New Zealand Tattoo & Art Festival 2010

Published: 22 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 195, February, 2011

On the 27th and 28th of November Kentucky State Bourbon and Cola presented the first New Zealand Tattoo and Art Festival at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.  New Plymouth is a small town on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand with a rich art history, making it the perfect location for an international tattoo event.  The weather turned it on for the artists over the two day festival with many of them taking advantage of the sunshine by going to the beach, hiking up Mt Taranaki, walking Pukekura Park or the coastal walkway, black water caving, fishing and bungy jumping before and after the festival.

With a population of just over 68,000 people, New Plymouth was taken over for the weekend by tattoo artists and enthusiasts, with big billboards up all over the city everyone knew that an international tattoo convention had come to town.  The TSB Stadium is a multi- purpose facility that has hosted international sport and concerts such as Slash, INXS and Motorhead which made it the perfect location to hold the 115 booth festival.

The New Zealand Tattoo and Art Festival was billed as the biggest and boldest tattoo event in New Zealand history and it didn’t disappoint!  With over 150 tattoo artists, retailers, live bands, burlesque, street performers, art exhibitions and more.  Artists came from all corners of the globe with big names such as Dan Smith from LA Ink/High Voltage Tattoo in LA returning home for the convention, Sabado, Tebori master Horitsuna from Japan, John Montgomery, Seth Ciferri and Jen Beirola from America, Gemma Pallat from the UK and Elvis from Germany to name a few.  There was also a large Australian contingent lead by Mick Squires, Steve Cross, Stevie Edge, Bugsy, Aureole, Rob Abbel, Josh Roelink and Ran Maclurkin coupled with the very best New Zealand artists.

Things were kicked off with an industry only launch party for Western Magnetic, Seth Ciferri and Marv Lernings new business venture at Club 55 where the artists got to meet each other and catch up with old friends prior to the festival.

On Saturday morning the artists were treated to a Powhiri (traditional Maori welcome) before doors opened to the public with a large queue stretching around the building.  Not long after the buzz of tattoo machines could be heard throughout the building and the aisles were packed with tattoo collectors from all over the country.  A huge grass area outside the stadium with picnic tables, food and drink vendors, bouncy castle, free face painting and stick on tattoos for the kids provided the perfect place to relax in the sun and watch graffiti artists from New Zealand and Australia paint a 20 meter wall all day on the Saturday which was later auctioned off for charity.

On both days, large crowds gathered in the far corner of the stadium where the traditional artists where located.  Horitsuna from Tattoo Studio Desperado in Japan kept the crowd entertained with tebori, this was the first time a tebori artist has been to an event in New Zealand and the fascinated onlookers couldn’t get enough. Located next to Horitsuna was Kura from Soul Signature Tattoo in New Zealand doing hand tapped Maori Ta Moko which was also a crowd pleaser. Other highlights from the internationals were Bobby James from St James Tattoo Malaysia doing a really nice black and grey half sleeve, Nathen Puata from Tatudharma who did an awesome oriental dragon sleeve in the two days, Fabz from Australia, Teniele Napolis amazing black and grey portraits, Sam Rulz, Jaclyn Rehe’s old school tattoos, Chris51’s crazy colour tattoos and in the booth next to him Ran Maclurkin’s abstract noir style also proved popular.

New Zealand artists to impress were Dean, Erin and Hamish from Sacred Tattoo, Manu from Jackson St Tattoo with his large scale oriental pieces, Tim Hunt from Pacific Tattoo, Steve Nesbit, Adam Craft and the talented Tattooed Heart contingent, Pepa from Bohemian’s realistic style and the entire Skinks crew.  Andy Taufiafi’s high quality Samoan tattoos, plus the large contingent of Maori Ta Moko artists headed by Rangi and Julie Kipa, Stu McDonald and Hohua Mohi were busy all weekend. Some young guys to stand out were Matt Jordan from Ink Grave tattoo in Christchurch and Calen Paris.  Both are names to look out for in the future.  There were so many talented local artists that it is impossible to name them all, judging by what was on display over the two day festival, the New Zealand tattoo industry is in good health and continues to develop at a frantic pace. 

On top of the world class tattooing on display was live music from a number of New Zealand bands, with performances by Shotgun Alley, Leeches, The Rabble, Devilskin and Sonic Altar.  With genres from rock to hardcore and punk catered for.  The entertainment stage was in the main stadium and did get a little loud at times, so next time the live music will be located outside which will no doubt please some artists!  Burlesque performers Eva Strangelove and Venus Star were a crowd favourite with street performer Jason Browns juggling chainsaws and straight jacket escapes also popular. 

Other highlights were the Nicholas Finance charity skateboard art exhibition and auction with over 50 boards kindly donated by tattoo and other artists on display, which raised $5000.00 for the local children’s hospital. Rangi and Julie Kipa also had a Maori art exhibition with around $70,000 of carvings on display. There was also a wide array of retail vendors, selling everything from T shirts and hats to pin up photos sessions.  For the New Zealand artists it was great opportunity to purchase machines from and chat to Seth Ciferri from Western Magnetic and Jimmy Whitlock from Lucky Supply on their first trip to New Zealand.  John Montgomery from Alla Prima Ink also debut his latest product ZION Chinese black ink at the festival.

The tattoo competition was held on Saturday afternoon in front of a big crowd, with a large number of high quality tattoos entered.  The judges, John Montgomery, Aureole and Khat Hammond had a hard job to pick a winner in each category.  Matt Jordan from Ink Grave Tattoo in Christchurch was the standout artist of the tattoo competition taking out five categories including best of day Saturday with an amazing realistic tattoo machine and the Burger Fuel best of show with a horror themed leg sleeve, which made him the obvious choice for the Grabaseat best artist of show.  Matt took away flights for two to the Pacific Islands or Australia for his hard work.  The Central Roofing best of day Sunday was taken out by Aussie artist Teneile Napoli from Garage Ink with a beautiful black and grey portrait.

All of the artists were kept extremely busy over the two days, with many of them booked out months in advance.  Some artists received over 100 email requests for work, which has the organisers, Oni Events, looking at a 3 day format for 2012 with more artists and some exciting new entertainment planned. The vibe over the weekend was awesome with most just stoked at the opportunity to attend a true international convention in New Zealand. With over 7000 people through the doors the festival was a huge success and looks set to cement itself on the international tattoo calendar.  All of the artists had a fantastic time and judging by the YouTube videos also enjoyed the VIP only after party at the Crowded House!


And The Winners Are...

Best old school: Aidan Holland, Forever Art

Best Realistic/Portrait: Matt Jordan, Ink Grave

Best Oriental: Pepa, Bohemain Tattoo Arts

Best Maori/Pacific: Steve Ma Ching

Best Colour: Hades, Tattoo Hades

Best Black & Grey: Matt Jordan, Ink Grave

Best leg: Matt Jordan, Ink Grave

Best Arm: Andy, left hand Path

Best Back/Chest: Feliepe, Skinks Tattoo

Best of Day Saturday: Matt Jordan, Ink Grave

Best of Day Sunday: Teneile Napoli, Garage Ink

Best of Show: Matt Jordan, Ink Grave

Grabaseat Best Artist of Show: Matt Jordan, Ink Grave


Text: Brent Taylor; Photography: Roxy Coevers & Mark Dwyer