Has it been a year already, has it really been 365 days? These twelve months have flown by as this weekend once again plays host to three days during which we can embrace the unique collective of a wide range of people at the 13th London Tattoo Convention. Again, the historic Tobacco Docks in the East End of London open their doors to the world of ink and its many devotees. A former shipyard where boats travel to and from all over the world, and guess what? It hasn’t changed, but this time this event’s space has well-travelled, world famous tattoo artists plying their trade showing skills and art.
Chris Evans had a show about Friday but that was back then, let’s not live in the past. So what does any self-respecting member of the public do when they arrive at the biggest tattoo convention in the UK, Europe and the world? Yep, you guessed it. They go to a pop-up barbers for a beard trim. Yes, that is what I needed and did. The ground floor is full of pop up stalls and rooms. In the one called The Compound, is a pop-up barbers from around the way. I sit at the Barbaria chair to sort out this beard of mine, as one day I did it myself but it didn’t work out, so my new friend of Barbaria told me to never do it again. I promise it won’t happen again, barber guv’nors!
Roaming the corridors to get my bearings and to find out what’s what, where the toilets are and locate the food court. Found; so that’s one tick. The toilet’s been located; that’s a second tick. Now, let’s see which artists are here… but, what’s that in the corner? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? I hope not, as we’re on the ground floor of an inner sanctum. What it is, ladies and gentlemen, is a space full of art; beautiful movie dark art from God Machine, Liam Brazier, Graham Humphreys, Christopher Lovell and many more. A huge art space for collectors to purchase these creations. The Imperial Tattoo Army is there. An exhibition to blow your mind. If you love seeing Stormtroopers wearing different apparel, then this is the place to be.
I got speaking to Christopher Lovell, who like many of us had a normal job until he began designing t-shirts. Now from those moments his art is seen by millions all over the world. His full-time job is his art work. Check his website.
Walking upstairs to check on the galleries where tattoo artist reign, next. This year is no different to previous years as it’s a who’s who bodywork of geniuses. UK’s Matthew James, Joe Carpenter, Stewart Robson, Jason Butcher (Check out our interview), Lianne Moulle. There’s Josh Lin, Nikko Hurtado, Dan Smith, Tim Hendricks, Rose Hardy, BJ Betts and Ami James – to name but a few.
In the middle of the events centre is a section for collectors being inked via the bamboo treatment. That’s not a football hooligan term, but a unique historical way. Ribs, back and head tattoos all by a hand tapping technique.
The Fuel Girls are now on stage doing their high-risk moves, fire breathing and looking immaculate while doing so. We encountered Kayla Cardona of the Fuel Girls, who’s lovely, approachable and engaging. We found out Kayla was in fact part of the circus and loves prog rock.
Red Sonia appears later on stage. Red Sonia’s the alter ego of Cervena Fox who I didn’t meet, sadly. She literally plays with fire – stand well back, people, as sparks fly and they certainly did. She danced with flaming apparatus. Smiling, enjoying every minute of this as the crowd cheer and gasp, and step back from the stage as you wouldn’t want to get burnt, would you?
Still wandering about, checking, looking at everyone’s art work on display. All on these tattooed bodies. It’s beautiful. Inked Geisha girls, Victorian basque wearing women with tattoos, men in sumo pants covered in art (the men, not the pants). It’s a powerful scene. One day where people can roam the halls and love the attention.
That’s Friday ladies and gentlemen… home time.
Roaming the halls once more like Casper the friendly ginger ghost, there it is: a pin-up competition, MC’d by the wonderful charismatic and beautiful Louise Wild. A person who’s obviously loved by her counterparts and contestants. On stage Louise announces the runner ups – Ruby Noir and Lexi Heart. But now the winner for Miss Pinup International – the award goes to Novelty Starr. A raucous applause breaks out. This being my first time seeing anything like this is an enjoyable experience; fun, friendly and the vibe is superb. Loving the utter passion of the contestants and the audiences along with Louis Wild who has been on crutches around the venue.
