I’m a lawyer.
While my office (unlike most law offices) has a pretty casual dress code, I still have to keep things mostly conservative because I go to court on a regular basis. And no matter how awesome it looks, the judges of Hampton Roads, Virginia, are still known to frown upon creative personal style.
For a time, I had some pink streaks under my ponytail, and every time I stepped foot into a courtroom, I had the tightest bun I could possibly make. I’m also a suburban mom of four, and I look like that on the weekends.
So looking at me, you might not know it- but I deeply admire rainbow hair, facial piercings, and large visible tattoos. I can’t help it. It’s fascinating and glamorous and just looks like fun. My kids mostly aren’t intimidated by body art either- they love admiring it on people they meet. 7-year-old Rachel is a bit worried by it (she doesn’t care for needles, and thus the idea of tattoos frightens her), but she loves art.
The family attended the festival on Sunday, Family Day. While Family Day featured a balloon artist, face painting, and a bounce house, those features weren’t large, and by 1 pm there were already lines for each. Fortunately, there was a lot to see even without the child-friendly features. Approximately 260 tattoo artists were present, most of them doing work right on-site, and all the booths were decorated with examples of their art- pictures, sketches, and displays of tattoos and drawings they’ve done and can do.
My kids were amazed to actually see what giving a tattoo looked like, and even more excited when artists (and human canvases!) invited them right up close to see how it worked and ask their questions.
Among my ambitions for the tattoo festival was to look at artists, since my husband’s been thinking for a long time of getting a large tattoo on his shoulder. He’d like to support a local artist and find someone whose work really strikes him. They were busy- most of them booked well in advance of the festival for the work they’d be doing there- and it was actually difficult to catch someone’s attention to talk in depth. However, I was lucky enough to get to speak with Athena Karn, owner of Otzi Tattoo Agency in Norfolk, after my husband noticed a picture of a snake sketched by her artist Brandon Glass.
Otzi, located in the Chelsea district of Norfolk, is a true local business featuring four artists with different styles. Karn spoke highly of Otzi’s clientele as respectful and wonderful to work for- and told me that the agency was the most comfortable place in the area to get a tattoo. At Otzi, like other tattoo businesses, you buy the artist’s time, hourly, for both design and actual work. Some artists prefer to work in advance and others design during your pre-booked time. And they’re local- frequently interacting with other Chelsea businesses Tortilla West and Smartmouth Brewery. My husband is hoping to book some time to talk with Brandon in the near future.
We spent time chatting with the Otzi folks as well as browsing other booths featuring piercing jewelry, laser tattoo removal, and still more art, tattoo and otherwise. While Rachel was still put off by the needles, she was thrilled by the idea of creating art on people (and complimented heavily tattooed artists nicely), and my other three were ready to get inked immediately. (Sorry- you’ve got a few years to wait. Better luck next time.) While the festival featured a few concessions (and drinks!) though, there weren’t a lot of food choices, and we eventually had to leave to feed the children.
Still- I’m glad we went. It was definitely fun to take children (especially if you’re not an overly-sensitive parent) and I got to indulge my dreams of rainbow hair, a pierced eyebrow, and a full sleeve of Koi fish. (I promise I won’t actually do it, Mom and every judge in Hampton Roads courtrooms. PROMISE!)