Pacific Ink and Art Expo

Paradise Ink

When photographer extraordinaire, Andrew Brusso, called us from Hawaii to say he had scored tickets for the First Annual Pacific Ink & Art Expo, we immediately took him up on his offer to shoot the show for us. Armed with lights and cameras, Brusso set his sights on the action at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu last summer.

This was not Brusso’s first Hawaiian assignment for S&I, and having experienced his signature style of capturing tattoos on camera, we knew we would get coverage of this happening that no other magazine could touch.

Hawaii is something that every human should experience, and launching a tattoo convention in this heavenly portion of the world seems like a nobrainer. It’s almost impossible to be a student of tattoo history and not have a strong appreciation for the contribution to the art form that has come from these islands. There had been a strong buzz surrounding the PIAE from the moment the show was announced, and the prestigious list of artists and ink impresarios, along with the strong show at the box office, was all anyone who questioned whether a Hawaiian convention would fly, needed to know.

The show itself is a delectable mix of a celebration of Hawaii’s exquisite traditions and culture and cutting-edge sports and entertainment exhibitions. Locals wearing traditional dress and bearing ink steeped in historic patterns and imagery entertained attendees with music and dance performances that were nothing short of captivating. On the other side of the coin. Pacific Ink also featured a classic car show, choppers, and a Miss PIAE contest as well as BMX riders and skateboarders. Pacific Ink was also the first tattoo convention that I can recall that also included eating contests.

The tattooers who made the trip to the Aloha state were a mixed bag of the usual suspects as well as some names rarely seen on convention artists’ roster. Roman, Ruthless, Carlos Torres, Big Gus of TLC ink show, ‘Tattoo Nightmares,” and such legendary names as Rick Walters, Gil Montie, and Lyle Tuttle were among those in attendance for Hawaii’s very first tat fest.

Visitors to the convention ran the gamut from Honolulu residents and locals from other islands to mainland and Japanese collectors, with a pretty good representation of Europeans. As we had hoped and expected, the Hawaiian traditional ink style was prevalent in many of the locals who stepped into Brusso’s shooting space. The mainland traditional style ran a close second, and much of the other ink Brusso captured fell into the Japanese and Latino categories.

Some of the more memorable pieces Brusso captured were that of a Spider man costume sleeve, a number of tribal pattern body suits, a brilliant skull back-piece, and a black and grey side piece of an upside down, high-heeled, future-esque female.

To say that the backdrop of Hawaii in and of itself made this convention a hot ticket is an understatement. The machines roared and the ink was the main attraction during convention hours. However, after-hours gatherings on the beach put all in attendance in a “vacation” mindset, as tattooed flesh poured onto the Pacific Ocean shoreline.

Partying at the Kaneohe Sandbar was as big an attraction as any event or performance on the entertainment schedule. The Sandbar also presented Andrew Brusso with the chance to capture many of the heavily-inked attendees in a more revealing setting. Among these outdoor shoots was a special session with Miss PIAE Contest Winner, Monikka Velvet.

At the risk of alienating our magazine from other conventions, it is worth pointing out that Pacific Ink awarded some of the coolest-looking contest trophies in the history of ink competition. These wooden carvings with engraved plaques added an extra incentive for artists to turn out their very best work in hopes of taking home these beautiful works of art.

It’s almost impossible to be stressed out while experiencing Honolulu, and the spirit of brotherly love among the inked community was as strong as you will find at any festival.

The atmosphere within the confines of the Blaisdell Center was also geared to making the artists feel welcomed and cared for. Any time convention producers put the artists and the ink above all else, they are truly on the path to success. Throw in the fact that the show took place on one of the most beautiful and tranquil places on the planet, and you’ve got yourself a show that just can’t lose.

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