I had a professor at the University of Virginia who said that there were always opportunities hiding among our biggest challenges. He liked to start with the question “what would you never do?” In that spirit, I’d like to suggest Kent’s first annual Tattoo Festival. Before you put a for sale sign in your front yard, or worse yet, run me out of town, hear me out.
With two cheeks full of sarcasm people love to point out to me that our greatest economic growth downtown seems to have been in the tattoo industry. For most of us, tattoos are not exactly the first retail option we think of when we think of great city downtowns. But for the sake of conversation I’m going to suggest that rather than fighting’em, let’s join’em.
We need to keep in mind that tattoos have spread well beyond their old sailor, bad boy, market niche. Today nearly 1 in 3 people ages 18 to 29 have a tattoo and 1 in 6 people across all age groups are proudly — or secretly — sporting body art. But don’t take my word for it — read a summary of a story from that wild and crazy CBS Sunday Morning Show last week.
Tattooed America: The Rise Of Skin Art
NEW YORK, Oct. 29, 2006
(CBS) At Dare Devil Tattoo on New York’s Lower East Side, Glenda Gonzales is about to take the plunge.
“Actually there’s no pain,” she told Sunday Morning correspondent Serena Altschul. “I feel numb. Feels numb. Is that how it’s supposed to feel?”
She’s picked a bluebird for her back. It’s her first tattoo.
“I probably decided when I was 18, but my parents wouldn’t let me get it,” she said.
Now 22, Glenda has made her move — and she has plenty of company. According to a study by the American Academy of Dermatology, 36 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 have a tattoo.
“I mean at this point it’s just hugely popular, it’s gone way farther than any of us would have envisioned from even 10 years ago,” Michelle Myers, who has been tattooing for 15 years, said. “Some people define it as a trend, but I would say it’s more like when women started wearing slacks. It wasn’t a trend, it just became acceptable.”
Across town, at the Last Rites Tattoo Theatre, Yousef O’Dey is also getting his first tattoo from artist Paul Booth. Booth is considered the master of the macabre. His dark and otherworldly images adorn rock stars and anyone with a taste for the night. His waiting list is two and a half years’ long.
“I wanted something dark and very unique, and somebody who would understand when I say I want something that is on the edge of being repulsive,” he said.
“Right now I’m just kind of rendering the face of the demon,” Booth said. “I’ve always made it a point not to be spouting off, bragging about what I make. I can tell you that, you know, I charge a little bit more than my lawyer does.”
Booth says he loves that tattoos require commitment.
“There’s a validation in having your art appreciated to the level that someone is willing to wear it on their body for the rest of their life, is a really intense experience,” he said.
What’s unusual about the man making that lifelong commitment is not just the theme of his tattoo, but what Yousef, who lives in Wisconsin, does for a living. He’s a cardiac surgeon.
“This is pretty unorthodox probably for any surgeon, let alone a cardiac surgeon, probably,” he said.
According to a recent Harris poll, 16 percent of all Americans have at least one tattoo. CBS News caught up with some of them at a tattoo festival in suburban Chicago.
Diane Filpi is 42 years old and getting her fourth tattoo.
“I’m a nurse, very quiet person, I’m a classical pianist,” she said.
Zach Sikora is studying to be a psychologist. His tattoo expresses his belief in God.
“Just kind of symbolizes my faith and having it on me kind of symbolizes me defeating sin, defeating, you know, the struggles in my life,” he said.
Nancy Rocha is getting two butterflies which represent her two daughters.
“It’s just a reminder of my children, and having the colors and the art on my skin forever, it’s just amazing,” she said.
According to Boston College sociology professor, Dr. Sharlene Hesse-Biber, the practice of tattooing goes back more than 5,000 years.
“We know about the presence of tattoos by the unearthing of various mummies, mummy sites in Egypt, for example, around 2,000 B.C.,” said Hesse-Biber, who is an expert of body art.
The Bronze age man found frozen in the Italian Alps had 57 tattoos. In the 18th century, England’s Captain James Cooke sailed to the South Pacific and found cultures rich in tattoos.
“He was in awe of the tattooing. He brought one of the Tahitian men back to King George’s court,” she said.
Tattoos caught on with sailors the world over, even Popeye. In 1891, New Yorker Samuel O’Reilly invented the modern tattooing machine, a machine still in use today – and more in demand than ever.
“We’ve made tattooing become fashionable,” she said. “In our country, we associated it with prisoners, outcasts. And all of a sudden, it’s become this kind of fashionable thing.”
Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp have propelled tattoos to popularity, along with professional athletes like Shaquille O’Neal and Dennis Rodman. And then there’s TLC’s “Miami Ink” which has brought tattooing into our living rooms.
The laser is changing the history of tattoos as now they can now come off. At New York’s Tattoo Removal Center, dancer Hernan Lucero is having one erased.
“For professional reasons, I don’t want it to affect my career or my work adversely. That’s really the bottom line,” he said. “I really like it, I just don’t want to have it there.”
Removing a tattoo typically takes 6 to 8 treatments, and without the right equipment it can be painful. Dr. Jeffrey Rand says big motivators for his patients are tattoos with names.
“Ex-wife, ex-husband, soon as the divorce papers are dry, the first thing that people do is come in and get their tattoo removed,” Rand said. “A bad breakup, boyfriend, girlfriend, a similar reason.”
But removing tattoos costs a lot of money.
“The tattoo cost about $125, 130 to put it on,” Lucero said. “It’s gonna cost me about 1,500, 1800 dollars [to get it off], like ten-fold. They say mistakes are costly, so this is a good example of it.”
Will the tattooed third of today’s youth someday see their tattoos as a mistake? Hard to say. But the reasons of the moment seem to outweigh the concerns of tomorrow.
“I often see young people, you know, sort of saying to their parents, ‘I’m having a tattoo, mom and dad, ’cause you know, I’m grown up. I can make my own decisions,'” Hesse-Biber said.
That’s a sentiment Gonzales agrees with.
“For so long I felt protected, too protected I guess by my parents, too protected by people around me,” she said. “This is a way to reveal and to say, like, you know, it’s my body, and I do what I think is right for me.”
When it was all done, she was thrilled.
“Ah! It’s so beautiful,” she told her tattoo artist. “Oh my God, I can’t wait to get another one! Thank you so much!”
So what would we never do? How about try to cash in on our niche and consider hosting a tattoo festival here in Kent? Too crazy? Try this on for size: Columbus Ohio hosted the largest tattoo festival in the country last year — so how crazy is it? While we’ve been complaining about our tattoo reputation, Columbus took advantage of theirs and cashed-in on the chance to bring people from all over the country to Columbus to spend their money while they visited the festival. Unfortunately we’re too late to go after the big one next year, it’s already announced that it’s being hosted in Phoenix.
SCHEDULED EVENTS 2007
*STAY TUNED FOR PHOENIX 2007 EVENTS!!*
The Hell City Tattoo Festival ignites in Phoenix, Arizona August 24th-26th, 2007 inside the fabulous Frank Loyyd Wright ballroom at the Biltmore Resort & Spa. The Hell City Tattoo Festival is a celebration of body art and the education of tattooing and other forms of body modification for all. Nowhere else can you find such a collection of skilled tattoo artists in one area. Every year thousands of people come for the weekend to be tattooed by the worlds best artists and hang out with others in the tattoo community. If you see any of the attending artists you would like to get tattooed by on the HC website, it is a good idea to book your artist early, you can do that by clicking the attending artists studio link. But Hell City does not just have tattooing as entertainment. All weekend long various acts, contests, art fusion, and other entertainment happen in the festival. This is a world class convention, smooth running, and packed with hundreds of brilliant artists from the world over. Hell City has come to be one of the industries favorite events. Everyone appreciates the festival because the atmosphere is warm, jovial and welcoming to the guests who come for a peek into another world. We encourage you to explore the Hell City website, poke around, browse the photo galleries of the past HC’s, and share them with your mates and loved ones. Aside from TV specials and any vibe you think you get when you drive by your local tattoo studio, where else will you learn the truth of tattooing and other art forms? This is an industry tradeshow, one that covers body modification in all forms, historical to futuristic, education to exhilaration. Hell City is an exhibition of all styles, be they painterly or bold, thematically obscure or even downright spooky. You may also enjoy the bands, art gallery, clothes, stickers, skateboards, motorcycle stuff, photography, prints, paintings for sale, food and drinks, the colorful people, about a million tattoo photos from attending artists, tattoo competitions, all the amazing books, the sweet Heck City booth just for kids, the hilarious MC, the hotel and the charity fundraisers….Definitely an event not to be missed!!
I’m not suggesting that we seek to become the tattoo parlor capital of the world but I can’t help but wonder if we couldn’t do more with what’s already here. Even if the idea never goes any further than the text in this blog, it doesn’t cost us a thing to ask ourselves what would we never do — and I’m convinced that we may surprise ourselves one of these days with a crazy idea that just might work.