Manchester Skin Tech '07 - part 1

Published: 04 November, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 145, May, 2007

Doesn’t time fly? It only felt like yesterday, that I was packing the Skin Deep Stall away from another successful Skin Tech Show and here I am again, a year later setting the stand up for another offering of beautiful tattoos, good company, great entertainment in a real laid-back party atmosphere. I was certainly looking forward to this year’s Manchester Skin Tech…

 

The venue for the Skin Tech show is a little strange in the fact that the Piccadilly hotel is situated above a row of shops. This can make lugging all the Skin Deep merchandise up endless flights of stairs or trying to battle with all the other traders and tattooists who are squeezed into some very small lifts a little awkward. This is all worth it when you walk into the main hall for the show. The room is huge with a large stage and a balcony and a ceiling dripping with chandeliers. The set-up for the show is the by now familiar rows of booths for the tattooists with a smaller area set aside for the traders who were selling all things to do with tattooing from tattoo related clothing, jewellery, flash and many other accessories that the well-heeled tattoo devotee could not do without.

Saturday morning and the room was a constant sea of tattooists and traders getting their stands and booths just how they liked them in anticipation for a weekend of tattooing fun. It’s always nice to have the privilege of getting to the shows early so I can walk around the booths unhindered and have a chat with many of the artists before they start work. This years’ line-up was very strong again, with tattooists coming from all parts of the globe. There was close to forty artists from studios in Britain and a healthy selection of foreign artists too. Probably the best known of the overseas guys was a chap by the name of Boog. Boog is an American tattooist who is probably best know in the UK for his Gangsta’ style flash that Jenny Clarke Designs sells and I have seen many, many people wearing his pit bull, gangsta inspired images as well as his very intricate style of text. Whenever Boog was at his stand working, the crowds were huge, all trying to see the master at work.    

As well as artists working with modern tattoo machines, it was nice to see some of the traditional tattooists working at Skin Tech, Working from a raised platform was Pili Mo’o and Lawrence Ah Ching, using hand tapping and hand poking methods and both had clients lined up for the whole weekend such was their demand.   

Whilst walking amongst the booths I can a cross another chap using the Tebori (hand poking) method. Mike Canavan from Tsunami Tattoo in Widnes was using the traditional tools of the Japanese tattooists and applying a beautiful dragon onto a lady’s arm with dazzling effect. It was nice to see a Western artist going back to the tattooing roots so to speak.   

The doors opened at eleven o’clock and the already long queue of people started to enter the International Suite of the Piccadilly hotel. One of the advantages of having the convention in the Piccadilly is its location. It is smack bang in he centre of Manchester so accessibility couldn’t be easier with regular bus, trams and trains all stopping a stones throw away from the venue.   

It wasn’t long before the first tattooists started working and within a few minutes, nearly all the booths were full with folk waiting for a fresh layer of ink. One of my favourite things about this show is the laid backness of the whole weekend. Nothing is ever too much trouble for the organisers, whether it’s trying to get an extra power point installed or moving the entire stand. Thanks gents.   

As the serious process of tattooing got underway, I had the task of setting up the Skin Deep photo room. I had barely got the studio lights plugged in when the first person knocked on the door wanting to have their tattoos photographed. That sort of set the theme for the weekend really, with me dividing my time between the studio, the stand and trying to take in all that was going on. I could not have done it without the help of Kate, my other half, who manned the stall all weekend for me.

Taking the photos for the weekend gave me unrivalled access to some stunning tattoo work. I am constantly amazed at the quality of work that is coming out of this country at the moment. Britain can definitely hold its own against all the other nations when it comes to quality tattoos – especially black and grey work. Talking of which, I took some photos of a chap by the name of Brendon who had his entire back tattooed by a phenomenal artist – Joe Myler from JMD’s in Ireland, each time I see any work by Joe, it just blows me away with his attention to detail and depth of field. A very talented chap indeed and a top bloke to boot.

As the day progressed the aisles soon filled up with spectators and before long the rows were almost impassable. This sort of gave everyone time to see what was going on as you shuffled passed the artists’ booths in slow order. So a plus rather than a minus really.   

Judging got underway pretty much on the dot at half past two and I’m glad I didn’t have to judge this year as the standard was amazing and there was a constant stream of people passing the judges eyes for quite a while. Later that day, the best of day tattoo was judged and there was close to forty odd entrants with many artists entering two and in some cases, three brand new tattoos done on the day. That’s some going!   

