- Josh Huskin
Two tattoo expos are vying for the same San Antonio audience this month. And the bad blood between them seems to be at the boiling point.
The 12th annual Slinging Ink Tattoo Expo, which takes place at the Freeman Coliseum this weekend, is getting competition for the first time with another tattoo event – one started by an apparently disgruntled former-employee-turned-rival.
Less than a week after Slinging Ink ends, the Texas Tattoo Jam will kick off its inaugural exhibition at the San Antonio Event Center, from March 27 to 29. The Jam was created by Renee "Red" Neilson, who worked for four years for Nikita Productions, the company behind Slinging Ink.
Sylvia Fernandez, president of Nikita, told the San Antonio Current that Neilson was fired last year because of "misappropriation of funds." She deemed Neilson's new venture "pretty ridiculous," adding she started the event because of "other personal issues," but declined to get into specifics.
[Editor's Note: Nakita Productions was created by Fernandez's ex-husband Pete L. Gonzales, the owner of 210 Kapone's who was shot and killed last Sunday by a patron of the nightclub.]
"There's room for more than one event in San Antonio, but not back to back," Fernandez said in an interview with the San Antonio Current.
She accused Neilson of luring exhibitors through underhanded tactics.
"I know for a fact that she has solicited a lot of my artists and told them Slinging Ink had changed their name to Texas Tattoo Jam," Fernandez said. "A lot of my artists signed up with her thinking it was my event."
Neilson denied duping anyone. She also said she was not fired last year, but actually quit after artists started complaining about how badly the Expo was run. She's accused of stealing $3,500 from Nikita – not so, she said, noting it was money owed to her for promised commission pay she never received.
"I never took a penny from them," Neilson told the San Antonio Current. "They know the truth and I know the truth, but I'm going to choose to take the high road. I'm not going to bad-mouth anybody."
Neilson said she started the Jam because she wanted to "get back to the basics and show off the talents of these artists." She maintained she's not out for revenge.
With Neilson going on her own, Fernandez brought on Felicia Huizar Boland, who helped Slinging Ink in the past with marketing. Boland told the San Antonio Current that the Expo had "lost some of its luster" in the last few years, but she didn't think that was reason enough for Neilson to get an "inflated head" or become a "monster."
INK ME: Slinging Ink Tattoo Expo Highlights
• Meet tattoo legend Lyle Tuttle, 83. He's literally left his mark all across the world (yes, all seven continents) and currently teaches seminars in tattoo machine maintenance and machine building.
• Houston native and hip-hop artist Slim Thug will raise the roof with performances from his albums Boss of All Bosses and The Thug Show.
• Pain is relative for Third Eye Perception, a flesh suspension team whose members basically stick meat hooks in their backs and dangle from ropes. Ouch? Talk about talent.
• Also on stage, escape artist Michael Griffin, who has been on TV shows such as Ripley's Believe It or Not and Masters of Illusion.
• Tatted-up visitors can show off their body art by competing in a tattoo contest all three days. March 22 includes a kid's airbrush tattoo contest. Make mommy proud.
TAKE YOUR PICK OR CHECK OUT BOTH
Slinging Ink Tattoo Expo
$15-20, March 20-22, Freeman Coliseum, 3201 E. Houston St., 226-1177, slinginginktattooexpo.com
Texas Tattoo Jam 2015
$10-20, March 27-29, San Antonio Events Center, 8111 Meadow Leaf Dr., 528-0434, texastat2jam.com