Got ink? This weekend's United Ink Tattoo Expo offers the chance to be tattooed by some of the top artists and mingle with tattoo aficionados as they converge on Nassau Coliseum. The three-day expo celebrates the art form with live tattooing and piercing, seminars, performances and even a beauty pageant.
The extensive lineup is part of a quest to "bring tattooing to the face of the public," says organizer Lou Rubino Jr., owner of Tattoo Lou's six locations. "Where else are you going to go to see hundreds of tattoo artists tattooing in one place?"
AT THE EXPO
About 40,000 people are expected to attend, Rubino says. A range of tattoo styles -- from realistic portraits to bold lettering -- will be on display, as nearly 500 tattoo artists from New York to China and Spain work at booths. Tebori tattoos (a traditional Japanese hand-poking technique) are a highlight. "It's pretty time consuming," Rubino says. "We have a little stage set up so people can come and watch."
Tattoo appointments can be made at the expo, but Rubino recommends inquiring with artists in advance via newyorktattooshow.com. Prepare to spend $200 to $600 for tattoos, depending on the artist and complexity of design. Appointments with so-called "old-timers" who tattooed in the 1950s will also be available.
Selden tattoo artist Jason Mohl, known as "Irish Jay," says the expo is a platform to showcase work -- but with dozens of passersby looking over shoulders, it makes for a challenging experience. "As a tattoo artist, if you do something 10 percent wrong, you're unemployed," says Mohl, 42, of Wading River. "You're only as good as your last tattoo."
While he says he's disappointed by his portrayal (and firing) from TLC's "NY Ink," Chris Torres is looking forward to showing his chops at the expo. "I'm not going to let something walk out that's not worthy of having my name on it." says Torres, 35, of Brooklyn.
BEYOND LIVE TATTOOS
Artists will paint or draw at easels set up throughout the expo floor. If you're a fan of Salvador Dali, check out "Dali Dynasty" -- an exhibit featuring the work of Francisco Poblet, 80, of Manhattan, who studied with Dali (works from $30). Shoppers can also buy tattoo-inspired clothing ($15-$30 for shirts) and body jewelry ($10-$50). Body piercing ranges from $30 to $100.
Those interested in learning about the industry can choose from a variety of seminars such as black and gray shading techniques for $100-$150 each.
Family-friendly entertainment such as magic shows is scheduled in a designated kids zone with face painting and temporary tattoos.
Entertainment for adults is a bit more extreme. Joshua Carlton, known as JC XtINKed, will perform original raps suspended 15 feet from the ground by 2-inch long shark hooks in his back.
"Of course it hurts," says the tattoo artist and piercer from Glen Cove. "It's the closest thing to flying."
If all that action isn't enough, head to the Miss United Ink Pageant, where ladies will show off their tattoos for a cash prize and a photo spread in Rebel Ink magazine. Arielle Tatiana Naughton, 27, of Mastic Beach, is one such competitor. She has more than 10 tattoos from the "Alice in Wonderland" scene on her arm. For Naughton, tattoos are deeply meaningful. "It's a form of self-expression that's different," she says. "It's something that you have with you forever."
INFO 516-794-9300, newyorktattooshow.com
ADMISSION $18.50 (free ages 12 and younger) or $40 for a three-day pass
6 p.m. Coney Island Freak Show performance with the world's strangest strongman, a sword swallower and more.
8:45 p.m. JC XtINKed performs hip-hop suspended in air. Aerialist Seanna Sharpe, who showcases moves with Cirque du Soleil-style ribbons, accompanies.
5 p.m. Live music from the American Bombshells
5:15 p.m. Miss United Ink Pageant finals