Tin Tin gets ready to tattoo Filip Leu (above).
One of the world's best tattoo shows -- the London Tattoo Convention -- celebrated ten years running, September 26-28, with the world's best tattooists (over 350 of them!) working and partying through the weekend. I was at the very first London show and almost all of them since -- including last year's debaucherous gathering -- but as work kept me in NYC, I was relegated to enjoying the show via photos, status updates, and tweets in endless streams on social media.
My friend Ino Mei, founder/editor of the Greek publication Heartbeat Ink (which is in English & Greek), just posted truly fantastic coverage of the convention, with what seems like a billion photos in her London Tattoo Convention Review (including those posted here). [Ino interviewed me at last year's London convention, posted here.]
For this year's show, Ino captured everything from artists tattooing, the scene outside and inside the venue, close-ups of stunning tattoo work, and tons more. Wonderful to see all the smiles throughout the image gallery. Her video footage should be up soon, and I'll update this post with the link, but I couldn't wait to share all the London tattoo goodness!
Tattoo above by Gao Bin of Lion King Tattoo in Taiwan.
On Friday, the first day of the London Tattoo Convention, before I even finished setting up my book stand, I accosted a friend, who is getting a Filip Leu backpiece, and demanded that he drop his pants (for a look at the tattoo, of course). He immediately obliged. Soon after, others joined in and on display were derrieres decorated by Tin Tin & Xed Le Head. There are many reasons to attend tattoo conventions. Pants dropping is one.
What makes the London convention such a draw for the thousands -- who queued up in a line that snaked all around the Tobacco Dock -- was the roster of over 300 hundred artists, who represent the best in the world. Any type of tattoo art you can image was available. Hand tattooing occupied a central arena on the upper level, where artists like Pili Mo'o tapped traditional Samoan tatau, and tattoo viking Colin Dale of Denmark created Nordic inspired dotwork (among others). Colin even offered a few small Inuit stitch tattoos, which you can view here on his Facebook page.
Crowds formed around the booths of reality TV stars like Ami James and Tatu Baby, leaving room for serious collectors to watch artists like Japan's Shige (shown above) create masterful works on those lucky enough to get an appointment.
Aside from watching long-renowned legends of tattooing, I particularly love discovering artists whose work I wasn't familiar with (it's hard to keep track of the incredible talent out there today). Two artists in particular who blew my mind were Pietro Sedda, with his trippy surrealism, and Lore Morato, who does incredibly soulful neotraditional, like the work below done at the convention.
The main reason of all for my attendance at these shows is that I get to meet up with my beautiful freak friends from around the world and make new friends. I'm grateful to all of you who came to my booth and shared your stories (and took your clothes off for me). Despite being such a massive gathering, the London convention always feels like an intimate family reunion.
I brought my "Marisa Loves Me" temp tattoos, and throughout the weekend, I stamped all sorts of body parts with my tokens of affection. The greatest love, however, was shown when two wonderful friends and artists, Goldilox and Garcia Leonam, got the temps permanently tattooed on them after the convention by Lore Morato. And they were sober when they decided to do it! [See below.]
It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
I posted a few of my usual bad phone camera pics on Flickr. You can also find some great images and mass media coverage of the London Tattoo Convention via the links below.
I'll soon be off to Belgium to get tattooed, but I do have posts lined up for y'all this week ... because I love you.
Before I post my redux tomorrow from this weekend's London Tattoo Convention, I wanted to share these fantastic photos by London-based photographer Edo Zollo. Edo's work focuses on street life and events, so he was perfectly suited to capture the excitement of the convention.
See more of Edo's images from on Flickr. You can check him on Twitter & Facebook.
It's been a while since I featured work from my own tattoo artist, Daniel DiMattia of Calypso Tattoo in Liege, Belgium; however, I'm also posting because it's a rare opportunity to grab the limited available appointments he has when working outside of his studio.
Next week, from September 23rd to the 26th, Dan will be working at London Tattoo, and has a couple of session times available. To make an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02078335996 in the UK. There may also be a session free on Friday, September 27th during the London Tattoo Convention. Email him at email@example.com for more info.
Check the Calypso Tattoo site for more of Dan's signature dotwork and blackwork. He is also featured in Black Tattoo Art 2: Modern Expressions of the Tribal.
