Wildwood Tattoo Beach Bash
9th Annual Tattoo Convention August 10-12, 2018
Wildwoods Convention Center
Wildwood, NJ 08260

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Tattoo Beach Bash


MADISON RUSS, Staff Writer Aug 12, 2016 (0)


MADISON RUSS, Staff Writer
Rebel Image Tattoo in Rio Grande owner Mike Siderio tattoos Cape May resident, Stefanie DiTeodoro.
MADISON RUSS, Staff Writer
Lou "Pop" DiPonziano, 80, has more than 50 tattoos.

Lou DiPonziano describes his tattoos.
Press of Atlantic City

Poised midtattoo, an ink gun buzzing in his hand, Mike Siderio recalled how different his industry was in the 1980s.

"I can't even begin to say how much it's grown in the 32 years I've been tattooing," said Siderio, owner of Rebel Image Tattoo in Rio Grande.

In 1990, Sederio opened the first legal tattoo shop in Cape May County after leaving his job as a police officer. Seven years ago, he helped launch the Wildwood Tattoo Beach Bash at the Wildwoods Convention Center. This year's installment runs through Sunday.

"Everybody is just trying to help each other develop, when before, it was a protected art," Siderio said, as he finished up a tattoo on Cape May resident Stefanie DiTeodoro.

Sederio said the clientele in tattoo shops has also changed — from sailors or bikers to professionals, celebrities and athletes.

"It's more acceptable, mainstream. So that's changed," he said. "I'm sure the TV shows helped with that too."

Go through your TV Guide and try not to find a series with the words "Ink" or "Tattoo" either touting the best artists in the world, or trying to fix regretable designs. There's "America's Worst Tattoos," "Ink Master" "L.A. Ink," "Tattoo Fixers," and more.

Lou "Pop" DiPonziano agrees that a lot has changed in the world of ink. He should know. DiPonziano, 80, has been getting tattoos for 62 years. He attended the tattoo convention in past years and plans to go on Saturday.

"Back in the day, the artist didn't draw custom stuff like they do now. All the drawings they had were called 'flash,'" DiPonziano said. Clients would choose from small designs that artists kept in books or on their walls. "A lot of them didn't do their own artwork; they bought the flash from someone who could draw."


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DiPonziano, of Voorhees Township, got his first tattoo when he was 18. It cost him $3 to have his girlfriend's name, Fran, tattooed in a heart on his bicep. The artist told him that if he didn't like it, he'd cut off the layer of skin for him. DiPonziano kept the skin, the tattoo and the girlfriend. In fact, they've been married for 59 years.

In the decades since, DiPonziano's body has become a patchwork of more than 50 tattoos. Each one tells a story, such as the devil design done by famous tattoo artist Crazy Philadelphia Eddie.

"This was put on around 1962, when Eddie opened his first shop. This tattoo cost $7, but the original tattoo cost $10," he said. "The little devil was standing on an 8-Ball but I didn't have 10 bucks so I said, 'Eddie, what about putting him on there for $7?' He said, 'all right, but you don't get no Eight-Ball, I'll put him on a cloud instead.'" Many years later, DiPonziano said he ran into the famed artist and offered him $3 for the 8-Ball.

Siderio said clients now are less interested in flash designs and usually want custom work.

"The majority of people anymore, now with social media and Google images, they don't need to rely on what's on our wall. They may bring in pictures on their phone, or the artist may draw and create something off the top of their heads," he said. "Years ago you would bump into someone and say 'hey, I got the same tattoo.' You don't see that today, everything's custom one-of-a-kind pieces."

With a few taps on his tablet, Pepe Carire, a tattoo artist at Rebel Image, can customize every detail of a client's tattoo. He can even choose colors that correspond to the inks the tattoo shop has or sketch the tattoo on a photo of the client.

"What we see a lot more is bigger works, bigger projects," Carire said. "Personally, I like doing bigger works. You can put more detail into it and see it from far away."

Siderio and Carire said tattoo TV shows have made the artform more mainstream, but they also have created unrealistic expectations about how long it takes to get a large piece. A show can boil down the creation of a piece that could take multiple sessions into an hour's time.

Although Siderio said the majority of his customers get a tattoo with some sort of meaning, some customers will choose a tattoo for the way it looks or because they like an artist's work.

"Moving away from the symbolic tattoo is the sum of the development of the artistic nature of tattoos now and an industry into themselves," said Jessie Finch, professor of sociology at Stockton University. "Now, they have so many tattoo conventions and shows where people are looking to do something unique or different that don't have to do with a sign, symbol, or meaning, but that actual execution."

But whether a tattoo has a special meaning or is simply trendy (such as tribal designs or infinity signs), most people don't seem to regret getting ink.

"The data I've seen only 10 to 15 percent of people get tattoos removed," Finch said. "So even if it's not something that has a longterm implication or meaning, it's still going to, in their mind, represent a particular time, relationship or trend that was meaningful at that point in their life."

Paul Sorrels, co-owner of 717 Tattoos in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, whose shop will also be at the Wildwood show, hopes that tattoos will continue to trend toward customers collecting art.

"I definitely get more excited when I have a tattoo that's designed for me, even if it doesn't mean anything. Just a cool piece of art is something I like," he said, but the best piece of advice he can give is to do research.

"If you really want a cool American traditional anchor and heart, you shouldn't go to the person who specializes in black and grey portraits," he said. "It's like going to someone who is an oil painter to paint your shed."

But whether or not getting tattoos is a trend, is hard to say, said Sorrells. He said he doesn't think the need for self expression will change any time soon.

At the very least, there will always be teenagers who want to rebel against their parents.

"That's never going to stop," he said.

Contact: 609-272-7217


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