The smell of ink is in the air
by Jonathan Vern McGill
Incessant buzzing filled the floor of the BMO Centre this weekend as artists punctured ink into the skin of those attending the eighth annual Alberta Bound Tattoo and Arts Festival.
This past weekend’s festival featured artists from all across the world who gathered in Calgary to show their skills and throw down some ink.
“I’ve been coming for four or five years and it’s definitely one of the bigger shows of its kind,” said Shawn Ruste, a tattoo artist from Nanaimo, B.C. “It’s a great place to go and there are tons of people. Calgary was bound for a tattoo boom.”
Ruste has traveled to many tattoo shops in the country to work as a guest artist, including Rising Sun Tattoo in Regina.
Ruste spent a large part of the weekend with Nanaimo resident, Greg Guspie, as he outlined Guspie’s new sleeve tattoo — an eagle with spread wings — that would be inked underneath Guspie’s previous tattoos.
“It’s a great festival to go to, and I get a lot of inspiration here,” Ruste said.
The festival was filled by artists, skateboard and clothing apparel shops. There was also a small beer-garden of sorts and a stage where a variety of feature shows were held.
One guest of honour to perform on the stage was Lucky Diamond Rich, who — according to Guinness World Records — is the most tattooed man in the world with 100 per cent of his body covered in tattoo ink. Rich performed at the festival, and his acts included sword-swallowing, escaping from a straight-jacket bound in chains, and juggling machetes and an apple while on top of a 4-metre tall unicycle.
Most festival attendees already had tattoos and were looking to grab a spot from their favourite artists to add to their collection of body art.
One girl, Melissa Kirbyson, was adding a large piece to her hamstring, which featured two iconic video game characters — God of War’s Kratos, and Master Chief of the Halo series — battling each other.
“I am an artist, and to display art on my body, it’s beautiful,” Kirbyson said, wincing at the slight pain as artist Tony Sklepic moved the needle towards the more sensitive area of her leg.
“Video games and cats are a big part of who I am. I have lots of those tattoos.” Kirbyson’s tattoos include Mortal Kombat characters Sub-Zero and Reptile, and blue and pink cats on her wrists.
Kirbyson said that all of her tattoos are a part of who she is, and although “they may not mean something,” they are a little piece of herself and the things she loves.
The festival held many contests, including best tattoo of the day and best pin-up girl tattoo, which featured seven top-notch artists duelling each other for the prize money. The Alberta Bound Tattoo and Arts Festival shows no signs of slowing, and will likely be back again for round nine next year.