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Last updated: March 20. 2013 1:09AM - 1689 Views
By Rich Howells, Weekender Editor



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Michael “Woody” Wodock has tattooed a wide variety of clientele, but the woman standing in the corner of the Electric City Tattoo Gallery (620 Spruce St., Scranton) on Thursday afternoon presents a different type of canvas.

It's a wooden cutout of a pin-up girl holding a giant light bulb, her bare arms and legs waiting for tattoos to be painted on them later that day. Wodock, one of several partners in the shop, sticks his bearded face into the hole where hers should be, laughing as her explains how this fits in with the traditional county fair atmosphere of the Electric City Tattoo Convention at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center (100 Adams Ave., Scranton) on March 22-24.

“We try to keep things very simple. We want to keep it about tattooing. We want to keep the historic aspect of tattooing there but let it be as it evolved as well,” Wodock said.

“This year, we have belly dancers and we're bringing back the magician and the juggler. We try to keep it family-oriented so if somebody has a little kid, it's not obscene for them to come out to an event like this. It's supposed to be for everybody to enjoy. Even though little kids can't get tattooed, if parents have a hard time getting a babysitter, we want to make it available to everyone.”

Pie-eating and hula hoop contests; glassblowing; arts and crafts, vinyl records, and old collectibles for sale; and even classic haircuts and straight razor shaves provided by Loyalty Barber Shop & Shave Parlor all add to the vintage ambiance of the fourth annual convention, which brings tattoo artists and ink enthusiasts together from across the country for an assembly that is increasingly more embraced by mainstream culture.

“I think tattoos have become more acceptable. I forget what the number was – it's like one in every three people has a tattoo now. We get all walks of life in (our shop) getting tattooed, so it's the same thing for a convention,” Wodock, a longtime piercer and recent tattooist, noted.

But what makes this convention stand out isn't just the over 100 artists slated to be in attendance or the exciting entertainment, but the fact that each aspect, even down to its promotion, is made by hand, retaining that feel of a bygone era with a modern twist.

“All of our posters are made by Revival Letterpress, and those are all handmade. It's our design, then it goes to (Revival owner/operator) Matt Hiller, and he refines it a little bit to make it a linoleum block print and does all the letter pressing for it,” he pointed out.

“A lot of things are just done by hand, and we like that aspect of it. All the t-shirts are done by AxelRad (Screen Printing and Graphic Design) in Wilkes-Barre. Those dudes are another small local company, and again, all work by hand. We like it because they let us participate in the process, too.

“We get to hook our friends up with some business, and in turn, we get a good product.”

There are also pre-convention and after parties planned that are open to the public, but the primary focus, as always, is on tattoos. A crowded ballroom of buzzing needles will be busy throughout the weekend, so Wodock suggests an early arrival for those planning on getting work done.

“You should go around and look for whichever artist kind of fits the style that you want to look like. If you look at the tattoos in their portfolio, then that's pretty much what you're going to get out of them,” he advised.

“There are people taking walk-ins, so you can definitely walk in and just get tattooed if you want to. I definitely recommend getting there earlier rather than later if you want that to happen, though.”

While he admits that he's looking forward to resting after months of preparation, he also anticipates the camaraderie sparked by sharing his shop's passion with others.

“If you've never been to a tattoo convention, you should definitely try something at least once, right? When I went to my first tattoo convention, I didn't really know what to expect. It was definitely fun. You're not going to find anything else like it,” Wodock insisted.

“I get to see a lot of friends I don't get to see throughout the year. I get to hang out with them throughout the day and see how they've been.

“And then I get to get tattooed by them. That's fun.”

Meet local artists

Name: Michael “Woody” Wodock

Age: 31

Shop: Electric City Tattoo Gallery (620 Spruce St., Scranton)

What is the most common misconception people have about tattoo artists? That we're scumbags; that we're criminals.

How many tattoos do you have? I have no idea. Lots.

