West Virginia Tattoo Expo Expands with Second Weekend for Annual Event

Morgantown tattoo artist Jacob Gordon inks a jellyfish on a client at the Spring West Virginia Tattoo Expo on April 14, 2023.

The first West Virginia Spring Tattoo Expo is underway at the Waterfront Marriott. It’s a little after noon. Since 2010, the West Virginia Tattoo Expo has brought artists and body art enthusiasts to Morgantown each summer to celebrate. This year, the convention added a second weekend, April 14 – April 16.

Jacob Gordon starts working on the tattoo for his client immediately. Bond is the client he has today.

He replied, “Yeah. Like James Bond.”

Bond gets a jellyfish tattooed onto his bicep. Although Gordon’s pneumatic tattoo machine is silent, the buzz from more traditional rotary or coil machines fills the air even before the sun rises.

Gordon, an artist from Morgantown, says he enjoys tattoo conventions because it allows him to meet other artists and share ideas. He supports having one every month.

“All this together kind of pushes tattooing a bit further in its journey to make it maybe a little more taboo than it was in the past,” said he.

Rocco Cunningham, convention organizer, and event promoter, is also in agreement. He says the convention is an opportunity to meet new people, network, and learn more about tattooing.

Cunningham says an older tattooer told him he should stop learning the moment he stopped working. This is an excellent opportunity to experience every aspect of tattooing and every style. There’s always a lot to learn from each experience.

Morgantown’s community effort and its continued success in putting on the expo are credited by him for the event’s success. The city and Monongalia County Health Department are involved in the event.

Cunningham says that the success of this event is also due to a radical change in attitudes toward tattoos over the past few years.

He said: “It is a very different world now, and I’ve enjoyed watching the changes.” “Tattoos were taboo 20-30 years ago, but now they are more accepted.”

Two men speak next to vibrantly colored banners of traditional tattoo art. Behind them can be seen more booths, and in the far background a sign reading #WVTattooExpo can be seen.
Credit: Chris Schulz/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Cunningham noted that interest in the new date for the convention, which attracted artists as far away as Los Angeles and South America, was as high as the annual August event.

This weekend we have more than 200 tattoo artists, similar to the show held in August. “The majority of tattooers want both events,” said he. “We’ve created a family atmosphere amongst tattooers, the facility, and the town. But everyone loves coming back every year to Morgantown.”

You will often hear the word “family” repeated when walking around and speaking to artists. Amy Lefebvre of Maryland told us she was on a West Virginia Tattoo Expo waitlist for many years due to its reputation among artists.

I’ve heard that it’s an excellent convention. I heard that it was tough to get in. She said, “I was very fortunate to be invited.” “Everyone is nice and chill; it feels more like family than competition.”

Lefebvre added that the setting isn’t wrong for either her or prospective clients.

“It’s gorgeous out here,” said she. “A convention can be less intimidating for a customer than a tattoo parlor. “They can learn, and they can see. I think that for many people, the unknown is what scares them.”

Devin Jones agreed. The West Virginia University criminology student said she attended the convention to enjoy various products.

Jones said, “Seeing so many artists nationwide was a unique opportunity.” You got to see some of the different tattoo styles. The guy who tattooed me is from Philly. I talked to another guy who was from North Carolina. It’s fantastic to see so many people come together.

Jones confirmed that she has already planned a return to the UK in August.

She said, “Even though I don’t come to get a new tattoo, it is still cool to stroll around.”

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