Brussels Tattoo Convention Redux
06:55 PM
Todd Noble tattooing.jpgTodd 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).

custom cars.jpg
[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.

sanhugi crew.jpg 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.  

frites.jpgThe 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.

That second photograph has reminded me of my repressed-but-eternally-strained chubber to own a '49 chopped and channeled Merc (in black suede primer, natch...)

To quote Sly "Cobra" Stallone: "I don't shop here..."

sorry, off topic:

have you fucking seen this shit?!?

who's got video enhancing skills?

i tried email it to you but it would not work for me

Great story!!!
Can i get a cop of it?


Hi Kim!

It's only here online but I give you permission to take the content and post it on your site (with a link here please).

Pete, will pass that link around.

And Brian, I love when you talk dirty.

Its so weird how every tattoo convention around the world has the same stuff. Not every tattooed person is into rockabilly, bikes, and cars but I guess lots are, are there any ones that are different though?

im pretty sick and tired of the models, rockabilly, cars and bikes. im even getting tired of the contests.

but ill keep the music.
any music, but punkrock would be peachy!

I, too, tire of the pin-up model deal... it's like a few years ago every gal was a Suicide Girl, nowadays it's a pin-up model. It has lost a lot of its allure in my eyes. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it all when gals doll-up, but just because you do, it doesn't make you a model, so lose the attitude... *ahem* sorry.

As for the cars and such, I say keep it as it's part of tattoo history, but I can see where some folks are not into it. I am always amazed how much American steel finds its way overseas... that shit must cost a fortune to ship over.

And, yes, definitely keep the tunes and up the punx!!!

@Grosz, I feel yer pain. While I do tip my hat to your Cobretti reasonings, why not pick something a little more custom? EVERYONE wants a primer black, late 40's/early 50's, chopped, channeled, slammed and shaved Merc! Still wouldn't pass on one meself if someone was offering... jes sayin'...


how are cars part of tattoo history??
i disagree

being in the navy is, but you dont see people breaking out vintage uniforms all over the place! lol

guns are more part of tattoo history
and so is the sponge & bucket
no one shows off thier sweet pinstriped spitoon!

Justin are you in LES stitches?

Hot rodding and motorcycling are indeed a part of tattooing:

Hot rodders, motorcycle clubs and the Beat Generation of the 1950s (all byproducts of WWII) were insanely responsible for keeping tattooing alive after The War was over. These discharged Naval/Marine veterans picked up hot rodding and chopping motorcycles (originally done to lighten the bikes weight in dirt track racing). They began forming clubs and they continued to get tattooed after they left their military life behind. It was customary (and is to this day) to get one's club tattooed to prove one's loyalty. Beat Hipsters did it to be rebellious and show their disdain for contemporary society.

After that, the biker gangs of the 60s and 70s adapted it as part of their way of life. This helped keep it alive during these decades. Granted, this was a negative area of history for tattooing, but it is tattoo history none the less, no matter how much folks want to ignore it. This continued into, well, today.

West Coast low-riders are generally heavily tattooed as well. A great many contemporary tattooers and tattooing legends are members of car clubs...

And yes, I am ;^)

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