Texas tattoo traditions: Star of Texas’ convention leaves mark on Austin


AUSTIN (KXAN) — What started as a small hotel show has now grown into what is considered Texas’ largest art and tattoo event.

Thousands of Austinites and visitors will have a chance to get inked by over 300 artists from around the world this weekend at the 18th Annual Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival. It will be held at the Palmer Events Center from January 31 — February 2nd, 2020. The first show opens to the public Friday at noon.

Attendees can experience live tattooing, from traditional Japanese to photo-realistic color illustrations and more.

(Todd Bailey/KXAN)

Founder Marcy Molkenthen feels “great” about this year. It’s the first time the event has moved over to the big hall at the center. More space allows more artists, entertainment and other features.

“We go about 40 booths bigger,” Molkenthen said. “But it also gives us room to bring the stage into the hall. Before we had to have that in a separate room.”

(Todd Bailey/KXAN)

Space for activities like contests, vendors, and entertainment as well as a kids area.

“We were getting pretty cramped on the other side,” Molkenthen laughed.

More space but a tighter tattoo community.

The community is great. It’s great people. It’s like a family reunion… We encourage people to open their booths. I put a lot of thought into the floor plan. Put people next to their friends so they can open up and expand. You know, if they’re having a good time then that translates to the public. Really try to take care of the artists and we’ve built a good bond with that.


Through that relationships sprout, and some artists come back to their roots between trips and work the convention.

(Todd Bailey/KXAN)

Austin tattoo artist Joey Ortega makes sure he attends each year. He came from Killeen, Texas and started working Austin in August 2008. Since then, his relationship with Molkenthen has allowed him to design the posters and promotions for the Star of Texas.

(Courtesy: Joey Ortega)

“There’s this whole lineage of artwork for the last several years,” Ortega said. “Marcy always had this theme of East meets Texas… This year is like a kind of geisha almost holding a Shiba Inu with tattoos on, and she’s like a tattoo machine and you can see the Austin skyline in the background.”

Ortega has been tattooing over 17 years and has grown his style into “illustrative tattooing.” He mostly does large scale work involving tattoos that sometimes stretch from someone’s leg to their back or shoulders.

“A piece that lots of people are talking to me about that I have in progress is a Kirin that’s on a girl’s side. It’s essentially a Japanese unicorn,” Ortega said. “I get emails about it regularly from people that are like I love this tattoo and I want something like this… That’s something I’m quite happy about. I’ll actually be working on it on Sunday here at the show.”

A piece that has allowed him to connect with his client. A part of his job and this convention he loves.

Being a tattooer, that’s my little corner of how to impact someone’s life.


An impact he has left on many in Austin.

“When you’ve sat in the same place for awhile you run into your tattoos on a regular basis,” Ortega said. “I’ve been to restaurants where someone’s like ‘Oh yeah, well you’ve had this much taken off of your bill,” and I’m like I don’t even know who did it. And then a client is like ‘oh yeah, I work at this restaurant now.’ Or you’ll get, people will take care of you. They’ll try to do simple acts of kindness as a form of appreciation.”

The Star of Texas states in their press release they differ from other tattoo conventions because they run it like a juried art show — artists are invited and fine art participation is required.

Show hours include:

  • Friday, 12:00 p.m. — 10:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, 11:00 a.m. — 9:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, 12:00 p.m. — 7:00 p.m.

Day passes at the door cost $25 daily and weekend passes cost $60 (Children 12 and under free with adult). All ages are welcome. Visit their website for more information.

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