* * *
People wandering into the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs looking for the tattoo convention on Sunday had only to follow the hum of needles at work.
Ink enthusiasts flocked to see, and possibly get, tattoos of all kinds at the third annual Best in the Midwest Tattoo Convention. More than 200 artists and vendors from across the country came to show their work — and maybe to leave it on a few bodies.
“It really is a different environment to tattoo in,” said Dirk Mellott, who owns Epiphany Tattoo in Aurora, Colo.
This was Mellott's first year at the convention, and he said it was a successful visit. By the end of the weekend he expected he would have created about a dozen tattoos. While that number seems low, Mellott said, it's because his is large-scale work.
“Most of the work I've done is a two- to three-hour session.”
The crowd, most already inked, roamed the aisles to see the different artists. Visitors could flip through exhibitors' portfolios or watch a tattoo take shape right in front of them.
“I love looking at the artwork,” said Aly Barr, an assistant for artist Jerod Ray of Mexico, Mo.
Barr finished an apprenticeship with Ray and was at the convention to observe other artists' work and to advertise for Ray, who did a full-sleeve tattoo on her arm of movie icons James Dean and Clara Bow.
“I'm his walking portfolio,” she said.
Local tattoo artists also were represented at the convention.
Andrew Milko of Liquid Courage, near 75th and Pacific Streets, said he barely had a free moment the entire weekend. Milko said he might have gotten a fresh tattoo if he hadn't been so busy.
“If I had time, I totally would have gotten one,” he said as he primed a customer's leg for a large tattoo.
Milko said he expected to do about six tattoos at the event.
“People come up, check out the portfolio or have fun ideas and get some classic stuff,” he said.
Barr said the convention was a dream destination for tattoo devotees.
“Some of the best creative minds in the country are here,” she said.