Last week, in anticipation of the third annual Houston Tattoo Extravaganza this past weekend, the Houston Chronicle wrote on the first organized tattoo convention in the US, which took place in Houston in 1976.
[Update: In our Needles & Sins FB group, Paul Roe wrote: "The first tattoo convention in the USA was Sandusky Ohio 1956 - Al Schiefly and Les Skuse organized it. Milton Zies, Huck Spaulding and a few others were in attendance."]
Lyle Tuttle, who was one of the organizers of the first "World Convention of Tattoo Artists and Fans," was honored at this weekend's show and interviewed for the chronicle about tattooing, past and present. The article offers some photos from Tuttle's collection, as well as those of Sam Kindrick of Action Magazine. Those Kindrick shots are fantastic, capturing many famed collectors and tattoo artists, such as Chuck Eldridge, Vyvyn Lazonga, and Elizabeth Weinzirl.
Check the 100+ image slideshow, which includes archival images from that first convention, some from Tuttle, and also shots from the 2015 Houston Tattoo Extravaganza.
Another gem of this article is the link to the coverage of the 1976 show in the Chicago Tribune by reporter Marilynn Preston. You can read the article in its entirety via the link. The Houston Chronicle also discusses the piece:
[Marilynn Preston] painted a picture of "big, beefy killer gorilla types with their back and arms covered with skulls, panthers, and gross obscenities" mingling with fascinated housewives.
I highly recommend reading the article in full here. It's fun to see how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.
Amy Mymouse tattooing at the Mondial du Tatouage in Paris.
Borneo Head Hunters booth.
Greg Orie tattoo collectors.
My social media feeds were buzzing all weekend with photos and updates from the Mondial du Tatouage, which attracted tattoo artists and fans across the globe to the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris. Our friend Serinde attended the convention and is graciously sharing her photos and experience in this guest blog. See more of Serinde's photos on the N+S Flickr Paris Tattoo set.
BY SERINDE of SERINDE CORSETS:
I'm here again to bring you a few pics and impressions from the Mondial du Tatouage. Organised by Tin-Tin, the event is, once again, HUGE. Over 350 international artists and over 32,000 estimated visitors, and countless disposable gloves, needles, ink bottles... This year, I decided to visit the convention on a Sunday, naively thinking that it would not be too crowded. I was wrong. When I arrived just when it opened, there was a huge waiting line, even for those who had pre-purchased their tickets. One of the biggest events that drew people to the convention on Sunday was the Best Back/Overall competition. But there are many reasons why so many waited to be a part of it. This Paris show is special in its own way. The rock-n-roll, yet relaxed atmosphere. The prestigious artists selected to work the show (with many artists around the world wanting to be a part of it). And maybe some secret ingredient.
Walking around on this third and last day of the convention was quite interesting, as I could see artists working on large pieces that were being done over the three days of the convention; however, there were also many artists doing smaller designs and flash. Although most of appointments were quickly booked right at the beginning of the day (and of course, pre-booked before the show), I saw some visitors looking for available artists for a quick tattoo "walk-up" and likely very appreciative of being able to grab a spot. Bottom line: If you wanted to get tattooed at the show, you had to bring your ass over there early! A quick note on the organization itself: the venue has been arranged slightly differently this year, which made is easier to walk around, especially at the mezzanine level (I don't think the bridges were here last year and it was an improvement). Food trucks and tables to eat outside were also a great idea. So things keep improving each year, making it better and better. It's also interesting to note that there were some more visibly tattooed people in attendance - those with face, neck and hand tattoos. Not many necessarily, but enough to make it noticeable. I watched one man with the side of his head tattooed get ready to be tattooed on the other side. It's likely we'll see more heavily tattooed collectors at future Paris shows.
