WILKES-BARRE — Joe Senderoff looked pensive while lying on his stomach with his chin resting in his fists. Below, tattoo artist Jay Cutliffe finished an outline of Abraham Lincoln’s mug, forever engraving the 16th president’s face in Senderoff’s calf.
The NEPA Tattoo Arts Festival was underway Saturday, and more than 50 tattoo artists from northeast states converged at Genetti’s Hotel and Conference Center to put their permanent mark on shoulders, hips and souls of tattoo fanatics.
“In your life, you make decisions and you can’t really change them,” said Senderoff. “You can either cover them up or burn them off and that’s the idea behind the tattoo.”
Senderoff, 22, of Philadelphia was getting his fourth tattoo and Cutliffe, who owns Bone Daddy’s Tattoo near Philadelphia, is his regular artist. Senderoff traveled to Wilkes-Barre to have the tattoo done at the three-day festival.
Honest Abe is a role model for Senderoff. “Through a lot of adversity, he persevered,” he said, explaining his inspiration for the presidential body art.
Steve Gulbin, a body piercer by trade, is part-owner of the Marc’s Tattoo franchise. This is the first festival he coordinated with Ron and Gena Russo of 570 Tattoo in Wilkes-Barre. “We wanted to bring a new excellence of tattooing to the Northeast,” Gulbin said.
Gulbin, covered from wrist to neck with his own tattoos, said these sorts of artists’ gatherings push the practitioners to get better at their craft.
He expressed confidence tattooing will continue to grow more popular and be a viable occupation for creative types. “I cannot even imagine what tattooing is going to be like in 10 years,” Gulbin said, adding that tattoo artists will never be replaced by technology. “This is something that robots and machinery cannot take away from us.”
Angie Redmond, manager for Long Street Collective Tattoo in Columbus, Ohio, watched her company’s artist, Andy Johnson, work on a shoulder tattoo. Tattoo acceptance is undoubtedly growing, Redmond said. She’s a graphic designer at McGraw-Hill publishers and said, recently, the company changed its policy to allow employees with visible tattoos.
“To me, that’s a sign of the times,” Redmond said.
Redmond believes getting a tattoo should be a thoughtful experience that marks an important idea or milestone. She held out her own well-inked arms and said each of her tattoos, many of them flying birds and open eyes, has a long story.
On Friday, Redmond said, to her surprise, a 60-year-old woman got a tattoo at their booth. The woman’s mother recently passed away and she wanted to commemorate her life with a daisy, Redmond said. She sees now, more than ever, people of older generations undergoing the procedure.
Bee-like buzzing filled the room Saturday as busy artists applied ink to skin in just about every vendor booth. The only booth not seeing so much action was the tattoo-removal service handing out informational brochures.