Tattoo Artist at 2023 Indy Tattoo Expo
2023 Indy Tattoo Expo (photography provided)

Hendricks County Fairgrounds Welcomes Indy Tattoo Expo

The Indy Tattoo Expo is returning for its fourth year – this time at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and Conference Complex, bringing more than 200 tattoo artists to showcase their talent. The Indy Tattoo Expo will be held from 12:00 PM to midnight on June 14, 11 a.m. to midnight on June 15, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 16.

The family-friendly expo is the result of the passion that Chris Taylor, owner of Ink Therapy Tattoo and Piercing Studio in Plainfield, and others at the shop have for their craft.

“I’ve been tattooing in Indy for 30 years now and it’s just a representation of my life’s work,” Taylor said. “Hopefully people see tattooing at a high level. All of the artists were preselected, and we want to show people what it is and what it has to offer.”

Thirty years ago, Taylor had a chance to learn from his mentor, James “Rabbit” Sanders, one of the tattooing pioneers in Central Indiana. Through conversations with Sanders’ daughter, Trina, the two devised a plan to bring tattoo artists together under one roof. Expos are often held in major cities and continue to pop up across the country, but Taylor said as a young artist, he couldn’t afford to travel to the tattoo shows in New York City or San Francisco. Bringing something similar to the local Indianapolis area is an opportunity for artists and customers alike.

Like any other artistic outlet, education and inspiration allows for growth, and the Indy Tattoo Expo supports both. They’re able to promote themselves and learn from each other. Creating an artist network allows younger people in the business to find mentors and resources they might not have been able to receive otherwise.

“It’s a chance to go out and be inspired, and be around other artists,” Taylor said. “We compete and we learn about other styles. You can make good connections, connect with new clients and compete with fellow artists.”

Across the country, styles differ, meaning the color palette and tattoo style one would get in California might be completely different than the options you’d see in Florida. Customers looking for the perfect tattoo might have to travel a large distance to find just what they are looking for. However, an expo brings artists from across the country to the customer.

Intricate calf tattoo with award trophy from 2023

“You can get that right here under one roof, instead of flying to California,” Taylor said. “It’s good for everyone.”

At one time, tattoo artists had a negative reputation, and perhaps the art form didn’t bring the kind of appreciation other creative outlets have enjoyed. However, Taylor said this perception is changing. Television shows highlighting the art form came about, with tattoo artists became influencers, and some have year-long waitlists for their work.

“There has been a stigma, but I’ve seen it improve over the past 30 years,” Taylor said. “The expo allows people to come in who aren’t sure what this is about, and they get to see the great smiles and happy people. These artists are finding joy in their work, and you’ll see young kids and families; it’s not a bunch of rough guys. The kids in particular are fascinated with it, because who has a better imagination than kids?”

Taylor said what used to be a name or initials has become a blank canvas with colorful, detailed designs, similar to what one would find in an art gallery.

Man being tattooed by female artist while holding a pillow
Click the photo to get tickets to the 2024 Indy Tattoo Expo.

Throughout the three-day event, the main attraction will be live tattoo artists working on their craft, amidst decor with a “Great Gatsby” theme. However, they haven’t forgotten about the entire family. Entertainment includes the Peru Circus, featuring acrobats and other performers with unique and special talents.

All ages can enjoy laser tag, face painting, balloon artists, belly dancing, and also get their energy out in the numerous bounce houses. A+ Barber School will be taking appointments for haircuts, and art and jewelry vendors will be on hand. Each evening there will be tattoo competitions for best style, design and work. Don’t forget to see the 1920s-themed display, sharing 100 years of tattoo history.

Much of the live tattooing has been pre-scheduled, which is something to remember for the 2025 Expo. However, some artists will be taking customers on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the day. Not only are they getting rid of the stigma that might be associated with tattooing, but Taylor said there’s an education element too. Think of the body as a canvas. Some tattoos are for the artistic outlet and others are very personal.

“I think it’s good for mental health,” Taylor said. “No one cares what you look like. You’re doing something just for you, and there’s something about the endorphin rush or release. There are groups that pay for soldiers with PTSD to get a tattoo. I’ve worked with women who have overcome breast cancer. It’s just that powerful.”

For others, it’s simply marking the occasion – their story in art form.

“Maybe it’s Florida spring break with the girls or a portrait of your grandmother,” Taylor said. “There’s a story, a timeline, a history behind each one.”

It’s the first time the Indy Tattoo Expo will be held at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and Conference Complex. As the city of Indianapolis is taking notice and they outgrew their previous venue, Taylor was glad to find the perfect fit just outside the city.

“We’re able to add an additional 40 booths at this location,” he said. “I was sort of worried about moving my event but they were so helpful at the fairgrounds. It was a great experience and I think for the price and wanting to help the community, it’s going to be great. We’re bringing close to a half a million people into Hendricks County.”

RELATED: Steve Patterson Celebrates 10 Years as Hendricks County Fairgrounds’ Executive Director

In addition, visitors are supporting more than 200 local businesses.

“Each booth is a separate business – a separate artist making a life and career out of their work,” Taylor said. “I don’t have big corporate businesses sponsoring this event. It’s out of my own pocket, but I think elevating people is where real success is measured. Putting all of these artists under one roof is elevating our art and each person.”

Ink Therapy is the largest shop in the area for piercings. They’re heavily involved in the community, sponsoring organizations like Sheltering Wings, Susie’s Place and others.

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