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'People aren't afraid to have tattoos' anymore. Cincinnatians flock to Tattoo Festival to see the latest ink

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Ann Thompson
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WVXU
(center) TJ Barksdale of Cat Customs in Killeen, TX travels nationwide with the Tattoo Festival. This weekend he's in Cincinnati with 400 other tattoo artists.

Thousands are expected to see some of the world's best tattoo artists at the Duke Energy Center.

Tattoo artists have come from as far away as Italy and Poland to design, ink, and show off their work for this weekend’s Cincinnati Tattoo Arts Convention.

Organizer and promoter Troy Timpel, who bills himself as a “punk rock skateboard kid who got his first tattoo when he turned 18,” says tattooing has just exploded in popularity in the last decade. He says one in three Americans has one.

As Timpel shows WVXU around at the Duke Energy Convention Center, he explains tattoos are as personal as people themselves, “to remember places, people and things or just a really rad cool skull!”

“One of the newer tattoo styles would be sacred geometry, dot work, black work. There are a lot of artists,” he explains, “that are looking at different textures to really make fantastic artwork.”

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Ann Thompson
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WVXU
(from left) Announcer/Voice of the Tattoo World Carl Blasphemy , Candy Dunbar, Kyle Dunbar and Promoter Troy Timpel in front.

Four hundred of the world’s best tattoo artists are in Cincinnati for the show which runs until 11 p.m. Friday, 11-11 Saturday and 11-8 Saturday. Special celebrities in attendance include Kyle Dunbar of Ink Master fame and his wife Candy. She does permanent make-up and is passionate about helping cancer and burn patients. “Usually, their reaction almost always is crying. It really changes their life.”

Middletown’s Nicki Tate is glad more people are embracing tattooing. She’s been inking for 15 years at her business, Lunar Studio.

“It was popular (tattoos), but not really mainstream. So now we have people who are professionals and can publicly show their work. It kind of changed the whole game,” she says. “People aren’t afraid to have tattoos, it’s awesome.”

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Ann Thompson
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WVXU
Nicki Tate holds up a book of designs from her shop. Chelsea Burmeister is one of her artists.

Ann Thompson has years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology