Pittsburgh Tattoo Expo returns to city for the sixth year in a row


Photo by Ana Bellamy

Tattoo stuffed animals that were on sale at the Pittsburgh Tattoo Expo

Written By Ana Bellamy, Staff Writer

It is hard to escape the buzzing of the tattoo machines. Rock, nu-metal, rap, and hip-hop can be heard on many portable speakers. The crunching of the plastic wrap protects the intricate carpet below from ink droplets. Tattoo conventions serve as a home and a safe haven to many people, and that is exactly what it felt like this weekend at the Pittsburgh Tattoo Expo. 

Thousands of people from near and far traveled to the Sheraton Hotel in Station Square to attend the Pittsburgh Tattoo Expo. Each day cost $30, and a three-day pass was $60. A weekend-only pass was $45. Local and national artists gathered together to give people tattoos, showcase and sell their incredible artwork, represent their shops, and network with each other.  A few of them, Christian Buckingham, Joe Capone, Kyle Dunbar, Big Jaz, Rachel Helmich, and Mohawk Jesse, were even on the hit reality competition show Ink Master. 

All of the artists were able to compete against each other to win the tattoo of the day and the best tattoo of the whole weekend. On Sunday, there was a contest for the best color tattoos, black and grey tattoos, portrait tattoos, traditional tattoos, and neo-traditional tattoos. There were also contests for skate decks, tattoo flash sheets, and fine art. In addition to bragging rights, the winners of these tattoo contests win plaques and the art-only cartoon winners receive trophies. World Famous Tattoo Ink was there to sell tattoo ink. Tattoo Punks and White Rose Tattoo Supply sold serialization equipment and after-tattoo balms and lotions. They also sold numbing cream and spray.  Workhorse Irons sold tattoo machine hardware and needles. Mechanics were on site in case anyone’s tattoo machine needed to be repaired. 

The allies were packed with people either waiting in line to get tatted, signing up for a tattoo, or with people looking at the amazing artwork and items that were on sale. Even kids accompanied their parents as they happily strolled down the many allies. Their hands were always full of candy and their minds were full of wonder, curiosity, and excitement to see their parent’s new tattoos. Many youngsters can be seen adorning tattoos of their own (temporary, of course).  Spots filled up fast at the beginning of each day, and it was a rare sight to see a tattoo artist not tattooing. Attendees can enter and leave the Sheraton Hotel as the day goes on so that their kids do not have to stay long into the night. Multiple times during the day, a child would be seen exiting the doors – half-asleep – adorning smudged face paint and a faded temporary tattoo on their hand. Even kids left the convection exhausted with a piece of artwork to call their own. 

Exposed Temptations, tattoo artists from Manassas, Virginia, volunteered to do tattoos for charity. There was a gumball machine filled with potential tattoos, palm-sized and smaller, that cost $150. There was also a plinko game that had multiple tattoos at the bottom. $20 of the profits were donated to Foster Love, a non-profit in Pittsburgh that supports children in and out of the foster home system and foster families. 

There were other kinds of items for sale as well. Vendors were selling apparel, hand-crafted lamps, wood art, pop culture-related pillows, stickers, candles, macabre gifts, and other curiosities. International Body Jewelry sells body jewelry and offers piercings, most of them for $85 each. Studio 6287 from Ohio came to sell their creative lamps. Tattoo artist, model, and entertainer Cervena Fox was there to sign autographs and sell her art, photographs, and handmade Halloween-themed bath bombs. Attendees were also lucky enough to see her burlesque performance every day of the weekend. 

For more additional entertainment, contortionist Alakazam, comedy performer and juggler Jim Maltman, and sideshow couple Captain & Maybell were in attendance to entertain everyone, even the kids. Jim Maltman These acts are nationally known and were made famous from the shows America’s Got Talent and the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. The annual Miss Pin-Up contest occurred on Saturday night. The winners of this contest won trophies and a cash prize. 

Vendors have already bought most of the booths up for 2024 and attendees have been starting to plan the tattoo artists they want to see next year. This event occurs every year and brings thousands together to appreciate art in many different art forms. A successful weekend is in the books for the sixth year.