When did you start tattooing? I started about two years ago. I was piercing since 2002…and I started apprenticing maybe two years after we (opened our shop). I've always been interested in tattooing. Just being around these dudes all day, I've learned a lot of the technical stuff. They offered it to me, so I took it.

How would you describe your personal artistic style? I like traditional tattoo, Americana-type stuff. I tattoo a lot of lettering, too.

What is your favorite piece that you've done? I did a Tudor rose on my fiancÚ that I really like, and then I just did a scorpion bull skull right below it. I like that a lot, too.

Was there ever a piece you didn't want to do? Any time anybody gets their significant other's name or something like. A lot of young kids are getting their hands tattooed now – I think that's a terrible idea, or their necks. I can only warn you so many times.

What is the worst tattoo you've ever had to cover up? I don't know what I was covering up. I think it was some flowers or something like that.

Do you generally get people who walk into the shop knowing what they want, or do they give you more artistic freedom? It's both. Some people are very specific and very picky, and then other people are just like, “Do whatever you want and make it look good.”

Do you do any artwork outside of tattooing? I like to watercolor. I like to paint tattoos – roses and daggers and snakes and tiger heads.

Name: Elijah Birtel

Age: 30

Shop: Electric City Tattoo Gallery (620 Spruce St., Scranton)

What is the most common misconception people have about tattoo artists? We're nicer than people think we are. I definitely run into a lot of older folks who think we're in here doing drugs, basically, which is clearly not the case.

How many tattoos do you have? I would say 30.

When did you start tattooing? I started tattooing in 2001. I started because I thought tattoos were the coolest thing I had ever seen. I used to always see kids at punk rock shows with tattoos and I used to really envy them. I wanted to experience that part of punk rock, basically. I just really wanted to be cool. Tattooing is cool.

How would you describe your personal artistic style? Highly illustrative mixed with a feel of comic books and traditional Japanese tattooing.

What is your favorite piece that you've done? I did a really big wizard back piece on this guy that I thought came out great. Yesterday a guy got crows eating knights, their flesh and stuff, which was kind of cool. Really anything that is not of the norm.

Was there ever a piece you didn't want to do? Not everyone wants to take your opinion and your recommendations. I'll still do it if they're pushy enough, pretty much.

What is the worst tattoo you've ever had to cover up? A guy lifted up his sleeve and said, 'I want to cover this banner.' He had a banner with my last name in it, Birtel, then he lifted up the rest of the tattoo and it was banner with my last name, skulls, and a bunch of swastikas all around it. I was like, 'Ah, man!' I was happy to see that he got it covered.

Do you generally get people who walk into the shop knowing what they want, or do they give you more artistic freedom? It's a mixture; I would say half and half.

Do you do any artwork outside of tattooing? I like to paint and draw, of course. I like making jewelry out of metal. I like designing little drones.

Name: Bruce Fairchild

Age: 39

Shop: Triple6tattoos (379 S Main St., Wilkes-Barre)

What is the most common misconception people have about tattoo artists? It's just society period. Most people think that tattoo artists are all bikers and stuff like that, and we're not. We're businessmen. We own businesses. We succeed. Most of us are all artists. We paint, we draw, we do conventions, we do benefits, we do everything.

How many tattoos do you have? Too many to count. I look at it this way: I only have one body, so it'll eventually all connect and be one tattoo.

When did you start tattooing? Professionally, I started tattooing in 1998 because of all the bad artwork I saw out there.

How would you describe your personal artistic style? I try not to focus on one style because if I focus on one style, I can't take care of every customer that comes through my door. I have to be able to do whatever my customer wants in any style, so that's what I focus on, being able to do everything.

What is your favorite piece that you've done? I really don't have a favorite piece. I put 110 percent into everything I do, so I enjoy everything. I've had so many tattoos that I've been lucky to do for people that are just beautiful pieces of artwork. It's just so hard to narrow it down to one thing.

Was there ever a piece you didn't want to do? Names. I hate doing stuff like that. But I'm going to do whatever somebody asks me to do. I'm not going to be an artist that says I only do one specific style. I do anything that anybody wants at any time, but I give my own personal opinion of why I think it's a bad tattoo.

