The Taste of Ink | St. John’s Tattoo Convention

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The sixth annual St. John’s Tattoo Convention makes its long-awaited return this July, serving as a touch-point for the boom of ink-enthusiasts across the province

At long last, the sixth annual St. John’s Tattoo Convention returns amidst multiple pandemic delays this July 1-3 at the RE/MAX Centre in St. John’s.

Rising out of North America’s oldest city and hosted by renowned local tattoo authority Trouble Bound Studio, the convention will host 75 brilliant tattooists from across the globe over three days that celebrate a mutual love of art that literally goes skin deep.

For convention founder and Trouble Bound Studio owner and long-time tattooist Dave Munro, the ebb and flow of the tattoo industry, and indeed the gradual growth not only worldwide but here on the island, has been something to behold. 

“My industry has changed dramatically in the time period in the life-cycle of me being here,” shared Munro in a sit-down at Trouble Bound in downtown St. John’s. “I started visiting in ‘99 and I moved here in 2000.”

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Munro, an Ontario born and bred student of the game who opened Trouble Bound in the summer of 2003, was long-aware of the opportunity to grow the market for tattooing on an island where the medium has often been appreciated far more readily than abroad.

“If you take Newfoundland versus the rest of Canada, where tattooing was linked to many of the trade bases of small communities or just the communities in general here, there’s always been a higher rate of people with tattoos in Newfoundland than there has been throughout the rest of Canada,” Munro shared. 

Changing the stigma

“As it has become far more acceptable you’re sort of seeing that number being one in four or dropping to one or two people between certain age gaps that have tattoos and then accessibility is a huge thing as well, and comfort to it. Television and shows and social media provides a certain comfort level. You have elements of tattooing that will still be sort of a renegade version of these things, but they’re going to be things that cross the line … So a lot of it comes down to, not just necessarily how socially acceptable it becomes, but understandable. If someone doesn’t feel threatened by a visual, they’re not likely to react in the same sort of way.”

A far cry from what Munro described as a “homespun backyard industry,” tattooing has emerged as a global phenomena, no longer reserved for punk musicians or sailors. No, everyone from your grandma to businessman is ‘tatted up.’ 

The now annual and much in-demand St. John’s Tattoo Convention capitalizing on that very fact, began modestly and by near word of mouth.

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“When I started coming out here, part of the reason that I was approached on it was a large volume of, say, more custom based tattooing which I was doing, didn’t exist here. It was a very traditional shop,” Munro explained. 

“As I would travel to other conventions, which I used to do two or three Canadian and one international a year for years, it would be ‘I’ve always wanted to see this place’ (Newfoundland). And in particular with the first one, almost everybody that was coming to Newfoundland had family ties, whether they were one generation removed or six. 

“They needed to come home or see the place that their family generated from that had really no frame of reference other than nostalgic stories from their folks. So there was a really big sort of aspect of that for the first convention with the tattooists wanting to be here, wanting to sort of experience Newfoundland to a certain extent, get in touch with family.”

Morphing today into a well-attended event with over seven dozen tattooists from Canada, the U.S. and U.K., Munro describes the convention as having “a festival atmosphere,” and that, when you head through those doors, the odds of acquiring new ink rise exponentially.

‘Festival atmosphere’

“It has a sort of festival atmosphere to it like, ‘There’s a bunch of stuff all in one room and I need to see it all.’ I would say most of the people that come through the door get tattooed. A very, very large amount of people who come through the door get tattooed. Just by our average weekend numbers, one in three get tattooed. It could be something big, it could be something small. A very large amount of people coming in, that’s their intent from the get go.”

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What can the inexperienced convention layperson expect? Munro smiles.

“The first encounter will be walking into a room with probably 75 tattoo machines going. So there’s a buzz. It’s in between like a swarm of bees and a small propeller going on a boat. It’s quite dramatic,” he laughs. 

“Coming into that room, there’s already this tension that you can almost feel because of the noise. As you sort of move through it, if you’re unfamiliar with, I guess, tattooists, you’re slowly getting embraced into that reality. 

“There’s a fever pitch that hits,” he adds. “There’s a number of people who come to the convention that I’ve literally watched get seven or eight tattoos over a weekend, just happily bouncing from booth to booth … it’s just not unusual. It happens a lot. So the room in itself becomes a generation point. A lot of the genesis to the process is built out of that particular environment and ambiance.”

Weekend passes are available online only for $30 at brownpapertickets.com/event/5412985. Day passes will be sold at the door daily for $15. For more info call 709-754-5590 or visit www.stjohnstattooconvention.com or troubleboundtattoos.com

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