Now, on to the contest: Best Back/overall. The jury was comprised of the same esteemed artists as last year -- Bill Salmon, Luke Atkinson, Filip Leu - with the addition of American tattoo pioneer Kari Barba. Impressive! There were 27 contestants with backpieces or full body suits, with a majority being Japanese-inspired tattooing. A great aspect of the contest was that Tin-Tin was on stage commenting on each tattoo's style and influences; for example, he explained how a Japanese tattoo is composed overall and commented on the distinctions between Japanese and Chinese style tattooing. It was like a live masterclass on the tattoo aesthetics! Seriously fascinating. [Shown above] The artist Horihui took over the contests, with another 1st prize. [I visited his booth earlier, and he had already won two awards since Friday, not to mention those he won last year.] Ching received 2nd place, and Guy le Tattooer 3rd place. The contests were a definitely a highlight but there was plenty to do and see, which naturally caught to attention of TONS of press. Coverage of the convention could be found on many mainstream TV channels, and many magazines & newspapers are talking about it. For good reason.
Photo via the Needle Gangstas Tattoo Facebook page.
I usually don't pay much attention to tattoo-related world record attempts, as so much of them are people lining up to get weak tattoos from tired artists trying to garner attention by doing a billion pieces of flash in five minutes.
BUT, when one man gets hoisted up by clip cords to have 36 artists tattoo him simultaneously ... yup, I can't look away.
The Guinness World Record event took place over the weekend at the Needle Gangstas Beano Tattoo Expo in Derby, England, when a man named King of Inkland King Body Art The Extreme Ink-ite -- his legal name -- had the numbers 1 to 36 tattooed all at once by one artist for each number all over his body while he lay in a harness (created by Bov Williams Tattoos Irons). That's pretty hardcore.
After our friend Paul posted in the Needles & Sins Facebook group the photo above from the Needle Ganstas Tattoo Expo page, I checked the news to see if it got any coverage and found this Derby Telegraph article, which has photos of the King as well as general shots from the convention floor.
The new World record holder also told the Telegraph:
People were spurring me on and I had to concentrate on carrying on. [...] It was tough but I'm so glad I've done it and that it's over. It was very intense.I'm pretty certain there is someone out there who will strive to take away the King's crown, and it will be interesting to see just what that person does to snatch it.
This past weekend my phone was blowing up with photo and video messages from friends who were working and playing at The London Tattoo Convention -- playing without me. But I'm not a hater, and even though work kept me from the convention this year, I loved feeling the intense energy and creative boom that came through my phone, even if the images were a bit blurred and my friends words were very slurred after having a little too much fun.
Thankfully, the professional news corps also captured the scene, offering more images and video without the wobble:
I plan on being back at the London convention next year, with a slew of my own bad photos to share, but for now, enjoy a look into this year's show from the pros.
The International London Tattoo Convention 2015 : Saturday Teaser from Black Rock Creative on Vimeo
Photo above of Master Barber "Teddy Boy Greg."
Tattoo above on "Teddy Boy Greg" by Fernie Andrade.
Traditional hand tattooing by Brent McCown.
All photos above by Rebecca Holmes.
I'm back in NYC after the non-stop party that was the Brighton Tattoo Convention. With the miserable winter weather, one would think I'd spend my vacation days flying south to Caribbean beaches and not the cold English seaside, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend my birthday with friends who were traveling from around the world to be a part of this show. I most definitely made the right choice.
The convention took place at the Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel, located directly on the seafront in the center of the city. It was a massive labyrinth of booths throughout the hotel's convention center, with over 350 artists from over 16 countries working.
In sharp contrast, down the aisle, rap music blared from the booth that housed Norm, Big Sleeps, & Big Meas doing their sought-after script. Crowds also formed around other big names from the US such as Thomas Hooper, Bugs, Bong, and BJ Betts, among many others.
Tattoo above by BJ Betts.
UK legends George Bone, Lal Hardy, and Alex Binnie drew
plenty of fans as well. [As a side note: Alex had a gathering on Thursday night before
the show for the release of Charles Boday's Handpoke Tattoo book, and it was great
to check out his Brighton shop, which has that same cool vibe as his
iconic London studio.]
