I honestly had no idea what to expect when I went to check out Toronto's annual Northern Ink Xposure Tattoo Convention yesterday at the Holiday Inn on King. I mean, I know shows like Miami Ink are really taking liberties in how they portray whatever they think tattoo culture is, so I wasn't expecting to walk into a room full of dudes like that. And I wasn't also thinking there'd be like, circus freaks and fire-eaters dancingaround, or maybe bikers swinging chains at lions. Basically, for anyone thinking about checking it out in future, the convention is essentially a massive tattoo parlour/trade show, which means that if you're not going specifically to get tattooed or to learn about tattoo-related products, there isn't a great deal to see and do. That being said, there were a bunch of incredibly talented and respected artists there who, from what I understood, have been booked by locals well in advance (some guys have year-long waiting lists) for their three-day stint here. After talking to some booth people, I realized that you can't just walk in to a tattoo convention, find a booth you like, pick some flash art and get it done on the spot. Maybe I'm dumb for thinking that might have even been a possibility.
While I find tattoos interesting in general (aesthetically, not, say, personal reasons people have for getting them), I was stoked to see a few of the Polynesian guys who came over to do proper tribal art using a traditional tapping technique as opposed to an electric gun.
Unfortunately they weren't working when I got there, but they were friendly. I did however see one guy from Sweden (I think) using a similar technique, but with a needle lodged in a bone. His booth advertised traditional Pagan tattoos like runes and such. I couldn't decide if it looked like it would hurt more than an electric gun though. There were also artists form Germany, Denmark, Amsterdam, Taiwan, Singapore and probably other places I've forgotten about.
There was some kind of "Best Tattoo of the day" contest as well, which was probably more exciting for the dudes who were showing off their skin for consideration.
The weird part was walking around and asking to take pictures of people and artists as they were working. I didn't want to come off as a fan boy or "creepy camera guy" or anything like that, but I'd be kind of weirded out if someone just walked up to me while I was getting tattooed and was all "hey, you don't know me but can I take a picture for a blog?"
Don't know if I'd be back for anything other than getting a tattoo, but getting tattooed in a room full of people who are constantly looking at me isn't the most appealing prospect in the world either.