Tattoo convention draws aficionados
Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 3, 2011 16:10
Jessica Smith and Danielle Wilson have a friendship that can best be described as a unique circumstance. Jacksonville's 7th Annual Tattoo Convention, which was held at the World Golf Village's Renaissance Resort the weekend of Sept. 2, featured tattoo artists and studios from all over the United States. The convention drew an unconventional crowd, from bikers sporting rebel flags to punk-rock chicks showing off their body art. The array of pierced faces and inked-up skin was the last place one might expect to make a lifelong friend. Danielle and Jessica, however, are a testament to the old maxim "you can never judge a book by its cover."
Jessica Smith, an artist at Todd Lake Tattoo Studio on University Boulevard, is a frequent participant in tattoo conventions. "People go to tattoo conventions to be a part of the lifestyle," said Jessica, "some just go to watch, some people like getting tattooed in public. A lot of people go to just look through artist's portfolios and find an artist they like."
Danielle Wilson decided she liked Jessica's work after flipping through her portfolio at last year's convention. Shortly afterward, she got the tattoo that initiated her friendship with Jessica -- a whole sleeve of Buddhist-inspired illustrations. "Sometimes people just get close to their artist," said Jessica. "Our shop is kind of like family, and I'm a big talker anyway. We just got to know each other and we've been friends ever since."
This year was Jessica and Danielle's first convention together. "I wanted to get a tattoo for my dad," said Danielle. "He wants one, but he's nervous." Danielle enlisted Jessica, who helped her design a crane-phoenix illustration. Danielle, who has 16 other pieces of body art, was remarkably calm about the tattoo, which covered a large part of her back.
She was unfazed by the bystanders, who would occasionally stop and admire the blossoming illustration. "Pretty much everyone here has tattoos, so they already know what it's like," she said.
Many other convention participants were comfortable being tattooed in public, trusting their artists not to fall victim to distraction. Somer Pagliaro, a customer of Skinwerks Tattoo and Deisgn, chose an illustration of a bed of lilies, because the flower has a personal significance to her. "I decided to get lilies because they were the flowers on my grandpa's casket at his funeral, and lilies just remind me of him," said Pagliaro.
Jules Woods, her artist, had a degree of concentration similar to Jessica's. He remained focused on his work, even while conducting a press interview and being photographed several times by passing strangers. Jules was able to relate to the story of Danielle and Jessica's friendship. "I don't hang out with every person I've tattooed, you know, but there are some people who you just start talking to while you're doing their tattoo, and you become friends that way."
The unique experience of bonding over the insertion of ink into the dermal layer of one's skin which brought Jessica and Danielle together is one of several reasons that Jessica loves her job. "There are about 10 people I have met through tattooing that I've remained friends with," says Jessica. "You couldn't do this job if you didn't love it, and the experience of meeting people and helping them express themselves is one of the reasons I love doing it."