One particular thing I found interesting in the lead-up to the show was that many artists -- who normally book their convention appointments months in advance -- were advertising that they would be doing almost all walk-ups, so lucky convention goers who got in early could get prized time without being on a waiting list. I wonder if they knew how lucky they really were.The tattoo competitions were limited to Best of Day entries with Guen Douglas winning Friday for a neo-traditional lady hand tattoo; Ryan Evans winning Saturday for his black and grey portrait of Marlane Dietrich; and Alex Gotza of Dirty Roses Tattoo in Greece winning Sunday for a full thigh gypsy tattoo (shown below).
As for me, I spent much of my time helping the convention organizer Woody manage the press, as there was a lot of interest in this eighth year of the show. But when I wasn't doing that, you'd most likely find me at the opulently decked out booth -- complete with gold drapery and Moroccan lanterns -- of tattoo witches Alicia Cardenas, Goldilox, Delphine Noiztoy, and Lorena Morato. Other stunners at that booth were model Moniasse, Frank Doody, and Drew Becket. [All of whom are shown in the pic below.] I shared a rented house with these beautiful people, kind of like a Real World Brighton, and ... I think I'll leave the exploits (and damaging photos) off this blog. Moving on ...
More seriously, there was also a lot of tattoo history shared at the show. Our friend Dr. Matt Lodder gave a wonderful talk on Sutherland MacDonald, "the first tattoo artist." And just outside his roundtable discussion, you could view the artifacts and archival photos from the famed Bristol Tattoo Club. I also particularly loved the fine art exhibition of Ramon Maiden (a post on him is coming soon).
Most of the hard partying took place at the Sailor Jerry cocktail lounge and by the main stage where crowds of psychobilly babes gathered on Friday to see The Meteors, who still can bring a mosh pit to action after 35 years (with an older shirtless crowd). Other bands through the weekend included The Sex Pistols Experience, as well as King Salami and the Cumberland 3.
Prettying up the Rockabilly set pre-concerts were barbers flown in from California, although lumberjack beards and skull caps dominated over pompadours. Really, I could barely recognize friends underneath all the hirsute hotness.
It's all these different offerings, in addition to top tattooing, that make a great convention. Most important to me, these gatherings are an opportunity to share love with friends from across the globe and reaffirm that we are one community of beautiful freaks. And that's better than any beach vacation.
For more on what went down at the convention, check the Brighton Tattoo blog, and these news items:
The Brighton Tattoo Convention is well underway in its second fabulous day, with booths buzzing and some beautiful works of art walking the conventions floors at the historic Hilton Metropole. I'll be running around (celebrating my birthday today) but I wanted to share some shots by photographers Krysten Marlette (shown above) and Rebecca Holmes (photos below).
I'll be posting more here and on Instagram through the weekend. Also check #brightontattoocon.
Tattoos by Cherry Blossom Tattoo.
As we first posted back in October, the original the NYC Tattoo Convention will be taking place March 7-9, 2014 at the the historic Roseland Ballroom -- before this legendary venue closes in April (hence, why the show won't be taking place as it usually does in May).
And as always, we're stoked for the show, particularly for its finely curated line-up of tattooers from around the world, including long-time legends, and also traditional hand-tattooing booths. There are some great sideshow performances, and tattoo competitions that really present some stellar work. Plus, the kickass vendors offer badass merch. [Literally, "badass."]
I have been attending the NYC Convention for 13 years, and it has consistently been one of the most electric shows I attend. I'll be doing a book signing there this year for my latest monster, "Black Tattoo Art II." Just follow the loud maniacal laugh when you get to the convention and you'll find me.
To get a glimpse into the show, check this video (below) from our friends at Heartbeat Ink, who captured the scene last year.
It'll be a fun time. I hope to you y'all there!
Photo above from the Montreal Art Tattoo Show. Photos below by Demetra Molina.
