Tattoos are like life’s journals. Some people write about their path in books, and others have their story inked into their skin for all to see. At last weekend’s Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival in Hampton, there were thousands of stories to witness and some new ones being transcribed into the body’s canvas.
Organizer John Cann says the event was a reunion of sorts.
“I think of this event as a macro culture with lots of subcultures,” he said at the start of the seventh annual festival. “You have bikers, musicians, artists ... all kind of groups that have the same thing in common with body art and the culture that surrounds it.
“It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.”
Nearly 10,000 people walked the floors of the three-day event – one of a dozen held around the world the same weekend – getting tattoos or watching others get one. There were tattoo industry booths offering up supplies and lots of vendors selling various types of art and body jewelry.
“This is a festival for people of like minds,” Cann said. “They can all come here and not be judged. Although we do have a few tattoo contests.”
Among the thousands of stories to be told are these offerings:
Mike Chagolla, San Antonio, Texas, tattoo artist
“My art depicts my culture. I’m Mexican, so I have a Mayan mask and an Aztec warrior swinging a weapon at a Spaniard. There’s a lot of money involved, but you can’t put a price on your culture.”
Jenna Stephens, Richmond, tattoo artist
“I lost my leg in a lawn mower accident when I was 4, so don’t let your kids ride lawn mowers. When I started getting tattoos, people always asked me why my prosthesis didn’t have any art. So I found some people that would laminate a T-shirt onto it, and I found a T-shirt that matched my other tattoos.”
The Enigma (Paul Lawrence), the universe, alternative arts performer
“Everything on my body is tattooed except the bottoms of my feet, even the whites of my eyes. My job is to cause problems and make people think about life. I’m basically a puzzle.”
Adam Czerniak, Portsmouth, game shop manager
“My favorite game is “Bioshock.” So the tattoo on my leg is a piece based on the video game. I’ve been playing it for five years and just had to get it. My girlfriend has a matching one.”
Chase Nolan, South Florida, tattoo artist
“The heart on my right hand is my son, Hayze, and the eye on the left is just something my brother doodled for the art. The knuckles are H A R D on the right hand and L I F E on the left.”
Cecilia Patterson, Virginia Beach, tattoo artist apprentice
“My grandmother flatlined in the hospital, and they brought her back. When she woke up, she asked them what they were doing, and she said ‘Just let me go.’ And she loved pink roses. She was such an important part of my life.”
Mike Cann, Norfolk, tattoo artist
“We went to Thailand on our honeymoon, so I got a sak yant-themed tattoo. This is a Thai ghost. They’re based on Buddhist temples. This one was hand-poked where they dip sharp bamboo in ink and poke it into you.”
Brook Lister, Norfolk, promotions for 96X radio
“I had skin cancer ... stage 2 melanoma in 2011, and they did the surgery to take it out in 2012. They had to dig a lot of muscle out at the bicep. I had a big scar and it was depressing when people asked me about it. So I got a tattoo to cover it up, a cocoon and a butterfly to show rebirth.”
Athena Karn, Norfolk, tattoo shop co-owner
“Lady Liberty represents all of us, and all of my clients are all of us. I got it three weeks ago before my 50th birthday because I think all of us need to be together.”
Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, Follow @LeeTolliver on Twitter.