Tattooing in the Glass City 

Toledo Tattoo Festival organizer Jes Farris shares festival highlights

a woman tattoos another woman's thigh as she rests on a table
The Toledo Tattoo Festival at the Glass City Center, April 21-23, will feature over 200 tattoo artists from around the world.

Tattoos are one of the world’s oldest art forms. For thousands of years humans have created designs on their bodies to commemorate love, remembrance, religion – designs that are as deeply personal as they are permanent. An event worthy of the art form launches April 21-23 with the Toledo Tattoo Festival at the Glass City Center, featuring over 200 tattoo artists from all over the world.

Teaching technique

Jes Farris, Festival organizer, explains “We started the process in 2019 but couldn’t get dates due to the pandemic, and then the Seagate Center, now the Glass City Center, started renovations, so it’s been a long process. Our company does a program called the Explorer Tattoo Conference, the largest professional learning conference for tattoo artists in the world. We bring the biggest names in tattooing to present, in a professional setting, seminars on technique. That’s where we started with events. By talking with tattoo artists, we realized they wanted more than the tattoo conventions that we all used to love. We hosted focus groups with the artists to determine how to make a convention better and it progressed from there. We did our first tattoo festival last year in Fort Wayne. This year the Toledo convention will be in April, with St. Paul in July and Fort Wayne, Memphis, and Grand Rapids also in 2023.” 

Farris lived in Toledo for three years and owned a tattoo shop before closing the shop in 2016 as organizing festivals and seminars became full-time work. Farris moved back to Fort Wayne for family reasons but wanted to produce the festivals as they bring a lot to cities economically. Toledo is a city Farris wanted to favor with a festival, saying that he “feels Toledo is really growing and wants to see events like this bring business to hotels, restaurants, and small businesses.” 

Top talent, cutting edge technique 

“We are proud of the selection process for the artists that are part of our festivals,” says Farris. “We are trying to get back to featuring our best and brightest. Andres Acosta, an artist from Venezuela, now based in Houston, has made a name for himself with his hyper-realism style. 

Dave Tevenal, from Columbus Ohio, is known as a ‘tattooer’s artist.’ He’s the guy tattoo artists watch to see what he’s working on. He is the hardest working guy in tattooing. Ink and Iron, located on Adams Street in downtown Toledo, has a great crew of artists, and they’ll be at the festival. It’s important for us to have local talent featured alongside national and international artists. We’ve also focused on bringing a diversity of styles and artists to our festivals. It’s important, when people attend these events, that they find an art style and/or an artist they can connect with,” explains Farris.

At the festival

Festival attendees will view artists creating and that process is exciting and inspiring, not only for the public but for fellow artists. Tattoo artists will also be selling their own artwork in print or other forms and, if you are a licensed tattoo artist, you can purchase supplies. The festival will also include local vendors.

Find out more and get tickets to the Toledo Tattoo Festival at


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