Amsterdam Tattoo Convention 2006

Published: 15 January, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 138, October, 2006

In 2004 a group of tattoo fans from Amsterdam decided to put this cosmopolitan city back on the world tattoo map. Since the last convention held in 1996 and organized by Henk Schiffmacher, Amsterdam has been severely lacking in a tattoo convention in the Dutch capital. So for the third year in the first weekend of June, about 135 artists worked in the RAI-congress centre on the outskirts of Amsterdam. With more than 5000 visitors the Amsterdam show is now the biggest in the Netherlands and one of the more respected shows in Europe. 


The RAI isn’t really in the centre of the Dutch capital but good venues for a tattoo convention are difficult to find there. The booths are divided over two floors. Especially the hall on the first floor is very big and gives room to most of the artists and also to a stage where the contests and entertainment was held. 

Nico Bos, one of the main organizers, was also involved in the organization for the previous two years. He had previously visited Henk Schiffmacher’s shows in the eighties and the nineties. “Henk is still involved. He has made tattooing a big thing in Holland. We really want to keep his heritage alive, so we try to keep high standards considering artists and organisation” Nico tells me. 

Also another famous Dutch artist gave his influence to the Amsterdam show. 2006 is the year of Rembrandt in the Netherlands, with Van Gogh the most famous Dutch painter. This year would be the 400th birthday of Rembrandt who was born in my hometown Leiden where you will find a memorial stone on the house where he was born. 

Nico Bos: “We gave the convention a special Rembrandt-flavour, with for example a Best of Rembrandt contest. The winners of contests will receive a portrait of the most famous Dutch painter, made by Dutch tattoo artist Leslie Reesen who painted a tattooed Rembrandt with an eagle on his breast.” In this way the organisation shows us that in Holland tattooing and art are closely connected. The Rembrandt-contest was won by the Dutch artist Eus (from Leiden) who wears a portrait of Rembrandt on his calf, tattooed by Bernie Luther.  

Traditional room
Before entering the RAI visitors got the chance to witness the traditional tattooing by one of the artists of Inia III Taylor’s Moko Ink. And in the Traditional Room on the ground floor were the booths of Japanese artists like Horiren and Horitada. I can see Inia III Taylor working in the traditional way, just like Darby Tahuka, another Maori, Tahiti Tatau and the Samoan artist Kasala (Falealili Tatau), living in New Zealand and tattooing with a blend of Samoan and Maori styles.  The mixing of traditional Maori with other styles is controversial among the Maori but for European customers it’s not a problem to take a mixture of styles. Chris, a Dutch guy, is tattooed by Jeremy, formerly one of the Borneo Headhunters; nowadays he has his own studio: Monkey Tattoo in the Malaysian part of Borneo. “I have been in the longhouses in Borneo to study the Iban tattoos” Chris tells me. “I didn’t get a tattoo there, I decided to wait till one of the Iban would come to Amsterdam.”  

From Japan Horiren
The Dutch connection with traditional tattooing is also evident with Dutch artists like Marco Bratt, Sieto van der Velde, Greg Orie and Jeroen Franken. They tattoo in the traditional style and have all travelled many times to Japan, the Pacific and Borneo.  

Marco Bratt, a specialist in Japanese work, has his booth just in front of the stage where Horiren tattoos her many prize-winning designs. Horiren comes every year to Amsterdam. I had the opportunity to talk with two of her customers: Kenta Komiya and Shinya Ito. Kenta wears a combination of Western and Japanese in black & grey on his back and chest. Kenta: “The image on my back is the Maria of Michelangelo, the Pieta. I saw it in a book, it was striking and I fell in love with the image immediately. And it’s a real coincidence that my birthday is the same as that of Michelangelo’s: the 6th of March” 

“With the engraving of the Pieta, two souls were born on the same day, are united across the generations” is the lyrical text I read on one of Horiren’s business cards. “After Horiren tattooed Maria, I also wanted a Japanese design on my chest: a phoenix and a dragon fighting with each other” Kenta adds. 

The phoenix and the dragon on the back of Shinya Ito are in red. It’s really an outstanding tattoo, traditional Japanese but with this special touch of Horiren. She won the Best of Show with this tattoo. “The red is my blood” Shinya tells me. “The two animals are my protection, they compete with each other about who is protecting me the best. And I can say, I feel their protection, it makes me stronger! They are two of the yon shin, the four gods. The phoenix is the god of spring, the dragon of the summer. On my arms I wear the god of winter and of autumn; the last one is the tiger. And look at the underarm you see the omigi, the red leaves of autumn.” Shinya Ito stresses that it’s very important that the traditional tattoos like that of Horiren will survive. “Horiren will take the good things of other styles but never changes the basics of her style. That’s good. It’s great to see here in Amsterdam all those tattoos from all over the world. I like that but I will never have them on my body. I only want tattoos by Horiren.” Horiren’s tattoos will also win prizes in the categories of Best Japanese and Best Traditional. And Horitada won the prize for the Best Black & Grey.

