Get Inked: The Rhode Island Tattoo Expo returns to Providence

The dastardly veil of winter has finally rolled back, and the arrival of long, warm and sunny days means many different things to Rhode Islanders. For some, it means the start of numerous lazy hours spent on the beaches of Newport and Narragansett. For others, backyard barbeques and games of corn hole. But for many of us, the long awaited arrival of spring brings with it the return of the Rhode Island Tattoo Expo to the Convention Center for its second year.

Little Rhody has long been heralded as a haven for both the arts and the counterculture scene. And nowhere do these two worlds collide better than a tattoo convention. I had the privilege to attend last year’s inaugural RITE as a counterculture journalist, and was very much impressed with the quality of exhibits, talents of the featured artists, and the fun events like burlesque shows.

The 2013 lineup is on track to blow away anyone expecting a simple repeat of last year. As event organizer Peter Brouillette says, “The size and scope is considerably larger than 2012: three times the amount of space, a huge increase in production value, and close to 140 booths featuring some 250-plus artists all lend themselves to making 2013 a huge step forward.” But what sets the Rhode Island Tattoo Expo apart from all the rest in New England – Boston, Live Free or Die, Massachusetts Tattoo & Arts Festival, etc.? “On its face, a huge mix of international, national, local, celebrity, award-winning and industry recognized tattoo artists,” he says confidently. “Add in nationally touring bands (such as Death Before Dishonor and B. Dolan), an art gallery, the Tattoo Nation Premiere, our official hostess, local alternative model Jeselyn Online, an art fusion presentation and a fashion show all set us apart – certainly from a New England standpoint.”

Long a staple of the fringe, tattooing has forged its way into 21st century mainstream America through tattoo reality shows and the popularity of celebrity tattooists. One such celebrity being featured at the 2013 expo is Rhode Island native Steven Tefft, winner of season 2 of Spike TV’s Ink Master, a wildly popular tattoo reality show. In addition to meeting fans and showcasing some of his amazing work, Tefft has also launched a portrait tattoo giveaway, worth over $1,000, for anyone affected by the events of the tragic 2003 Station Nightclub fire. To enter, hopefuls must upload an 8×10 portrait to his Facebook fan page, along with their story. The entry with the most votes will be tattooed during the expo weekend. I had the opportunity to ask Tefft a few questions while he was in between customers at his popular CT shop, 12 Tattoos. 

AS: As a New Englander and a native Rhode Islander, how does it feel to be a part of the 2013 Rhode Island Tattoo Expo? 

ST: I’m really excited about going to the expo this year; sadly I wasn’t able to attend last year. Going to the expo will be great, and with it being in my home state, I had to show some support and attend.

AS: What motivated you to do the tattoo giveaway for the Station Nightclub fire? Do you have a personal connection to the tragedy?

ST: I do indeed have a personal connection. I had a couple of friends that were in the fire – fortunately I didn’t lose any. I was supposed to be there that night as well… I know the portrait won’t change what happened, but at least it can bring a piece of a loved one back for someone.

AS: How can fans expect to interact with you as a celebrity tattooist at the expo? Does this illustrious title change how you interact with clients or fans? 

ST: They can bring me drinks! Don’t they know I was famous before I was famous? No, honestly they can just stop by and say hi. It’s awesome to meet fans of my work and meet new people in general.

Attending a tattoo convention is always a unique experience, whether you’re an industry pro, a veteran collector or a curious onlooker. The myriad alternative art, counterculture personalities, great music, amazing performances, celebrity tattooists and pure raw energy of people coming together in a celebration of art has put the 2013 Rhode Island Tattoo Expo on track to be a memorable event that’s not to be missed.

2013 Rhode Island Tattoo Expo

May 10, 11 & 12

Rhode Island Convention Center

1 Sabin Street



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