We have another wonderful guest blog from Demetra Molina of The Hand of Fate Tattoo Parlor in Ithaca, NY. Instead of talking wine, she shares the highlights of the Montreal Art Tattoo Show, which took place last weekend.
BY DEMETRA MOLINA
Montreal is a magical city. It's beautiful, cultured, and the ideal place to hold an exceptional tattoo convention. This past weekend, September 6-8, was the 11th annual Montreal Art Tattoo Show, presented by Mr. and Mrs. Pierre and Valerie Emond of Studio Tattoo Mania in Montreal. Once again, there was magic in the air, and the weekend was truly like no other. The level of artistry is top notch, as you can easily see from the roster of renowned tattooers. The setting, the performances, the fine art exhibitions -- all quality, year after year.
For the very first time, my husband Eddie Molina and I did not work the actual show. Things at our shop worked out a certain way, and we saw an escape for a quick weekend road trip. Art, tattoos, good friends, and Montreal smoked meat with poutine? Yes, and yes, please.
The entrance line was down the street when we arrived at the convention site, Gare Windsor Station, a stunning historic venue. Glass ceilings in the old train station allow the artists to work with natural sunlight, a rare luxury at any venue. Tattoo machines were already humming away, as collectors excitedly looked at artist portfolios. We slowly made our way around the main aisle, saying hello and wandering, and noticed several other artists had also had the same idea -- a weekend away networking and enjoying Montreal. One of the main reasons? The Leu family had travelled from Switzerland to be part of the show.
The Leu Family Iron booth was an experience unto itself. Crowds lined up to watch Swiss tattoo artist Filip Leu work in collaboration with artist Kurt Wiscombe on one-sitting backpiece projects each day. Absolutely an amazing opportunity, and several tattooists had "art nerd moments" rarely witnessed in public. The entire Leu family was very gracious, talking with everyone and posing for endless photos. I even had a chance to interview artist Loretta Leu, matriarch of the family (photographed below). She was a delight to talk to, answering my questions with smiles, colorful stories of living an amazing life, and of course Frank Zappa lyrics.
Montreal Tattoo Art Show 2013 was a convention weekend completely out of the ordinary. The level of talent, artwork, and enjoyable company is something every tattoo lover should experience. I had no time for wine touring this trip, too much for us to do at the show...rare on all accounts...and I didn't miss the booze.
For more photos of the convention, photographer John Whelan captured some great moments and posted them to Facebook here.
While we weathered the storms here in Brooklyn, so many of our friends were working and playing at the Hell City Tattoo Festival in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. Reading their twitter feeds, it was clear that Durb Morrison and his exceptional crew put on another top show. And the press agreed.
According the the Phoenix New Times, there was even a greater turn-out than last year with thousands in attendance at the Arizona Biltmore "to show off their tattoos, get new ink, watch live painting, and gawk over the art gallery." The article paints the scene of busy tattoo booths and fine art created live. It even finishes off with a note that tattooing should be considered an art form itself:
And if the fistfuls of reality TV tattoo shows, the thousands of people who showed up to Hell City, and the countless jaw-dropping tattoos they sported weren't proof enough, the dozens of detailed acrylic and oil on canvas works there (ranging from fantastical landscapes to realistic portraits) further proved that tattooing is not just something sailors and convicts do anymore -- it's clearly a mainstream art form.
Check their extensive gallery of photos by Ryan Wolf, including those shown here.
You can find more photos from the show on the ABC15.com's gallery, and Fox News has this quick video and write-up. If you have photos you'd like to share, hit us up.
From September 15-18th, one of my favorite tattoo events will take place in Western Massachusetts, bringing in renowned tattooists from around the world to share information, paint together, and of course tattoo attendees:
The Paradise Tattoo Gathering is unique in this focus on education, creation, and recreation.
The Gathering takes place at Jiminy Peak, a ski resort in the Berkshire mountains on the border between New York and Massachusetts. This is the last time the event will be held here before it moves west next year. There will be 35 different offerings of tattoo and art seminars, workshops, and discussion panels covering a wide range of the art over the course of four days.
