Like David Hasselfhoff and unpasteurized cheese,
tattoos are big in Germany, and this weekend, I got a large dose of all (a
little less Hoff than cheddar but one in the
same). The 18th Annual Frankfurt Tattoo Convention -- yes, the
convention was older than some of the attendees -- kicked off this past
Friday in its usual spot: The Messe Frankfurt, a massive
modern expo hall in the center of this commercial city.
It wasn't my first Frankfurt tattoo foray. It was about seven or eight years ago when I last attended and, other than a shorter artist list and more vendors, much hadn't changed. There are certain elements that give this gathering its own specialness, which I will list for you but first...
Frankfurt Tattoo Convention photos. Photos I obviously didn't take as they're in focus.
Ok, key points on the show:
1. Lots of Germans. They may not understand all my jokes and refer to me as a "small hyper person," but there was a lot o' love. Most at the Frankfurt show were serious collectors with large intricate work that harmonized really beautifully with their bods. Typical German craftsmanship.
2. A dearth of hipsters. Some say hipsters are as likely to be seen at a tattoo con as in Target, but I've seen enough getting their asses tattooed with Hello Kitty (one is enough!), or the ubiquitous ironic tattoo that keeps booths busy, to say otherwise. Maybe it's an American thing. Because as I walked through the crowded aisles of the convention hall, I looked around in wonder and thought to myself: "Wow. I haven't seen one dude who would ask to borrow his girlfriend's skinny jeans and Spice Girls tee." [Well, maybe except for this dude.] I took a deep breathe of that testosterone and it smelled good.
3. Germany still holds the record for most tribal and blackwork tattoos per capita. And considering that I'm covered in blackwork [and even did a book on it, ahem], I was giddy being among my tribe. It was in serious contrast being at the Detroit convention the previous weekend where barely any people entered the tribal competition. In Frankfurt, there even was a portion of the hall sectioned off -- complete with Tiki hut -- where traditional tattooists, including Vatea, Roonui, and the Suluape family, worked by hand and machine. That said, I did notice that European artists were working in way more black and gray as well as fantasy & comic-styled tattoos.
4. Convention food sucks all over the world and Frankfurt was no exception. I'm not asking for haute cuisine, just something I can digest. And oh, my heart goes out to convention-going vegans. Best bet: always pack a lunch.
5. Finally, the very best part of Frankfurt, and any show, is seeing friends whom I only run into a few times a year in different cities, in different countries. It always makes me feel that there still is a "tattoo community." Shout-outs to Volle, who tattooed his Maori inspired art non-stop but still had time to look up and crack jokes; Elson Yeo of Singapore, who did a rockin horror sleeve over extensive scars, working the keloids perfectly into the design; and Clarabella of Brazil, my first Euro-convention homegirl who has been accessorizing me for over a decade.
So, I landed back into Brooklyn just a couple of hours ago and will now settle into my jet lag. I'm taking a convention break until the NYC one in May so if you have photos and stories of those you're heading to, send 'em my way.