Explorer Tattoo Conference to Host First Women’s Summit in November

The Explorer Tattoo Conference, organized by brothers Jake and Jes Farris, has become a premiere educational event for artists in the industry. Where other tattoo conventions and events are open to the general public, the Explorer Conference—which held its first event in Washington, D.C. in 2017—is exclusively designed for professional tattooers who want to learn and gather information from their peers.

For its sixth event, the Explorer Tattoo Conference is bringing some of the biggest names in tattooing together for A Women’s Tattoo Summit in Los Angeles on November 4-6. The three-day gathering will offer art and tattoo seminars, tattoo history education, and inspirational talks—all from the female perspective.

“In our shop (Studio 13 Tattoo in Fort Wayne, Texas) nearly 70 percent of our clientele identify as female. Often we hear from them that they are most comfortable being tattooed by a woman,” says Jes. “If 28 percent of tattoo artists are female* and 70 percent of clientele are female, there’s some ground that needs to be covered between those two numbers.”

After having conversations with some of their friends and longtime Explorer supporters including Teresa Sharpe, Kelly Doty, and Liz Cook, Jes and Jake decided it was time to bring the industry together and have candid conversations about gender identity and the history of women in the tattoo industry.

Explorer Tattoo Conference, Sept. 2018

“We’ve done our best to create an open and honest dialogue between the organizers, presenters, and attendees,” says Jes. “We’ve engaged in some very tough talks in smaller groups. It seemed necessary to have these talks in a larger format.”

In addition to seminars by Doty, Sharpe, and Cook, attendees will hear presentations from groundbreaking artists including Kari Barba, Kelly Violet, and Melody Mitchell, as well as a session led by mental health educator Dr. Jinxi Caddel about therapeutic strategies for artists. 

“They all absolutely radiate an energy that is undeniable,” Jake says of the presenters. “You can feel it when they are in the same room as you. This talented group brings so much wisdom, inspiration, and motivation.”

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Kelly Doty

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All of the presenters have had their own experiences of learning to tattoo in a male-dominated industry. In a video interview with Explorer Tattoo, Doty says that she used to be put off by being labeled as a woman tattooer because her gender doesn’t impact her ability to create art. But her ideas about identity and being referred to as a female tattoo artist have shifted.

“While it doesn’t have a bearing on my ability to create art, it does have a huge significance to the art that I create,” she says. “The things that you’ve gone through, the things that you are—everything about you—has combined to create this little universe. And that’s who you are, so why wouldn’t you take all of that and celebrate it and be proud of it. I’m proud to be a woman tattooer. I’m happy to share my experiences, I’m happy to share my point of view—it’s all I can do as an artist.”

In a separate interview with Explorer Tattoo, Sharpe says that when she first started in tattooing, most shops didn’t want to take on a “girl that they didn’t know.” She says that she’s happy to be a part of the Explorer Conference because it gives her a chance to share all of the knowledge and techniques she’s learned in her career.

“The thing that’s been inspiring me right now is being able to give back to the tattoo community and give people something that I didn’t have going into it,” says Sharpe. “With the Explorer convention, we’re putting that information out there a little more frequently and it’s a more readily available and easily digestible.”

Although the November event is being marketed as a Women’s Summit, the organizers encourage men and all other gender identities to come and attend the event to learn and be part of the dialogue.

“The industry is shifting already and there are no signs of it slowing down,” says Jes. “There are leaders in tattooing of every type. Regardless of color, sexual orientation, or gender identity, we are looking for the very best teachers and leaders this world has to offer. We look forward to a time where everyone feels included in our industry.”

Tickets to the Explorer Conference Women’s Summit are available to professional tattoo artists and can be purchased via the conference website.

*Statistic from an unpublished demographic study by a tattoo supply company.

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