Meeting awesome people is a great feeling at the convention. Artist Josh Lin’s wife chatted to everyone coming over to see him do his thing. She was fun to talk to, and happy to show off her amazing sleeve created by her husband. Talking to her, she would easily be perfect as a life coach speaker.
Moving through the crowds, moving to where the wonderful food staff are based. I’m sure I met one of my future ex-wives. But still, had a nice bit of lamb and potato rogan, and I’m back to something like like a normal human being. Oh, there walking past is a tattooed fella, I know, weird right? A tattooed fella covered head to toe, wearing black shades with spikes on the side. His denim sleeveless jacket reads “Satanic Motherfucker”. Love it.
The great thing about these events is everyone’s here for art appreciation on bodies or on canvas. Whether it’s an artist starting out, or collectors who just like this stuff. At this place, you can see first timers getting inked. Old timers topping up pieces of work from many years back. You’ll get regulars of the scene, and legends of the art, such as Lal Hardy, a guy whom many artists have looked up to for years.
Sailor Jerry have their own bar and pop up stalls surround the area. I chatted with Zoe Cano, an explorer and writer who motorcycled her way through the States. She catalogues the adventures in her writings, creating a trilogy of books about her adventures – check it out.
On the Pyrohex stage is Lucky Hell. A sword swallower, a fearless performer who licks swords like a butter knife. Awesome sight to see and throughout the three days this lady meets, greets and has photos taken with whoever asks and her time is given to one and all.
You know what. I fell in love many times walking around this venue, many times, and really what I need is a decaf coffee. You know what too much coffee does, especially when it’s a coffee comedown, especially with my bad feet.
It’s getting late. Merchandise has been bought, food eaten and my love life improved and disappeared in a breath. My tattoo ideas grew, the list of artists to be tattooed by stretched even longer. Pictures to be framed and I bought a card… yet I have no idea why. Money well spent. Who cares? It’s the London Tattoo Convention, it’s what we are all meant to do.
Time to head off to Shadwell DLR and by the way, Orange Goblin are back tonight, by popular demand, headlining the new improved music venue within the centre.
Who’s tired? Got coffee? Cookies? Cupcakes? It’s all here people. And I’ve just met a guy who’s got a body suit. A Norwegian guy called Las has a body suit that took ten years to complete in Thailand.
Another decaf coffee and a discussion with the coffee bar about the passing of Chris Cornell – a nice conversation to start a day with. RIP Chris.
Checking on artists; performing amazing art on skin is definitely a super power. Over the three days I’ve seen troopers lay on table having painful areas inked. One woman having her full back and backside tattooed and she laid there like she’s in a flotation tank. A guy having his head tapped and he lies there looking like he’s dreaming of bunnies and squirrels, or maybe something like skulls and crossbones. I don’t know what they are thinking… I lost that power many years ago.
I spot UK artist Stewart Robson having a break in his booth, next to B.J Betts. I get a few words with Mr Robson. I see the amazing Rose Hardy also in the great gallery at her booth talking to future clients. Rose visits Good Times tattoos this week.
Back to the ground floor and sitting in her booth is cosplay model Anna Quinn. I say “Hi, can I speak with you for a bit?” Music blares around us and Anna says, “What?” I said “Fancy an interview with the Moshville Times?” She said yeah.
One of the stalls hiding in the hallways is Fukitt Clothing, the owner is passionate about helping people and enjoying being alive. The tagline of his clothing: “Everyone knows the concept of living life to the fullest but it is human nature to take life for granted. Our brand just acts as a reminder to live life and take risks”. The founder, Ricardo Jack Zulueta Jr, experienced loss as his brother committed suicide. Having spoken to Ricardo he’s willing to and is putting the effort into making people aware that opening up to someone is the way forward and can save lives. I bought a shirt – check out the website and the inspiring words he and his family offer.
Time to head off home. I didn’t get to meet Dan Smith, Shelly D’Inferno or Jessica Wilde… maybe another time. But Sunday is the end of another successful year for the London Tattoo Convention. If you’ve never been, then go, see it, feel it and embrace the collective quirkiness, as it’s a pure pleasure.
Thank you and good night.
All photos by Danni Garner