Calgary Tattoo and Arts Festival marks  20 years with biggest show ever 

While it has grown over the years, the Calgary Tattoo and Arts Festival hasn’t lost its reputation for bringing only the best of the best tattoo artists from around the world.

The biggest show of its kind in Canada, this year’s festival is also the biggest in its history to mark its 20-year milestone, with more than 650 local and international artists and exhibits over 175,000 square feet
of space.

Festival founder and Immaculate Concept owner and tattoo artist Steve Peace says artist participation is by invitation only, ensuring the best of the best from all over the world. The festival has grown from its modest roots, but the essence of the superior talent has stayed the same.

Peace is most excited for a special documentary this year on Calgary tattoo icon Paul Jeffries, a household name in the tattoo industry as he calls it a career after 43 years in the business.

The documentary, 200 Hours, chronicles the end of Jeffries’ illustrious career and his philosophies on tattooing and beyond.

“A lot of Paul’s former clients and colleagues are coming in from all over the
globe to attend, so it should be very fun,” Peace says.

There will be a special premiere screening of the film on Wednesday, Oct. 11 with several special guests in attendance. And the film will run the entire weekend at the festival.

We sat down with Peace to chat about the festival, taking place from Oct. 13 to 15 at Stampede Park’s BMO Centre.

 How has the festival grown since its inception?  

The festival has grown alongside the tattoo industry over the last 20 years. Our first couple of shows were in a hotel, but we had to move to the BMO Centre at Stampede Park as there was not enough space. We were lucky to have guests from the TV show LA Ink in years three to five, which made things expand very quickly. Since then, we have been adjusting the way we run the show to keep it fresh. This year will be our biggest show yet.

What can you say about the city’s tattoo scene?

Tattooing is changing fast in Calgary and every other major city in the world right now. Many new shops and many new artists coming into the scene. While the show does require only established artists in attendance with booths, it is a great way for local studios to represent themselves and show their work to potential new clients.

Any advice for people wanting to get tattooed at the festival?

For people wanting to get tattooed at the show, it has never been easier. We used to have limited artists, which meant a lot were fully booked already once the show dates arrived. Many artists now have flash designs on their front tables and walk -up appointments have never been easier. Clients can check out our artist listings on our website and email any artist ahead of time if they want to guarantee a spot.

What can you say about the quality of the artists at the convention? 

We do have a talent bar each artist has to reach for them to be able to purchase a booth at the show. Having artists from different areas of the world come to the show definitely adds variety to what is available such as traditional hand-tapped works from Tahitian artists to traditional style work from well-established artists who are in their third or fourth decade of tattooing. The level of talent has risen immensely since our first show in 2004. Just watching the tattoo contests shows the level of work that attends the
show each year.

Calgary Tattoo and Arts Festival runs Oct. 13 to 15 at Stampede Park’s BMO Centre.