I. organisers horitaka (left) & roman (right) 2. chris trevino, perfection tattoo 3. how low can you go?
From the outside A Convention of the Tattoo Arts, otherwise known as the San Jose Tattoo Convention, looks much like any other tattoo show. Several bouncers in black hulk near the entrance frisking patrons Passers-by try to catch a glimpse of what's going on inside but see nothing besides these men and several souped-up Harleys. When I approached, the bouncers asked."You got any knives or guns?" Thankfully. I did not. But behind this tough exterior, the San Jose Tattoo Convention was like a family reunion, only a lot more fun. In fact, the bouncers offered their time for free, and when I asked them why. David Derosa answered with a smile."I've known Roman since he was this tall," placing his hand at his knee.
Roman and Horitaka arc tattooists at State of Grace Tattoo in San Jose and have organised the San Jose Tattoo Convention for four years now.This years convention took place a few days before Halloween and ghoulishness was in the air.Tattoo Mania offered eyeball candy beside a severed arm at their booth, and 17 original paintings from the 36 Ghosts scries by Japanese tattoo legend Horiyoshi III hung at the center of the convention.
4. eric by rob struven, garage ink 5. brenda by Christine nelson 6. a painting by horiyoshi III from his book 36 ghosts 7. skateboards designed by Chris trevino 8. may by matt shamah analog tattoo 9. ashley by chad koeplinger tattoo paradise
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^^ After introducing myself to tattooists —^ like Bugs. Aaron Bell and Rob Struven. who I'd only read about in books and magazines. I looked around and found that the attendance was on the small side. Grumbles about the poor economy arose here and there but they were almost completely hidden by the loud buzz of needles: Most booths had at least one tattooist hard at work at all times. In the end the convention attendance was comparable with the previous year, a feat most tattooists attributed to their dedicated clientele. A room full of world-class artists didn't hurt either. Attendees could get tattooed by Japanese and Danish tattooists without having to leave San Jose. For some, like Henry Lee. it was a chance to finish a tattoo that'd already been started years ago. "It's all Bugs." he said, referring to the Picasso-esque work of the LA tattooist. Some of the world-class tattoo shops in attendance included Three Tides. Analog Tattoo. 7th Son. Slave to the Needle. Idle Hand. Black Heart Tattoo. Diamond Club. Modern Electric Studio. Skull and Sword and Staircase Tattoo. As Chuy. of Tiger Rose Tattoo, ruminated: "It's overwhelming. Everywhere you look there are great tattooists."
The nice thing about such a moderate turnout was that artists were more accessible, and lively conversation abounded. Attendees didn't have to fight massive crowds to speak with their tattoo idols.The friendly convention showcased the artistry of tattoo culture, thanks to Horitaka's scholarly devotion to the subject. Horitaka. who was trained by Horiyoshi III, flew several Japanese tattooists to the event.The crowd gathered to watch as the modern master Shige tattooed a complete oudine for a traditional Japanese body suit and Horikcn. who tattoos out of Yokohama. Japan, demonstrated the tebori. or hand-tattooing, technique.
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With tattooists known for their painting as much as their tattoos, including Grime and Horitomo. who performed live painting on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend was a visual playground. Shops like 12 Monkeys, featuring paintings by Jon Highland, flooded the event with original artworks. And the art didn't stop at paper:Victor Macias of True Love Tattoo designs shoes. Chris Trevino. aka Horimana. of Perfection Tattoo drew Japanese demons on skateboards, and Kosuke Yamagishi. director of The Softmachine. brought a beautifully hand-carved guitar case depicting elaborate dragons in gold leafing.
How is it that the San Jose Tattoo Convention garners the ultimate tattooists from around the world? Horitaka and Roman hand-pick every tattooist. snuffing out any suggestion that this convention has gone corporate. Horitaka explained his approach:"Whenever I interview old timers and we talk about the early conventions, they always say it's more about sharing ideas and talking than about making money." At the San Jose
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