By Jay Brown
Every tattooer says, “I wanna tattoo till the day I die!” But only a few have done it, and only one that I know of has actually tattooed the day he died at a tattoo convention. To honor this man an award was created, and now 10 years later the list of recipients has become quite a prestigious one. Now the convention was/is the Ink Travelers Tattoo Convention in Vancouver, Washington and the tattooer was R.J. Rosini, a man many say that they definitely broke the mold after he was born...
Mr. Rosini was in attendance at the Ink Travelers show in 2003, and died the second night in his room of a stroke and heart attack caused by undiagnosed diabetes. Rosini was well-known for his world-famous tattoo studio in Sturgis, South Dakota during the yearly rally, and his Gypsy Tour that followed many motorcycle runs in the 70s and 80s, and then at conventions across the country in the 80s and 90s. R.J. was at the table when Crazy Philadelphia Eddie created the National Tattoo Club of the World at the first convention in Houston in 1976, and was also in attendance at the 1st National Convention in Denver, Colorado. He was a Bob Shaw Golden Age Award winner, a Tattoo Spirit Award winner, as well as many others, and was a state representative for the Alliance of Professional Tattooists (A.P.T.) in Montana.
Now, back to the day he died and how the Rosini Award was created. After he died, no one working the booth could stand to tattoo because he was a mentor or friend to all working the booth. So the next day the tattooists of the convention bought flowers to pay respect to a man whose heart was in tattooing for 43 years, and even till the day he died. At sunset everyone threw flowers into the Columbia River so they would float past where he was stationed while he was in the Navy. That evening, the promoter of the show awarded the first Rosini Award, an award now given every year to a person or a group who has made a positive and substantial contribution to and for the tattoo community.
The list of recipients, as I mentioned before, is a very prestigious one. You’ll have to forgive me if the order is wrong, but recipients have been: J.A. Brown, Lyle Tuttle, the A.T.P., Bert Rodriguez, Henry Goldfield, Crazy Philadelphia Eddie Funk, Constance Eller, the National Tattoo Association, Vyvyn Lazonga, Sailor Cam Cook, Felicia Connely (the show's promoter) and Mary Jane Haake. Now the award is given at the Ink Travelers Convention every year, at the Red Lion at the Quay, right on the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA... Just a stone’s throw away from Portland.
Now on to the convention, this is one of the best little shows out there, with a family feel to the show. This is not a mega-convention with 200 plus booths, nor is it one of those shows that are put on by a non tattooer. The hotel this convention is put on in is literally right on the Columbia River, and the hall that it is put on in looks out over the river. The accommodations are very nice, and the amenities are great. The bar and restaurant are set up like the deck of an old three mast sailing ship, with all the rigging and sails and everything down to the last detail. It actually has the feel of being on the deck of an old ship.
Several great tattooers come to the show every year, Lyle Tuttle being one of them and as of last year Philadelphia Eddie has put it on his yearly tour list. Other great tattooers that attend this show every year are:
So if you get a chance to make it up to the Northwest in the middle of February Ink Travelers is a great show to attend, this year being it’s 10th anniversary, and you can witness who will be the next recipient of the R.J. Rosini Award. The show is being held Feb. 17th - 19th, 2012. You can get more information on the Ink Traveler's Facebook Page.
(Jay Brown is a tattoo artist, machine-builder and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Jay can be found at A Fine Art Tattoo Studio, in Moscow, Idaho.)