By Rob Bradfield
Waco is the next stop for a festival that both hardcore and casual fans of skin art can enjoy.
The Immersed in Ink Tattoo and Arts Festival is making a stop at the Waco Convention Center February 24-25.
Tickets are $20 per day and $35 for the weekend.
Among the tattoo-related attractions will be artists’ exhibitions, tattoo clinics, live tattooing and skin art contests.
The festival has attracted some of the best tattoo artists from Texas and across the nation, such as Vinnie “Hottdogg” Romero from Nebraska’s Authentic Ink, and a host of Austin-based artists.
“You can get tattooed on the spot from one of the hundreds of different artists from across the country, without having to waste your time driving around,” Amy Garfield, owner G-Force Productions, said.
G-Force Productions is the company that organizes the festivals.
The festival has been traveling across the country for seven years, but this is its first stop in Waco.
Garfield said the goal of the festival is to expose as many people as possible to quality tattoo art.
In addition to the tattoo exhibitions, the festival will feature a variety of countercultural acts and other entertainment.
This weekend’s entertainment includes live music, roller derby shows and human suspension exhibitions where participants are suspended midair by hooks under their skin.
Garfield said the event is meant to have more of a family atmosphere than other similar festivals, but the entertainment schedule will still be packed.
“There’s pretty much something going on on the stage at all times,” Garfield said.
The Immersed in Ink festival might be coming just in time for local tattoo artists.
Kegan Eastham, an apprentice at the local tattoo parlor Art Ambush, said tattooing in Waco has been struggling with legitimacy, and a bad reputation, for a long time.
“When I first came here, it wasn’t the good side of tattooing that was famous in Waco,” Eastham said.
Eastham, originally from Fort Worth, has been tattooing for close to two years and considers it another form of art.
Eastham said legitimate shops in Waco have to compete with amateur artists operating out of their houses.
Legitimate shops like Art Ambush are required by the Texas Department of State Health Services to follow strict guidelines for cleanliness, protective gear and equipment sterility. Eastham said an ideal tattoo parlor should be part art gallery and part hospital, but it’s the dedication to the artistic side that brings tattoo aficionados together for festivals like Immersed in Ink. “It’s like an art show on people,” Eastham said.