Photo of Khan by Edo Zollo. All photos in this post by Edo.
This past weekend, one of the world's best tattoo shows -- The London Tattoo Convention -- welcomed an estimated 20,000 attendees to East London's Tobacco Docks for the finest tattooing, performances, art exhibitions ... and Instagram posting.
I'm not gonna lie. I wanted to delete all my social media apps out of jealousy. We couldn't make it to the party this year but were constantly reminded what we were missing. But I'm over the envy and now enjoying the many images of the show.
My favorite photos are by London-based photographer Edo Zollo, who has graciously let us share some of them here. You can see Edo's full convention set on Flickr. Also check him on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
For more convention photos, follow these links:
Filmed at the London Tattoo Convention this past year, Zeitgeist Magazine's "Behind the Needle" series, produced by Alice Snape, features noted artists talking about their art and inspiration, and musing on the state of tattooing, often while tattooing clients at the show.
In this fourth installment, Alice & Papercut Pictures interviewed Zele of Zagreb Tattoo, Jason Donahue of Idle Hand, and Alex Binnie of IntoYou. These artists, from very different backgrounds, discuss their individual tattoo styles and also address the good and bad of the "tattoo fad." [Zele remarks, "Tattooing has become a victim of its own popularity."]
In all of the interviews, the passion for the craft is most evident. I particularly enjoyed hearing Alex Binnie's thoughts on tattooing being a beautiful private contract between the client and tattooist -- an art that is outside the exploitative nature of the gallery fine art system. No fad can say that.
Watch the full video above or catch it on Zeitgeist. Also check the previous episodes:
Photo taken from the real London Tattoo Convention by EPA, posted on The Telegraph.
I often use the term "tattoo community," and just as often, I get called on it. Is there a true community today when the explosive popularity of the art form has brought in so many who come to it, not out of passion, but for cashing in?
In the past few days, I've seen action that answers this question, and that answer is resoundingly Yes. It's action with the stated goal to protect this community from companies wanting to take a piece of the profits from those who have dedicated their personal and professional lives to tattooing before the onslaught of pop culture "tattoo cool."
We last saw this movement in July with the efforts to boycott TLC's "Tattoo School" program, a show that made it seem that anyone can be a tattooist within two short weeks.
This weekend, the focus has been on boycotting tattoo convention companies seeking to ride the coat tails of well established and successful events; specifically, it's a movement against the planned The Great British Tattoo Show, which would take place months before one of the world's best conventions, Miki Vialetto's The International London Tattoo Convention.
Michelle Myles of DareDevil & Fun City Tattoo studios has the details on her wonderful Devil City Press Blog. Here's an excerpt:
Michelle's post -- as well as others from tattooists -- are making the rounds, urging other artists not to participate in these shows. I believe collectors should also take a stand by not attending. Let's keep our support in the family.
UPDATE: Here is Stuart Mears' response.
The fine folks over at Zeitgeist Magazine have recently launched part two of their "Behind The Needle" video series from the 2011 London Tattoo Convention (you can view part one here). While part one centered mainly on artists' attitudes toward this monster expo, part 2 focuses on four tattooists (Chad Koeplinger, Michelle Myles, Uncle Allan and Claudia De Sabe) discussing their respective styles and how they got started in the business.
(Thanks to Alice Th'ink for the tip!)
Zeitgeist Magazine has put together a cool video of interviews with tattooists at this year's London Tattoo Convention (making me even more disappointed that attending was out of the realm of my financial possibilities). Click through to the video page to see a full list of the artists interviewed (in order of appearance) but, come on... even if we've been steppin half-correctly here at the Needles & Sins Underground Bunker, you should know who these people are by now.
Once again, the London Tattoo Convention brought in the modified masses this weekend -- an estimated 20,000 people -- with the draw of renowned tattooists from across the globe, fine art galleries, fire-breathing beauties, bands, and plenty of pints. While we didn't make it this year, we followed dispatches on Facebook & Twitter as well as on Flickr, which has many fabulous photos from the show, including this one above by Ed London Photography. [Links to more photo sets are below.]
And like every year, the press swarmed the Tobacco Docks to bring the freak show into the homes of the unblemished. Some are particularly noteworthy in their approach to covering tattoo culture.
