“A tattoo convention is a gathering of artists who are passionate about the art behind tattoos,” Málfríður Sverrisdóttir explains. “So when you’re visiting a tattoo expo,” she continues, “you’re actually going into a really big art show.”
The tattoo artist, who is based out of Hafnarfjörður’s Lifandi List tattoo studio, is one of the organisers of the Icelandic Tattoo Expo, which’ll spray some ink onto the floors of Laugardalsvöllur in early November.
Opening the curtain
The annual convention has been a mainstay of the ever-expanding Icelandic tattoo scene since its inception. This is the 7th iteration of the extravaganza, which will welcome 80 artists representing all corners of the globe, with styles ranging from traditional to neo-traditional to all shades of realism.
The beauty of tattoo conventions is simple: You show up. Check out some artists. Get tattooed, or just watch others in the making. “At the Icelandic Tattoo Expo, you can see the whole process of getting a tattoo, which normally happens in a tattoo shop behind closed doors,” Málfríður explains. “It’s very interesting for people who aren’t really familiar with it to see the whole process.”
For those interested in getting a piece, Málfríður recommends booking in with the artists in advance on their own websites or Instagrams—many are already filling up. That said, she emphasises that you can, of course, just show up to the Expo with an idea and style in mind. Many artists will be taking walk-ins and with the variety offered at the show, you’re bound to find someone you click with.
It’s true that tattoo gatherings used to be associated with unsavoury characters and criminal behaviour, but nowadays, the only danger you’ll probably face is getting a rib-piece without a good breakfast first.
“I remember when I started [tattooing] in 2007, there was a lot of prejudice,” Málfríður says. “Today, everybody has tattoos. Policemen, lawyers, politicians; there’s people in every category of life with them. It’s changed. Now it’s whether you have crappy tattoos made at parties of something compared to just having tattoos in general. It’s not about if you have them, it’s what kind you have.”
The new masters
Málfríður is known for her black and grey realism as well as neo-traditional works. She hasn’t yet booked in anyone for the Expo days, but is hoping to do some neo-traditional pieces there. “It’s a very fun style with beautiful colours,” she explains. “There’s so much artistic freedom in it.” She says she’ll be posting on her Instagram closer to the Expo looking for clients, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re looking for something new.
As for which visiting artists Málfríður is most excited for, she remains genuinely diplomatic. “All of them are our favourites. Every artist is unique,” she says, pausing. “We all have our own styles, just like painters in the old days had their own styles of painting.”
The Icelandic Tattoo Expo will be from November 1st to 3rd at Laugardalsvöllur. Day passes are 2,000 ISK and weekend passes are 3,500 ISK. Tickets just for Sunday are 1,500 ISK. Check out the Facebook event here.
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