Many seminars have sold out already including the Nick Baxter, Craola, Shawn Barber, and Workhorse Irons machine building seminars. But there are still places left for seminars with Chet Zar, Bob Tyrrell, Tommy Lee Wendtner, Alex Depase, Joe Capobianco, Robert Ryan, BJ Betts, Big Gus, Hunter Spanks, Liorcifer, Bez, Chris Dingwell, Larry Brogan, and so many more. There also also seminars for the kids, as well as organized childcare for Friday and Saturday nights.
The hotel rooms are sold out too; however, there are still condos available for a limited time and the resort across the way still has rooms. Links on the website will get you what you need.
I had a blast at the Gathering last year, and I'm sure this year it will be equally exciting. Check my blurry pics from the show here.
We're back in Brooklyn after a gorgeous weekend in Long Beach for the Ink-n-Iron Tattoo & Kustom Culture Fest...and really not a moment too soon as the California sun, cool breezes and laid-back dudeness were dulling our New York self-righteousness and sarcasm. But we made it back in one angry piece.
It was our first time at this monster convention aboard the legendary Queen Mary cruise ship and on its dock, which was blanketed with shiny kustom kars, vendors, and a stage that rocked with a serious line-up of bands including Buzzcocks, Fishbone, Skatalites, The Sonics, The Vandals, and other legends. It was all done up big and badass -- from buxom pin-ups to car club bruisers to bold backpieces on many, many beautiful people in various states of undress.
See photos on Brian's Ink-n-Iron Flickr set.
Backpiece by Tommy Montoya
When we arrived at the convention, a queue of hundreds lined the dock waiting to get it. It was a sea of parasols and pomade and it hit me that many conventions worldwide do have their own distinct personalities. Ink-n-Iron is a Rockabilly, kustom culture Disney Land. And to me, that's a good thing. Tons of eye candy, a light and sexy vibe, and less tattoo snobbery (although we embrace that kind of thing).
The pin-up contest seemed to attract a bigger crowd than the tattoo competitions. As a side note, if you ever want to gauge "trends" in tattooing, tattoo competitions are the best places to do so. There were tons of young girls with tattoos that stretched along the sides of their lithe torsos. I heard one guy in the audience say, "The rib tattoo is the new tramp stamp." Indeed.
When the competitions weren't taking place in the Queen's Salon on the Promenade deck, Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School (LA club) took over with live drawing and attempt at a record to have 1,000 people sketch a host of posing models. I hope they reached their goal.
Tattoo by Tim McGrath of 13 Roses Tattoo, Atlanta
On the decks below, tattoo artists from all over the world filled three levels with non-stop buzz. Being SoCal, the work was heavy on the black & grey but all styles were repped with a top notch roster of artists.
Despite my incessant eye rolling and head shaking, Brian decided to continue his quest to get his toes tattooed, asking great artists to perform general dumbassness. On Sunday, he convinced Sweety of East Side Ink to needle FU on his paw. To(e)-fu. I know. I had no control over this. [Clare Goldilox did a truck on his big toe in London.]
Photo of Crazy Eddie by Tommy B.
This all happened before the major drinking, inspired by the convention-wide toast to Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins in honor of the day he passed, June 12th, 38 years ago. Crazy Eddie Funk (above) took the mic and offered his tribute: "Fuck Chicago ... Fuck Sailor Jerry." No one expected any more.
Sailor Jerry actually kept people pretty happy all weekend in front of its sweet Airstream (below). The Airstream shared dock space with a cigar lounge, beauty salon tents, beef jerky vendors, among many others. Something for everyone.
Beyond the jerky, what makes a convention for me is meeting up with friends who we haven't seen since the last show in our traveling circus of a subculture. No matter how big the show and all its attractions, the greatest lure remains the growing family of tattoo freaks who have become just as much a part of our lives as the tattoos we wear. Maybe Cali has mellowed me after all.
