Tobacco Dock, London
September 26/27/28, 2014
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Photos by Anna Dumpe
The London Tattoo Convention is a rather neat metaphor for the great city itself: big, bold, innovative, a fascinating mix of old and new – and you can get pretty much whatever your heart desires there.
The Convention, now in it’s tenth year, is a veritable treasure trove of anything tattoo and alt-lifestyle related. The entire ground floor of the grand Tobacco Dock is dedicated to merchandise of every conceivable kind, from tattoo-print handbags to baby clothes to occult figurines to jewellery to taxidermy and everything in between.
For those who were dreading the usual greasy takeaway choices of previous years, there was occasion to rejoice with the addition of Whole Food Heaven’s ‘Buddha Bowls’ mobile wagon. These bowls are an absolutely delicious mix of potato, rice and Massaman curry, amongst other ingredients. They’re gluten free, wheat free and vegetarian – vegan if you forego the halloumi. Yum! Those with a sweet tooth could indulge in a cupcake (or three) care of Cupcakes and Cookies, whose table was laden with a mouth-watering array of goodies.
Of course, this is a huge and busy venue, and all that walking is thirsty work! Punters had their pick of several bars to wet their whistle this year: the ubiquitous Henry’s, with its selection of ciders and ales, the Voodoo Crypt, complete with the equally ever-present Vince Ray and the Boneshakers as well as alt models such as Cervena Fox and the Ink Dolls, and hidden away downstairs was the tiny Sailor Jerry bar, located right outside the tattoo museum and selling a range of lush, rum-based cocktails.
There was also a great mix of music to wrap your ears around – can we just state here how refreshing it was to hear something other than rockabilly at a tattoo convention! Spiderbites in particular were a welcome, hard rock shot in the arm.
Several exhibitions were also on display throughout the weekend, such as artwork from Chris Guest and Kevin Ash, as well as The Bristol Tattoo Club and legendary black and grey horror portrait artist Bob Tyrell, who was promoting his limited edition coffee book ‘Tattoos, Drawings, Life on the Road’. Those who got their sweaty mitts on a copy of this tome were lucky, indeed!
Of course, the main attraction of a tattoo show is THE TATTOOS! Literally seconds after the doors opened every day, the deep, droning buzz of hundreds of tattoo machines began, and didn’t stop until the last few working artists were chased out.
London is definitely a convention that attracts the ‘cream of the crop’ of the tattooing world: from ‘TV artists’ such as Ami James, Tim Hendricks, Megan Massacre and Phil Kyle (the latter looking distinctly ‘surfer dude’ these days!) to old school legends such as Don ‘Ed’ Hardy and local hero Lal Hardy, from Japanese style masters like Filip Leu and Luca Ortis to avant-garde newcomers such as Xoil and Xed le Hed, they came from far and wide (we particularly heard a lot of Aussie accents, for some reason!) to ply their trade, delighting both the crowds and their customers alike.
There was also a hand-tap tattoo section, for those who use traditional tools rather than machines to create tattoos. Artists such as Horimasa, Sanya ans Colin Dale were watched by fascinated crowds all weekend as they painstakingly tapped and poked some truly gorgeous designs.
There were many awards handed out for work done both at the Convention and outside, with categories including ‘Best of Day’, ‘Best Backpiece/Bodysuit’, ‘Ornamental’, and ‘Black and Grey’. The trophies this year were as original as ever, comprising of an embossed shield on a backdrop of rich red velvet, and contained within a rather baroque gold frame. The list of worthy winners is at the end of this article.
And so, as the tenth London Tattoo Convention wound up, it was time to reflect on the weekend. It was clearly a great success: there were smiling faces and cling-filmed limbs as far as the eye could see. The convention’s website has been updated in recent days to inform readers that the organisers have signed a new five year contract with Tobacco Dock, another indicator of the continuing success of this most prestigious and well run of conventions.
LIST OF AWARD WINNERS:
Best of Day
Ryan Evans (UK)
Eric Marcinizyn (USA)
Antonio Macko Todisco (Italy)
Billy Hay, Bath Street Tattoo Collective (UK)
Dimitry Samohin, Private Studio (Ukraine)
Kid Kros, Casa Occulta (Croatia)
Best Black and Grey
1. Johan Finné, Evil Twins (Sweden)
Ivano Natale, Ink Lounge (Italy)
Josh Duffy, Black Castle Art Co., (Usa)
Best Backpiece-Body Suit
Shige, Yellow Blaze, (Japan)
Chris Crooks, White Dragon Tattoo (Northern Ireland)
Multiple Artists (Usa)
Marco Galdo, Trafficanti d’Arte (Italy)
Marco Galdo, Trafficanti d’Arte (Italy)
Brent McCown, Tattoo Tatau (Austria)
Best of Show
Domantas Parvainis, Totemas (Lithuania)
Alexis Vaatete, Vatican Studios (USA)
Kostas Tzikaliagas, Dirty Roses (Greece)