Th(Ink) Big

International Tattoo Convention Hit Its 11th Year In Montreal

Art Tattoo Show 2013, Friday Sept. 6 Photo Jake Russell
Photo Jake Russell
Art Tattoo Show 2013, Sept. 6 Photo Jake Russell

It seems like everyone nowadays has “ideas” of tattoos they would like at some indeterminate point in the future—but who among us has the cajones to sit down in the chair and feel the sweet, fiery pain of said art being injected into us for life?

Located right next to the Bell Centre, Montreal’s Windsor Station is known for putting on big spectacles like the International Beer Festival, and it’s primed to become an epicentre once more as it hosts Montreal’s 11th annual Art Tattoo show. Set to showcase over 150 unique artists from all over the world as well as various exhibits and contests, it’s bound to be a paradise for body art fans, and a visual feast for the rest of us.

One might think bringing together dozens of artists from different continents and each with their own schedules would require herculean feats of logistical ability, but as Montreal TattooMania co-owner Val Emond explains, it’s not that hard if everybody involved can’t wait to come back each year.

“It’s actually a lot easier than one might think,” Emond said. “Over the years, the tattoo artists attending the Art Tattoo show have become a family, with most artists coming back year after year.”

Even the staff, from the booth girls to the security guards, have stayed mostly constant throughout the years, creating the cohesive and close group of dedicated individuals needed to pull off an undertaking of the convention’s size.

“It’s like our own Christmas party,” said Emond. “We’re all looking forward to hanging out together each September.”

New Blood

It’s a party that has grown over the years.

“Tattoo artists are well-connected together and they talk about events they attend and like,” said Emond. “It’s how we’re able to get new artists in: the great reputation of the convention combined with the amazing city of Montreal makes us a sought-after convention.”

In addition to featuring many old faces and returning artists, anyone attending this year’s show will get a healthy dose of new talent, new art and new styles.

One of the most anticipated newcomers to the convention is Switzerland’s Filip Leu, member of a family known far and wide for its prowess and dedication to the ancient art, particularly extensive Japanese-style pieces.

Leu will indeed keep it within the family—starring alongside him will be none other than his wife, Titine, and his mother and fellow tattooer Loretta. It’ll be Leu’s first North American convention in over a decade.

As a treat for the audience, he’ll be working with Canada’s own Kurt Wiscombe—no slouch himself when it comes to carving out a reputation—on three separate backpiece collaborations, one for each day of the convention. Expect three very happy individuals to walk out drained and elated at the opportunity to carry the work of not one, but two masters, prominently from shoulder to shoulder. Another exhibition will see artists vie for best skull tattoo and will feature both judges and prizes.

“We thrive on bringing great artists from all corners of the world in order to give the chance to attendees to get tattooed by the best.” – Val Edmond, organizer

A Collection of Ink Masters

With the convention featuring so many talented artists, not all can make the cut. Space constraints mean a sign-up sheet with wait times (up to several years long!), leaving some artists as spectators-only for the event. However, sometimes everything falls into place and artists find themselves bumped from onlookers to contributors.

“I was on the waiting list for, like, three years,” said Alban Bachand of Montreal’s Exorciste tattoo and piercing parlour.

“They got a cancellation and Val called me and asked me if I wanted a booth, so I said ‘yes, of course!’”

Amply bearded, self-taught and sporting ink he adorned as early as age 14, Bachand comes off as a cross between a skateboarder and a pirate, making him a perfect addition to the team. Specializing in old-style traditional tattoos that mariners proudly carried with them across the seven seas, lady luck must have smiled upon him for him to attend the convention this year.

“We are an invitation-only convention,” said Emond. “We choose attending artists based on work quality, reputation and attitude. We’re a pretty mellow bunch, and a diva attitude doesn’t go far with us.”

The invitations they send out span the entire globe.

“We thrive on bringing great artists from all corners of the world in order to give the chance to attendees to get tattooed by the best,” said Emond.

“Not everyone is able to afford a trip to Japan to get tattooed tebori-style, so we’re happy to have different kinds of tattooers to present to the Montreal crowd.”

One such tattooer will be Vancouver artist Mikel Johnson of Sangha Tattoos. Specializing in tribal and blackwork tattoos, Johnson is a frequent returnee to the event and calls it his favourite convention in Canada.

A friend of Val’s since the mid-‘90s, Johnson says he’s eager to see other old friends and meet new ones. When asked about who he’s most excited to meet, a cascade of names drops from his mouth.

“I guess it’s a bit embarrassing,” he says after naming a few. “I could keep this list going. There are a lot of artists I want to see—my favourite thing to do is just walk, watch and listen.

“It’s like a massive tattoo shop opens for a weekend. How fun is that?”

Montreal Art Tattoo Show // Windsor Station, 1160 de la Gauchetière St. W. // Sept. 6 – Sept. 8 // Day passes $15.00-$20.00, Three-day pass $45. // Visit for more