo show to town for the 2019 New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention.

“New Orleans has a really long, deep history with tattooing, and there are a lot of tattoo shops that have really thrived off the energy of the French Quarter. There are a lot of really long-running shops and a lot of really great tattooers,” said event organizer Troy “Tattooed Kingpin” Timpel.

“People in New Orleans really appreciate great tattooing and there are generations of people there that all have tattoos,” Timpel added. “A lot of the servers and bartenders are tattooed — wherever you go in New Orleans there’s just a real connection to tattooing.”

Villain Arts set up their show at the Morial Convention Center, one of the largest convention centers in the country, spanning almost 11 blocks, with nearly one million square feet of exhibit space. The New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention didn’t make a dent in that space, but they certainly created a literal buzz around the building with some 300 of the top local and national tattooers keeping the ink flowing throughout the three-day event.

Last year, the city’s inaugural Tattoo Arts Convention drew an estimated 4,500 visitors, according to the producers. 2019 easily topped that number. Villain Arts is know for putting on a great show, and the entertainment lineup included sideshow performers Danny Borneo, The Enigma, Alakazam the Human Knot, and New Orleans’ own sword swallower, fire eater, glass walker, Femme Fatale Gigi DeLuxe. As always, Dr. Carl Blasphemy acted as emcee.

But this was a tattoo show and tattooers took center stage. Villain Arts brings their usual entourage of Ink Masters and tattoo celebrities, and they were joined by Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand, “America’s Tattoo Godmother,” and another New Orleans home-towner, Miss Jacki, the first African American female tattoo artist, and owner of Aart Accent Tattoo & Piercing. Adding to the tattoo culture was Dana Brunson, owner of Tattoo Designs by Dana, who’s been tattooing since 1971, set up a historical tattoo exhibit. Other well known tattooers in attendance included Black Ink Crew, Freestyle Alex from Freestyle Mania Studios, Robbie Ripoll, Ink Master contestant out of Operation Ink in Lafayette, Indiana. Wherever Villain Arts lands their show, they make a point to promote the local artists from that area.

“We try to really push the envelope get as many of the top tier artists as we can,” Tempel says. “We feature a lot of TV stars, but we try to incorporate different levels of tattoo history into our shows to kind of showcase where tattooing came from. It’s neat to see people who have been tattooing locally for four to five decades come and hang out at the show.”

Villain Arts also makes a point to spread the word about their shows not just to the tattoo community, but also the average joe, which helps to grow the tattoo consumer market in the areas where we put on the shows, and with that, they also shine a light on educating the public about health and safety issues surrounding the tattoo industry. SanaDerm is a regular sponsor of the shows offering free tattoo wraps for the newly inked.

“We want the crowd that was their to come and support those artists, and that goes for local artists and shops too. It’s like supporting local bands before they make it big,” noted Dr. Blasphemy.

“People know a lot of these artists from seeing them on TV or reading about them in magazines or websites, but it’s something else to see them in person,” Tempel adds. “A lot of the artists won’t book up in advance because they want to give the local clientele the opportunity to get tattooed.”

Live Free or Die Tattoo Expo

Photo Credit: April Piotrowski/Black Mill Photography

Live Free or Die Tattoo Expo
July 19-21, 2019
Manchester, New Hampshire

Jon Thomas is the owner of Tattoo Angus and Spider Bite Body Piercing, in Manchester, New Hampshire, and as far back as 2000, he and his shop manager Mike Boisvert were attending various tattoo shows around the New England area. What they discovered were that a lot of the shows left something to be desired in the way they were run and organized, and frankly, they felt they could do it better and decided to start their own.

The Live Free or Die Tattoo Expo is now in its 13th year, and true to their promise, Boisvert, who coordinates the event with the help of Jen Kolhut, Lacey Fugere and Morgan Mitera, says things went off without a hitch.

“Everybody was busy, made money, had a good time and was entertained — that’s what we strive to do,” Boisvert says.


