Tattoo Artists To Take Spotlight At Convention This Weekend
By Ryan Gilbert
August 16, 2012
Tommy Ringwalt has never been a tattoo artist, but he's been around them his whole life. Eight years ago, Ringwalt called upon the connections he'd made and jumped into the tattoo supply business. After traveling, visiting countless tattoo conventions and hobnobbing with some of the biggest tattoo artists in the world, Ringwalt is finally bringing his passion for tattoo art back to his hometown. This weekend, Ringwalt is hosting Tommy's Tattoo Convention at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
"There has never been a tattoo expo here, and I felt that there needed to be something in Hartford for all these people who want to get great tattoos and see a variety of styles all under one roof," says Ringwalt. "Instead of traveling from shop to shop, they'll get to see everything in this one building."
According to Ringwalt, Tommy's Tattoo Convention has cost around $100,000 to plan, organize and set up, and has about 75 sponsors. More than 125 local, national and worldwide tattoo artists are expected to be on-site, as well as live entertainment, freak show acts, contests, prize raffles, a photo booth and vendors selling everything from jewelry to energy drinks to tattoo supplies.
Ringwalt credits recent reality television shows like TLC's "Miami Ink" and Spike's "Ink Master" with helping take the tattoo industry to a whole new level. He says people who thought they didn't agree with tattoos are now getting them because they feel like they're more understood and respected. "Inked," a glossy tattoo lifestyle magazine that debuted in 2004 and billed itself as the "outsiders' insider magazine," now sits among "GQ" and "Vanity Fair" at newsstands.
"People love art, and tattoos are finally being seen as a form of that and becoming more of an accepted thing," says Mark Antonetti, a local artist who has been doing tattoos for 14 years and will be working at the convention. "A tattoo is something you can take with you, but not like a piece of jewelry that you can just lose. Nobody can take it away from you. It's a mark on your body, it's a story, a memory, and people are drawn to that."
"I'll be honest with you, to me, as an artist, every person who comes in and says, 'Hey, I want this tattoo,' is very, very important to me," adds George Galindo, an artist for 20 years who owns parlors in Texas and California and will attend this weekend. "I treat every tattoo with a lot of respect. I put everything into every tattoo that I do for everybody."
Famous sideshow performers like The Enigma Man (Paul Lawrence) and The Lizardman (Erik Sprague), known for their extensive body modifications and full-body tattoos, and celebrated tattoo artists like Galindo, Amy Nicoletto, Stefano Alcantara and Crazy Philadelphia Eddie were only too eager to help Ringwalt organize the convention.
"Tattooing is a huge family community, so Tommy and I have been running into each other for many years at other functions," says Galindo. "He told me he was sponsoring his own convention in Hartford and asked me if I would come up and do a guest spot and be a featured artist. He's really respected in the industry, so I jumped at the chance to come up and do his show."
Ringwalt is hoping his convention will draw anywhere from 2,500 to 10,000 visitors throughout the weekend, hopefully encouraging the artists and vendors to return for future shows.
"I'm happy knowing that people are going to have the time of their lives, seeing things they could never imagine and allowing them to get tattooed by some of the most talented artists in this industry," says Ringwalt.
Tommy's Tattoo Convention will be open on Friday, Aug. 17, from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, Aug., from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd., Hartford. Tickets are $15 to $60. Information: 860-265-2199 or www.tommystattoocon vention.com.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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