Derby State of the Art 2007 Pt. 1

Published: 24 September, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 150, September, 2007

For months before this years’ State of the Art tattoo convention the Skin Deep forum was buzzing with excitement and interest, as this is one of the ‘must go to’ shows in the UK.


Many folk were planning to catch up with old friends and others were telling of up and coming tattoos that were to be done at this years show, and some were just looking forward to attending this very well organised tattoo convention to be among like-minded people and enjoy the craic.   

The organisers had very kindly allowed Skin Deep to have the room we had last year where we put on an art fusion and tattoo related art exhibition. So we headed down to Derby on the Friday with a van full of canvases, easels and other merchandise. We duly arrived early and started to get the Skin Deep room set up for the weekend’s entertainment. By seven o’clock the Assembly rooms is shut so if you don’t get your stand or booth set up by then you have to do it on the morning of the show. Normally most of the convention hall would be packed with artists and traders putting the final touches to their stands but this year it was deathly quiet for some reason. It wasn’t until the following morning I realised what was going on. The floods that had hit most of the West Country and the midlands had prevented many folk from making it even as far as Derby.   

This was not looking good for the organisers who had obviously put a great deal of effort into the convention.   

Saturday morning arrived and I saw the extent of the flooding over much of the country and thought this would really put the dampeners (excuse the pun) on the whole proceedings.   

But by midday on Saturday, the queue waiting patiently outside the Assembly rooms was very impressive. Many, many people had over come their watery adversity and had some how made the trip, many taking twice as long as normal to get to Derby. This was no considerable feat as Derby train station had been closed, again due to the weather. It just goes to show how much folk want to come to the State of the Art convention.   

At exactly Twelve o’clock the doors opened and the crowds shuffled in to what had all the makings of yet another superb weekend of tattooing.   

This year’s line-up was as impressive as ever with close to seventy artists working and more trade and clothing stalls to please even the pickiest of punters.   

Attending artists this year were the cream of the crop with such tattooing big guns like Steve Byrne, Gerry Carnelly, Jo Harrison, Jason Butcher, Nigel Kurt, Dave Bryant, Paul Naylor, Naresh and many, many more. Foreign artists included the very talented Eze Nunez, Antika Praktika, Milosch, Boog and Jack Ribeiro to name but a few.   

As the day drew on many more people came through the doors filling the venue with a crowd of smiling friendly faces, many eager to get to their chosen tattooist to start their next piece of artwork. Running between the photo booth and the Skin Deep art room, I passed most of the artists many times and I can’t remember seeing even one sitting about with nothing to do. Many were already heads down tattooing, others were getting artwork or stencils ready and some were setting up their tattoo machines prior to starting. The sound of seventy odd tattoo machines working and the smell of disinfectant is always strangely comforting.   

Being behind the camera and running an art room can take up a lot of my time and sometimes I can come home from a tattoo convention, sit down and think to myself ‘I can’t actually remember what was tattooed over the weekend’. This wasn’t the case this year as there were some great works of art being produced. Luckily I had some help this year with Kate and Jade running the stand for me. Thanks ladies.   

Again I had the honour doing some of the judging, so I got to see much of the work up close. The quality of tattoos that was coming past the judges was amazing. Each year tattooing just gets better and better which in turn makes the job of judging harder, but this can only be good thing for tattooing in general. The quality was outstanding. Judging can be a bit of a pain for the organisers to arrange but the State of the Art guys have this down to a fine art and it all went off without hitch as per usual.   

If you had enough of watching or getting tattooed (yeah right – as if!) you could always go and chill out by watching some live music and having a drink or two. Derby has really got this right by having the bands far enough away from the working artists so as not to interfere with their work.   

Sunday morning and the crowd were even bigger outside the Assembly rooms. Sunday is always the busiest day at tattoo convention but I think this years increased numbers was also down to the fact that many people had only just managed to get to Derby due to the floods. The weather was great and folk seemed more than happy to mingle about outside prior to the show opening.   

It wasn’t long before the familiar sound of the tattoo machines filtered through the expectant chatter of the crowds and I knew the Derby was open for business again.    

The main tattooing room filled almost to capacity very quickly, luckily with the layout at Derby the aisles don’t get too crowded making walking about the booths a pleasure. Again the quality of tattooing was second to none. Eze Nunez was producing some mouth-watering portraitures again as was Jack Ribiero and Milosch. The heavily pregnant Leah Moule from Spear Tattoo won a well-deserved Best tattoo completed at a convention for some of her new skool work. For me probably the best-executed and most innovative idea for a tattoo was on a chap called Rob (TJ Joe on the SD forum). Rob has a full sleeve of the most wonderful colour comic book cartoon-strip work depicting all the (some would say) stupid questions ask by anyone when they come across a tattoo. Things like; ‘Does it hurt?’ and ‘will it fade?’ as well as many more captions all tied into a comic book theme. This had all been superbly tattooed by the one and only Louis Malloy. The work really is worth seeing and as far as I can remember it scored full marks by the judges.   

A new face for the conventions this year was one Gray Silva. Gray, Rachael and Danika all work out of Rampant ink in Nottingham. Gray and the gang really put out some great work and this was their first working convention. Gray deservedly won best sleeve at the show, which is a superb start to his convention career.   

Later on the Sunday Jo Harrison and Jason Butcher worked on a collaborative piece on a chap’s leg. Apparently both Jo and Jason we a little nervous about on working on the same person at the same time but they needn’t have worried. Any work coming from the talented hands of these two would be good but having both work on one tattoo, the chap got twice the talent. A very lucky guy indeed!   

As the weekend drew to a close and the trophies were handed out by the very charismatic Isobel Varley, who had the crowd gigging constantly by whipping off her wig at any given opportunity to reveal her tattooed head, the opinion of folk that I spoke to said that this was the best State of the Art Convention yet and I for one have to agree. The organisation surpassed itself again this year. The staff was friendly, courteous and nothing was too much trouble for them. Thank you to all of you for your help, you made my job much easier this year.   

I would like to thank all the artists who took the time and effort to bring some paintings and artwork for the art exhibition and those who took time out of their very busy schedules to take part in the art fusion. We took so many wonderful tattoo photographs that we couldn’t fit them all in this issue. Look out for Part Two in issue 151, on sale 25th September.

See you all there next year!
Next year’s dates are: 19th-20th July ‘08


Text: Neil Photography: Neil, Nadine & Gareth


Skin Deep 150 1 September 2007 150