“We have a lot of repeat artists; some who’ve been with us from year one they’re still showing up, still taking home awards and still having a blast,” Boisvert adds. “With some of the artists, this is the only show that they do.”

The majority of artists come from the New England region; the rest from across the states and international locations. 2019 brought a tattoo artist and a barber all the way from Italy — yes, an actual barber who was giving haircuts!

The Venom Ink crew has been part of the expo since the beginning. Other longtime friends include Cy Sterling and the artists from Goodfellow Tattoo Club (Concord, NH), Wayne and Kim Morel and the guys from Wayne’s Tattoo World (Derry, NH), Mayhem Ink (Nashua, NH), Dark Mark Tattoo (Keene, NH), New England Tattoo, Boston Tattoo Company, Needlejig Tattoo Supply Tommy’s Supplies, and Starbrite Ink.

Bill Rhine, a tattoo artist at Tattoo Angus and a longtime member of the expo team, passed away shortly before the event this year. He was remembered with a memorial tribute. “He’ll definitely be missed by a large chunk of the community,” Boisvert says

“We have a really awesome tattoo community in New Hampshire,” Boisvert adds. “There’s a lot of shops that are very close knit and we work really well together — and it’s more of a community rather than competition.”

With LFOD drawing 3,000-plus tattoo fans from New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut, organizers try to have something of interest for everyone. This time they brought in panel of horror movie celebrities: Lou Temple and Vincent M. Price, from The Walking Dead, and Alex Vincent AKA Andy, from the original Child Play movies, who brought along a screen-used Chucky doll with which fans could take a selfie. Other entertainment included suspension/burlesque artist Marlo Marquise, a mermaid themed pin-up pageant, and a beard & stache competition.

LFOD makes a point to stand out on social media before and during the show. Leading up to the event, they promote the attending artists so that people can book ahead. Once the show is live, they run live streams and keep everyone updated on what’s happening.

One thing that doesn’t change is the location. Since day-one, LFOD has been held at the DoubleTree by Hilton, which means everyone can stay and play. There are restaurants and bars just a short walk away. LFOD even validates parking!

“Manchester’s a really cool city as far as the different cultures that are here; they’re all kind of mix and it’s pretty cool,” Boisvert says.

“One of the greatest opportunities about going to a tattoo expo like LFOD is being able to meet new artists, and for the artists being able to find new clients that may turn into the longterm customers — it’s great way for everyone to network and see who does what,” Boisvert adds. “Our reward is being able to put on a kick ass show and knowing that everyone is leaving happy.”

Northern Arizona Tattoo Fest

Northern Arizona Tattoo Fest: July 5-7, 2019, Prescott, Arizona

Photo Credit – Trevor Martin – Tee Shutters

Prescott, Arizona might not be the first place you think of for hosting a tattoo show. It’s a small mountain town in the northern part of the state with a population around 42 thousand. Add in that the Northern Arizona Tattoo Fest happens annually on the Fourth of July weekend, and you might wonder how they’d be able to attract anybody at all.

But as Tony Carey, who with wife Adrienne, puts on the show, points out, that specific holiday is a big deal in Prescott, bringing in upwards of 30 thousand visitors for Prescott Frontier Days and the World’s Oldest Rodeo.

“We have a really enthusiastic tattoo scene in Prescott,” Tony says. “It’s odd because Prescott is a retirement community, but the opposition to that is a lot of people have a lot of big tattoos and get excited about all different styles.”

Photo: Hawaiian Shirt Friday

The Northern AZ Tattoo Fest is an invite-only event. Now in its seventh year, the show caps the entries at 65 booths and 145 artists from the national and international tattoo scene.

“When we started out, it was just friends and friends of friends, and as the show has grown, we’ve been able to filter in new people, and a lot of the artists are the same ones that visit every year,” Tony says. “We want to promote high end tattooing, but also we really try to represent all styles.”

