North Carolina Tattoo Convention, February 15-17th, 2002

Modelling the tattoo with the plaque for 1st Place Tribal

Two months, nine tattoo sessions, two touch-up sessions, and we were ready to head south for the 8th Annual North Carolina Tattoo Convention hosted by Pirate Productions and Little John's Tattoo Shop in Greensboro. The crew from Rising Dragon consisted of Darren, Rico, an ex-employee named Liza, and me. Darren and Rico were going to tattoo; me and Liza were there only to enter tattoos into competition. Out of the four of us Darren was the only eligible driver, so let's just say the trip down there was interesting. We left New York City late Thursday night and arrived in Greensboro Friday afternoon, after a three hour nap at a hotel in Virginia.

Friday we didn't do much. Liza and I donned mini-skirts (to show off the tats) and went walking around the convention. It wasn't particularly large; there was just one room of tattoo artists and one room of vendors (clothing, body jewelry, etc.). Liza and I bought tank tops from the Dallas, TX ladies of Living in Skin (I looked for their webstore but I couldn't find it; they are at most tattoo conventions and you must must must check out their shirts), we browsed the artists' booths, and with just my one leg showing I had many curious people asking about my tattoo. I reassured everyone who asked that on the next day I would be running around the convention nearly naked, and therefore showing off the whole thing.

Let me take this opportunity to talk about appropriate clothing for attending tattoo conventions. See, the goal is to show off as much of the tattoo as possible, while still keeping one's private parts concealed. In addition, one must think about staying warm. And if you are very nervous about exposing flesh, you have to consider all the little bits that you want to keep covered. People take many different approaches to this "showing off the ink" dilemma. Arm tattoos are easy; wear a short-sleeve shirt or roll up a long sleeve. Shoulder tattoos are a little more tricky; if it is warm a tank top does nicely, but if it is cold, an off-the-shoulder shirt is more appropriate. Some people elect to take a perfectly usable article of clothing and cut a big hole in it right where their ink is. I've seen people with a whole thigh missing from their jeans, or the back of a t-shirt cut out.

Prior to the tattoo convention I had a panic attack about what the heck I was going to wear. Darren insisted that I had to walk around the convention showing off the tattoo prior to the contest so that people could get a glimpse of it and stir up some excitement. So I had to find something that would cover all my important parts and yet show off the entire freaking tattoo. This is troublesome for a tattoo that spans my entire left leg, my stomach, and my whole back. I had the bottom part more or less figured out; I had my "tattooing bikini" (a little black bottom with ties on the sides) which I used for the tattoo sessions, and I went to Macy's and bought two sarongs (I gotta have choices, you know??) to wrap around my waist. I figured my left leg would be almost entirely exposed, and to show the whole thing I just had to untie the sarong. My trouble was with the top. I needed something with no back and only a little up front. I searched underwear catalogs, online stores, lingerie departments...NOTHING.

The plaque. No, I didn't get to keep it; it's in Darren's shop.

Me and my always-present friend decided the best option was to go downtown into all those cheap stores in the East Village that sell clubbing clothing that we would never be caught dead wearing. After the fourth store we found exactly what I was looking for. My friend pulled out a hanger with a triangle of flimsy black material and fishing line that somehow made two straps. I tried it on and discovered the neck wire was too short and the back wire was broken. But was five bucks. I figured I couldn't lose for such a small amount of cash, so I purchased the shirt and then bought a roll of fishing line at K-mart. I went home to alter this little piece of material passing for a shirt so it would fit me comfortably; showing off the upper portion of the tattoo yet covering up my chest.

My question: who the hell would have actually bought that if they weren't attending a tattoo convention??? I don't want to know. Truly.

On Saturday I put on my "non-outfit" and sauntered around the convention. It was a bit chilly so I had a floor-length black coat that I could put on when I got cold. Immediately the piece caused a stir. When the first person asked to take a picture, I quickly discovered that in order to expose the whole tattoo properly I had to take off my sarong completely. Otherwise my arm blocked the back portion. So soon I was standing in the hallway, wearing only a bikini bottom, a flimsy piece of material over my breasts, and a pair of high heels, surrounded by about twenty gawkers. At least five flashbulbs went off and as my face started to turn bright red the clasp on the back "strap" came undone. !!! Quickly someone came to my rescue and reattched the clasp. And as luck would have it, she did it wrong; but because of her mistake I am happy to report that the top stayed on for the rest of the day. By the time the contest started later in the afternoon, I was very much accustomed to being almost naked, surrounded by wide-eyed onlookers.

