The carnival is coming to town, but not in the way that you might think. Ninety-six booths with about 115 total tattoo artists taking part in the Carnival of Ink will be showcasing their ink for the public in Columbia.
Joe Bridges, ringmaster of the carnival, is looking forward to the new clientele that will be drawn from a college town.
“It’s kind of a win-win for a lot of the artists because it’s a central spot of Missouri,” Bridges said. “We aren’t far from St. Louis. We’re not far from Kansas City. We’re not far from Lake of the Ozarks, so it just made sense.”
For the past four years, the Carnival of Ink has been in Springfield, Missouri. Bridges said that he didn’t want to bring it Kansas City or St. Louis because they already have exhibitions established there. That’s why he said they wanted to dip their toes in Columbia to see what happens.
“This just creates a hub for all of them to come and network together,” Bridges said. “Some artists haven’t seen another artist in 10 years, but this is one location to be able to get them to come together.”
Lars Van Zandt is a tattoo artist at Iron Tiger in Columbia who will be showcasing his work at the carnival. He said it is much more powerful to see tattoos in person.
“I find frequently with the internet that some tattoos are amazing that don’t photograph well,” Van Zandt said. “And there’s so much more power to someone’s work and why they do it the way they do when you get to meet them in person.”
Sideshow performers will also be present at the carnival, including extreme piercers and a burlesque troupe. Bridges said he feels like he has helped tattoo artists form bonds and connections during the previous four years of Carnival of Ink.
“I’ve seen people come in getting their very first tattoo at these conventions and I’ve seen people that in their 70s getting work done, and it’s just amazing to see all these different types of people under one roof,” Bridges said.