The 9th annual Salt Lake City Tattoo Convention was held Mar. 9-11 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Many in attendance find a family-like atmosphere being part the tattoo community.
The convention was packed with varying techniques, traditions, images and ideas from Salt Lake City to Beijing.
“I am getting my back done right now in Switzerland,” said Nate Drew, convention founder and local tattoo shop owner. “You don’t have to go to Switzerland. You can come here and find someone that’s amazing…we have people from all over the world here.”
Artwork was auctioned off to help cover medical costs for Drew’s friend Tony Alevas, who is experiencing complications related to heart disease.
Alevas showed hope and care for Drew’s future by allowing Drew to apprentice under him 20 years ago. Now Drew is using the skill that he developed under Alevas’ tutelage to show care and express hope for Alevas’ future.
Aspiring tattoo artists must traditionally complete an apprenticeship. The nature of the relationship between the apprentice and the teacher may vary from culture to culture.
Fabian Nitz is from Berlin, Germany and has been tattooing for around 12 years. He became an apprentice with the first person that gave him a tattoo.
“If you ever do your first tattoo, it will never look good…it takes a lot of practice,” Nitz said.
Jess Yen, an immigrant to Southern California from Taiwan, considers the decision to do an apprenticeship with him like the decision to get a tattoo.
“Because Jess teach[es] you…that when you tattoo on someone, it’s forever, so you also have to treat your career like forever too,” said Donna Yen, his wife.
The theme of family could also be found in those who paid to attend the convention. Natalie Hogan, a convention attendee, got her first tattoo when she was 16. She and her mother both got tattoos for her mother’s birthday.
Hogan’s first tattoo is a ladybug on her shoulder. Though the idea and design of Hogan’s first tattoo may be simple, it means something to her because she shared it with someone she cared about.
“I have to love it because it’s meaningful,” Hogan said.