Southern Europe
One of the other Japanese artists Horiwaka was working on a stage on the first floor where most of the artists are tattooing. All the traditional artists work on a special stage and they received a lot of attention from visitors all over the world. I meet people from Russia, Oekraïne, Senegal, the USA and many European countries. The diversity of artists on the first floor is very big. Dutch artists like Ferry Hubert (Tattoo Palace Amsterdam), Jan Born (Old School from Katendrecht, the tattoo quarter of Rotterdam), Ronald Bonkerk and Molly (Tattoo Peter, the oldest tattoo shop of the Netherlands founded in the fifties) tattoo next to South European artists from France, Italy and Spain. Like for example La Bottega dei Tatuaggi from Lido di Roma, who specialises in Japanese style work.

The South European artists decorated their booth in a very colourful way like for example those Amor de Madre from Zamora in northern Spain and the Spanish/Peruvian artist Miguel Ramos of Jaganath Tattoo. Those artists contributed very much to the vivid and cosmopolitan feel to the Amsterdam convention. 

Very interesting are the tattoos of André Sparta. This Brazilian artist has his studio in Hoorn, in the north of the Netherlands. He tattoos the colourful Brazilian gods, the Orixas. “They were brought by the slaves from Africa to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the USA and Brazil” André tells me. “You may compare it with the first Maori who brought their gods with them to New Zealand” he explains. And because of the fact that the slaves may not exercise their own religion, they combined their gods with catholic saints.” 

Dan Henk and Victor Policheri
Just like in previous years American artists have a prominent place in Amsterdam. When I pass the booth of Dan Henk from New York I see horror-based images, which are quite different from everything else seen in Amsterdam. By a good use of perspective Dan reaches a superb effect. I see some lugubrious images of Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie The Shining. “I like the extreme. What I also like are the horror type tattoos is that it tells a story, there is lot of intrigue, a lot of mystery. I learned to make controversial painting at art school. I use a lot of tricks I learned at art school about painting. I take photographs of the images, so I know the light source, the angle. I like to make the images as real as possible.” Apocalypse Tattoo from Seattle is already a third time visitor to Amsterdam. In 2004 and 2005 founder Benjamin Moss and Yushi Takei were in Amsterdam. This year Victor Policheri, one of the six artists of Apocalypse, represents the studio. Dan: “I like to do big back pieces and whole sleeves, freehand” Victor tells me. He shows me a dragon - not Japanese - in the ruins of an old broken-down castle, tattooed on the back of a girl; another back piece in yellow and brown colours shows an image of spirit animals with Indian feathers in the Sonoran desert. It’s mysterious and like a painting on the skin. 

Realistic and New School
Realistic designs of angels, based on photographs of statues of angels and Maria’s, I see in the portfolio of Berlin artist Miss Nico (All Style Tattoo). “I am not religious but many customers in Berlin want those designs” she says. “I make them 3-dimensional. Also holy images like Jesus on the cross are very popular in Berlin. But I also tattoo designs, inspired on Giger’s biomechanical stuff. But I don’t only that, I tattoo everything. It’s good to tattoo designs which are not your own taste but something the customer likes.” Another artist who says he is all-round, is Andy of Mystery Touch Tattoo from Gleisdorf, Austria. He was an apprentice of Mario Bath’s in New Jersey.  When I see Andy’s tattoos, many are colourful, New School designs. “But that’s because the people in Austria like that” he says. Remarkable are the very sharp colours that splash on the skin of his customers. 

Adding to the international flavour of Amsterdam 2006 are contributing artists from the Czech Republic, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, the Marquesan Islands, Australia and Canada. Nico Bos tells me he wants the convention next year to be even bigger. He is already hard at work on organising it. So everybody has to look forward to the Amsterdam Convention 2007. See you there! 



Shinya Ito. Japan-Artist: Horiren. Japan

1st Hiromi Igawa. Japan. Artist: Horiren. Japan
2nd Joe Tory. Artist: Chris Renz (Austria)

1st Max. Russia. Artist: André ZZZ Tattoo. Russia/Netherlands
2nd Frank Meulendijk. Netherlands. Artist: Bunker Tattoo. Netherlands

Kimihiko Sekino. Japan. Artist: Horiren. Japan

1st Juhei Jasumoto.Japan. Artist: Horitada/Black Dice Tattoo. Japan
2nd Steve. Artist: Miguel. Jaganath Tattoo. Spain/Peru.

1st Kristen Adams. Artist: Tattoo Mike. Chronic Tattoo. USA
2nd Christine Edwards. Artist: Mo. Iron Age. USA

1st Wim Boeckx. Artist: Lutz Lehmann. Germany
2nd Klas T. Artist: Dutonk Tattoo. Netherlands

Tattoo Eus. Netherlands. Artist: Bernie Luther. Austria.