Tattoo artists from around the world gather for Chicago’s largest tattoo convention

People getting tattoos in all styles and sizes and on all body parts, tattoo and piercing artists, psychic readers, painters and other vendors and performers highlighted the 11th Annual Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention.

About 900 vendors, along with 1,500 local, national and international tattoo artists, came together for one of the largest events Chicago has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

Chicago’s Villain Arts Tattoo Convention was postponed several times and eventually canceled in 2020.

But from July 16-18 thousands of artists and tattoo fanatics were finally able to gather at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road in Rosemont, for a weekend of tattooing, art, magic, performances and more.

Cold Blooded Parties, a traveling reptile show, had a booth at the 11th Annual Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention allowing people to take pictures with snakes. Valentina Pucarelli

Carl Murray, better known in the tattoo community as “Doctor Carl Blasphemy,” the host and master of ceremonies for the Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention, said people were more enthusiastic about coming to this year’s event after last year’s cancellation.

The convention also provided COVID-19 testing and the Johnson & Johnson vaccination.

“We brought in the vaccinations … the Johnson & Johnson, really because it’s a one and done,” Murray said. “We sat home for over a year not being able to do our jobs, so the more people get vaccinated, the more we’re going to have a better chance to do a trade show in the city.”

Murray said face masks were required for those who are not vaccinated.

“The Mad Tatter,” Akia Dubose came from Jackson, Mississippi, to attend the 11th Annual Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention. Valentina Pucarelli

Joey Sherman, owner of Famous Street Tattoo Studio, 1365 N. La Fox St. in South Elgin, said all the artists look forward to the convention, as it gives them a reason to come together.

“All the shops come together, say what’s up, hang out; it’s a big event for everybody here,” Sherman said. “It gives us an opportunity to show our talent as artists, to the land that we’re on, brings more clientele for the shops around, and it generates more revenue for everybody.”

Hundreds of people were seen getting tattooed on Friday, July 16 at the 11th Annual Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention. Valentina Pucarelli

Tattoo and piercing artist Randy Candy Pizza, a former Columbia fashion and stage makeup student, said he noticed the stimulus and unemployment checks given to United States citizens enabled more people to get tattoos.

“A lot of those people are coming to us because now they have money to get that luxury item,” Candy Pizza said.

Nina Flomp, owner of Cry Baby Tattoo, and her husband design a tattoo at the 11th Annual Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention. Valentina Pucarelli

Nina Flomp opened her own tattoo studio in Pilsen called Cry Baby Tattoo in September 2020. She said every day without wearing a face mask is still weird, but she is staying positive.

“To have a convention this size with this many people and people coming in from all over the place to work and come together for the weekend, it’s really exciting, and I think it’s a really important milestone for the pandemic,” Flomp said.