Brussels Tattoo Convention Redux
Todd Noble Tattooing
Belgium is a country known for chocolate, waffles, french fries, comics and Jean-Claude Van Damme. [In the 7+ years I lived there, however, I've never met a Belgian proud of that last claim to fame.] For a country of almost 11 million people, there is a high density of tattoo talent--artists renowned in every genre. This first Brussels Tattoo Convention highlighted the work of many of these artists and those around the world.
See my usual bad convention pics here. Good photos can be found on the show's Facebook Page.
The lines that wound around the Tour & Taxis expo hall both Saturday and Sunday were a great start. One of the most difficult tasks in putting on a convention is getting people through the door--people who want to get tattooed. You can have as many burlesque dancers as you can shake a tassel at, but if artists aren't working (after incurring booth costs & travel expenses) then it can't really be a huge success. The Brussels organizers did a great job promoting and advertising the event.
Of course, there were burlesque performers as well as bands and a custom car show. Pencil skirts and pompadours abound in Rockabilly revelry, although largely among Europeans. Check this fabulous video by Laurens Groven featuring the cars and girls (in some NSFW states of undress; the girls, I mean).
[As for Americans there, my friend Clarissa of Clarabella Tattoo Wear in Holland marveled at the many finely cultivated beards that adorned our artists and collectors. I blamed Zack Galifanakis. She had no idea what I was talking about.]
One of the greatest spectacles was the Migoii and Sanhugi crew working simultaneously on one backpiece [see below]. It's truly a shame that I suck at taking pictures, because this was something to see, but someone did take a quick video of it (it's less blurry as it goes on). It also begged the question: Who the hell are the clients that can withstand that kinda pain? Do they go into a meditative state? A hypnotic trance? Or is it tons of drugs? Anyway, that badass feeling I had for soldiering through my 7 1/2 hour session at Calypso Tattoo two days earlier quickly escaped me as I watched.
Another highlight of the show was talking with the legendary Henk Schiffmacher, aka Hanky Panky. Henk is a painter, curator, designer and writer but it's his tattoos on the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam and many other rock stars that have brought him great fame. His books "1000 Tattoos" and "Tattoos" for Taschen's Icon series are best sellers. And his conventions in Amsterdam were legendary. But a few lines cannot do him any justice. You can read more about him on Wikipedia. Henk was at the show with his "The Encyclopedia for the Art & History of Tattooing" (now available in English), which is filled with random tattoo goodness. He drew a quick sketch in my copy with my name. I was giddy. Henk said that he'll be opening up a new tattoo museum this summer, bigger and better than his famous original. I'll be there.
On the fine art front, the massive canvases of graffiti and tattoo artist Polak One were phenomenal. Gotta do a full post on him. More on him to come.
The downside for me, as with many conventions, is the food; the greasy offerings that just smell like it'll give you a heart attack. And there were even long lines to get that coronary. I know many expo halls require organizers to use their vendors but hopefully, next year, they can negotiate a better deal. Evidently there were other hiccups because the MC of the show apologized a couple of times, reminding people that it was their first event. Personally, I didn't really see anything that would warrant it.
Thankfully for my liver, there seemed to be a bit less partying compared to the last few shows I've been to. On Saturday, many returned to the HUSA President Park Hotel for post-convention food and drinks.
Strange enough, the next day, I was approached by the hotel waiters wanting to know when the tattooed people were leaving. Same thing happened at the London show, but this time, the staff looked disappointed--rather than relieved--that the show ended Sunday. When I asked what they thought of us descending upon their four-star establishment, one waiter said: "Oh, we like the tattoo people. They are very nice...and clean."
Thanks to Vicky from Original Sin Tattoo for her letting me steal and crop her fries pic.