Among the big names in attendance were Tommy Montoya (Klockwork Tattoo Club, Covina, CA), Aaron Coleman (Immaculate Tattoo, Mesa, AZ) and Small Paul aka Hori Gi Sei (True Tattoo, Hollywood, CA). From across the seas, artists have travelled from Northern Ireland, Germany, England, Holland and Australia.

Photo: Aaron Coleman – Immaculate Tattoo

“Prescott’s slogan is, ‘Everybody’s Hometown,’ and that translates to what we’re doing with the tattoo festival as well,” Tony says. “The event ends up being like a summer camp for tattooers.”

The focus is on tattooing, but there’s also some live music to keep the vibe hopping. One of the traditions started by the artists attending is a Hawaiian shirt day, and plans are in the works for a Hawaiian luau to kick off the event.

In the daily tattoo contests, Best of Day awards — a giant set of steer horns — went to Nick Lawrence (Tat Fu Tattoo, Flagstaff, AZ), Marshall Rathburn (Voodoo Circus Tattoo, Grand Junction, CA) and James “Jimmyjam” White “Jimmyjam” (Infamous Ink, Poco Rivera, CA). So-Cal based tattooer Adrian Lazaro earned Best of Show.

Photo: Best Black & Gray Award

Even if people didn’t leave with fresh ink, they could take home a souvenir in the commemorative poster designed each year by a different Arizona tattoo artist. This year’s Rat Fink hot rod themed poster was the work of Tony Olvera and Mario G from Lady Luck Tattoo Gallery in Tempe.

“From a tattooer’s perspective (being involved with a smaller event) sets a certain bar and allows maybe some bigger and higher caliber artists to feel comfortable jumping on board,” Tony says, adding that it also means every artist can stay busy tattooing, which is a bit reason for coming in the first place. “I feel it resides on my shoulders to give confidence to the people that are traveling from all over that we’ll keep them busy.”

“The demographic here that gets tattooed are also pretty well educated as to what a good tattoo looks like,” Tony adds, “so it’s easy for them to see the merit in the art from the people that are part of our show.”

Devil’s Half-Acre Tattoo Expo

Devil’s Half-Acre Tattoo Expo
May 31-June 2, 2019
Bangor, Maine

Bangor, Maine, is known as the home of horror writer Stephen King. So, it’s only fitting that it would be the location for a gathering called Devil’s Half-Acre Tattoo Expo.

Baron Von Geiger is the man behind this newest tattoo expo, and as he tells it, Devil’s Half-Acre — or Satan’s Playground, as local historians refer to the notorious stretch of riverfront, was where loggers, sailors, and other working men gathered to spend their hard-earned cash on whiskey and women after Maine became the first state to pass Prohibition in 1851.

Baron himself is an oddity. Billed as the “World’s Strangest Strongman” Baron holds the World Record for extreme pierced weight lifting! Over 100lbs with both ears! He can also lift objects with hooks in the eyes as well as many other traditional sideshow acts. A former professional piercer, Baron has appeared in countless tattoo magazines and showcased his freakish feats at the Tattooed Kingpin Tattoo Conventions. He felt it was time to bring a bit of alternative culture to his home town.

“Back in the 1990s, when there were only a half dozen or so tattoo conventions in the United State, Maine was one of those spots. For whatever reason, Maine fell off the convention scene. There are really good artists in Maine, but people don’t get the chance to see what else is outside their own backyard,” Baron says.

The goal was to bring in a wide variety of artists and styles and make sure that people had the opportunity to see body art from all over the world. For its first year, Devil’s Half-Acre Tattoo Expo hosted 70 artists in 45 shop booths and 14 vendors. Among the names from the New England region were Matt Brown and the crew from Underworld Tattoo, Chad Chase of Venom Ink and Chris Dingwell from Squirrel Cage Studios — Chris is the tattooer who made news recently for a giant black & grew portrait of the infamously hated Jar Jar Binks that he inked on a client’s back.

With the internet as a search tool, Baron was able to track down the best artists from far and wide.