First, in a lead-up to the show, TNT Magazine profiled London-based artists, Mo Copoletta of The Family Business and Nikole Lowe of Good Times Tattoo.The article begins with the outrageous statement that even doctors and lawyers get tattooed (heaven forfend!), but then has the artists carry the piece with their thoughts on tattooing, such as the trend of young people getting neck tattoos without much other coverage. It's a controversial topic among tattooists, and here's what Mo had to say about it:
I believe it's more of a cool factor of belonging to a scene rather than a mature decision of having something on your neck. [...] Before going to neck and hands, you need to live with tattoos and have visible parts of your body, like forearms and legs, done first to be able to get used to people's reactions. Because, no matter what, you're always going to get a reaction from people, and you're not going to be 20 forever and looking rock'n'roll your whole life.Mo and Nikole also offer general tattoo advice for those new to the art. Worth a read.
The BBC covered the show as well with a particular bent on tattoo regret. I was immediately put off by the usual tired line: "Tattoos are no longer the trophies of rockers, sailors, bikers, bohemians and criminals, they have gone mainstream." [It's also used in the next linked article.] Dr. Matt Lodder found a line in a 1926 Vanity Fair article declaring that tattoos were no longer just for sailors, but have "percolated through the entire social stratum." So please, reporters, cut out the cliches. Then the BBC reporter goes on to ponder whether there would be less tattoo regret if people could "test drive" a tattoo, so she gets a temporary tattoo and goes to the convention to see what the reaction to it is. People winced. Rightly so. At least the focus of the writing was on those who do not regret their tattoo choices like Joe Monroe, Cammy Stewart & Lestyn Flye of Divine Canvas. They are shown in a short video of the show embedded in the online article.
My favorite reportage is The Guardian's "Tattoos: Eyecatching But Art They Art?" by art critic Jonathan Jones. Again, there was "Once associated with sailors, gang members, or circus performers, these markings are now a mainstream cultural force." I too winced. But the rest of the writing makes up for it. Here's a taste:
For less talk and more imagery, check the Flickr sets of these photographers:
* Ed London Photography (First image above)
* Rhodri Jones/Rodrico (Image of Jo Harrison tattooing above and facial tattoo below).
Our friend Yushi Takei just hit us up with some new work and also added 50 images of his traditional Japanese tattooing to his online gallery.
Yushi will be working at the London Tattoo Convention this upcoming weekend, then doing a guest spot at Frith Street Tattoo from Sept. 29 to Oct. 13. He'll then be at the wonderful Brussels Tattoo Convention Oct. 14-16.
... Aaaaaand they're up.
Check Brian's photos from the London Tattoo Convention on Flickr.
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.
The London Tattoo Convention made the headlines again, although less so this year, but what's out there is pretty good. Here are a few of my faves:
For their In Pictures section, the BBC has a beautiful slideshow of the event including the photo above of Martin Poole, a tattooist in Cornwall who does hand tattooing. In fact, he has done most of his own facial work. I interviewed Martin and will try to have our talk up later this week.
Cheekier photos and captions can be found on Asylum UK's The London Tattoo Convention's Best & Weirdest gallery, which also has shots beyond tattooed butts like the one below.
And finally, this video by the Telegraph entitled "My dad's gonna kill me - getting your face tattooed" with some excellent footage and interviews on traditional tattooing among other scenes from the convention floor. Check it below.
My thoughts on the show are up soon as well as those from Brian, who took his own great shots.
Today, the London Tattoo Convention kicks off and I promise to lay off the cider to bring y'all a coherent account of the events here. [*crossing fingers behind my back*]
Check out my usual bad photos from last year's show, including the one of above of the beautiful Alice of the Dead (who has a great deal of work from dotwork guru Xed le Head.
Artists have arrived from every corner of the earth, from Borneo to Brooklyn, to swap stories, check out the art in the galleries, buy baby clothes with ACDC logos on them from vendors, and hell, maybe they'll do a few tattoos. With 20,000 people expected over these next three days, there is plenty of skin to be decorated. Last year, the convention made The Guinness World Record For "The Most People Being Tattooed Simultaneously." No joke. It's an actual record.