Okay fine. I admit I enjoyed it a bit. The attention certainly fed my ego!

L ro R: Rico tattooing a butterfly knife; Darren continuing a dragon tattoo; progress of dragon tattoo after Saturday's session

On another note, I spent much of the day putting moisturizer on the tattoo. It was horribly dry! Remember we had done the last touch-up session just a week and a half earlier. But it was my leg, from the first touch-up session, which was really troublesome. On Friday it almost looked as if it was still peeling! It was healed, but still very dry and flakey. I was in a panic trying to make sure it didn't look dry for the competition, putting on lotion every half hour or so. Two lovely ladies saw me moisturizing and offerred me a sample of Ink Wax, a new product for healing and protecting tattoos. One of the women came back a little later with a full-size tin of the stuff and remarked, "It's a big need more!" I tried it out and it's a really good little product; it is all natural and smells like lavender. It's non-greasy and is perfect for lubing up ink and making it shine.

Rico and Darren tattooed all day while Liza and I spent our time waiting for the competition and talking to other convention-goers. Liza had two tattoos each entered into two categories: best large, and best color. Each of those categories had over fifty entries, so our wait time was quite long. We watched all the categories, talked with more people, and raised lots of stir about the tribal category and who was going to win.

The competition was MCed by Steve aka "Captain Perv". He saw me snap a picture of him and then playfully remarked, "I love what you're not wearing." Steve would encourage every contestant to show the audience their tattoo after presenting it to the judges, and many whistles and catcalls and what-not would rise out of the audience each and every time.

By the time I got up there I was a huge ball of nerves. I undid the sarong, showed the judges, turned for the audience, and then Steve leaned into me and asked, "Are you shaking 'cause you're cold or nervous?" "NERVOUS!" I yelped, and then quickly tied my sarong and walked back into the audience. The attention was okay out in the hallway and in the convention, but this room packed with people and all the catcalling really got to me!! Especially since by that time I had my own cheering section; a crowd of about twenty who all felt that I deserved to win, and greeted my presentation to the judges with some very loud yelling and screaming.

I won. There were only seven entries, and given the sheer size of this thing, there was really no contest. I have to say that Darren really, really deserved it. Before the contest a lot of artists and tattoo collectors commented on how black the piece was, and they were surprised when I told them we only hit it (tattooed, that is) twice, and that some pieces were only hit once. Black is hard, people. A lot of tribal work ends up bluish and with a lot of faded spots, and that is what some of the entries looked like. This tattoo isn't perfect, but there is no scarring, the lines are all neat and sharp, and the black isn't going to fade any time in the forseeable future.

When I picked up my plaque I was again treated to catcalls and loud screams from my cheering section. When I told Steve who did the work, he yelled out, "It's a damn YANKEE!" I posed with the plaque and smiled really wide as two dozen flashbulbs went off, and when I walked out of the contest area, I was relieved to be away from all of those staring eyes.

Steve aka "Captain Perv", a tattoo artist from Little John's. He invited me back to next year's convention to help him host the contest, on the condition that I wore a similiar outfit...

I immediately went to find Darren, who was busy tattooing in the main room. He gave me a big hug and a congratulations and promised to reimburse me for my convention entrance fee. :) Later we had some pictures taken by Pirate Productions for some tattoo publication at a later date. [Editor's Note] As of May, there's no word on where or how these pictures will show up. Anyone have any info??? On Sunday we packed our stuff up into the car and when the convention ended, had dinner with a whole crew of artists (including "Captain Perv"), and set out back to New York City. We did it in one shot this time, with two of the non-certified-drivers taking the wheel. Let's just say it was another interesting ride. !!!! We made it back to NYC early Monday morning, and although all of us were very tired, we were happy about the outcome of the adventure and also thankful that it had been a safe, fun trip.

Darren wanted to take me to another convention in Pittsburgh, but I had out-of-town plans. I'm also missing the NYC convention. Alas the next convention I'll be at is the New Jersey one, which should be in September. So if you're there, look for the semi-naked girl with the big-ass tattoo. By then I might have found an even better outfit....

The happy artist and his tattooed lady. Like the blue nail polish? And how about that's hardly there!
Thank god I'm not too busty....

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