Let Run the Ink


Tattoos have spread like wild fire throughout our culture as an artistic expression of the person who bears the ink as well as the tattooer. The 1st Annual Anchors of Hope Body Art Expo will look to expose the talents of local tattoo artists.

Long has it been since a tattoo symbolized irresponsibility and a lack of respect for society. These days — for the most part, anyway — tattoos have moved into the mainstream spotlight for artistic appreciation. From CEOs to social workers, lawyers to laypeople, the sweet, sweet sight of inked flesh has transcended its muddy past, to become as respected as it is revered.

A fact, mind you, made all the more obvious by the building hype for the upcoming First Annual Anchors of Hope Body Art Expo, a three-day tattoo bonanza (February 28 through March 2) at Fete bringing together the best in the industry.


At the heart of the expo is a “tattoo style competition,” says Chops Gray, director of Marks of Identity, the local tattoo shop behind the expo. Tattoo artists attending the expo are given a certain amount of time each day to create at least two tattoos based on daily-changing categories. At the end of the time slot, industry professionals judge the creations, and winners have a chance of being published in Tattoo’d Lifestyle Magazine.

“So on Friday, for example, the competition runs from 2 to 9 pm, and they have to start the piece and finish in the time slot,” says Chops. “Categories that day include horror, realistic, food, floral, small color, and small black and grey.”

And remember, a tattoo requires skin. Which means that all of these creations must be permanently inked onto someone’s arm, leg, thigh, wherever. For this reason, the expo becomes an interactive experience with audience members, as willing participants for the tattoos are needed.

“If walk-ins want to come get inked, they definitely can come,” says Chops. “They can go to our Facebook page to see little collages of contact info created for the artists who are in the show. Contact the artists through that, so they can predetermine who wants to come in and get a piece.”

Since the expo runs until 2 am, Chops admits that artists can legally tattoo long after the competition time slots end. “If [the artists] really want to work and get their name out there, they can do it until then.”

Starting at 9 pm, after the tattoo competitions end, there will be live musical acts, along with a competition for body paint artistry. “If girls want to be painted –” says Chops, quickly adding that “anyone” can participate, “– they can contact me at Marks of Identity.” First place winners will be published in Tattoo’d Lifestyle Magazine.

All of this exposure is exactly why Chops created Anchors of Hope. He believes the tattoo world has exploded with popularity, and the number of participants at larger tattoo festivals can make it nearly impossible for an individual artist to make a name for him/herself.

“The bigger shows, if you put the time and money into getting a booth, it’s hard to get noticed. There are so many special guest artists, and in a huge show like that, you don’t get the opportunity to be noticed. In this show, we’re giving artists that opportunity.”

Although the show is already filled to the brim with tattoo artists, Chops is happy to hear from individuals looking to participate in the festival’s future expos. “I already have more festivals planned out, so artists should start contacting me today.”

With such avid, passionate tattoo artists as Chops Gray around, it’s exciting to think about where the tattoo industry will continue to go. This writer certainly finds himself already addicted to the touch of ink, and can only hope that it grows all the more accepted with each passing Anchors of Hope festival.

“We’re trying to be the Anchors of Hope for what real body art and tattoos are,” says Chops. “For the artists who are painting, drawing, tattooing, we’re doing this for them.”

Hosted at Fete (103 Dike St, Prov) from Feb 28-Mar 2. Tickets cost $13 per day, $5 for kids under 18, or $30 for all three days. For more information, find Anchors of Hope on Facebook or call Marks of Identity at 401-273-3200.