State of the Art Derby 2006

Published: 05 January, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 138, October, 2006

We had a hugely busy convention, taking over five hundred photographs of tattoos and tattooed people. As soon as I got back to the office, I downloaded all the photographs onto my trusty Apple Mac, only to delete the lot about three minutes later. To say I was distraught is an understatement. What hair I did possess, instantly fell out with the shock.

Luckily for me Dave, the computer geek/expert managed to recover said shots. Unfortunately the software we used retrieved the images but renamed all the files so all of our photographic notes didn’t correspond with the saved photos.

So this is a huge apology to all tattooists and their recipients that we photographed over the weekend. I could probably name many of the featured tattooists but not all, so to be fair we will not be printing any credits with the photographs. 


State of the Art convention is one Show I always look forward to. This year was no exception plus this year we had the added bonus that we had been given a room that had previously been occupied by the piercing seminar to trade from. We had a few plans for the room including an art fusion project as well as hosting a tattoo inspired art exhibition.

We arrived early on the Friday having the usual nightmare trying the get into the Assembly Rooms. It’s not any fault of the organisers at all, they couldn’t be more helpful, but I’m certain the Derby town planners moved all the roads about after the show each year! Anyway, once we had parked in the loading bay it was time to set-up the Skin Deep stall and the hanging of the artwork got underway.

This was the first year we had tried the art exhibition and I was a little apprehensive as to whether anyone would turn up with any artwork. I needn’t have worried as the very talented Pete Mckee and his wife arrived with armfuls of paintings and then Jo Harrison from Modern Body Art appeared with some beautiful artwork. Jo was a little nervous about showing her paintings off to the public, but she needn’t have worried as everyone who came through the door commented on her lovely art. Leah Moule from Spear Tattoo, Suzi Q from Australia and Gerry Carnelly from Octopus Tattoo in Derby all brought some of their work along to more than fill the walls with great looking tattoo inspired art. 

With the ‘Skin Deep Room’ sorted, we headed off to the B&B for a shower then we made our way to the pre-show party held in another part of Derby.

The party was a great idea of the organisers as it gives the attending artists time to catch up with the other tattooists and chew the fat about the tattooing world. It’s also a great way of meeting other artists from all over the globe. The list of attending artists was massive with close to eighty international artists working the show. Phil and Al had added some more booths to the floor plan and had filled the stage area with artists giving the punter a huge choice of tattooists to watch work and maybe get some work.

The morning of Saturday arrived and the hall started to fill with the feeling of anticipation for the weekend ahead. The doors opened and the crowds poured in and within a couple of minutes, the tattoo machines had started beating their familiar and somehow comforting report. As well as the prospect of getting some superb ink, I’m sure the public were pleased to get inside from the blistering heat. Derby always manages to get the temperature just right inside and the coolness of the main hall was  very welcoming both for the tattooists and  the crowd.

Derby had been eagerly anticipated and the talk on the Skin Deep forum had literally been buzzing with folk looking forward to getting fresh ink.

In almost no time, the Assembly rooms were pretty busy and you could immediately tell that the numbers were up from last year. Prior to the doors opening Phil told me that they had sold over four hundred percent more tickets than the previous year. I’m certain this had something to do with there being no Mantra festival this year but also due to the fact that Phil, Al and the Derby crew bend over backwards to make the State of the Art convention just that little bit better each year so more and more people want to join in the fun.

Back in the SD room, we had a steady stream of folk coming through the door. Some did say that they had a few problems finding us but rest assured we’ll be in the same room again next year so there should be no excuse for you not to come and say hello, or check out the fantastic art inspired artwork on display.

As the day progressed, more and more folk entered the show hall and at four thirty on the dot, the judging started. This year the judging took place on the main stage so that everyone could see the work on show and the extra lighting made this job much easier compared to the balcony used on previous years. I had the privilege of being asked to do some judging and saw some great work first hand.

This year the categories had been revised and I must confess it certainly made things easier for the judges, but I heard that a few folk weren’t too happy as some wanting to enter their work in the competition arrived on the Sunday only to find that the categories they wanted to enter their work into had been judged on the Saturday. The opinion on judging at conventions always courts controversy and organisers will never please everybody. Some of the categories had to be judged on the Saturday and five of the ten classes judged were Best B&G small and large, Colour large & small and best sleeve. 

The entries seemed a little on the thin side as some objected to having to pay to register in the comp. This is commonplace abroad but not widely practiced in Britain.

Taking a stroll amongst the booths, there was some fantastic work being applied and pretty much every booth had someone sitting, lying or leaning over the back of a chair getting inked and when you think there was eighty-odd artists working that’s a lot of ink going in skin!

Not to miss out on the opportunity for ink, I had my own appointment booked in with a fabulous tattooist called Suzi Q from Perth, Australia – I told you State of the Art had an international feel about it. I had been emailing Suzi for a few months prior to Derby to get the designs for my new tattoos just right. So it came to my turn and I hopped onto Suzi’s table and she started on my left foot, executing a superb New School ‘Bad swallow’ in just under three hours. The work was erm, a little uncomfortable to say the least but the end result is absolutely stunning. This done, I hobbled off back to the room to help on the stall (anything to put my foot up!).

