Vancouver’s Tattoo and Culture Show features mix of old and new artists

The show is back and has grown after a two-year break due to the pandemic

The Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Show returned April 29 to May 1 for the first time since the pandemic began. (Shaina Garces)

The Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Show returned April 29 to May 1 for the first time since the pandemic began. (Shaina Garces)

Over the years, tattoos have become a more widely accepted form of self-expression. The lower mainland is dotted with countless tattoo parlours and collectives, as well as tattoo artists working independently in private studios.

For the first time since the pandemic started, this community of talented artists was able to gather for the Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Show.

Hanz Ng, co-owner of WorldWide Tattoo Supply, has attended the Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Show since it began in 2009.

“We are not artists. We realize after going to shows and meeting tattoo artists that we can’t compete and we can’t compare, so we might as well help them out,” Ng says of him and his business partner. 

More than 20 years ago, Worldwide Tattoo Supply got its start in California by buying needles from acupuncturists, Ng says. Eventually, when the acupuncturists realized what the needles were being used for, they were able to make needles exclusively for tattoo artists. 

“The business really boomed once UFC started. That’s when tattoos really started to get popular because fighters all had tattoos, and it was on TV. So the younger generation started getting tattoos, then basketball players and so forth,” says Ng. 

He says he’s noticed how much the turnout for the Vancouver Tattoo and Culture Show has grown now that the venue remains in a consistent place. At the show, he saw many of the same faces he did years ago when the show first started, but also many young and new ones.

While the tattoo community seems to be growing fast, many of the folks who established themselves earlier in Vancouver’s tattoo scene are still running business as usual. Dutchman Tattoos, owned by artist John Holland, is a prime example of this. Janet Murray, a long-time friend and client of the shop, says they are celebrating 40 years in business.

“He [practices] traditional Japanese style, that’s where it started. But he has artists doing all kinds of different styles and approaches. John is amazing,” Murray says. 

Spiritual symbols and treasured illustrations flow down both her arms, one of which depicts Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of compassion. 

“It’s like a master class some days. He’ll take my arm and change the tiniest little thing, and it makes so much difference because [of how] our brain perceives things. If we think logically, we don’t notice it,” Murray says. “I think you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their tattoos.”

Rahul Chadha, who attended the Vancouver Tattoo and Culture show with the support of two friends, was leaning on the possibility of getting tattooed for the first time at the convention. 

“I don’t have a tattoo currently, so that’s why I thought I’d come here. Get some ideas, maybe then get a flash tattoo,” Chadha says. “There [are] lots of people who are incredible in different ways.”

Chadha was one of many attendees who roamed among the buzz of tattoo machines, browsing through pages of flash tattoos and searching for an open spot with a popular artist.

For those who may not have been as keen to get tattooed on the spot, the show also had businesses selling unique trinkets, taxidermy, and other unique objects.