Last year, there was a new show to add to the ever expanding tattoo convention calendar and to be totally honest, I was a little sceptical as to what was going to be ‘new and exciting’ about this show. Sadly, it clashed with another big show so I sent a Skin Deep Freelancer; Al Overdrive down South to see what all the hoo-ha was about.
After a weekend of inky fun and frolics, Al spoke to me at some length and enthused about the friendliness and warm welcome extended to not only him but also everyone that came through the doors. Such was his enthusiasm and the slight change of dates this year; it allowed me to go to the second Bournemouth tattoo convention. I am so glad I did... The Skin Deep towers is a good stone's throw away from the South coast but after a hefty multi-houred drive via Folkestone (Okay, I know, it’s in the opposite direction, but I had work to do there), we finally arrived at the hotel and grabbed a well-earned drink. Bournemouth seems to have changed quite a bit since I was last there. It appears to have become a Mecca for the stag and hen party brigade and, as such, it was hard to find a bar or pub that didn’t have a bunch of rowdy revellers doing what they do best on stag/hen nights – drinking heavily.
Luckily, the organisers had thought of this and pointed us in the direction of a quieter bar where many of the artists had congregated prior to the weekend’s work.
After the inaugural show, the organisers took the decision to move the show to a bigger and brighter venue – the Bournemouth International Centre seemed perfect for the job of housing close to one hundred and thirty artists and vendor stalls. This sounds like a lot, but there was still plenty of room to meander amongst the tattooists, such was the layout. Traders were in a separate area, many facing the main stage where the burlesque and live music was due to take place over the weekend.
As the opening day appeared, the weather turned from plus twenty degrees on the Friday to torrential rain on the Saturday morning. Luckily we had all our merchandise in situ before the heavens opened. I did feel sorry for the rather large queue assembled outside, waiting to get in and huddled against the outside of the building being battered by the deluge and howling wind, but it wasn’t long and the doors were opened and the somewhat damp and steaming public, - quite literally - poured in.
Once the Skin Deep merchandise stand and the photo booth (very kindly situated next to the SD stand) was erected. I took to my heels to go visit some of the guys and girls who were working this weekend. Directly opposite was the one and only Sam Boyce, he of Timeless Ink. This was Sam’s local show being spitting distance from his studio in Salisbury. Working with Sam was a young lady by the name of Chantale, freshly landed in the UK having started her tattoo career in Australia and putting out some very nice black and grey tattoos. Chantale is a native Brit and having spent about two and half years tattooing in Sydney, she has recently brought her tattooing talents back to the UK to join forces with Sam.
Whilst talking with some of the other artists, I caught a familiar face in the corner of my eye and took it upon myself to find him and say "Hi". Steve A had a feature in Skin Deep way back in 2005 and I hadn’t seen him since then. Not long after the interview, Steve closed his studio and withdrew into the shadows for quite a while and it was a real pleasure to see him out and about again, working from Indelible Ink studio. This quiet and unassuming man has an absolutely incredible talent for both tattoos and drawing and it was a real pleasure to not only speak to him but to see him produce some of his incredible tattoos over the weekend. Steve had also produced some superb canvases that were to be auctioned off at the end of the weekend with all proceeds going to the Help for Heroes charity.
Across from us was the ginger wonder that is Oddboy from Real Art Tattoo in Leicester, working hard all weekend and producing a superb chest piece on a young lady with some stunning results. Later he tattooed fellow
artist Paul Naylor with an amazing lifelike rendition of one of Paul’s sons, which was again, stunning.
Meanwhile, the venue was well and truly filling up with the public and the hundreds of tattoo machines were starting their busy weekend working hard on producing
some great tattoos.
It wasn’t too long before I started to get folk come over to chat and get their latest works of art photographed, so out came the trusty old Canon and the flash lights lit up the studio...
After a brief but busy session in the studio, I took time to go see who and what else was available at Bournemouth Ink. Leaving the large, wooden clad dome that was home to the artists, I ventured into the main music area and straight away was hit by a wall of sound coming from the stage. The organisers had pulled out all the stops when it came to the entertainment for the weekend. This included an almost endless line-up of live music acts, interspersed with many, very good burlesque acts including the likes of Miss Polly Rea and her Hurly Burley Girlie’s, who had taken time out of their London West end review to perform on the Saturday. Needless to say, the stage was occupied all weekend by one act or another and this was a good decision, as after walking about the tattoo booths, you need somewhere to sit and chill out and just be entertained, and the line-up of entertainment fitted the bill perfectly.
