For Salt Lake resident Robby Petrich, the decision to ink his skin only made sense. "Art is a big part of my life, and I figured, "Hey, I absolutely love art, and it’s been a part of my life since I was a small child, so what better canvas than my body?"
Robby, along with many other tattoo enthusiasts, attended Salt Lakes City’s fifth International Tattoo Convention. The event was held at the Salt Palace Convention Center, and lasted Feb. 15 through 17, ending at 10 p.m. each night. The buzzing of tattoo needles could be heard all throughout the event, as many of the nations best tattoo artists were on site to apply ink for customers. Whether just a simple arm tattoo, or one on the upper thigh that required dropping the pants and laying on a table, there were no limits to the style or locations of the freshly applied tattoos.
Recently, it was estimated by Inc. Magazine that the 15,000 tattoo shops nationwide make tattooing a $2.3 billion industry. Once only for the defiant, tattoos have become more common amongst the general population. In fact, shop owners say the mainstreaming of tattoos has been good for business.
According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, about 45 million Americans have received tattoos, including about 25 percent of people between ages 18-50. You no longer have to be in the Hell’s Angels to enjoy a tattoo.
With such growing popularity, many tattoo lovers were stoked at the opportunity to see some of the finest tattoo artists in the country show their stuff. In fact, getting a tattoo often surpasses a mere superficial attempt to display a rebel attitude. For tattoo recipients like Robby, it has a much deeper significance. He relates, "My grandmother’s name is on my left hand. She taught art at Michigan State University and would have me draw or paint such random things as an artichoke on an art easel when I would get home from school … Since I am left-handed, and I do all of my art with my left hand primarily, I got her name on my left hand in purple, her favorite color.”
Another important aspect of the tattoo is the reminder they can give of specific times in one’s life. "I had years thinking for all of the tattoos I have so far, and don’t regret any of them, and will not regret any of them", Robby stated, "as they represent quintessential periods of my life/upbringing and remind me of very happy times, and I plan on getting many more.”
Some of the artwork was incredible. Whether it was intrinsic pattern designs of the respective tattoo artist or a detailed image of David Bowie, the convention had an impressive showcase and variety of talent within the tattoo business.
For those who, unlike Robby, did not do give careful consideration to which tattoos they would get (for example, the ‘tramp stamp,’ as it is called, has been a regrettable tattoo for many women), the convention also featured a booth from Ink Lifters, a company that specializes in laser tattoo removal. But their business isn’t only about removing tattoos; it often serves to alter previous ones. According to employee Cheryl Strachan, "Surprisingly, a lot of our business comes from tattoo shops. They refer them to come to us to have an old tattoo removed or faded, sometimes in order to start a new one. So our business has a good relationship with the tattoo shops because many of their clients can use us as an option for updating or altering a past tattoo.”
"It’s nice to look in the mirror every morning after I get out of the shower and smile and remember my grandfather and all the happiness that gold old George Lucas has brought to my life for the past near 27 years", Robby points out, referring to his Han Solo vs. Boba Fett tattoo that spans across his upper torso. Indeed, tattoos leave an important legacy and form of creative expression for many that could not be done any other way.