Can you talk a bit about the history of Inksmith and Rogers, as well as the history of the convention itself?
Eric Inksmith appeared both locally and nationally on television shows, such as the Today Show, swinging tattooing into popularity. Widely known for his bright pigments, applying colors to enhance each other, and as a brilliant shader and craftsman. Thus, Eric was both witness to and generator of tattoo’s evolution and popularity.
After several years of tattooing, Eric had the great luck to meet Paul Rogers. Paul, an old school carnie tattooist, perfected the tattoo machine and shared his techniques and tricks with Eric, who became the inheritor of Paul’s machine mechanics. Paul’s generosity of spirit and distribution of knowledge was shared with Eric. Soon after, Paul persuaded Eric to move to Jacksonville, their friendship and working relationship continued to evolve. Finally, in 1984 Eric honored him by joining their names in the title for their new company, Inksmith & Rogers. Over the years Inksmith & Rogers has grown from one shop in Mayport, FL, to five shops throughout Jacksonville. Paul’s spirit and Eric’s knowledge continue to be a trademark of Inksmith & Rogers. This spirit and knowledge continues throughout the Inksmith & Rogers family.
The idea of a convention has been something that has been a topic of discussion and thought for many years. We knew that if a convention were to happen, it would have to be done the right way, with the right people. When the stars aligned and all the pieces fell into place, Imperial Tattoo and Art Festival was born. This was not a solo effort, and there were many people who worked hard to make it possible. Trying to list and thank everyone who made the convention a possibility and success, is not even possible. But Bart and Pepper of Unify Tattoo Co, in St. Augustine, FL, made this convention possible. They really made this dream a reality by coming up with the idea of finally bringing a convention to downtown Jacksonville. This convention truly would not have happened without them.
What is it like putting together a convention of this size, and why conventions are such an important part of the tattoo community?
Honestly, putting together a convention is hard work, but worth every minute of it. There are many moving parts and everything has to be moving in unison. Once again, it would not be possible without the collaborative effort of everyone involved. There are tattoo artists from all over the world who are a part of the convention. We communicate with each of these artists months in advance, multiple times, to make sure that every artist has the required documentation. In addition to the artists, there are vendors that have to be scheduled, along with all the required permits and documentation. As mentioned before, there is a lot of work involved, but hard work pays off in a big way.
Conventions are, and always have been, an integral part of tattoo culture. They bring artist to parts of the world, they may otherwise not experience. They are also a way for artists to stay in touch with each other, share stories, and techniques. Some of these artists may have not met each other otherwise, or may only get to see each other at conventions. In other words, conventions are like the family reunions of the tattoo world. Lastly, it allows tattoo enthusiast in certain areas of the world the opportunity to get tattooed by artists, they may have never been able to otherwise.
How do you choose which artists come to the convention?
As much as we would love to have every artist out there to tattoo at the convention, there is only a certain amount of space available. We also would never say that we choose one artist over another. Instead, we would say that we just communicate with artists all over the world, until we are out of space. We do have one common theme among all artists at the convention, hard work and dedication. All the artists who attend the convention are artists who respect the history of tattooing, respect each other, and want to be the best artists they can be.
What makes Jacksonville a great place for a convention, and what is the tattoo community like there?
Jacksonville is one of the best cities in the United States. We have a community that not only loves art and tattooing, but also accepting of everyone. We are lucky to be in a place where you are treated the same if you have zero tattoos, or are heavily tattooed. Depending on where you are in Jacksonville, Jacksonville is a large city, you will see different styles and influences in the tattoos. Which makes it the perfect city for a convention, as all tattoo styles and artists are wanted.
Lastly, if you look closely, you will see the unmistakable influence of Paul Rogers and Eric Inksmith in all Jacksonville tattoos. This is something we are proud of, and a tradition we want to make sure is passed on to generations of tattoo artists, and tattoo enthusiasts.