London Redux 2010
Tattoo by Chad Koeplinger on Cian Wright of SwallowsnDaggers.net.
When do you people leave?
I was pulled aside and asked this, rather politely, by the night manager of the Ibis hotel where tattooists packed the bar and restaurant celebrating the end of a successful London Tattoo Convention. They'd all soon go back to their studios around the world, but as I looked at the mass of scary looking dudes beer swilling and back slapping, I knew that it wouldn't be soon enough for this frazzled hotel employee.
We weren't badly behaved. We were just intense. Three days in a place where thousands converged to feel and give pain, to preen and gawk--all surrounded by buzzing, blood and the blare of heavy metal--well, it demands a little steam letting.
The London convention is one of the world's largest. As I mentioned last week, over 20,000 people descended upon the historic Tobacco Dock in 2009; this year, however, it seemed a bit less although the organizers didn't give an official head count yet. Lines to get in still went down the block (and we won't even discuss the bathroom lines). But everywhere you looked, tattooists were working.
The artist roster was a Who's Who of Tattoo. Any type of tattoo could be had; the masters of all these styles were there and some even opted to take some appointments from the floor and not book up completely in advance. I wonder if those who managed to score time appreciated their luck.
Tim Hendricks tattoo on Sharon of Classic Ink & Mods.
The last tattoo show we attended was the Traditional Tattoo & Wolrd Culture Fest in Ireland, which felt like a mini-Woodstock. In sharp contrast, the London show was an amped Warped Tour: kilowatts of commotion, crowds to lose your friends in, packed pubs, freakshows and Fuel Girls. The energy was just bouncing off the vaulted brick halls.
Within this historic warehouse, artists worked in a maze of glass enclosures. It was like an art zoo, where tattooists were fed cash to perform artistic feats. This menagerie was easy to get lost in, but one you want to get lost in; where you could unintentionally find a tattooer whose work you've never known before that blows you away.
This year, however, I didn't have the luxury of getting lost and making these discoveries. I stayed in my own glass exhibition space with Edgar Hoill as we sold out our massive "Black & Grey Tattoo" box sets and displayed Edgar's photography on the gallery walls.
Also with us was Lars Krutak, our favorite tattoo anthropologist, whose latest book "Kalinga Tattoo" is a stunning--and also massive--hardcover featuring photos and stories of the ancient tattoo tribe in the Philippines. [More on that book coming up.]
Indio Reyes signing his artist pages in "Black & Grey Tattoo."
Because I spent most of my time shilling books, I didn't do my usual flitting about. Thankfully Brian did, taking plenty of photos and bringing back some good stories, which he'll post once he recovers from the hand-poked toe tattoo he got from Clare Goldilox.
[I also did a hand-poked tattoo, my first tattoo ever actually. And I did it on Clare's bum. It was not my finest moment. [Although she does have a fine bum.] When I'm feeling more shameless, I may just do a post on it. Or maybe not. Needless to say, I won't be tattooing ever again.]
In fact, lots of post-convention late night tattooing takes place, and sometimes it takes place after a bottle of Jack Daniels. You know the stories of people taking a sharpie marker to draw all over the guy who passes out at a party? Ok, now imagine that with a tattoo machine.
Those stories were traded during that final convention night revelry at the Ibis bar, but no machines were whipped out and skin scratched. We left with hugs and handshakes, and the hotel employees finally got their rest.