Jason Pistoresi is a tattoo collector. He’s pretty much covered in ink from the shirt line down, though his face and neck are off-limits as a promise to his mom.
Pistoresi will add to the collection at the 11th Annual Fresno Tattoo Convention, which runs Saturday, Feb. 28, and Sunday, March 1, at the Fresno Convention Center. He’s organized the event for more than a decade and has gotten a tattoo almost every year, he says.
The idea of hosting a tattoo convention in Fresno didn’t hit Pistoresi like a light bulb or anything, but he remembers thinking it was something the city needed and would support.
The first year was a hard sell.
He couldn’t get many out-of-town artists to call him back, let alone agree to attend the convention. They hadn’t heard of Fresno, or if they had, they weren’t eager to get here.
Four thousand people showed up that first weekend. The artists were busy and they made money and realized that people in Fresno were cool, Pistoresi says.
That’s pretty much what tattoo artists want from a convention — location be damned.
“Now, they’re calling us,” Pistoresi says.
The convention is capped at 100 booths, or 200 artists, and is filled up, with 30 more shops on notice in case a slot becomes available. Others want to pay for their booth space a year in advance, Pisoresi says.
The convention could easily expand in scope and size, Pistoresi says, but he sees no need for it. The attendance has been steady, around a few hundred people, for the last 11 years.
Plus, there is a sense of quality control in keeping it small, Pistoresi says: “We’re very particular who we bring in.”
There’s more than a few reasons you might want to attend this convention. It’s not a bad place for people watching, if you’re into that. And there’s a whole list of odd entertainment, including performances by the carnival-cabaret act Freakshow Delux. There will also be classic cars and motorcycles on display and daily tattoo contests, plus the 11th Annual Tattooed Beauty Contest. The winner will be crowned the “Tattooed Queen of the San Joaquin.”
For collectors of fine art, many of the tattooers have original works for sale. The Light House Tattoo Club from Auburn hosts a show of donated work with all proceeds donated to help with medical bills for Orlando artist Zeke Owen.
Of course, the convention is really meant for collectors like Pistoresi. It grants them access to artists who are booked out for six months or more at their home shops, Pistoresi says. Then, there are the artists for whom booking a session is almost impossible.
“Nobody’s going to be able to get tattooed by Oliver Peck,” he says.
Peck is the judge on Spike TV’s tattoo competition show “Ink Master,” alongside rock star Dave Navarro. He’s been to the Fresno convention all but one of its 11 years.
But Peck is just one of 200 artists at the convention, Pistoresi says.
“There will be someone to help you,” he says.
And there will be someone to help Pisoresi, too.
Sunday afternoon, once his job as organizer has settled and the fires have been put out, he plans on taking a breath, grabbing a beer and adding another piece to his body of art.