What is the worst tattoo you've ever had to cover up? I do so many cover-ups it's ridiculous. And it's a lot of names, a lot of messed-up house tattoo artists, stuff like that. It's other tattoo shops in the area have no regulations, no standards, no formal training. That is the stuff that I'm covering up.

Do you generally get people who walk into the shop knowing what they want, or do they give you more artistic freedom? 90 percent of people that walk through the door already have an idea of what they want. They come in, they talk to us, they describe what they want, and we go from there. They have to have an idea of something they want. I won't just tattoo anything on anybody.

Do you do any artwork outside of tattooing? I do paintings of my own that I sell here and there. I used to put flash together and designs and sell them at conventions. Now I just paint for my own personal use.

Many other artists are coming from throughout the state and beyond to showcase their talents. These are just a few that will be there, but for the complete list, visit electriccitytattooconvention.com.

  • Philadelphia Eddie's Chinatown (philadelphiaeddieschinatowntattoo.com): Dave Steele and Ozzie Perez
  • Flying Tiger Tattoo (Cincinnati, Ohio, flying-tiger-tattoo.com): Andy Blair, Andy Eschenbach, Nate Hudak
  • Rising Tide Studio (Newark, Ohio, risingtidestudio.com): Andrew Bennett, Bunny
  • White Lotus Tattoo and Art Gallery (Toms River, N.J., whitelotustattoos.com): Desmond Mooney, Mike Di Dia
  • Bayside Ink (Beachwood, N.J., baysideinktat2.com): Brian Fusaro, Chooch
  • Nautilus Tattoo (Newingston, Conn., nautilustattoo.com): Jose Carrasquillo, Coniah Timm, David page, Greg Paradis, Chloe Vanessa
  • The Quillian Tattoo (Allentown, thequillian.com): Jay Seagreaves
  • Resurrected Tattoo (Syracuse, N.Y., resurrectedtattoo.com): Ben Krzykowski, Jemola Addley, Thad Jackson, Caitlyn Matthews

Schedule

There are plenty of things to do at the convention if you're not there to get inked, from off-site parties to pie-eating contests, so you don't miss a chance to stuff your face or be witness to some local belly dancing talent.

March 21

  • Pre-convention party at Rocky's Bar (141 Jefferson Ave., Scranton) with bluegrass and barroom tattoo trivia

March 22

  • 3 p.m.: Convention opens.
  • 6-6:20 p.m.: Lotus Fire Belly Dancers
  • 10:30 p.m.: Tattoo of the Day Contest
  • 11 p.m.: Convention closes
  • 11 p.m.-2 a.m.: After party at The Keys (244 Penn Ave., Scranton)

March 23

  • Noon: Convention opens.
  • 2:-3 p.m.: Hula Hoop and Pie Eating Contest
  • 3-3:45 p.m.: Best Asian Art-Influenced Tattoo Contest
  • 4-4:45 p.m: Best Sleeve (color or black and gray) Contest
  • 5-5:45 p.m.: Best Back Piece (color or black & gray) Contest
  • 6-6:45 p.m.: Best Traditionally Influenced Tattoo Contest
  • 6-7 p.m.: Juggler Robert Smith
  • 7-7:45 p.m.: Best Realism within a Tattoo Contest
  • 7-8 p.m.: Magician Phil Crosson
  • 8-8:20 p.m.: Lotus Fire Belly Dancers
  • 8-9 p.m.: Tattathalon, pitting tattoo artists against each other in a test of dexterity, cunning and know-how
  • 10:30 p.m.: Tattoo of the Day Contest
  • 11 p.m.: Convention closes
  • 11 p.m.-2 a.m.: After party at The Bog (341 Adams Ave., Scranton)

March 24

  • Noon: Convention opens
  • 1-1:45 p.m.: Best Worst Tattoo Contest
  • 3 p.m.: Best of Show Contest
  • 5-5:30 p.m.: Tattoo of the Day Contest
  • 8 p.m.: Convention closes


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