Thursday, June 20, 2024

Tattoo convention buzzes into Cd'A

Staff Reporter | October 3, 2023 1:06 AM

There were needles, numbing sprays, antiseptics and exam tables wall to wall in the Jacklin Building for a tattoo convention last weekend at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

The room was buzzing with excitement.

“A lot of people can learn how to do this but it takes a lot of talent to pick it up and really dedicate yourself to doing this,” the event organizer Nick Contreras said.

Contreras, covered in tattoos including his eyelids, neck and face, is a tattoo artist and owner of the Gem State Tattoo Convention.

He gathered dozens of artists from across the country to showcase their work and to give tattoos and piercings during the event.

Each day ended with a competition for best tattoos, including work done prior to the convention and tattoos done that day. Hundreds of tattoos were given from small symbols to full-arm artwork.

The styles ranged from ornate to realistic, shading in black and white to full color. Some were Japanese style and some were playful.

“As far as artists go, I try to keep it really diverse,” Contreras said. “There are conventions that only primarily focus on one type of artwork. But when you’re trying to go in you want to see a diversity. So I really try to make it diverse. Different people, different styles, different places.”

People flew or drove in from as far as Ohio, or Southern California, many from Utah and Arizona, to give people tattoos.

“With conventions, it’s getting out and getting tattooed by an artist from all over the country,” Northwest Tattoo Museum’s Doug Swindle said. “It’s like a collective. You’re a collector.”

The tattoo museum is in Coeur d’Alene and run by Jay Brown, who was a judge for the competitions and makes his own tattoo machines. He’s passionate about tattooing, like his father before him.

He remembers the heyday of tattoo conventions when they included seminars and talks. Brown attended seminars, sometimes once a month for years, and watched as the conventions evolved into today’s version of more of a meet and greet and bulk tattoo extravaganza.

“It’s its own community,” Contreras said. “Every shop has its own style and its own atmosphere. And then when you come into here it’s such a melting pot of all different styles. It creates this really positive energy. It’s like its own little family. We call it a vibe, it’s a vibe.”

The vibe was always creative.

“I like the oddities shop,” said Cam Sosa as he got a tattoo on his thigh from Melissa Johnson. “I like everything, the vibes, the good vibes.”

Some people were there to get their first tattoo and some struggled to find space to add one.

“I always tell people, just as addicting as it is to get tattoos sometimes, it’s just as addicting to do it,” Contreras said. “Because you have them all over the world. People wear my tattoos in Germany, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I’ve been all across the country, and it’s cool to be able to say, ‘You might not know my name, but my tattoos are all across the nation.’”

A photo in this story has been updated to relect a correction. Jess McNabb is pictured in the photo.



Tattoo Artist Kyle Carpino tattoos a bird onto Katrina Brisbin's arm Sunday at the Gem State Tattoo Convention.



The progress on Katrina Brinsin's tattoo by Kyle Carpino, owner of Kyle Carpino Tattoos.


Artist Jake Sifford from Electric Age Tattoo in Coeur d'Alene tattoos a client during the Gem State Tattoo Convention on Sunday at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.



Tattoo Artist Melissa Johnson Tattoos Cam Sousa at the Gem State Tattoo Convention on Sunday. Sosa hopes to start a tattoo shop in Santa Rosa, and Johnson works out of Morningstar Tattoo in Ogden, Utah.