Stepping Into a Time Machine: The Star of Texas Tattoo Convention

Star of Texas Tattoo Convention

“Congratulations, you’re hired!” said the voice on the phone happily.

At that moment things went quiet in my house and I started swimming in my head. Is this really happening?

I was 18, freshly out of highschool, and on a whim I applied to work at a tattoo shop on 6th street in Austin, Texas. They weren’t really wanting fresh meat as their counter help… right?

Star of Texas Tattoo Convention

Little did I know that this job would mold and change me forever. I was accepted. I had awesome friends. I knew all the bartenders, door people, and ‘celebrities’. Hot damn. I scored the greatest job on the face of the planet. But there was one major ‘flaw’.

Tattoo Convention

Joey decorating a Kewpie to head back to Japan.

In 2001, tattoos and piercings were still considered taboo. You can imagine the freak out my parents had when they learned of my new career.

Star of Texas Tattoo Convention

Walking into the 2013 Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival (a tattoo convention) made me feel like an old timer. I was able to experience the community as a small, close knit group of people. Now the industry has been blown open wide with reality TV shows and big named pop stars showing off their new ink proudly. Hell would have frozen over in 2001.

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Now I mainly go to check out the art and hopefully bump into some old friends from ‘back in the day’. As for the current heavy hitters, I’m obsessed with the guys over at Triple Crown and can always visit our friend and tattoo artist, Zach Nelligan. He is one of the few people I can chat about Reykjavik with!

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We were scoping out a few people for the sleeve that Shaun wants (one day when we amass so much money we can travel AND get tattooed). Of course, the one guy we would consider for any future projects with is based out of London. Looks like we may need some extra cash the next time we visit our friends. But that is how we roll. We go to see the art, its development, and who fits our style.

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I always leave impressed and have to drag myself out of the convention hall without buying an art piece (in this case, a $200 hand-painted saw) or clothes… and sunglasses, or new jewelry for my ears. You get the point. It is strange to think that Austin and tattoos now go hand in hand.

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Did I tell you about the time that we were traveling in Central America and a backpacker went up to us and sarcastically said, “Oh, man. You guys must be from Austin.” with no previous introductions?


But it is insane to think 12 years have passed since I first walked into those doors with the faint buzzing and the strong smell of green soap. I still feel nostalgic when I smell it. It smells clean. Add in some Social Distortion or Portishead and feel like I’ve stepped into a time machine.

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While 2 months later the US suffered from 9/11 and my job hung on oh-so-delicately for the next 2 years due to economic downturn, I couldn’t have asked for a better, eye opening experience.

Each person has their connection to the industry and their tattoos. Do you have tattoos? Do you want any? Would you get tattooed while traveling? What is your story?

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20 Responses to “Stepping Into a Time Machine: The Star of Texas Tattoo Convention”

  1. Sarah January 30, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    I have 3 tattoos, 2 of which I got illegally before I was 18. While I no longer identify with some of the ideals behind the ink, I’d much rather add to or alter them than get them removed. They are part of who I am and my story and when I finally get enough $ I’ll add more pictures to the story book! 🙂

    • Erica January 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      Same here. While I don’t think I would have picked the same tattoos that I have now, I still love them dearly. Shaun’s turn is next. I have to wait FOREVER.

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures January 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    I’m the same as Sarah, except I have 4 tattoos that I got before 18 and I absolutely hate. I’m dying to have them covered up with something else.

    • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      You have 4 tattoos?! That caught me off guard! I’m sure they can be covered with something pretty!

      • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

        Haha yes! Do I come across as a goody two shoes??? 😉 I have many wild stories!

        • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

          Oh no – not at all. I’m sure you have wild stories. I just didn’t think tattoos!

  3. Maria | Acceleratedstall January 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I’m the tabula rasa – blank slate, no tattoos and happy that way but I do thoroughly enjoy looking at the art others sport and hearing the tales.

    • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      They aren’t for everyone (and I would actually prefer if less people had them!). Glad you can enjoy the work though!

  4. Arti January 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    I dont have any tattoos nor can I imagine myself having one!!

    • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      To each their own, right? 😀

  5. Tara January 31, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    I would LOVE to get a tattoo. Maybe as a 30th birthday gift to me from me…
    As for what I want? I want a Flame Lily (Gloriosa superba) and a King Protea in an arrangement on my ribs. Not too big though. Flame Lily for my home country (Zimbabwe) where I grew up, and a Protea for where I live now; South Africa.

    Where? WildFire Tattoos in Cape Town. Hands down 🙂

    • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      Oooh that would be a great 30th birthday present. You’re pretty ballsy going for the ribs!

  6. Nico January 31, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    I don’t have any tattoos but I absolutely love them. People with full body tattoos are beautiful. Plus, it’s fascinating that everyone has a story to tell about each piece they have. If I had all the money in the world, and weren’t a weenie, I’d have a huge back piece of the solar system.

    • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      If I only had the money…

  7. Rachel February 1, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    I’ve got 5 tattoos. 2 were before I was 18 but I got them in Maryland and they were actually legal. There’s only one that I wish I’d picked a little differently, and my more recent ones are just awesome every time I see them.

    • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      So many people got tattoos before they were 18. So crazy!

  8. Matthew Karsten February 1, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    No tattoos yet, been thinking of getting a Sak Yant one from the monks here in Thailand though. It’s like tattoo roulette! You don’t know what it will be or where it will go… 🙂

    • Erica February 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      I totally want to do that Matt. It is on my bucket list and I want them to pick a spot (not that I have TOO MUCH to choose from now).

  9. GiselleandCody February 12, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Love it!! Tattoo conventions are the best!!! Maybe not the best place to get tattooed seeing as how everyone jacks the prices up Hahaha We checked out the Kathmandu Tattoo Convention while in Nepal and had so much fun. We would also love to have a lot of money and travel the world and get tattooed!!! 🙂 We have managed to get 5 tattoos while we have been on this trip so far.

    Have you guys been tattooed while travelling?

    • Erica February 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      We had the opportunity to get tattooed while we were in Argentina by these awesome guys. Super happy with the work!

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