published Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Skin art on display at the Chattanooga Convention Center (with video)

Chattanooga Tattoo Convention continues today
With more than 100 vendors, the ink started to flow at the first-ever Chattanooga Tattoo Convention at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Friday. Patrons can find everything from original artwork, to handmade jewelry, to human suspension and, of course, tattoos are available. The event is open from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Anna Freels, left, watches as Katie Fisher from Ink & Leather Social Club in Knoxville, Tenn., tattoos a sithe on Justin Duncan's arm during the first day of the 2013 Chattanooga Tattoo Convention on Friday.
Anna Freels, left, watches as Katie Fisher from Ink & Leather Social Club in Knoxville, Tenn., tattoos a sithe on Justin Duncan's arm during the first day of the 2013 Chattanooga Tattoo Convention on Friday.
Photo by Dan Henry.
  • photo
    Katie Fisher from Ink & Leather Social Club in Knoxville, Tenn., tattoos a sithe on Justin Duncan's arm.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo


What: Chattanooga Tattoo Convention

Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1500 Carter St., Exhibit Hall C

Admission: $20 for day ticket, kids under 12 free

Time: Noon-7 p.m. today

One man said it could be compared to the life a vampire might lead. Here, away from the mainstream, like-minded people come together, remove the masks and show their true colors -- and there are a lot of colors at a tattoo convention.

Fred Schiller, a Knoxville resident, said Saturday he has a thing for vampires. And Kat Von D. When the world-famous tattoo artist Von D (or von Drachenberg) put on fangs and took to the nocturnal scene as a vamp in 2009's "The Bleeding," it was a beautiful marriage for him, he admitted.

But that may not be a conversation Schiller could have with a client at his day job. He works in commercial refrigeration, he said Saturday. On the job, he takes the dangling earrings and the lip ring out.

"I'm intimidating enough with these," he said, holding up both arms. Each is more than 80 percent covered with ink sleeves. Almost all his tattoos were done by Danny Fugate, Schiller's brother and organizer of the first Chattanooga Tattoo Convention.

A few hundred people moved through Exhibit Hall C in the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday afternoon, the second day of the event. Regional tattoo artists set up booths in the large hall and many offered tattoos on the spot.

Rik Sharp, an artist from Cookeville, Tenn., said he was giving tattoos at a $100 base price. He said at his home shop, True Love Tattoo, the base fee is $50, but he was charging more at the convention to cover his registration and booth fees.

Not all ink

A burlesque show interrupted the chatter of the hall and the buzz of tattoo guns Saturday evening, and costumed performers took the hall's main stage. It was all part of Fugate's plan.

"Chattanooga's a great city," he said Saturday. "It has a lot to offer." He said East Tennessee has a large population of people with tattoos, and that led him to expand the convention from his home city of Knoxville. He said the goal was to help draw out-of-town artists to the city. One tattoo and piercing supply vendor came all the way from Detroit.

"It gives residents a chance to be tattooed by someone they normally wouldn't," Fugate said.

Tattoo education

Part of Saturday's events was the idea of tattoo education, or teaching the non-inked what to look for and expect when getting a tattoo.

"There are more bad tattoos out there than good," Kris Richter said Saturday. She left a career as an architectural engineer to preach tattoo education.

She admitted the idea is automatically dismissed by some people. But educating the public could lead to cleaner, safer experiences and the clearing up of falsities that circulate about tattooing. For instance, she said, even with new technology, having ink done hurts.

"You're shoving a needle in your body numerous times a minute over and over again," she said. "It's not licked on by kittens."

And a growing fascination with tattoos in recent years has created what Richter called "the worst-case scenario." Inexperienced clients walk into a local shop, haggle over price, describe a vague vision and walk out with a terrible tattoo, she said. Or worse.

"You could lose your life," she said. Blood-borne pathogens and staph infection can wreak havoc on the human body, and both can invade if a tattoo artist's tools aren't clean.

For more information on tattoo education, go to For more information on the upcoming Knoxville Tattoo Convention, go to

Contact staff writer Alex Green at 423-757-6731 or

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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