A special guest appearance from the Beast from the East cannot dampen this exciting day in London. Today the Ultimate Fighting Championship headline the O2 in London, England play Ireland in the 6 Nations tournament, and it’s the anniversary of when Patrick chased snakes out of Ireland. But. There’s more, much more as in Brick lane is the 2nd Tattoo Collective where over 150 tattoo artists based in the UK and Ireland showcase their superior talent.
The snow blasts amongst the variety of curry houses, clubs and people dressed in green preparing a night of festivities. There in front of me is the entrance to the Truman brewery, the home of the Tattoo Collective for the next two days.
On stage within the event centre is Rodney Branigan the man who plays two guitars. I’ve seen him perform before supporting GangstaGrass at the Borderline some time ago. The audience is mulling around from the bar to the croissant table, there’s a barber pop up near the stage and in the corner are the amazing Fuel Girls who are looking after their merchandise table. Sadly, they’re not performing, just meeting and greeting fans. Behind the stage is the event section where we find and hear artwork being created.
Strolling around the booths to see artists based in UK and Ireland plying their trade, showing window shoppers what they have to offer and being a perfect place for someone like me who wants a new tattoo is seeking a muse… hold on, that’s like a horrible tagline for a dodgy dating site… anyway I’m skint, so I cannot afford any ink. So being here is like a double-edged sword.
Over the two days we see Jenna Kerr alongside Matthew James who we interviewed prior to the convention. Matt Lunn and Ash Lewis in their own booths, there’s the crew of Good Times Tattoo and owner Nikole Lowe, Seven Door, and Five Keys’ owner Joe Carpenter inking canvasses. The sound, the smell is like nothing else – the sound of the tattoo gun penetrating skin, the smell of cleaning alcohol fills the centre. To thousands of people here, it is their second home.
Not only tattoos are onsite but also other means of artwork. The irrepressible Chris Guest’s section showing off his artwork and the chance to watch over a painting workshop. Gina McQuen is here showing her ‘kisolo’ style of hand-painting leather in Japanese style.
Hold on… it’s happened, there’s a guy walking the corridors with the same t-shirt as me. What the hell’s that about? This ain’t right. I better centre myself and get back to my calm chi! Oh, there’s a section of Skateboard art, and in the midst of this is a beautiful black and white portrait of Chris Cornell RIP. Back to reality.
Roaming back through the booths of artists we see Szidonia, we interviewed her also before the convention began. Luke Sayer, one of the top artists around… it’s constant, there’s amazing ink everywhere. Reggie Kray, Steve McQueen, Conor McGregor and Uma Thurman all on people’s skin. An interesting area which catches my attention is Sarah Lu of Blue Dragon Tattoo. Her tag line ‘Tattooing by hand – No machine’ is demonstrated watching her perform this original style on separate people and looks intense, especially on certain parts of the body that’d make me wince. Her work looks amazing and the people she inked sat there like troopers. Sarah Lu may be where I’ll go next.
That’s the thing, wandering through a tattoo convention. More jump out such as Andy Seb, Ellie Richmond, Sharnie Pilar, Rich Harris (who we interviewed last week), Sam Ford of Silver Needle Tattoos, Nikole Lowe is here with her guys from Good times tattoo, Icons such as George Bone owner of one of the oldest tattoo shops in London and Clare Hamill of Semper Tattoo working her style on a thigh. Many seem to be having their thigh tattooed over the two days. Amy Edwards creates Uma Thurman’s Pulp Fiction character Mia Wallace on a fella’s… thigh, see what I’m saying? If you go to the gym you’ll do a leg day, back day or if you go to a tattooist you’ll have a thigh day or a head day.
Being a bearded person there’s need for a bit of grooming and sitting there on the outskirts of the tattoo booths are Norse London, so I tested their products and it made me grateful to grow back this beard of mine as peppermint is rather nice on the facial hair. From Leigh on Sea in Essex is James Cranfield, a collector and purveyor of the finest quality of natural history curiosities. Love this sort of stuff.
Over the two days we get to see some incredible artwork on skin and other forms of canvas. Listening to a guy with two guitars, a bluegrass player and then there are the helpful volunteers, but boy, what a group of awesome tattoo artists that sets the imagination flying around. Oh, also we received a wonderful warm welcoming hug from the one and only Luigia Minichiello.
Let’s see what they have on offer for their third Tattoo Collective. There is so much space for growth with these guys.
Photos by Danni Garner