There are currently 280 tattoo conventions in the United States. Only one is dedicated to Harry Potter. That convention is “Literary Ink.” Founded by tattoo artist Jennifer Edge, the Harry Potter-themed convention beckons tattoo artists and fans to unite under their love of the Wizarding world. Directed by Axel Arzola, Literary Ink chronicles the lives of the skilled tattoo artist, the creation of a major convention, and the fans who committed these icons of the Potterverse to their skin. Its pop culture documentary meets Ink Master in an infectious overlap of nerdom and tattoos.
The documentary follows Edge and her team while putting on the convention. The film showcases outstanding tattooing as each artist discusses the finer points of their style, how they found their calling, and how the Harry Potter books found them. Through the floors of the convention to the backrooms of tattoo parlors, Arzola gives the film a personal look into the tattoo industry, all while using the convention as a foundation for further exploration. Featuring in-depth interviews with several artists across the globe, Literary Ink is an educational journey for the unfamiliar and a fantasy for the tattoo enthusiast.
“…the Harry Potter-themed convention beckons tattoo artists and fans to unite…”
The first half is superb, finding a perfect balance between fandom and highlighting the art itself. Not only does the film accent next-level tattoos and unique artistic styles, but the filmmaker has a keen eye for tattoos. He shoots the whole process in an artful, cinematic format. Watching each tattoo unfold and listening to the passion in each artist’s voice throughout the process are among the film’s best moments.
Footage of the convention itself is solid throughout but is used very sparing. Quickly the film shifts from focusing on Literary Ink as a convention to honing in on the artists who makes the event possible. But this is understandable; the artists are the most vital part of the film. Much of the emotional weight stems from Arzola’s pairing of unbridled creativity with themes of found family. However, the most significant emotional payoffs in Literary Ink come through artist Aniel Hernadez. Hernadez is a talented tattoo artist who defected from Cuba five years before filming. His arc through the film adds an extra layer of depth and elevates the proceedings beyond an enjoyable pop culture documentary.
Regardless of your fandom or love of Harry Potter, Literary Ink will make you consider getting a tattoo. The artists featured throughout are exceptional. Every tattoo is filmed with the same precision and love as the artist inking them. Shifting rapidly between tattoo artists, conventions, and problems within the industry, the second half does tend to drag and lose the narrative. Despite those hangups and a few disjointed transitions, the documentary still creates an insightful glimpse into tattoos and Harry Potter and offers plenty for an audience new to these communities and those entrenched in each fandom.
"…an infectious overlap of nerdom and tattoos."