Local tattoo convention brings unique art to Columbia

Carnival of Ink showcases tattoos, piercing and sideshow acts from the Midwest.


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Local and regional tattoo artists gathered at the second annual COMO Carnival of Ink at the Holiday Inn Executive Center on Aug. 24. Fans could not only get a new tattoo or piercing, but also view sideshow acts and a tattoo beauty pageant.

The Carnival of Ink was started in Springfield, Missouri in 2013 by music promoter Joe OD Bridges. The event was created to showcase tattoo artists and piercers in places that don’t have a large selection of artists.

“We’re sticking with doing a lot in the Midwest, so we’re hitting areas where there’s not a lot of shows,” Bridges said.

While staying firmly in its Midwest niche, Bridges says the Carnival of Ink is growing and improving every year.

“This October will be the first time we go to Kansas City. The artists we get to join our tours are getting better and better,” Bridges said. “We’re actually in the newest issue of Tattoo Magazine. It’s good to be in a magazine that’s been around for ages and ages.”

Bridges also notes that Carnival of Ink will expand to five dates in 2020. These include Springfield, Columbia, Kansas City and two other cities that will be announced at the beginning of the year.

Derek Schlotter, owner of Mr. Hyde’s Tattoo Emporium, enjoys the communal aspects of the carnival.

“I get to see some good friends I haven’t seen in a while, get to meet some new people and get to see some pretty cool tattoos,” Schlotter said.

However, the Carnival of Ink involves more than tattoos. Verona Fink, self-described professional carnie, performed a body suspension act at the carnival. This involved her piercing her skin with hooks and then being lifted up in the air by them. She thinks people are drawn to body suspension for a variety of reasons.

“For some people it’s meditative, for me there is … this sense of flying to it,” Fink says. “Everyone’s personal experience is different. It’s all spiritual to us in our own way.”

While Fink loves body suspension, she admits that it has its risks.

“Your skin is only as tough as you can have it be, so tearing or ripping out your skin … I’m not gonna say it's normal but there is that … one in a thousand chance,” Fink says.

Though some cringe at Fink’s art, she says the cringe factor keeps her going.

“[There’s] that and the little ones who are like … dreamy-eyed,” Fink says.

Fink wants to see the suspension community grow and become more connected, and thinks the Carnival of Ink can help foster this camaraderie.

“The people around here have really found a way to come together as friends,” Fink said.

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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