The convention is already getting some press, but I anticipate news coverage and slide-shows will start popping up online as early as this evening so I'll be posting those links as well as my own redux.
I should also mention that, in addition to my bloggedy blog posts, I'm here to promote my latest book. More on that (shamelessly) coming up.
Yesterday, I mentioned Michelle Myles and how she has posted clips of the Tattoo Wars Old School episode on her Daredevil Tattoo site. I just saw the video she took and edited (shown above) on the London Tattoo Convention (which I blogged about here and here). The female tattooed Fellini did a great job capturing the show, and I'm diggin the tune by Mike Mok and the Em Tones.
Contraband Candy, who specialize in metal and alt culture videos, has this fantastic video below from last year's show, which includes interviews and the best part -- the tattoos shown in the video have the artist credits!! A rarity, and an appreciated one. The video is accompanied with a sweet Rockabilly sound as well.
I'm in recovery from this weekend's London Tattoo Convention, which means I'm in a Heathrow Airport pub nursing a cider and overpaying for WiFi. Evidently, I'm not alone in my post-convention haze. In disrobing at security, exposing my sleeves, the agents seemed jaded. Yet another freakshow passing through. Yawn.
Despite my crazy convention schedule, I've yet to become apathetic to the walking works of art that surround me there. Yes, it's about the art but it's also about being able to go up to attractive people and say, "Hi. I'm Marisa from NeedlesandSins.com. Could you take your pants off please?"
And they do.
And I photograph it.
Check the new pics I added to the convention Flickr set.
The Independent also has a review and photos from the show like the one above.
Looks like my plane is boarding. Will have the tattoo news for you tomorrow when I'm back in Brooklyn.
Photo of Rie Gomita by Reuters via Edmonton Sun
After the longest flight of my life from NYC sitting next to a missionary hell bent of savin my soul, I arrived sleepless at the Tobacco Docks for the first day of the London Tattoo Convention. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a
I ducked into the back entrance for artists & vendors and head to the Freaks Book shop booth, where I'm working with the fabulous Lorenzo to sell copies of my Black Tattoo Art book. I grabbed a copy and some flyers, and made my way around for shameless promotion, and naturally, drinks with friends.
I also managed to take my usual bad conventions photos. Check 'em here.
For great pix, see Edmonton Sun for the Reuters slideshow of images from Day One, like the ones above and below. Also check the Sky News photos and report.
The massive Tobacco Docks complex is impressive. Artists worked non-stop in glass framed partitioned spaces with natural light streaming in from the sun roofs. In the vaulted brick basement, you can buy anything from corsets to kicks, lobe plugs to pasties. Indeed, there were plenty of pasties with burlesque performers hypnotizing the crowd with tassel twirls, and some bump-n-grinds. A line up of bands played on two stages, and the numerous pubs were packed. Fine art works of the Tara Project and El Rana were on display on one floor while the Graffiti Kings worked on a mural on another.
As I walked around, looking at the crowd, which spoke in multiple tongues, I couldn't help but think of high school and its cliques. You had your dreadlocked hippies and mohawked punks, dark goths and neon ravers. The rockabilly pin-up girls were the popular cheerleaders while the bikers evoked the jocks, not necessarily for their toned physiques but because I could picture them taping some guy's hairy butt and flushing his head down the toilet.
And like high school, I tried to figure out where I fit in. I hugged and kissed members of each crowd but at the end of the night I found myself alone in a corner with my laptop uploading the day's photos and thinkin 'bout how I'd blog it all....I was the nerd.
More tattoo geekery from the convention to come.
Marianna & Veronique at the Paris Tattoo Art Fest
While I was working (and partying) at the Paradise Tattoo Gathering this weekend, my friend (and Belgian tattoo artist) Veronique Depuydt was doing the same at the Paris Tattoo Art Fest -- and she managed to take better pictures than I did. Check them on her Facebook page.
You can also view a quick video of that show on Australia's The Age site.
Stateside, the Minneapolis Tattoo Arts convention also took place this weekend and the City Pages were there to cover it. They have two fun slideshows of the convention with photos by Jon Behm (like the one below): the "sexy" photos and the "good" photos.
Looks like a fun time at both conventions! I'm off to the London tattoo show on Friday. Will have more pics and reports for you this weekend.