If you think stickers are solely for slapping on grade-school exams or kids’ coloring books, consider Characters Welcome, an international sticker exhibition taking over Tattooed Mom this Friday and Saturday.

The eight-year-old show attracts thousands of submissions, sent by artists as far as Thailand, Brazil, and Russia and as close as South Philadelphia and West Oak Lane.

“Sticker art is a subgenre of street art that’s become this international phenomenon because of the low barrier to entry,” says Tattooed Mom owner and Characters Welcome founder Robert Perry. “You have this small canvas that’s affordable — priority-mail sticker paper is free at the post office — and portable, and therefore easy to share, all of which make the medium extremely accessible.”

Some entries have been pasted onto collage boards (which will be for sale), curated by local street artists. Others plaster the walls of the quirky, graffiti-centric South Street bar. There are no rules for submissions: Nudity and political satire are as welcome as childish cartoons, with styles ranging from hand-drawn originals to vinyl prints, graffiti tags, and stencil work.

In addition to the collage boards ($15 and up), sticker packs featuring a 10-artist assortment will be available for $5. Proceeds from the show benefit youth arts programs at Fleisher Art Memorial and the Village of Arts and Humanities.

Visitors can craft their own stickers to take home, trade, or smack on the bar’s walls, already layered with 22 years of stickers, wheat pastes, graffiti, and other art.

“The upstairs was always meant to serve as a safe space for personal expression,” says Perry, who helped open Tattooed Mom in 1997. “What I love about stickers is their size. A sticker can make you think, laugh, sad, or feel any number of emotions, almost instantaneously.”

Read up on a handful of artists contributing to the show below.

If you go: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday (21+) and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (all ages), Tattooed Mom, 530 South St., free, 215-238-9880, tattooedmomphilly.com


Home base: Los Angeles

Years as a sticker artist: Five

How it became a hobby: This guy on Instagram, @momslapsme, introduced me to this community of sticker artists, and it influenced me to start drawing. Stickers have since led me to start doing work on canvas. I had my first show last year, and sold all 20 canvases. With that money, I bought my plane ticket to Philadelphia to attend last year’s Characters Welcome — full-circle.

Style: Hand-drawn characters using acrylic paint markers.

Inspiration: I use a similar eye, nose, and teeth style for almost every version of my character. He’s a version of myself, I suppose … I’ve been told that I look intimidating, but once you get to know me, you see that’s not who I am.

Favorite part: Stickers are an easy way to share your creativity. Someone can like my work, and the next day be carrying it around, pasted to their laptop.

Favorite sticker artists: @bobwillreign, @avizzle_, @underwaterpirates


Home base: South Philadelphia

Years as a sticker artist: 10

How it became a hobby: Back in the day, stickers were just a means of getting your illustrations seen, before social media. I’ve had digital media work in the Tate Modern and beyond, but this is just a cheaper way to get work physically out there.

Style: Hand-drawn characters using a Molotow pen with ink from Australian company Ink on the Run.

Inspiration: My stickers are rooted in an expression of paranormal things. I had a ghostly experience at Laurel Hill Cemetery that freaked me out. I recorded human voices out of thin air there with a digital recorder. It’s called electronic voice phenomena. That launched my characters’ faces into a vessel to express a fear of the moment, whether it’s a paranormal end of the world, the loss of control, a military state, or whatever.

Favorite part: A lot of the art scene is elitist. With stickers, anyone from any economic standpoint can engage without huge financial losses, from making it to buying it. It’s enabled me to trade with people all over the world and have art shown everywhere from Norway to Indonesia.

Favorite sticker artists: @old_broads, @garbagegrease, @delicioustrash_


Home base: West Oak Lane

Years as a sticker artist: Five

How it became a hobby: I’ve always held this preconceived idea that creating art wouldn’t make a lot of money. When I went to high school, I majored in food science, continuing my art on the side. Stickers were a way to get it out there.

Style: Hand-drawn using pencil and Copic markers.

Inspiration: My stickers have different themes but are all designed to give society a voice while bringing people to a common ground. For example, I did a sheet of girls with all different styles and backgrounds wearing head wraps or hijabs, each cast in a positive light.

Favorite part: Stickers enable you to get a message out there and plant an idea into someone’s mind, without anyone saying “yes” or “no” before you do it.

Favorite sticker artists: @woku_ac_nj, @slap_dizzie

El Toro

Home base: Los Angeles

Years as a sticker artist: 16

How it became a hobby: I was a graffiti writer in Philadelphia, but because Philadelphia’s scene was so established, it was hard to get into. Me and a few friends started getting together to create stickers. There wasn’t a huge scene at the time, so we pushed for it as a new art from there, one that would be more inclusive than the macho-like graffiti environment.

Style: Mostly hand-drawn with Molotow and Decocolor markers and Uni Posca pens.

Inspiration: I was inspired by European sticker artists and the chunky styles they were using. El Toro became this sort of antihero character who’s silly and whimsical. And then I put some Philadelphia funk in there, some tenacity.

Favorite part: The collaboration. I have lifelong friends from just making silly stickers, and friends in almost every continent that I can send them to. Stickers gave me access to a world of people I would’ve never met.

Favorite sticker artists: @bobwillreign, #stikman, @underwaterpirates


Home base: London

Years as a sticker artist: 17

How it became a hobby: My late granddad visited one day, and knowing I loved drawing, he brought a box of what he thought was plain paper but turned out to be sticker paper. I fell in love there and then. As a kid, I was mesmerized by the idea that my drawings were now much more than drawings. Now I could stick them somewhere.

Style: Hand-drawn using Uni Posca pens and Molotov markers.

Inspiration: I’m inspired by artists like H.R. Giger, Tsutomu Nihei, David Firth, and graffiti-oriented people like Dose, Soko, and CAN2, but my own work is quite different. They’re all cartoonlike and monster-oriented characters from my imagination.

Favorite part: The versatility and freedom. In the U.K., we don’t get classic 228 postal labels, so I’ve always done big stickers, and they only get bigger with time.

Favorite sticker artists: @skamsticker, @latetodagame, @creepkollektiv


Home base: South Philadelphia

Years as a sticker artist: One

How it became a hobby: I had always admired sticker art I was seeing at Tattooed Mom. I’m a painter, sculptor, and graphic designer, and have collected stickers for years, so this just became a new medium to explore.

Style: Designed through computer app Sketch and printed on sticker paper.

Inspirations: My work is inspired from trash I see around Philly streets. It surrounds me when I step out the door. I can’t really escape it. I wanted to play with that while also bringing awareness to it, glamorizing items through color and line work to make them look less gross.

Favorite part: I like watching how these little characters interact in an environment, which isn’t as easy to do with other art.

Favorite other sticker artist: @asab0ves0bel0w