Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, green clovers and purple horseshoes.

The Alberta Bound Tattoo and Arts Festival is a veritable feast for the eyes, but according to the festival’s founder and facilitator, Steve Peace (Immaculate Concept Tattoo), it takes a lot more than luck to pull off one of the best organized and most highly reputed body-modification exhibitions in the world.

“I’m a one-man team,” Peace explains. “So, I tend to pursue my own wishlist of bands, artists and attendees while trying to anticipate what’s going to appeal to the biggest audience. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to book dream guests, like Jime Litwalk and Joe Capobianco and now they come every year. Many of our featured artists have become regulars; they tell us they wouldn’t miss it. And this year we’ll be welcoming new artists from places like Mexico and Nepal. It’s gratifying to know that our humble tattoo show has grown into a favourite destination for international talent.”

A decade in the making, this year’s line-up might be the festival’s most dynamic to date. The weekend-long event will kick off with a bang on October 18th with an encore instalment of their Adults Only night. “We were rather surprised by the overwhelming number of people who came out for our Adult Night last year,” says Peace. “Fridays are typically the slowest day of any convention. The artists get all sad and bummed, so last year we thought we’d try something different to attract attention and it was packed and crazy! People loved the 18-and-over atmosphere where they are able to walk around with their drinks instead of being confined to a beer garden.”

Professional tantalizers, crowd-teasers and flame-ticklers will entice twice that evening with LA S&M diva Masuimi Max headlining. The pin-up poseur recently made a foray into acting on the creature-feature “Unlucky Charms,” which is available on DVD in a special box “packed with 7.2 ounces of maliciously unhealthy multi-colored cereal marshmallows.”

Other mouth-watering delights of the evening will include the fiery antics of Carisa Hendrix, a local glassblower, ACAD graduate and fire-eater who dazzled crowds at the Tattoo and Art Festival’s Edmonton installation.

Fetish, fantasy and fashion design collide when Germany’s human-chameleon and art-model Ophelia Overdose takes the stage. Meanwhile, big feathers mean big fans for the Big Apple’s rhinestone Raquel Reed. Closer to home, Canadian contortionist Visha Loo will bend your mind with her body of carnival knowledge. Peace also hopes to get lucky this year, by securing an appearance by The World’s Most Tattooed Man, Lucky Diamond Rich of Australia.

Tattoo---credit-Matsuimi-Max“Adults Only Friday is the one day of the festival where you can let loose,” Peace confirms. “After 11 p.m. we’ll have buses running people from our venue to several bars in Calgary. Last year, it was a mad scramble and people lost a lot of time. This way if you don’t want the evening to end you can continue the experience at a place like The Palomino or The Roadhouse.”

Saturday’s line-up switches gears with an opportunity to meet actor Ryan Hurst, a.k.a. Opie of the TV-series Sons of Anarchy. Metalheads and motorcycle enthusiasts will also delight on Sunday afternoon as Kerry King of Slayer fame will be in attendance to press the flesh. Badass company indeed, but it’s all for a good cause. One hundred percent of the photo-op fees will go to the 5 Dollar World charity.

“It’s taken a long time to get our not-for-profit status going,” he explains. “Our current partnership 5 Dollar Planet gives us the opportunity to operate projects ranging from school lunch programs in Calgary [to] nurturing youngsters in orphanages and schools in Cambodia, and hopefully soon in Vietnam.”

The festival is responsible in some other crucial ways as well. “The tattoo supply merchants at our show will only sell to licensed artists and people in the commercial tattoo business.” They will have three different machine builders offering amazing equipment, but he notes “Alberta’s health authority is kind of behind in restricting the sale of tattoo equipment and shutting down home tattooists… Tattoo artists don’t buy tattoo kits, they buy real good-quality equipment for their trade.” The industry is changing, and as he explains, “The reason so-called scratchers (untrained home tattoo-ers) exist is because people want to get tattooed quick,” he warns. “They want to get into the first place possible and the guy with the open appointments is usually the guy who isn’t that good. A lot of people want it today and still think they can just pick something off the wall. That’s not tattooing anymore. Now (as an artist) you’ve got to be able to draw.”

Hold fast, traditionalists! You can still have your blue diamonds: Peace advises that a more personalized modern approach will yield an original gem that’s a cut above the generic and much-reproduced wall-hung equivalent. “Yes, you can get a flash-style tattoo, but get it custom made. If you like old school, look for a custom artist who will draw it up just for you. Check out those portfolios and definitely pick the right person for your preferred style.”

A once in a lifetime chance to have your favourite international tattoo artist come to you, the majority of the guest inkers at the show arrive to a full dance-card. Booking a tattoo-session with your favourite skin-illustrator ahead of their appearances can be a challenge, but thanks to social media and email, it’s a completely achievable goal. Sought after ink-meisters, including Dan Smith, Nikko Hurtado and Hannah Aitchison of L.A. Ink fame and cover-up superstars Tommy Helm and Jasmine Rodriguez of Tattoo Nightmares will be on hand – literally!

“It’s almost impossible for these busy artists to make time to do paintings for our charity auction, so this year we’re doing hands.” Twenty artificial hands used for practicing tattoo skills have been sent to top-name artists for purchase. Those who aren’t being tattooed can still take home an original piece. The ever-popular tattoo contests will run again this year, but if you really want to impress the judges, Peace says you’d be wise to avoid the most common pitfalls of getting one’s ink on. “In terms of trends, there’s a lot of script going down and it needs to stop! A picture is worth a thousand words.” He also mentions, “The feather turning into a flock of birds, the infinity symbol with a word inserted into it, the finger-ring and the earring.”

Tattoo---Ophelia-OverdoseNow reinstated in their October time-slot, Peace is confident that the 10th anniversary 2013 edition will see a return to the numbers of tickets they were able to sell during their height of the “Kat Von D years,” when 12,000 – 16,000 people would pass through their doors.

“It’s surreal to think we are at our 10th anniversary and we’re still here. It’s amazing. We’ve had a rough go, but we’re back with a vengeance!”

Mark the date for October 18-20 at the BMO Centre in Stampede Park. For more information, check out

By Christine Leonard
Photos:  JT Young (top), Matsuimi Max (middle), Erik Kling (bottom)


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