In the past 9 years traveling and working convention booths for TATSoul, I have only attended a Hell City event, one time prior to this past show. Back in early 2009 we released our first Envy Needle and all we really sold at the time was a few different model chairs. I was working as THE outside sales rep for TATSoul. Hell City was one of the very first shows I attended, and my job was to pass out sample needles.
The show was held at the beautiful, historic Biltmore Hotel and Spa. It has been said that nearly every president that’s been alive during the time has stayed there at least once since its opening in 1929. Not that anyone cares, it’s just cool to know that you might sketching for your morning appointment or watching porn in the same room that Herbert Hoover slept in.
It was my first year being a part of the tattoo community and I was overwhelmed by the caliber of talent. You could walk around and see guys like Nick Baxter tattooing a Venus fly trap, eating a bee, propped up on a piece of fruit or Hell City home town favorites like Kore Flatmo throwing down a perfect pluribus skull. I remember being seated next to Skull & Sword which was awesome and handing Grime a sample one of our needles to try out. It felt like an all-star game for tattoo artists.
Fast forward to today, and this would be TATSoul’s first time back to the show in 8 years. It’s almost like those movies were the hero is left to embark on his own adventure only to return to his birth right like the sword in the stone. Only my birth rite was in the form of a traditional whipped magnum needle. Durb was one of those names I constantly heard about but only had the pleasure of meeting a few times. I remember bumping into him one time at another convention and hearing him talk about True Tubes. It’s awesome to see how far along both respected companies have come. I also want to mention how cool Durb has always been to us through the years. This guy has shouted us out and included us in any video he has made on artist caring for their bodies without us even asking him to include us. We have nothing but love and respect for him.
This was mine, as well as my best friend and travel buddy’s (TATSoul’s Creative Director) first time in Ohio. I honestly in my whole life had such a racial profile of the state. I pictured cows and lots of white people who drove John Deer tractors and wore straw hats and were Trump fanatics. I also assumed people would imagine I knew Kung Fu, had a tattoo of a Koi fish and was good at video games. Columbus was quite the opposite. It was a progressive town. We completely immersed ourselves in the city, soaking up the local recommendations of places to eat and drink after the show.
Before every trip I like to map out local skate parks, because as much as I love being at the show and meeting artists, I like to see what the city has to offer. One of the oldest skate parks in the US is located in Kettering, OH. It was designed in the early 1970s by Tony Hawk’s father and features a classic snake run. I recommend to any tattoo artist looking to get a little exercise before the show. It is located next to the Columbus River and has the most gorgeous skyline to take a picture and upload to your Instagram. Our hotel was actually next to the head office of the White Castle fast food chain which was cool to see, as they were going to be tearing it down in the next few months.
Our TATSoul booth for this year ended up not being on the main floor but on the art fusion floor with a bunch of other vendors and artists. The main floor was beautiful though. What I dug the most, is unlike all the other shows, where the setup is so basic; black cloth hanging in a big room with white tables, this show has theme to it. You felt like you were a part of something more than just a convention. There were mascots walking around, signs on the wall that resembled amusement parks with arrows pointing. It had a much more creative and fun element to it. They had an art fusion project with some legendary names: Paul Booth, Filip Leu, and Guy Aitchison. The project is an art performance that involves between 3 to 5 artists collaborating, changing canvases every 3 to 5 minutes, and completing pieces of art done in charcoal, color pastels, or other mediums. Burlesque shows, porn stars, wrestling giants are all just additions that set the vibe. An interesting fact is, this year, the show was held on the same weekend as a senior prom and an anime expo. This means, at any moment a guy dressed to the 9’s as Raiden from Mortal Kombat could be in front of your booth showcasing his fake powers. You would look over and see a crowd full of senior prom-goers, reminiscent of Pretty In Pink huddled together discussing who was old enough to get tattooed. All I could think about was how interesting that would’ve been to experience that in your prom.
This show was important, not just because it’s such a rad group of artists in one place, but for us specifically because we were unveiling our ENVY CARTRIDGES. Why is this such a big deal? I’ll tell you why, because we didn’t take the lazy way out and source some crap from China. It’s our actual premium Envy Needle pins in every single cartridge. Anyways, we were stoked to have them and we were even more stoked that artists loved them.
The whole weekend was awesome, we got to meet some guys we have only ever see their names pop up in our backend from ordering and catch up with some friends. At one point, a friend and artist came up to our booth looking defeated grabbing his lower back after a sparring sesh with Durb. I asked him what was wrong, He said “Durb doesn’t play fair” I told him “what do you expect, you’re in Hell City, you have to play dirty!” On the last night as we got in our Uber back to the hotel, our driver had saw our badges and it immediately gave him the green light to ask us about tattoos. He told us about his idea of a sort of symbol that represented his family and showed us the image on his phone and it looked like a tattoo that you would put on someone in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game when you’re customizing a character. It was literally a tribal armband with a Celtic design in the middle. We told him to go see Durb! I’m finally glad we came out of purgatory to experience Hell City again for the first time in years. Thank you Durb and the staff members. We had a HELL OF A TIME 😈
– George Wang, Outside Sales