Body art takes center stage at the Boston Tattoo Convention

By Naa Dedei Coleman and Gaia DeSimoni
BU News Service

BOSTON – The buzzing of tattoo machines filled Center Exhibit Hall D in the Hynes Convention Center on Saturday afternoon. Over 200 artists from all over the U.S. had gathered to celebrate tattooing as an art form at the Boston Tattoo Convention. The event brought together people in the body art industry, including piercers and a tattoo removal company.

This year’s three-day convention was the 18th installment of the event started by Natan Alexander, a tattoo artist at Witch City Ink in Salem.

The decision to organize the convention followed the overturning of a law making tattoos illegal in 2000. The winning argument portrayed body art such as tattoos as forms of self expression that could not be banned under the First Amendment. The event has grown to become a place for tattoo enthusiasts to celebrate the art form.

Jae Gomez came all the way to Boston from Barstow, California. Gomez has been tattooing for 11 years and was attracted to the industry by a love of drawing. “I always wanted to do something that I loved and tattooing is what I found,” he said. This year was his first time at the Boston Tattoo Convention, and Gomez had always wanted to check out the city.

Razorblade is a tattoo supply retail company based in Pennsylvania, and was also represented at the convention. Josh Howard, a manager of the company, said that they mainly sell needles and other supplies to professional tattoo artists who have been licensed in the states they are in. This was the first time the company had participated in the convention and they will likely be back next year.

A highlight of the convention was the annual Miss Boston Ink pageant, where tattooed models competed on the criteria of beauty, personality and great tattoos. This year’s competition had seven contestants, and tattoo enthusiast Jessica Olsen took the title and the grand prize, which included cash, a cover appearance on Worldwide Ink Magazine and two tickets to the annual convention for life.

Rocco Danieli of Uplift Provisions Company styles his mother’s (Seryl Sarkis) hair at the company’s booth. (Photo by Naa Dedei Coleman/BU News Service)

Olsen has been attending the convention since 2012, when she worked as a receptionist for Sacred Harp Tattoo in Salem. She has previously attended other conventions including the Massachusetts Tattoo Convention and proudly bears tattoos from many artists, including Devin Coley from Stingray Body Art in Allston. Olson competed in the pageant in order to “showcase [her] collection of work from some great artists.”

Jimmy Leary, a Dorchester resident, has had multiple tattoos done at the convention in the three years he has previously attended. This year, he had a human heart tattooed on his arm at the convention.

“I love the experience,” Leary said. “I love it because it brings all these artists from around the country to Boston. And they come and they get to showcase their talents to everybody.”

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