“I got banned from Instagram probably every day for weeks from just sending out invites,” he jokes. “The artists had to send in their portfolio to be approved by our selection committee, but with Instagram, I was able to see the artists’ work and also know that they were actively tattooing.”

Guests entering the expo walked through a giant demon head, and that’s just where the sideshow atmosphere got started. Baron emceed the show and performed some of his stunts, a DJ was spinning tunes and Veeda Sucia entertained with her modern burlesque routine.

Devil’s Half-Acre Tattoo Expo also benefitted a local nonprofit children’s music and arts program, raffling off art pieces painted throughout the weekend.

“At the end of the show we did ask them the artists for comments and their critiques on how we might improve for next year, and we got a lot of positive feedback,” Baron adds. “We are super appreciative of all the artists who were willing to take a gamble on a first-year show. We’re really excited because the artists want us to do it again and so do the city and the convention center.”

The All American Tattoo Convention

The All American Tattoo Convention
April 12-14, 2019
Fayetteville, North Carolina

There’s a legendary connection between tattoos and the US military. For active service personnel and reservists to honored veterans, tattoos are a constant reflection or their loyalty, not only to their branch or unit, but also to their country. Tattoos also showcase the pride in camaraderie with fellow soldiers or in remembrance of a fallen comrade. The goal of The All American Tattoo Convention is to give some of the bravest heroes in the world the opportunity to be tattooed by some of the best tattoo artists in the industry.

2019 marked the third tour of The All-American Tattoo Convention, appropriately held in Fayetteville, North Carolina, nearby Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the free world.

“There’s a misconception that you can’t get a good quality tattoo around a military base. There’s no one style that’s representative of the military anymore — there are so many different people in the military, and people from all over the world come to military bases like Fort Bragg,” says Ryan Harrell, owner of Fayetteville’s American Tattoo Society, who puts on the convention with wife Nicole. “Being in the military, most of the people in the service don’t have the opportunity to travel wherever to get tattooed — so it’s a big deal to be able to bring such a diverse group of talented artists to our show.”

Three-hundred-26 artists, to be exact, and 256 booths filling up the 75,000 square foot hall at the Crown Complex Expo Center. Many of the artists, such as Dave Clark, Cactus Jack, Tony Four Fingers, have military connections whether they themselves served or had family who wore a uniform.

USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to US. Military members, veterans and their families, provides grants for former service members who are now professional tattoo artists to participate in the event. There’s even a Veterans Row where those artists are recognized.

An all-veteran parachute team kicks things off with a skydiving demonstration, and the Rolling Thunder, a veteran motorcycle club, hosts a Missing Man table where POW and MIA’s were remembered with a single red rose and a moment of silence to open the convention.

Along with the typical tattoo contests are special military related categories including Best Military Theme Tattoo and Best Tattoo by a Veteran — that class alone had more than 50 entries with the top three places going to Tony 4 Fingers, Chris Jones and Benjamin Buttler; all three are authorized artists from Operation Tattooing Freedom. Winners of the contests received a unique metal sculpture of a tattered American flag made locally by Metal Works Inc (

A lifetime achievement award was posthumously given to Brandon Gallero, a longtime Fayetteville tattooer, who apprenticed many artists in the area, and passed suddenly in 2019.

According to Harrell, 80% of the tattoo clientele in the Fayetteville area are active duty or veterans, and the goal of the convention is give back more than just with art. Part of that respect and support comes from the facts that a portion of ticket sales is donated to Fisher House, an organization that provides a “home away from home” for veterans’ and military families while their loved one receives care on the base, and Operation Tattooing Freedom, which matches US. Military Veterans suffering from different conditions, such as PTSD, with artist local to them to help them cope with their issues. More than $18,000 has been raised over the last three years.

“When you live in Fayetteville it’s hard to not have some attachment to the military,” Harrell says. “We owe a lot to the military, not only for helping to provide us (as local tattoo artists) the lives we do and allowing us the opportunity to be able to put great tattoos on members of the military, but just for everything that they do.”