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Ink Lovers United: Tattoo Convention Big Draw In Hartford

By JESSE RIFKIN

August 18, 2012

HARTFORD Mia Sablone of Waterbury had just decided on her first permanent tattoo. "A corpse bride!" she exclaimed. "That one is my favorite!"

Mia is 5.

"I am not encouraging this," said her mother, Hope Sablone, as the two they browsed the vendors at Tommy's Tattoo Convention in the Connecticut Convention Center on Saturday. "At least, not until she is 25."

The three-day convention, which kicked off on Friday, attracted people from around New England and beyond.

Derek Knight of Pawtucket, R.I., was selling his custom-made stainless steel skull rings.

"Half a dozen guys have bought the rings for marriage proposals," said Knight, a full-time firefighter who hand-crafts on the side for his business, 343 Industries' Cutting Edge Jewelry.

Do the women say "yes" to marriage proposals shaped like death?

"Good question," said Knight, apparently stumped. "You know, I never asked."

The morbid theme continued a few booths over with Starbrite Colors, selling bottled tattoo inks in a wide variety of hues a very wide variety.

"We have blood clot, purple vein and killer kiwi," said Tom Ringwalt of Somers, the co-creator of the expo. "Oh, and zombie puke. That one is always popular."

(In case you were wondering, zombie puke is a dark shade of yellow-brown.)

Nearby, the Hells Angels Connecticut booth sold clothing, bumper stickers, and other items proudly proclaiming their outlaw status.

"Check out our baby shirts!" said John, who wouldn't give his last name, gesturing to a tiny shirt hanging on a rack. It read, "My favorite crayons are red and white. Don't make me use black and blue."

The expo featured live entertainment occurred throughout the day, including the Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show, the Ink Illusionist Magic Show, and a tattoo contest with 10 prizes, including "most realistic."

Stephen Lambert of Ware, Mass., was eager to compete in the contest. Several hours earlier, he had been inking a man's right shin.

"I am just drawing a sharp dagger piercing a bloody heart," Lambert said nonchalantly. "Pretty standard stuff."

In mid-afternoon, a portrait seminar was led by nationally known tattoo artist Kirt Silver. Demand was so high that pre-registration was required at a cost of $150 per artist.

More than 700 people attended the convention on Friday, a lower-than-expected figure that Ringwalt attributed to its weekday status, plus Friday's rainy weather forecast. For Saturday he estimated a sharp spike to somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 people.

Many of those flocked to Jamie Cross of Nitemare Tattoo in Westfield, Mass., who specializes in grotesque imagery. One of his signature designs is a woman with one empty eye socket and a scalp that appears to be splitting open.

Not quite as grotesque but no less surreal was the work of Hardnox Clothing Co., whose representatives came up all the way from Virginia Beach, Va. Lead artist Aaron Fulcher's designs attracted among the most attention, such as his depiction of Benjamin Franklin shooting a gun with his right hand while throwing up $100 bills with his left.

All in all, the convention marked a sharp contrast from the event going on at the same time upstairs: the 2012 annual dinner of Basement Systems, Inc.

The Tommy's Tattoo Convention continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Connecticut Convention Center on Columbus Boulevard in Hartford. Tickets cost between $15 and $60.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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