Tattoo expo features local talent


Photo by Dara Collins

Daniel Silva, a tattoo artist from the San Francisco Bay Area, tattoos a woman’s arm at the second annual Pittsburgh Bleed Black and Gold Tattoo Expo held at the Sheraton Hotel.

Written By Dara Collins, Co-Sports Editor

Last year, one ballroom of Station Square’s Sheraton Hotel held 78 artists and vendors for the first ever Pittsburgh Bleed Black and Gold Tattoo Expo.

More than double the local talent and nationally acclaimed tattoo artists returned to the hotel for the second year in a row last Friday.

“Everytime I put on a show, the first one is always smaller for obvious reasons,” Greg Piper said. “This year, we doubled in size with 122 tattoo booths, so roughly 250 tattoo artists here. Then what we did here on Carson Street, we invited a lot of local businesses that do crafts or related things, food, and brought them here and gave them space to set up.”

Piper, alongside Baller Inc. and Eternal 66 Productions, welcomed artists from across the nation, local vendors and tattoo lovers to the Sheraton on Feb. 16-18. The public could purchase tickets for $25 a day or $45 for a three-day pass, the three-day pass being $10 cheaper than last year.

Students could also flash a student ID this year for a discounted three-day pass.

“I hope they just have fun, and I hope they get to meet some local artists, enjoy themselves and get some great tattoos,” Piper said.

Attendees could listen to Little Ozzy, an Ozzy Osbourne tribute band, last Saturday night as well as watch the second annual Miss Pittsburgh Pinup contest. Ink Master artists seem to attract the public during open floor hours, according to Piper.

“People like the Ink Master artists…but I don’t think there’s a main event people come to flock to,” Piper said. “Last year was cool and an exception with Robin [H. M.] doing the world record for tattooing, but this year is just the Ink Masters and a lot of local shops.”

The local artists, including Lawrenceville’s Inka Dinka Doo and downtown’s Pittsburgh Tattoo Company, competed in this year’s Battle of the ‘Burgh Tattoo-Off. Human canvases received a Pittsburgh sports themed tattoo from one of five local tattoo artists last Friday night.

“Sometimes with the Ink Master artists and things like that, the local artists get lost, so having grown up here myself, I thought it would be cool to do something different,” Piper said.

Already thinking of a different idea for the third expo, Piper said next year’s canvases will be first responders.

Many artists lined tables with portfolios and slideshows of past work to attract ink addicts. Mary VanAntwerp of Aspired Ink from Laguna Hills, Ca., boasted her coworkers were booked and always tattooing.

“Everybody at our shop are artists, we all do our own artwork,” VanAntwerp said. “Trigger is the shop owner, and he loves to travel so he can spread his artwork outside of California.”

Minister Al Dayhoff admits he failed to recognize tattoos as art for some time.

About five years ago, Dayhoff closed the doors of a Washington D.C. church he had recently opened to move to a bar where he found his new people group of about 500 “very non-church people.”

“Then I started seeing them as my parishioners, and because I started looking at them, I suddenly cared about what was on their skin, and maybe saw a tattoo for the first time with an eye towards interest,” Dayhoff said. “So I asked somebody, ‘Does your tattoo have a story,’ and she poured out all the secrets of her soul, and I thought it was crazy. How did I miss this?”

After 300 tattoo interviews and three months in tattoo studios, Dayhoff published “God and Tattoos: Why Are People Writing on Themselves?”

“I suspect the inside has gotten so desperate to talk, that it’s writing on it’s wrapper,” Dayhoff said.

The back of the book reads, “Many see a person covered in tattoos walk by and harbor a snarky and judgmental response, when in fact the tattoos just told a very personal story.”

In fact, a crowded room of personal stories surrounded Dayhoff and will return for a third year.