London Calling - London Tattoo Convention 2010

Published: 15 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 191, October, 2010

The monster construction that is Tobacco Dock remains a stroke of brilliance on behalf of the London Tattoo Convention. Easy to get to and big enough to cope, you can see the crowd from about 1000 metres away – and that’s impressive. Now in its sixth year and only showing signs of getting bigger, it’s hard to see how they can raise the bar next year but I’m sure they’ll think of something…

The first thing you are met with at the Dock is a deep, deep crowd totally entranced with the hand tapping taking place not ten feet from the entrance. While almost everybody here is acquainted with the modern machine, this is indeed a sight to behold and an absolutely fascinating art to see in action. Te Rangitu Netana  - the modern master of traditional Maori Ta Moko – sits front of ‘stage’ oblivious to the onlookers as he works away on a beautiful back piece. Many onlookers no doubt know his name as the creator of Robbie Williams’ arm work, but either way, it’s captivating and a real treat to watch this third generation artist at work.

Meantime – in the same area no less – are the Horiyoshi III family working their enviable Tebori style to an equally beguiled crowd of their own. You could easily spend all weekend in here and not grow tired of watching these guys at work. Intriguingly, from eavesdropping the conversations taking place, there were as many keen to submit themselves to this hand work as there were those equally sure that they weren't. One thing is for sure, leaving the room is like remembering you were supposed to be doing something else – it’s all rather timeless.

Back in the real world, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into – and look at. Every artist working the floor is busy from the word go. With so many international styles represented, there’s certainly no shortage of choice either. Doubtless, some collectors here have waited a long old time for the privilege of sitting down with the artist of their choice – if I leave anybody out in the following comments, it’s nothing personal. Quite the opposite – some artists you simply could not get near for either crowds or the intensity of their work ethic.

I’m really intrigued by what Europe has to offer at the moment. Calypso Tattoo from Belgium found themselves with a good crowd for much of the weekend as they repeatedly displayed what they had to offer with their command of tribal designs from all four corners of the globe. Likewise the inimitable Amanda Toy’s original designs continue to grow in popularity – whatever your opinion on whether her art is for you or not, it’s impossible to deny just how unique it is and she certainly won my heart. Another great find in this department was Davide Andreoli at Italian Rooster whose cult collection of flash reeled more than a few in to stand by to watch him work. Watch out for features over the coming months.

Meanwhile, representing the rest of the world, I spent some time at the stall of Enrique Diaz de Leon from El Indio whose clean, imaginative work really impressed me. It was also great to find Phillip Spearman having mapped out a feature on him in this very issue. To wrap up this section of the show review, I must also take my hat off to the crew at Daredevil in New York who came, saw and conquered and particularly Amanda who was kind enough to spend some time with me in between appointments.

Suffice to say, you couldn’t go very long without some of the entertainment making itself known. Most visible across the weekend were the Fuel Girls who over the last few years have more than paid their dues and certainly know how to command a crowd – the addition of the acrobatic silks since I last saw them more than justifies battling through a music festival sized crowd in order to get a better view. 

Also more than worthy of a mention is Billie Rae. Her twenties styled Burlesque show is truly outstanding and in a class all of its own – if you missed her show this weekend, one look at her calendar will tell you that you won’t have to go too long before seeing her somewhere again.

No less heart-pounding (for an altogether different reason) were the various art exhibitions on show throughout the weekend - particularly Edgar Hoill (One Shot One Kill) who took me on an extensive tour of his life in photography between Los Angeles and Japan and also Lars Krutak whose work as an anthropologist has breathed new life into the study of tribal symbolism. Both of these guys have worked extremely hard to bring images of cultures we would otherwise have no concept of into the mainstream.

But of course, the big attraction across the weekend, was the people – and there were thousands of them. From the most delicate to the fullest body-suit – and in the case of Lucky Dimond Rich, the challenge is in finding bare skin – everybody was catered for. Old school, new school, school’s that don’t even exist yet and school’s that have been forgotten for too long, they were all here – but what stands out more than anything is the variation between 2010 and the very first London Con. That year, I was a paying guest, curious to see what was on offer and if memory serves me well, it wasn’t half as intense as it is now. Through this and other conventions – not just in the UK, but internationally – collectors are really able to show their colours and also allow artists to continue their work. One look at the images on show here shows exactly what I’m talking about.

To wrap up, what show review would be complete without giving mention to the traders in the underground vaults of the venue? The new opening hours of lunchtime until 2a.m. certainly gave a lot of scope to part with your hard earned cash and there was no shortage of quality to spend it on either. We’ve come a long way in the last few years from selling “stuff” to unique goods that people really want to take home.

I think we can call that a roaring success… again.


One Shot One Kill

Edgar Hoill is a one off. One of life’s true originals. Passionate and supremely talented at what he does. Through his brand – One Shot One Kill – he brings us images of parts of the world that most of us would never get the chance to see otherwise. Across the weekend, he took many interested parties on a tour of his exhibition and I guarantee, he would have been just as animated on the last as he was on the first, such is his enthusiasm for what he does. The exhibition on display was just a small part of his collection but not a single shot was wasted in his creation of this – making One Shot One Kill possibly the best brand name on the face of the planet. Watch out for a full interview feature soon.


Fuel Girls

No alternative show is complete without the Fuel Girls. What they bring is so much more than a great fire show – fact of the matter is, it would be totally unacceptable for a show of this magnitude to go without some photo opportunities for the boys – and girls. The Fuel Girls need no introduction, need no explanation and no justification. Thus, I end my words here and let the pictures do the talking….


Vince Ray

Vince Ray and the Boneshakers are not only one smooth act these days, thanks to Vince, they also have a gnarly line in merchandise too – no home should be without at least one his masterpieces.  This year, the band delivered more of its fun filled double bass loaded rock than ever before and dare I say, they only get more popular as time rolls on. If you’re missing out on Vince, you’re missing a real treat. Also worth a mention here, on the Friday evening, 50ft Woman kicked off the weekend to a flying start with the unenviable task of warming up a crowd who would much rather have been getting inked… nice work.


And The Winners Are...


1st: Josè Lopez, Lowrider tattoo

2nd: Chuey Quintanar, Good Time Charlies

3rd: Jess Yen, My Tattoo


Best Ornamental

1st: Genko, Genko Tattoo

2nd: Tommy

3rd: Chris Bagnell, Aquaries Tattoos


Best Colour

1st: Steve Prizeman, Eternal Art

2nd: Scott Duncan, Sugar Shack

3rd: Ben Boston, Tattoo Studio


Best Back/Suit

1st: Tang Ping, Zi You Tattoo

2nd: Takami, Knock Over Decorate

3rd: Trevor Mc Stay & Filip Leu, Dynamic Tattoo - The Leu Family's Family Iron


Best Done in the Show

1st: Paolo Acuna, Divinity Tattoo

2nd: Alex De Pase, Alex De Pase tattoo

3rd: Bernie Luther, Tattoo Art Demon


Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Al Overdrive