This weekend, The Tech played host to a convention that the Sault community has never been privy to before.
A tattoo convention.
“This was an idea I started about two years ago, and I banged around some ideas to get it going. We started going full force in the last six months,” explained Blaine Morley, a graphic designer with a passion for tattoos and art who spearheaded this convention.
“A lot of small towns don’t have tattoo conventions so this is a unique event for Sault Ste. Marie. We wanted something different, something a little outside of the norm.”
Considering that tattoo artists who want to network and check out the latest in the field would normally have to travel out of town to attend this kind of event, it is a great opportunity to bring that kind of business and tourism to the Sault.
When asked what inspired the event, Morley stated,
“I did a campaign about 2 years ago for Northern Breweries, so we did a billboard and we had a tattoo on a guy’s back. We got a lot of positive feedback but we also got a lot of negative feedback. It got me going on the fact that there is still that stigma around tattoos. It’s something I want to open people’s eyes to.”
“People still feel like they need to hide their tattoos, some people are still a little embarrassed of them. They go to a job interview and they are scared they are going to be judged because of a tattoo or a pierced nose or a lip ring or something like that.”
This realization made Morley want to do something to change the way that tattoos and piercings are still often perceived in the public.
He also wanted to show people the importance of knowing tattoo rules and regulations to stay safe.
“I wanted to get people who enjoy that kind of stuff together. Once I started researching it I realized that there is a lack of information on the bylaws and regulations on tattoos. We wanted to bring the tattoo community together as a team and push for more public awareness on tattooing. What to look for, what to avoid, what is safe. You don’t want to get a tattoo and end up with something (disease) that could end your life. People just don’t realize that, there is a lack of public knowledge.”
This lack of public knowledge is likely due to the stigma that still surrounds tattoos.
Luckily, the Tattoo Convention partnered up with Algoma Public Health to ensure that all the right bylaws were in place so that the artists could tattoo and pierce on site.
Of APH’s contributions, Morley shared, “They came on board and they have been phenomenal. It was a lot of research and a lot of work for them too because no one has done this here, so it’s a learning curve but we did it together.”
This partnership also helps to open up the conversation about needle safety, tattoo safety, and the do’s and dont’s of tattooing.
Morley explained that this was the first time he believes that all of these artists have been in the same room together. “While there is a competitive edge, maybe some hard feelings sometimes, we are all here working together and hanging out,” he explained of the dynamic.
The vendors, artists, and professionals in attendance are happy to answer all kinds of questions from attendees, providing an open forum to talk about tattoos and bounce ideas back and forth.
The weekend fun kicked off last night with a comedy show featuring Lewis Hill and Aaron Hill, originally from the Sault, Ryan Dennee, and Mike Dambra, followed by an afterparty at the Esquire Club.
On Saturday – the convention showcase went full force, with live tattoos and piercings, a number of exhibits and vendors, and live music.
The after party tonight will be at Gateway Casino Sault Ste. Marie, for more live music and the chance to win this Jackson electric guitar, which was custom made by DOGhouse Custom Paint & Airbrush;
Tomorrow, the excitement will continue, with the convention participants showcasing art and vendor tables as well as doing live tattoos and piercings.
But the fun doesn’t end there.
Sunday marks a day where the competitive nature behind tattooing will go full tilt!
Many artists started tattooing on Friday and they are competing for $12000 dollars.
Morley told SaultOnline, “Some of the pieces are really intricate, the guys are putting in some real nice pieces, they want to win this money.”
But the competition isn’t just for artists.
From 3:00pm-6:00pm, the Tattoo Convention is holding a tattoo contest, whereby all proceeds go to the Soup Kitchen.
Registration is $10 for each category.
The categories are as follows;
- Best sleeve (half or full sleeve)
- Best Black and Gray (only 10% accenting colour)
- Best Colour (at least 80% vibrant)
- Best portrait (must have accurate photo of person depicted, human only)
- Best cover-up (Show the original!)
- Best Northern Theme (relating to and celebrating Northern Life, any colour)
- Best Lettering
- Best of Show (YOU MUST HAVE HAD YOUR TATTOO DONE BY AN ATTENDING ARTIST THE DAY OF THE CONVENTION)
Morley encourages the community to come and take part. “if your proud of something, come show it off. All the proceeds go to a great cause, and winners will get a cool plague, some t-shirts, and of course, bragging rights.”
So if you think you’ve got some wicked ink, come show it off tomorrow at The Tech! (Click here for more information on the rules and regulations of the contest).
But even if you aren’t inked up, come check out the fun anyway. There are a ton of unique vendors and great live music to enjoy.
You – like me – might find yourself sitting in the chair getting a fun body modification, even if you weren’t planning on it!
…Just kidding, mine wasn’t a fun addition per say.
The lovely and always professional Chelsea Smith from Anipeg removed an angry piercing from my collarbone.
Morley and other event organizers – as well as the tattoo and piercing community in Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding areas – have hopes that this can be an annual event.
This year, there are artists from Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, and Collingwood, ON.
Morley hopes to see more artists come from out of town next year.
“We’re off to a good start, but hopefully every year we get a little better. It was a risk to take something like this on, and a lot of time was invested. It took a lot of research and a lot of input from communities and from artists.”
Support this local convention and come by the Tech tomorrow. Admission is $20.00.