Photo by Tommy B.
If you have your own photos from the show and wanna share, send me the links.
After a luxurious 12-hour trip, Marisa and I have finally arrived safe and sound in Long Beach, CA, just in time for the Ink-N-Iron Tattoo and Kustom Culture Festival.
Updating the blog from my iPad is proving to be quite a chore, but if you're in Southern California, you already know that this convention is the place to be this weekend (I'm particularly excited about tomorrow's band line-up with Fishbone taking the stage at 3pm, followed up by the Skatalites, The Adolescents and then The Vandals).
We'll be back to bringing you tattoo goodness and a full recap on the convention next week.
This past weekend, thousands of people showed up for the 15th Atlanta Tattoo Arts Fest, organized by the inimitable Tony Olivas of Sacred Heart Tattoo.
The East Atlanta Patch did a good job capturing the action in the video above, complete with artist interviews and close-ups of some strong tattoo work. They also caught up with Tony who showed a recent tattoo of his own -- scratched up "NYC" letters that he got on the New York subway via a wireless machine. [By the way, if anyone else is using a wireless, hit me up because I'd love to learn more about your experience.]
WSB TV also covered the show with a photo slide show, which includes this pic below of sword swallower Chris Steele aka Captain Stab-Tuggo. I also found some more photos on jramspott's Flickr page. Check 'em.
A belly dancing sword swallower. A professor of body modification. A biker bouncer getting his nursing degree. And a balloon clown dressed as a rabbit named ToTo. They are just some of the beautiful tattooed attendees and performers at the NYC Tattoo Convention who -- along with top tattooists -- made this fourteenth year of the show such a success.
[For more photos of the show, see Brian's Flickr Set.]
It's hard not to be biased, however. It's my hometown convention, one that I have attended for over a decade. So much has changed over this time in tattooing, but the organizers keep to a solid formula that works: well respected and experienced artists in a variety of genres, from tebori to blackwork; off-beat entertainment; quality vendors within the tattoo community; and good bartenders. That formula attracts collectors from around the world who come specifically for the convention.
From Stockholm to Staten Island, they arrive at the historic Roseland Ballroom on Harleys, in wheelchairs, on top of stilts, and in strollers. In various states of undress, they are on view before hordes of tattoo paparazzi. When not under the needle or vying for the next appointment, they push towards the stage to see acts like Natasha Veruschka, a six-time Guinness World Record holder, swallow 22-inch swords while shimmying.
And whether preening or gawking, attendees are interacting. Strangers become good friends, even if just for a few hours, and love connections are often made. For such a hard city, New York's convention is one of the world's friendliest tattoo shows.
Y'all proved that to me. I had put out on Facebook and Twitter that rewards would be bestowed upon those who come up to my Black & Grey book signing table and say, "Marisa, you are so much *taller* in person than I imagined." Mere Needles & Sins stickers and buttons cannot convey my ego's gratitude, dear readers (especially after so many years of hearing the opposite). You rock.
It especially rocked having a table next to Marvin and Doug Moskowitz who were signing copies of The Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants, a beautifully packaged, two audio CD set that holds the amazing stories of their father, Walter Moskowitz. At their table was also the legendary tattooist, anthropologist and author Mike McCabe, whose tattoo books line my shelves. It was an honor to be in such company.
During the tattoo competition (which seems to grow longer each year with full body work), I left our table by the stage to shmooze, shop [thank you, Father Panik!], and ensure my next tattoo appointment with Dan of Calypso Tattoo, who is shown below briefly trading personas with Brian.
You'd think in this time I'd manage a decent photo or even a Tweet, but I was too busy playing with ToTo and his balloon animals to come through. I'm sorry. Thankfully, Brian picked up my slack for Needles & Sins, and two of my favorite fellow tattoo bloggers also have convention coverage: Check out Bill's photos and review on Tattoosday, and be on the look out for updates from Nathan of KnuckleTattoos.com.
