Over the years, tattoos have become a more widely accepted form of self-expression. The Lower Mainland is dotted with countless tattoo parlors and collectives, as well as tattoo artists working independently in private studios.
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, this community of talented artists was able to come together for the Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Fair.
Hanz Ng, co-owner of WorldWide Tattoo Supply, has attended the Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Show since its inception in 2009.
“We are not artists. We realize after attending salons and meeting tattoo artists that we can’t compete and we can’t compare, so might as well help them,” Ng says of him and his business partner.
More than 20 years ago, Worldwide Tattoo Supply got its start in California, buying needles from acupuncturists, Ng says. Eventually, when acupuncturists realized what needles were for, they were able to make needles exclusively for tattoo artists.
“The business really exploded once the UFC started. That’s when tattoos really started to get popular because the fighters all had tattoos, and it was on TV. So the younger generation started getting tattoos, then basketball players and so on,” Ng explains.
He says he’s noticed how much attendance at the Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Show has increased now that the venue remains in a consistent location. During the show, he saw many of the same faces as years ago when the show started, but also many young and new ones.
While the tattoo community seems to be growing rapidly, many of the people who established themselves earlier on the Vancouver tattoo scene continue to operate as usual. Dutchman Tattoos, owned by artist John Holland, is a prime example. Janet Murray, a longtime friend and customer of the store, says they are celebrating 40 years in business.
“He [practices] traditional Japanese style, that’s where it all started. But it has artists doing all kinds of different styles and approaches. John is amazing,” Murray says.
Spiritual symbols and precious illustrations flow down her two arms, one of which depicts Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion.
“It’s like a master class some days. He’ll take my arm and change every little thing, and it makes such a difference because [of how] our brain perceives things. If we think logically, we don’t notice it,” Murray says. “I think you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their tattoos.”
Rahul Chadha, who attended the Tattoo and Culture show in Vancouver with the support of two friends, was considering getting a tattoo for the first time at the convention.
“I don’t have a tattoo right now, so I thought I’d come here. Get some ideas, then get yourself a flash tattoo,” Chadha says. “The [are] lots of people who are amazing in different ways.
Chadha was one of many participants browsing the buzz of tattoo machines, browsing flash tattoo pages and looking for a free spot with a popular artist.
For those who may not have been so eager to get tattoos on site, the show also had businesses selling one-of-a-kind trinkets, taxidermy, and other one-of-a-kind items.