First local tattoo festival to celebrate growing art
by Rashod Ollison
Published : March 3, 2011
HAMPTON ROADS, VA – If you were bold enough to get one back in the day, you probably had to go out of your way.
Now getting a tattoo has become almost a rite of passage. The parlors are often posh and, most importantly, safe and clean. Sandwiched between a chic coffee cafe and a fitness center offering yoga and Pilates, Folk City Tattoo opened in May in Suffolk.
Nate Hudson, 32, and Mike Cann, 22, own and operate the shop, which boasts a kitschy urban cowboy decor. A miniature bale of hay sits next to the receptionist desk. A pool table atop a brown-and-white cowhide rug dominates the front room.
Hudson and Cann plan to take the art of tattooing beyond the parlor’s beige and olive-green walls.
They’re hosts of the Hampton Roads Tattoo Arts Festival, the first of its kind in the area, Friday through Sunday at Hampton Roads Convention Center. The festival will include more than 120 tattoo artists, from as far as California. There will be 14 contests, including best color and black-and-gray tattoos.
If you’re not getting inked, you can check out an array of mostly local bands, from ska to funk; a wrestling match; and various sideshows. There will also be more than 40 vendors, including Harley-Davidson and Kingpin Tattoo Supply, sponsors of the event.
“There are tattoo conventions all over the world. It’s a pretty common thing, but it never happens in Hampton Roads,” Cann said. “It’s weird that we never had one.”
Hudson said that over the last three years or so, he and Cann have attended several tattoo conventions around the country and noticed that they were often too divided. Tattooing was in one room, performances in another, contests in a different area. At the convention center, all the activities will be in one place.
“That way, you’re not missing anything,” Cann said.
The city of Hampton approved the festival in September. Hudson said strict health codes are being enforced.
“We had to have about 34 sinks installed, which cost a few thousand dollars. Out-of-state artists had to get temporary Virginia licenses, and we had to have biohazard and medical waste pickups. We’re following by the book as much as possible, exceeding expectations as far as health.”
Such a festival couldn’t have existed until about five years ago. Some cities in the area clung to a more than half a century worth of bans on tattoo parlors. By the time the bans were lifted, tattoos, once associated with sailors and bikers, were visible on many pro athletes and stars from the worlds of rock and rap. Hit reality TV shows such as “Miami Ink” and “Inked” also helped popularize the art and culture of tattooing.
“TV was a big boom. It made it look more acceptable,” said Hudson, who has 15 tattoos, most covering his arms. “People have heartfelt stories that go along with their tattoos, different memorial tattoos.”
Cann added: “A lot of it happened simultaneously: the art getting better, the shops getting better. You can get a tattoo that means something – all of that has pushed the tattoo industry forward.”
He and Hudson met three years ago while working at a tattoo parlor in Virginia Beach.
“I’d always drawn,” said Hudson, a Virginia Beach native who started working in body piercing seven years ago. “Once tattooing became legal, with my skills with piercing and my ability to draw, it made it easy for me to get a shop.”
Cann, who has more than 100 tattoos, including an elaborate butterfly on the front of his neck, said he noticed a slight shift in clientele after opening Folk Art Tattoo in Suffolk.
“In Virginia Beach, we had a lot of young people,” said the New Jersey native. “Out here, we have more of a middle-age crowd, more of a family crowd. A lot of dads and moms are coming out here when their kids turn 18.”
Hudson crossed his tattooed arms and leaned against the pool table.
“We’re happy to be in this part of town,” he said. “We have over 30,000 people to drive by on this part of town every workday, going over the James River Bridge, to the shipyard. People come in on their lunch breaks. Tattooing is just a way of life now.”
Source : Hampton Roads