I haven't found much on the show from mainstream media. NY1's video is the only one worth a quick look. I also did a Flickr search and found great shots by Veronica Ettman. Hit me up if you have video and photos you'd like to share.
I'll sign off today by sending much love to the new and old friends made at this convention. You make these events so much fun.
This post is a love letter to my Copenhagen homies, with links to videos, photos and books on Denmark's rich tattoo history and its most recent international convention, the Copenhagen Ink Festival.
First up is this wonderful Cool Hunting video (below) in which Jon Nordstron, photographer and author of Nordic Tattooing and Danish Tattooing, takes us back to a time when tattooists would ride their bikes to the Port of Copenhagen to drum up business among the sailors. In the video, you'll see the oldest tattoo shop in the city, which is still buzzing today. And he offers background on prominent artists who shaped tattooing in the country and beyond. Lots of goodness in 3 1/2 minutes.
In more recent history, photographer Hampus Samuelsson captured this video (below) and some gorgeous stills from the Copenhagen convention [April 1-3]. The video offers wide shots from the floor to give you a feel for the show but also intimate close-ups of tattoos, including traditional hand-tapped work. In addition to tattooists working and clients wincing, you'll see clips of the Lizardman's performance, Viking sword fighting, and at the very end, there's a bonus clip of California's Rory Keating and Borneo's Jeremy Lo doing a drinking dance, which I plan on reenacting myself at the next convention. Fun stuff. [See more of Hampus's photos on his Facebook page.]
Special thanks to Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo for the video link.
It seemed like all of Philadelphia was at the Sheraton City Center Hotel for the annual tattoo convention this past weekend. Driving over, we saw massive billboards on the highway as we entered the city as well as bus stop ads on numerous street corners; we even heard promos on repeat over the car radio. I turned to Brian and said, "That's the way to pack a show."
We didn't anticipate, however, just how packed it would be. Like most major shows, there was a line to get in but this seemed to bottleneck, leading some to elbow their way to the front of the line. Throngs of people pushed up the escalators to the reach two floors of booths where over 200 artists and vendors were waiting for them. And there was more pushing through the aisles to get to tattoo appointments or just watch others get work. There was plenty to watch. It seemed that most artists, at least Saturday, were candidates for carpal tunnel syndrome with their non-stop needling. Money was made.
Artists ranged from legends to a few newbies. You couldn't miss Philadelphia Eddie when you walked into the main tattoo room -- always with a sharp suit and sharper tongue. He was signing his book "Tattooing: The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie," which is filled with wild stories as expected. [You can buy it online here.] Next to him was another old school bad boy, Stan Moskowitz, who tattooed excited fans looking for a piece of history. Further down the aisle was Annette LaRue of Electric Ladyland Tattoo in New Orleans who promised me some good stories from her decades of tattooing for an upcoming interview. And there were countless others I had a blast hanging out with in scarce quiet moments.
Actually, "quiet" should never be used in the context of the Philly show. It was raucous, complete with hardcore from Murphy's Law and bikini bull-riding. A guy in a zombie Gumby costume paraded around taking pictures with aspiring "tattoo models." Plenty of preening throughout the hotel. Sailor Jerry Rum specials swilled in plastic cups. As is the case at most shows, booze is boss. But what you didn't see were biker fights of two years ago with a strict "No Colors" policy in effect. It's great when not all tattoo stereotypes are represented.
If any of this post sounds snotty, well, I quite literally caught a cold at the show and had to bail earlier than expected. But these dysfunctional family reunions make me happy nonetheless and it was worth the trip.
We only took a few photos of the show, posted here on Flickr, but Snakegirl Productions's Flickr pages have plenty of great shots. Some pics are also being posted on the convention's Facebook wall. If you have images of your own you'd like to share, hit us up.
UPDATE: See photos from the show on Driven By Boredom -- many not safe for work.
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.
