Everyone thinks of DC as the Nation’s Capital, but Greg Piper knows it’s more than just that. The owner of Exposed Temptations Tattoo in Manassas, he’s been a tattoo artist in town for over 21 years. Piper wanted to bring a little something different to the area when he started the DC Tattoo Expo in 2011.
“DC needed a quality tattoo convention,” he said. “One that would provide the fine residents living here with an opportunity to see great artists from all over the world, as well as an opportunity to get tattooed by them. Great artists from around the world needed to be introduced to those same fine residents! What better way than to put on a quality show that would bring the world’s top artists to the DC area? Most people don’t think of DC as a tattoo or art town for that matter, so I thought it was time to help change that.”
For the Expo, Piper brings in the top tattoo artists and body piercers from around the DC area, and the world. Attendees can survey the artists’ work, pick their favorite artist, and then get tattooed or pierced right on the spot. There are also special events like the Miss DC Pin-Up contest, where women dress up in their “best old school pin-up fashions” for a chance to win up to $500.
As there are every year at Piper’s Expo, there will be contests in many categories, including Tattoo of the Day, Best Color, and of course the 6th Annual “My Tattoo F’n Sucks Award.” That last one is for the worst tattoo at the show, and the winner gets a gift card so they can get the tattoo covered or repaired.
Tattoo repair is featured prominently on the Spike series “Tattoo Nightmares,” which stars tattoo artist Big Gus, who will be at the DC Tattoo Expo and will be roasted at the Expo’s last event Sunday evening.
It all takes place under one roof, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, and Piper said he likes the vibe of the small hotel versus expanding to a bigger venue.
“I want to keep it intimate for the artist,” he said, “so I never want to grow out of a hotel setting. So many cities have them in convention centers and the artists as well as the guests really hate that. Here at the hotel, we can hang out, get a room, stay the weekend. You’re surrounded by art, artists and vendors who are all part of a growing culture. You can get tattooed, watch the contest and the entertainment, have some great food, drink and then relax in a comfy room, all without having to drive.”
The Expo will bring tattoo art to DC for at least one weekend, and maybe this year some lawmakers will show up to get inked. It hasn’t happened yet, said Piper.
“I tattoo a ton of federal law enforcement, government employees and contractors,” he said, “but no politicians as of yet. Although I’d love to, simply because they would be stuck listening to me bitch them out the entire time!”
Piper has seen it all in his years as a tattoo artist, and he is true to the artistic aspect of his craft, despite the newfound mainstream popularity of tattoos and body art.
“I get hundreds of inquiries a year,” he said. “Kids that are like, ‘I want to be a tattooist because it’s cool.’ My reply is usually, ‘f*** off, it’s not about being cool, it’s about being an artist, and of course, today, a modern businessman or woman as well.’”
The DC Tattoo Expo, presented by Exposed Tattoo and Baller Inc. Friday, January 15th – Sunday, January 17th, 2016.
Crystal Gateway Marriott: 1700 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Arlington, VA; www.exposedtattoo.com