The Seattle Tattoo Expo returns to Seattle Center August 9-11 for its 12th year.

The event has brought together the best tattoo artists from around the Northwest, the country and even all over the world. It serves as an opportunity to get ink done (on-site), a chance to research artists or simply stay away from the needles and just check out amazing artwork.

We sat down with hone of the expo’s founders, Damon Conklin to talk about the event’s longevity and why Seattle has a special crowd of ink fans.

Did you ever envision the Seattle Tattoo Expo would make it to 12 years?
(Laughs) I’m the kinda guy that thinks everything is gonna last forever; I’m like the dog who can’t believe you stopped petting him, you know? I don’t really have another way to think.

How did you get the event rolling?
I was doing a lot of tattoo conventions and building my name early in my career. I loved what I ran into on the road: the hospitality of artists, the local art scenes — and I wanted to provide that same experience for people in the Northwest.

Does Seattle have a different tattoo “scene” than other regions in the country?
We have a very unique tattoo scene here in the Northwest ’cause we have unique personalities. We’ve got this urban core but then there are these mountain ranges and lakes and stuff all over the place — these this individuality thing that maybe started in the ’60s or whatever. it makes for a great music, art and tattoo scene.

What has been the weirdest request you’ve gotten from a client?
(Laughs) It definitely had to be “Where’s Waldo” on, well, let’s see here…what we might call the ****? (the area in between one’s legs, and behind one’s genitals but before the rectum)

(Laughs) Wow. Was not expecting that…
(Laughs) Neither was I!

For aspiring artists, how would you deal with a customer who didn’t get the tattoo they wanted from you?
I know that there are a lot of lines of thinking from tattooers on this. My line has always been: I’m gonna try as hard as I can to favor the customer’s side of the argument. But, it ain’t exactly Burger King. So, in that one-out-of-a-million where I realize I will never make the person happy, I tell them, “someone else is in your future, buddy. Go find ’em.”

Last year the Expo held a new contest called the “Job-Stopper” in which contestants showed off tattoos that would prevent them from getting a conventional job. This year the expo is holding a contest called “Best Cover-Up.” Explain the parameters of this one…
The first impression is always the most important art when you’re judging because it’s art. So the first impression is: what does it look like? And then: how hard was it to get it there? You know, as far as how difficult it was to get the cover-up. And then the competition gets really stiff, you get into really fine-tuning elements of like “how well was the design laid out” and the idea…that type of stuff.

For someone without a single tattoo, what is your best sales pitch to make it down this weekend?
(Laughs) Well, anybody who doesn’t know that 300 tattooers and 5,000 people under one roof is a party…(Laughs) But, it’s amazing art and there are all kinds of mediums because tattooers paint. And then there’s all the tattoos [themselves], there’ll be people that you see on TV there — and it’s just a good time. There’s really a lot of entertainment …. It’s fun!

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For a schedule of events go here.

For tickets go here.

To see last year’s gallery go here.

-Chris Coyle, CBS Seattle

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