Las Vegas Tattoo Convention 2010

Published: 22 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 193, December, 2010

We heard it calling from afar, but who would draw the straw that took them to the Holy Land? Who could handle the blistering heat and cope with excess all areas in the land of slot machines, Elvis and er, lobsters? When it came to the crunch, we simply sent out the big (Flaming) Guns.

The Las Vegas Tattoo Convention was held in the Mandalay Bay - a towering Gold casino/hotel behemoth at the top of the Vegas strip, with approximately 6000 rooms! The convention was a little hard to find, all the directions led us round the casinos and finally past the eleven acre tropical white sandy beach that was situated at the heart of the hotel, to the ‘biggest tattoo show on earth’ presented by Mario Barth, also the owner of ‘King Ink’ in the Mirage hotel and ‘Starlight Tattoo’ in Mandalay Bay hotel.

As we walked through the beautifully carved doors into the ‘show’ it was very quiet – no music, entertainment or even a carpet, it was like a warehouse and the show barely covered half the available floor space - it later took about an hour for most of the tattooists to arrive once the doors had opened, but it was a friendly show, we managed to find some English locals in the shape of Marc and Tanya from Skin Sorcerer in Maldon and after a natter and a picture we went off to find some Vegas locals!

There was a good amount of art with a Mexican influence here including Rob from ‘Sugar skull art’ who started making these beautiful skulls from sugar when his mother unfortunately passed away - the largest one was approximately 35 pounds of sugar!  We also found ‘Calavera’ from Venice Beach with their quirky colourful ceramic skulls.

We couldn’t help but notice ‘Da Van’ and his biggest tattoo machine in the world! A quiet guy with a big gun! It was so noisy, a true jack-hammer when running! I only just managed to handle the smaller machine.

The pinnacle of the show for us was meeting ‘Crazy Philadelphia Eddie’ what a loveable rogue – he had a voice like he’s been gargling concrete, he was selling his book, which he signed for me, I also got a pat on the bum and called ‘toots’...

And from that I bumped into Mario Barth himself! He looked a little stressed, not really surprising considering the amount of work that must go into running these events and the evidence of a recession was very visible in and around Vegas. But he was a gentleman and gave us the time for a snap and wished us a good trip.

Wandering around there were a good selection of traditional hand pushed tattooists working hard, we spotted a trophy of best of day on the Friday, the winner was Kirstexn Chjrco from ‘One Flesh’ who tattooed a lighthouse on a gentleman called Tony’s ribs.

Christina had some beautiful work by Troy from RRR tattoo in California, sporting a tiger leg sleeve and a phoenix on her head, Christina decided on getting her head tattooed when she lost her hair while battling cancer, she has fully recovered and proudly shows her tattoo and achievements of survival.

We were also fortunate enough to meet Jennifer and David Jarrett, a married couple who are both covered in some breath taking ink from Jesse Smith in Virginia “He started it!” was Jennifer’s statement on how they decided to go for such an extensive coverage of tattoos.

Overall the tattoo show had a wonderful selection of art and sculpture, and we met some great tattoo collectors and tattooists, putting the show on was brave of Mario Barth with the recession hitting that part of America so hard. It wasn’t the biggest tattoo show on earth, but it was a friendly one.

Special thanks to Julie and Kai from Flaming Gun in Colchester for taking the time out to cover the show for us. Not quite a dirty job that somebody had to do by the sounds of it…