Art and Design Places

Each year the Bay Area is blessed with an influx of world class tattooers ready to do what they do best; tattoo.  There is nothing quite like it.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Bay Area Tattoo Convention.  

The Bay Area show nails what is most important; tattooing.  No side acts, no contests, no bullshit.  Taki and Roman are the two responsible for keeping it straight.  For the last fourteen years they have given collectors like myself some of the coolest opportunities to get tattooed.  As a collector there is no better place to be than the Bay Area Tattoo Convention.     

The Bay Area show brings tattooers from all over the world offering different styles and expertise.  Year in and year out you will find the likes of; Adam Vu, Ben Corn, Chris Garver, Chuco Moreno, Chuey Quintanar, Em Scott, Freddy Corbin, Horitomo, Mary Joy, Stewart Robson, Tim Hendricks, Sulu’ape Si’i Liufau, Valerie Vargas and legends like BJ Betts, Charlie Cartwright, Don Ed Hardy, Freddy Negrete, and Jack Rudy.  We could go on and on but to make it easier, hit this link to see the participant list for the upcoming show.  Some of the most reputable shops in the world are represented at the Bay Area Convention.  You will find booths from establishments like; Blackheart, Classic Fullerton, Forever Tattoo, Idle Hand SF, Spider Murphy’s, State of Grace, Tattoo City, and Tight Ship just to name a few.  Once again, find all the artists from these shops and more on the participant list.   

My wife and I have been attending this convention over the last decade and through the years we have learned a thing or two.  Our goal is to point you in the right direction. We hope some of these tips, pointers, and information will help guide your experience at next month's show.  


The night before it all starts (5/16) you must attend Outsider Art? Tattooing from Lew the Jew to Today.  This event brings together a panel of Ami James, Roxx, Kari Barba, Adam Vu Noir, and Takahiro Kitamura to discuss the changes and challenges of tattoo art as it has evolved since the time of Lew the Jew.  The talk is from 6:30-8pm.  Tickets are $20 which include museum access so you can check out the exhibition; Lew the Jew and His Circle: Origins of American Tattoo and everything else the Contemporary Jewish Museum has to offer.  Be sure to get tickets in advance!  

Fifteen minutes south of the CJM is The Midway SF where the opening party for the convention will take place from 8 - 11pm.  Accompanying the opening party is the highly anticipated 'Rock of Ages' Exhibition.  This gallery will explore nine major icons in American traditional tattooing through archival flash, contemporary artwork, flash, live tattooing, and more.  You can reserve your free ticket and learn more about the event here.


The May show will feature exclusive releases from tattooers, artists, and shops attending.  We will update this section leading up to the convention as new information comes in.  

This will be your first chance to purchase Afterlife Volume 2 (Chris Garver & Horitomo) by Zac Scheinbaum and Afterlife Press.  The overwhelming response to the sold out Volume 1 should give you the hint to take advantage of this opportunity.

Ben Corn is releasing three books of flash made up of artwork from his mentor, "Rockin" Roger Blankenship.  The project is a tribute to Roger and Almost Brothers Tattoo in Mira Loma, CA which was open from 1990 until 2001 when Roger passed away.  There will only be twenty copies of each book and the Bay Area show is your first chance to purchase them.    

State of Grace Tattoo in San Jose, CA collaborated with Mexico City's Luxiano on a rad new t-shirt that will debut at the convention.  


STAY ALL WEEKEND!  We suggest tattoo collectors purchase the weekend pass and stay in the SFO Hyatt Regency.  In prior years weekend pass perks have included rad shit like t-shirts, tote bags, & lapel pins.  Who knows what you might get this year!  A weekend pass gains you first entry before general admission so you get a jump on that face-to-face with your desired tattooer.  There is also a group rate to book your hotel room but it expires May 1st so get on it!   

HUNGRY?  Places around the hotel we enjoy eating include; New England Lobster Company which is just down the street and Stacks in Burlingame.  Additionally, In-N-Out, Panda Express, and other quick options are about a 5 minute drive.  The hotel's restaurant has some quality options as well.      

CASH IS KING.  This is the tattoo industry so you know most, if not all artists will be asking for cold hard cash in return for your tattoos.  Do not rely on the hotel's ATM machines;  You never know when technology will fail us.  Just to be sure, set your budget and bring your cash.  

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?  While the hotel has reliable wifi, once you are in the ballroom where the convention takes place there is zero service.  This is a heads up in case you have trouble reaching your tattooer.  

FEELING LUCKY?  While several attending tattooers book appointments ahead of time there is a fair share who strictly do walk-ups.  They usually put out a sign-up sheet and it is first come first served.  Our best advice would be to scout the artist(s) you want to get tattooed by before the show by viewing the participant list.  Show up on Friday evening when the convention first opens and go find them!  Depending on when you show, you will probably have to wait in line.  This is where the previously mentioned weekend pass comes into play.  Get in first, find your tattooer first, get tattooed first.   

COLLECT MORE THAN TATTOOS.  At each booth you will find more than just tattooers and their portfolios.  Many artists will be selling art, flash, prints, apparel, accessories, stickers, and more.  Some sell their merchandise exclusive to the convention so it is a solid way to collect rare shit.  Grab a drink at the bars in the ballroom and walk the aisles, spend some cash, and support the tattooers.  

We can not wait for next month!  We hope this article helps you in one way or another.  All in all you have to be present to truly understand the magic that is the Bay Area Tattoo Convention.  Start saving your cash and we will see you there!     

Check out these links:

Bay Area Tattoo Convention 2017 (Timeless Thrills®)

The 14th Annual Bay Area Tattoo Convention (Tattoo Life Magazine)

Burlingame: Tattoo convention is for the purists (The Mercury News)

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