As with all conventions, after you have walked around the tattooists’ booths and maybe had a peek though the clothing and trade stalls, there’s plenty of time left over in the day. Skin Tech is well aware of this and always strives to put on some superb entertainment throughout the day.

In previous years there has been comedians, a traditional Chinese Lion dance troupe and this year, not to be outdone, a Brazilian Batala Band. The band played on both Saturday and Sunday and consisted of about twenty drummers, all bashing the living daylights out of their instruments and the rhythmic sounds were very infectious. I saw many a working tattooist bobbing their heads to the beat.    

Not long after the Batala band left the stage it was time to announce the winner of the best of day category. As I mentioned earlier, the job must have been near impossible as the standard of work was very high but as with all competitions, there has to be one winner and that lucky chap was Alex from Rites of Passage in Copenhagen. Alex is a British artist who works out of Copenhagen and predominantly on the Scandinavian tattoo circuit but has recently started to work more of the British shows, much to the delight of the UK public (watch out for an in-depth interview real soon).

Alex tattooed a character from the film Hell boy using mainly colour rather than black. As you’ll see in the photograph somewhere in this article, the award was well deserved. Oz (a tattooist from Sinister Scrawlings in Harlow) was the recipient of the tattoo and was, to say the least ecstatic about his new piece of ink.   

Soon after the prize giving Dolly’s burlesque show hit the stage to much applause. I missed the show as I was still busy in the studio but I could hear the wolf whistles and cheers from my room.

Sunday started with a leisurely breakfast, then it was a case of switching on the studio lights and away we go. Sunday is always the busiest day and this was no exception with plenty of folk waiting patiently in the foyer for the doors to open. Dead on eleven am, the doors opened and the crowds came in to the International Suite of the Piccadilly Hotel. Right from the start of the day, I could see that this was going to be a corker of a show. We had moved the Skin Deep stand to a bit more of a prominent position with help from the guys running the show and this gave us access to far more folk than Saturday. We were lucky enough to be in between Boog and George from Voodoo Lounge – a new studio in Weston-Super-mere. George won’t mind me saying that he’s an old hand at this game and I spent a good hour or so watching him work his magic onto the skin, a very talented artist and no mistake.   

Before I got stuck in the photo studio for the day, I had time to have a bit of a wander about the hall to see who was doing what and to whom. I couldn’t help thinking that Jorge and his crew had really taken the time to find a varied and high quality mix of artists to work the show. Sometime I feel that some organisers just open their doors to one and all and don’t spend the time to search for the best artists available. Not so in this case as every stall I passed there was stunning sheets of flash work and portfolios brimming with superbly executed tattoo work. I can safely say that I would be happy wearing a tattoo by any one of the attending artists that weekend.   

Oh well, it was back to the studio for me where I found a line of folk waiting to have their photos taken. As the day progressed, the rooms filled with more and more people, but the layout was done in such a way everyone could keep moving if they wanted to.   

After the judging had taken place, the Batala band came on to entertain the crowd then the judging for the best of Sunday took place. Again as with Saturday, the queue was rather large and looking at the work in the line-up it was going to be a sod of a job to judge, such was the quality.   

The crowds who had assembled at the front of the stage to watch the judging stayed in place, as it was time again for Dolly’s Burlesque dancers to take to the stage. These brave girls really do put on a superb show with some stunning costumes, a tongue in cheek approach, a great soundtrack and a little bit of naughtiness thrown in for good measure. If you get a chance to see this act – do.   

It was now time for the presentations for the winners of the categories. Again the organisers had really pushed the boat out with the trophies. This years awards were in the shape of some absolutely beautiful lead crystal vases and urns, brought all the way from the Czech Republic. Not only did the artist get one of these trophies but the wearer and the runner up got one each, which was a really nice and very generous touch. There were thirteen categories in all and the standard of work was outstanding, proving that British tattooing scene is more than alive and healthy constantly progressing.

This year’s Manchester Skin Tech Tattoo show in my eyes was the best yet. As some time happens when you have a very successful show, you soon outgrow the venue. The Piccadilly was pretty much full to capacity this year and I have heard that the organisers are looking for a larger venue and we will of course, keep you informed well in advance.   

I’d just like to thank Jorge and his crew for all their tireless work over the weekend and to Danielle, Gareth and Kate for making my job much easier that I thought it was going to be. Cheers guys.   

I took so many photos of great work over this weekend that I literally can’t fit all the photos onto these pages so there will be a ‘part two’ coverage from the Skin Tech show in next month’s Skin Deep 146 on sale 8th May.

Credits

Text and Photography: Neil Additional Photographs: Gareth Fuke

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