As the evening wore on, folk wandered about the various stalls or sat watching the bands knock out some great sounds or just caught up with old friends over a beer. It was all very relaxing and laid-back.

This for me is one of State’s main attractions (as well as the top tattooists). The atmosphere at the show has always been friendly and is so well organised that know one gets stressed out.

As the doors closed for the evening, I watched lots of tattoo fans heading off into Derby for a fun evening out (another plus for this show is that it is smack-bang in the town’s centre).

I awoke to the sun belting through the curtains, heralding another sweltering day ahead of us.

With the numbers of punters attending the show on the Saturday well up on previous years, everyone was expecting record numbers for Sunday. All expectations were exceeded with masses of people pouring through the doors, all eager to check out the very respectable list of artists that Phil and Al had amassed. Speaking to Phil at the show he mentioned that the artist list for next years show is already filling up fast, such is the respect for Derby.

With the buzz of many a tattoo machine flowing through the Assembly Rooms, the day got underway. I had been under the needle for a good couple of hours prior to the doors opening as Suzi Q was finishing off my other foot; a ‘good swallow’, the early start giving both Suzi and myself those extras hours that we both needed to get work done on the Sunday. I was hobbling a bit by now, having both feet tattooed, but with so much to do and see at the show, I soon forgot about them – sort of…

As expected the hall soon filled with more people than I have ever seen at the State of the Art and the atmosphere was electric. To be totally honest what with judging, being tattooed, keeping and eye on the art exhibition, helping out on the Skin Deep stand and working in the photo studio, I didn’t get a huge opportunity to see a great deal of work being done. Saying that, I did see Jason Butcher from Immortal Ink tattooing some superb black and grey designs on various people’s hands. Paul Naylor seemed to have a large line of folk, all waiting to be worked on by the ‘Mythmiester’ as did Gary Wiedenhoff and Jason from Inkredible Kreations. I also peeked over the shoulder of a chap by the name of Jack Ribeiro. What a superbly talented artist. His portraiture work is something else. And to think he is usually the piercer in his studio back home! Keep an eye out for this guy in a future issue. Walking about the vast hall, I was like a kid in a sweet shop just wandering from booth to booth, and being greeted by the sight of such quality work was pure bliss.

In the Skin Deep room we had put on a few canvases and some paint for an Art Fusion project to take place. The response wasn’t too good but some did find the time to make their mark and we have some very nice pieces of ark work by Pete Mckee and Jools Denbigh to auction off later in the year. We hope to do the same again next year, so if you are an artist with a few minutes spare, come and have a go.

As the afternoon wore on, the judging got underway again and it felt a little light on numbers compared to last year. This I feel was people voting with their feet at the charge for entering the competition.

But saying that those that did enter the quality of tattoos was very high and this made the judging all the more difficult, but at the same time interesting. The prize giving took place not too long after the last category was judged and it was really nice to see lots of people stay around to see who won what. Before I knew it, it was time for the convention to close and it seemed that everyone didn’t want to leave, but the Assembly Rooms emptied out slowly and by about ten o’clock we were some of the last stragglers taking down our stall and that signified the end of yet another hugely successful State of the Art Tattoo Convention. I must thank the Skin Deep girls; Kate, Sue and Flo for all their help over the weekend and to Phil and Al ands the rest of the SOTA guys for all their support.

Nothing was too much trouble for them.  If you haven’t been before, I suggest you make an effort next year, as this really is an extremely well organised and interesting show, celebrating all things tattoo.

Next year’s dates have changed slightly and State of the Art will be held on the weekend of  21st-23rd  July 2007


Saturday 15th July

Best  Black and Grey Small Tattoo (includes Tribal) 

1st Craig Lee Austin by Tradition 180°

2nd Lee Willis by Eze Nunez @ Enigma  


Best Colour Large Tattoo

1st Sly by Bob Hoyle @ Garghoyle

2nd Erica Ernoult by Andy Barber  

Best Black and Grey Large Tattoo (includes Tribal)

 1st Dom by Aquaries Tattoo

2nd Oliver Hass by Andy’s Tattoos  

Best Colour Small Tattoo

1st  Al  by Spear Studio

2nd Karen Barlow by Spear Studio  


Best Sleeve seen at Convention on Saturday 

1st Claire Bell by Inkredible Kreations

2nd Matthew Hyde by Spear Studio 


Sunday 16th July

Most Unusual Concept seen at Convention 
1st Claire Bell by Inkredible Kreations

2nd Clive Chambers by Tattooland UK 

Best Body Suit seen  at Convention 

1st Vince Grundy by Tradition 180°

2nd Hazel Bulyka  by Eclipse Tattoo Studio   


Best Tattoo  Completed at Convention

 1st   Vix Hill by Tam’s Tattoos

2nd Colin Metcalfe by Eze Nunez @ Enigma 

Best Tattoo seen at  Convention 

 1st Vix Hill by Tam’s Tattoos

2nd Al by Spear Studio


Text & Photos: NEIL Photos: FLO DIXON