The Florence Tattoo Convention is an annual event in Florence, Italy, held at the Fortezza del Basso, a Renaissance fort that has been converted into a convention center.  It hosts world-renowned tattoo artists, body piercers, musicians, and interesting people of all ages.  This year, there were more than 300 booths, with people being tattooed and pierced in front of a live audience, in addition to jewelry, clothing, food, and equipment for sale.  It was a cool environment where people could express themselves and show off their body art.

Walking in, the first thing I thought of was how cool it was to be around a bunch of unique people.  Usually, in Florence, I’m the one being stared at.  A 6’3″ half-black kid with dreads is sure to cause attention in this city. But at the convention, there were people with incredible looks: face tattoos, sleeve tattoos, full-body tattoos, crazy piercings, and bright-colored hair.  And, best of all, there were so many other people with dreads, too!

A little girl with actual “sleeve” tattoos 😉

I was there to film a short video of the event for my internship at StudentsVille.  We were met at the entrance by one of the Tattoo Convention staff, who walked us around for a quick tour.  We started at the art gallery section, where there was an exhibition of paintings done by some of the tattoo artists at the event. There was a variety of work, from abstract to realistic. I liked this part because it showed how the artists’ creativity could be just as good on canvas as on skin.

Some of the tattoo artists’ off-skin work

After the paintings, there was a unique, live contemporary art exhibit, “Human Installation 0: Chrysalis,” by Huma Entertainment Show. A women was “locked up” in a sheer blanket cocoon for 27 hours.  The girl basically slept inside while her heart was monitored and the whole thing was streamed online in real-time.  I didn’t entirely understand the concept, but it was supposed to represent metamorphosis and rebirth. They’ve performed the exhibit several times before, including outside in a piazza in Rome.

We spent the rest of the time walking around the booths, admiring tattoos and the live tattooing process.  We were able to get interviews with artists and with people who just loved tattoos.  The common denominator between everyone there seemed to be that no one was shy.  One man got our attention by offering us complimentary condoms, cracking jokes, and telling stories about the biker group he and his tattoo-artist friend are a part of.  He professed his love for tattoos and pointed out which ones were done by his friend.  He then continued to show us every last tattoo he had, which lead to him taking off his pants to make sure we didn’t miss any (there was only one he didn’t show us; I’m sure you can guess where it was).  The funniest part was that he wasn’t even the only one to strip for us that day.

Firenze Tattoo Festival
The tattoo count strip

I was really impressed by the wide variety of artists and techniques represented at the convention.  Walking around, you could see banners from Italy, Japan, New Zealand, and many more.  It was like a tattooing heaven.  Each artist had there own style, ranging from modern to traditional.  One of the most interesting to watch was New Zealand “hand-tapping,” by Brent McCown of Tattoo Tattau.  The technique is similar to a tattoo machine, but at a much slower speed. Inked needles are manually “tapped” into the skin with a small mallet, over and over, to produce the design.  We got to interview McCown and get a close up of shot of the giant tattoo that covers half his face and head.

I don’t have any tattoos, but being surrounded by tons of people literally covered in them, and the fact that some booths were open to walk-ins appointments, made me want one more than ever. Smaller designs, from world-famous artists, started at around €100.  But, in the end, the only thing that I walked away with from the convention was a bigger appreciation for tattoos, about 100 free stickers that I snagged from almost every booth, a condom from an almost-naked biker.