In its second year, the Fort Wayne Tattoo Festival has really pushed the needle.
When the festival returns to Grand Wayne Convention Center, Friday-Sunday, Aug. 11-13, it will have more than 200 national and international tattoo artists to tattoo thousands of visitors. Tickets are $30 per day or you can purchase a three-day pass for $65. Those 12 and under get in free.
“The Fort Wayne Tattoo Festival is a celebration of tattooing,” co-founder Jake Farris said. “What you’re going to find there are artist booths with over 200 tattooers, and they are there making tattoos. Some of them schedule in advance. Some of them are sitting around waiting to tattoo the people of Fort Wayne. Other people are there to listen to ideas and make a custom tattoo. Some people have a whole book of flash where it’s, ‘Come pick a tattoo that I want to make.’ ”
Fort Wayne Tattoo Festival
Noon-10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13
Grand Wayne Convention Center
120 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne
$30-$65 · (260) 302-2356
Festival organizers Farris and Quinn Hurley, along with Jes Farris, got the idea to create a tattoo festival after taking part in many over the years. As co-owner of Studio 13 Tattoo, Jake Farris has rubbed elbows with some of the best in the business.
“Studio 13 has been fortunate to have always had a great lineup of artists, so we’ve been invited to premier tattoo festivals that are invite-only: You’ve gotta know the right people and you’ve gotta be making great tattoos to be invited to,” Farris said. “We’ve been fortunate to be in that group for a long time.
“We have been able to fine-tune and bring the best possible version to our hometown.”
Along with making contacts on the festival circuit, the trio also met folks along the way while putting on educational seminars.
“In the last seven, almost eight years, we’ve been the leader in tattoo education around the world,” Farris said. “What we do at educational events, kind of similar to a continuing education event, we take the best tattooers in the world, and we put them on stage for people to hear them speak on everything from how they make a tattoo and why they make a tattoo.”
In Fort Wayne, there will be no speakers. Just a lot of tattooing by some of the best.
“You’re not gonna come and see a freak show,” Farris said. “You’re not gonna see a rock band. You’re not gonna see that at the Fort Wayne Tattoo Festival. What you’re gonna do is, you’re gonna come and see some of the best local tattooers and the best tattooers from around the world.”
Artists from near, far
Among the artists paying a visit to the Summit City will be Dave Tevenal of Columbus, Ohio, who has 414,000 followers on Instagram.
“He’s as close to tattoo celebrity as you’ll get,” Hurtley said.
Jeff Ensminger and Nick Baxter of Texas will also be featured, as will Aimee Cornwell, who will be flying in from the United Kingdom.
“She is literally flying from Wales to Fort Wayne for the festival to do tattoos and hang out with us and be a part of us,” Hurley said. “The same thing with Brian Sanchez. He’s coming in from Colombia to do tattoos. Fort Wayne was not on his hot list, I’m sure. If he was looking for vacation time, he’d be going to Chicago or Detroit or somewhere else in the Midwest.
“It’s cool to see these people that have no business in Fort Wayne, Indiana, except for the business they’re coming for,” Hurley said. “Otherwise, they’d never be here.”
Along with the national and international artists, there will also be local representatives.
“There’s a very good amount of local talent coming through like Painted Lady and Studio 13,” Hurley said. “We do have more national and international folks coming in. We have about 45 local artists. Fort Wayne is going to be represented for sure.”
With such hot names coming in, festival organizers have set up a page on their website at fortwaynetattoo.com where you can browse the artists. Each artist has their Instagram handle attached, so you can reach out to schedule an appointment if you’d like.
However, if you’re the adventurous type, you can buy your ticket and wander the artists, looking for one that has an opening. Either way, you’re gonna get high-quality ink.
“We’re not an invite-only festival, but we are particular about who we let in,” Farris said. “Every artist can apply. That doesn’t necessarily mean every artist gets in. We want people to schedule in advance and come through and know they’re going to get a great tattoo.”
Gauging from last year’s turnout and reception, it’s clear the festival is a hit with crowds and artists. It’s also been a hit for downtown Fort Wayne.
“The support we received from the local community was fantastic,” Hurley said. “The businesses that let us hang flyers or host after-parties. Even the surrounding restaurants in downtown.
“Downtown is severely different than it was five years ago, and even more different than it was 10 years ago. For people to be able to walk out of the Grand Wayne Center and eat at Proximo, The Hoppy Gnome, Copper Spoon, and all those restaurants that are right there. We had some many tattooers that came in from out of the town that now think Fort Wayne is a culinary mecca.”
So along with booking appointments with tattoo artists, you might want to be sure to book reservations at your favorite restaurant that weekend. And if you have friends or family coming into town that weekend, you might tell them to book their hotel ASAP.
“All three of the hotels surrounding us were sold out for the weekend last year,” Hurley said. “By the time we get there again this year, I’m certain we’re going to be in that same boat.”
Something for everyone
That kind of a reaction to the festival shows the enthusiasm people have to tattoos.
“We do this a festival because we consider it a celebration of tattoo,” Hurley said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to celebrate the art and culture of tattooing.”
And those celebrating tattoos cover every demographic — although you’ll have to be at least 18 if you’re looking to get work done at the festival.
“Tattoos aren’t just for bikers, sailors, and floozies anymore,” Farris said. “When I first started in this industry, I used to be able to sit at the front door of my shop and see people pull up and know whether they were coming into my shop or one of the adjacent businesses. Now, grandma pulls up and hops out with her stack of papers and is coming into the tattoo shop to talk about the tattoo she has always wanted.
“Tattoos are for everyone, and it’s been great to be a catalyst for that in the industry,” he added. “Helping change those stereotypes.”