Finally recovering from the four-day debauchery that was the Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth in Las Vegas, which began last Thursday night and ended sometime around Monday morning. Like everything Vegas, it was glitzy, over the top, and a helluvalotta fun.
See my usual bad pics of the show here.
The minute I got to Vegas I saw an ad on top of a taxi cab for the convention. It was also heavily promoted in the media, with convention organizer (and tattoo mogul) Mario Barth hiring a PR firm to bring in a crowd. In the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which housed the show in one of its massive convention halls, there were people handing out wrist bands in the casino for reduced admission -- do well at roulette and treat yourself to a tattoo.
Despite the tireless promotion, however, a number of artists and vendors said that there were less people in attendance than last year. [This was my first time there.] But it all depended on who you asked. The experiences of those working the show widely varied. Some said they were completely booked. Others were trying to hustle for business. And then I spoke to a number of artists who were happy to do a few tattoos and mostly hang out and have fun, like a tattoo vacation with some extra dollars to pay for the trip.
Knuckle tattoos by the legendary Mark Mahoney
Vegas has it's velvet ropes and A-listers and this convention was no exception. As I mentioned last week, I was super-stoked to see legendary artists like Horitoshi, the Sulu'ape family, and Americana's bad boys Stanley Moskowitz and Crazy Philadelphia Eddie. [I bought Eddie's new book "Tattooing: The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, My Vida Loca, Vol 1" and will review it here soon.] Portrait prodigies Mike De Masi, Mike Devries, Nikko Hurtado were in attendance, and I also got to meet some Greek homies doing a wild fusion of abstract art and realism from Sake Tattoo in Athens, Tattooligans in Thessaloniki, & Fabz Tattoo Gold Coast Tattooligans. Baba & BJ Betts schooled young artists on lettering while Jime Litwalk and Tony Ciavarro worked their New School. Black & Gray maestros Shamrock Social Club, Bob Tyrrell, Tony Olivas, Andy Engel, Robert Pho, (among many other greats) dominated the tattoo competitions.
The competitions were MC'd by the rock/TV/porn star Evan Seinfeld, who was his usual brand of delishiousness. I was also hoping to ogle the cast of Sons of Anarchy (the one reason I own a TV these days) but it seemed the only thing going on in their large booth was airbrushing the show's new logo onto tees and tank tops.
The only other "celebrity" I spotted was skater/Jackass Bam Margera at the after party, which took place Friday and Saturday at King Ink, Mario's tattoo studio-boutique-dance club complete with velvet rope and a line of tattooed Snookies waiting to get in. Oh, and there were TONS of cougars hitting on young punks with stretched earlobes and neck tattoos. I had one 50+ woman come up and ask me what was best way to take one of these guys home. [Answer: Jack Daniels. Lots of it.] As for me, I stayed sober just to take in the scene. It was surreal.
Back piece by Louie of Under the Gun Tattoo
Overall, it was a convention for the masses. Serious collectors were there but it was far from an insider art snob show or hippie gathering. The airbrush artists, faux-tattoo sleeves vendor, and even the psychic readings kept spectators on a blackjack break busy. There was no mystique but it was accessible to all. It was Vegas.
Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth
Mike De Masi
Shamrock Social Club
Sons of Anarchy
Mario Barth's Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth just opened its doors for a tattoo weekend that's expected to bring in 50,000 people to the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.
According to Robin Leach's "Luxe Life" Blog -- yes, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous Leach -- this is the event where all the beautiful people will be this weekend. I could've told you that but I have a different A-List, which includes artists in attendance like the Suluape Family, Horitoshi, Bob Tyrrell, Bill Salmon, Horitoshi, and many, many, many, many more.
There is heavy promo on the after-parties, rock stars, and the Sons of Anarchy dudes who will be there signing autographs and unveiling the new logo for the show, which Mario designed. [Ok, I'm kinda excited about the Sons. It's the only reason I keep my TV.]
Will let you know how things go down with my convention redux on Monday.
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.