All this walking about and chatting gave me a bit of a thirst so I headed into the bar & food area and was pleasantly surprised to see a very nice display of local art.
Wandering amongst the artwork, pint in hand, was a very nice change and I was more than impressed at the diversity and quality of the exhibits. There were some great tongue-in-cheek statues dressed in gas masks and also mannequins turned into zebra headed creations and skeletons created from a myriad of electrical components. There was some ‘traditional' art on display. Also some artwork from some of the tattooists working the show, creating an interesting backdrop to have your lunch or pint to. I do have to say that the beer and food prices were a little on the steep side but I know with big venues, the prices are set by the venue and the organisers have little say over this. Not a criticism, just a comment....
Back in the tattooing area, things had stepped up a notch with pretty much every booth full with tattooists working and folk checking out portfolios, talking to artists or getting undressed in anticipation of their new ink.
There were quite a few old faces dotted about the booths but a very healthy selection of new artists I’d not seen of heard of before, many making me open my eye wider in appreciation of their work. Being a South Coast show, there was a good selection of local artists, some very good, some not so. It is really hard for organisers to have to vet the quality of artists working a show but I feel if we are to raise the bar, then this needs to be addressed. You will upset some local artists for sure, that may not be the best but isn’t the idea of a convention to showcase the best artists you can assemble? Just because you work ‘down the road’ from the convention, it shouldn’t give you automatic right to work it, surely? Saying that, you also have to cater for all tastes of tattooing, from the one-off custom collector to the get a tattoo on a whim person; if this is the case, Bournemouth fitted the bill perfectly.
As the weekend wore on, the sun decided to grace those outside with its presence and continued to do so for the rest of the weekend, lifting the spirits of those coming in to the show. Obviously all the artists missed the majority of the weather, as they were hard at it, creating masterpieces in skin.
All weekend in the photo booth, the quality of work coming past my lens was to say the least 'amazing'. Sadly there aren’t enough pages to showcase all the wonderful tattoos that I shot over the course of the weekend. There’s just something about certain shows that seem to ooze good tattoo work, like Manchester, Liverpool and London and I can now add Bournemouth to that list. I was in the process of photographing a young lady's leg with a superb skeletal-inspired piece and the artist came over with her. He asked me if I would like to see some more of his work; I said yes and he promptly dropped his trousers, revealing a lion, a tiger, tattooed amazingly, both of which, it turns out, he had done himself. Considering he did these upside down and has only been tattooing for two years, I was astounded. (Look out for a feature on this chap in the very near future!) I love it when people just surprise me with work like this.
If electric music and burlesque dancers weren’t your thing, you could take in some more genteel music on the acoustic stage and I have to say, as it was directly next to my photo booth, I was serenaded by the dulcet tones guitars and other instruments blended with the many tattoo machines humming a fine tune all weekend, which was superb. In the main tattoo hall the Amazing Ari wowed the crowds with his aerial feats of trickery and daring do, whilst suspended from two white ribbons. This was a real feat of strength and a visual delight for all.
By now, I had been called to help with the judging and it was erm, a little weird. Anyone entering the competition had their work photographed, then the two main judges went off into a room and looked at all the entries and did a sort of pre-judge and whittled the entrants down to a short list before the main judging took place. This to me seemed a little strange as how could we (all the judges) agree on the tattoos without actually seeing all the entries?
Still, the competitions got under way and the awards were handed out and I realised that it was fast becoming the end of the weekend. I had a quick wander outside to see what was going on to be greeted by a huge selection of classic cars, lined-up along the ‘prom. This really topped of the weekend for me. Not only had I had the most amazing weekend with superb tattoos, amazing tattooists, wonderful stage acts, (including a superb Canadian duo called Monsters of Schlock, who were actually bloody funny), live music and performers, but now I could wander amongst a selection of stunning machinery from a bygone age. Pure heaven!
I mean, where else can you stroll out of your hotel, roll your trouser legs up and walk to work along the beach, the sun beating down on you with the waves gently washing at your toes? Bournemouth Ink really ticked all the boxes for me and I’m sure for very many others.
The Bournemouth show although only in its second year is proving to be one of those shows not to be missed and speaking the Richard and Ester, they already have more ambitious plans for next years event.
Thanks to all the staff for their tireless efforts to make this convention one to remember.
Why not come and join me next year in Bournemouth for some sun, sea sand and sumptuous skin art - 28th-29th May 2011
My bucket and spade is already packed for next year, I can’t wait.