Derby - State of the Art 2008

Published: 01 August, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 163, August, 2008

Was it really five years ago that I stuck my head in the Assembly Rooms door to announce my first State of the Art Tattoo Convention? It only seems like yesterday and things have moved on quite extensively in that half-decade.


At all the conventions I get to go to, each show has a few prominent artists that seem to almost become mascots for that particular convention and Derby is no exception – apart from this year some of the stalwarts of the show were missing. Gary Wiedenhof and Paul Naylor were conspicuous by their absence as were quite a few other big name artists. I will not go into why these guys decided not to attend but it opened the doors for some other artists not normally seen on the convention circuit. Saying that, some old favourites who hadn’t been seen working at SOTA were back bigger and better than ever. Alan Dean and his ever-expanding Tattoo UK crew were in full force on the main stage and had close to eight artists working over the weekend, all producing some good solid tattoos, much to the delight of the recipients.

Others of note working over the weekend were the Evil From the Needle guys, the eloquent Gray Silva from Rampant Ink, Jo Harrison and Jason Butcher, a pirate-themed display from Tradition 180 and the Priestly (Skin Shokz) boys to name but a few.

Al and myself were non-stop in the photo booth and got to see many of the tattoos done this weekend - the pictures here show some of the high level of work that is expected at such a long running convention. Additionally, I had the honour of doing some judging so I got to see the cream of the crop. The efficiency of the judging and general organisation was the best at any show I have been to as per usual, but I don’t know, the show just seemed a little flat. Ok, the aisles were very busy – especially on Sunday – but there seemed a lack of atmosphere compared to other years.

The live bands that performed throughout the weekend ensured that there was plenty to see and do when the main room got a little too congested (as it’s prone to on the Sunday), and the numerous bars dotted around the building removed any necessity for queuing – which was nice!

I always enjoy myself at State of the Art and it’s one that I eagerly await each summer. This convention has a strong holding in the British calendar for a good reason; shows don’t keep running if people don’t take to them or enjoy themselves. I’m looking forward to next year’s event and hope that some of the old spirit is restored to this weekend of tattoo festivities.


Oh my days, it’s time for SOTA already! The previous few weeks had been something of a blur with conventions and festivals, but fear not; we’re never ones to shirk at the prospect of a weekend away when tattoos and music are involved (for proof, see the Download feature!) so with cases packed and cameras charged, we made our way across from the Welsh border to Derby.

The Friday night pre-show party afforded us the welcome opportunity to catch up with the people that we only really get to see at shows, and in addition to this we got the chance to meet quite a few new people as well. Drinks were quaffed, food was scoffed, and lives were taken in hands as erratic taxi drivers ferried those of us not staying at the convention hotel back to our abodes for the weekend at what felt like Mach 2 speeds.

As the haze from Friday night’s frivolities dispersed amid a mountain of fried goods and gallons of tea, we discussed the weekend at hand. I’ve learnt that SOTA is as well established as shows in the UK come and does have a reputation for delivering an efficiently run convention with minimal fuss - trade areas are strictly policed, artists are looked after and the whole shebang is wrapped up tighter than a sarcophagus inhabitant.

The patient crowd - already milling outside the front doors - eagerly received Saturday’s midday opening and set about investigating which artists had made the trip to Derby this year. There were quite a few new studios plying their trade here this year amongst the more established artists, a sign of the times as tattooing becomes ever more popular, and there were a few artists (that usually attend without fail) who were conspicuous by their absence.

The photo studio was tucked away in the dressing rooms behind the stage and provided me with a slightly cooler atmosphere to work in, as the main room heated exponentially in relation to people entering the convention. Still, a warm environment is conducive to getting photos of work, as clothing is peeled away with ready abandon! Some great work passed through the studio over the course of the two days, with exceptional pieces from Gray Silva, Milosch, Jack Ribeiro, James Kiley and Suzi Q.

Dennis Pase took the Best Small Colour award with a strong and bold old school owl. Not only is he an exceptional talent but he’s also a truly pleasant chap to converse with too. Keep an eye on SD for more of him, as this American’s ability with a tattoo machine is sure to propel him to great heights.

Middleton Tattoo Studio’s Jin O proudly announced the completion of the phoenix backpiece that she began at the Brighton show back in coldest January! The bearer of the piece (Ross) was quite relieved to finally have this magnificent body of work completed and seemed very pleased with the final product. Upon cessation of the prize-giving ceremonies on the Sunday, artists scrambled back to their booths in a bid to clean up and ship out as soon as possible. We aren’t quite so lucky, and as usual were one of the last to leave – even Jin disappeared before we managed to!

SOTA was a pleasant show to attend and had a predominantly sound calibre of tattooists on the books to complement two rooms of live bands that performed throughout the weekend – it is a body art and music festival after all. The significant grumble arose from the startling price of food and was commented upon disdainfully by a number of guests.

This was my first time at Derby and for a show that carries a reputation for its vivacious and party-like atmosphere, it was left wanting in that department. It didn’t deliver quite what I had expected and I was left wondering what exactly was amiss. Still, let us not linger on expectations and focus on the positive; Derby was a success and we came away happy.


Text and Photography: Neil & Alex


Skin Deep 163 1 August 2008 163