The Dublin Tattoo Convention

Published: 18 May, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 124, August, 2005

This was the fifth year of the Dublin tattoo convention. I’d not been before but heard some good reports about the friendliness and quality of the artists so in the interests of investigative journalism, I thought I’d best go over the water and see for myself and report back. It had absolutely nothing to do with me loving Dublin Town or enjoying a pint or three of the black stuff, honestly – ahem…


This years’ convention was held in the SFX City Theatre, just a short walk from the heart of this wonderful city on Upper Gardiner Street. The theatre has played host to many top named bands and actors in its time and this weekend it was the turn of some famous names in the tattooing world to tread the boards as it were.


I missed the start of the show, which was on Friday evening but by all accounts it was good fun with many of the tattooists getting their gear and stalls set up. Paddy, one of the organisers had arranged for some live entertainment, which included a hypnotist who unfortunately didn’t get anybody into a trance. And I thought tattoo fans were such a receptive bunch!


After a twenty-minute flight from Liverpool, which was far easier, quicker and cheaper than the ferry, I landed in Dublin. I grabbed my camera gear and headed off to the venue.


As the doors opened on Saturday morning the queue that had already formed outside was allowed in. I could hear that continual and almost hypnotic sound of working tattoo machines, (perhaps the hypnotist could learn a thing or too from these guys). Once inside I was immediately struck by the coolness and organised layout of the hall. Apparently the last venue was a bit bigger but Paddy and his crew had fitted all the artists in and none of them were restricted for space. I felt that the room was a little dark but them I’m a myopic four-eyed git and have trouble seeing my hand in front of my face. But each booth had plenty of light for the artists to work by and that’s the main thing. All day people were coming and going with quite a few chatting with the artists and many getting work done by some top names. The likes of Joe Myler - JMD’s, Soydan - Swineline, Danny Bullman, Brett Zarro - USA, Bernie Luther - Austria and Thailand, Sean - Zulu Tattoo - Dublin and South Africa and many others were all busy. I did notice that a lot of the artists when not working on the public were working on each other. I tend to forget that tattooists enjoy collecting ink too. I think there was over twenty artists working in total so the public had a vast choice of styles and techniques to choose from.


I had a photo booth set-up behind the stage and was kept busy all day with a constant stream of tattooed people to photograph. The quality was excellent with a surprising amount of foreign work on show.


As the day wore on the curtains on stage dropped for about an hour, there was a lot of rustling going on behind then it was raised to reveal and young man by the name of Patrick hanging from his knees attached to hooks. He then proceeded to pierce the cheeks of a willing? Chap whilst hanging upside down. A short while later he was lowered and other members of the cast were suspended in the Superman position (laid out horizontal suspended by ten hooks). This spectacle was expertly supervised by John O’Connor from Apogee Piercing in San Diego. One brave lady - Kate - was suspended for the first time onstage and seem to thoroughly enjoy the experience. There was also a tug of war between two guys with hooks in their backs and they were really going for it.


Sunday started out with the sun beaming down on the Liffey and the temperatures soaring to what was one of the hottest weekends of the year so far. In the venue the heat was kept to a tolerable level by the design of this great old building. 


As is usual on the Sunday of a convention more people came through the doors than on Saturday and the hum of the tattoo machines filled the hall for another day. I was very impressed by the overall ‘Laidbackness’ of the weekend, everyone was so friendly and helpful and all the tattooists that I spoke to had time for a chat even though they were busy. As the day progressed into the evening Paddy and Kate had organised a ‘Miss Blue Jeans’ competition. This was just meant to be a bit of fun, with some of the female members of the crowd coming up on stage and waving their rear ends at the audience. Apparently this was so shocking for some that the local paper carried a half page article saying how sexist this was. Blimey, it was only meant to be a bit of fun, it’s not as if there was any nudity involved. After the political incorrectness was out of the way - ha ha, a band came on called The Things, who were a cross between the Doors and the Sex Pistols. The music was at an acceptable level as it was all weekend. There’s nothing worse than going to a convention and having the music so loud you can’t talk to the tattooist. It must be really off-putting for the tattooists working as well but the organisers go it just right.


The judging for the competition started a little later than expected but all went off without a hitch and it flowed very well. Being on stage with my camera, I was lucky to see all the work close-up. I must confess that everybody that came up on stage deserved a trophy. The quality was outstanding and extremely varied, with quite a lot of ‘New School’ work on show. Is it me, or have tattoo colours suddenly got brighter? Many of the pieces that I saw almost jumped off the skin they were so bright and vibrant.


As the convention came to a close there were many happy smiling faces, many of those smiles I’m sure, was due to the owners having just got some great new tattoos and those without Clingfilm wrapped around them were smiling because of the success of the 5th Dublin International Tattoo Convention. With many low cost airlines flying into Dublin these days it really makes travelling quick and convenient. I’ve spent longer on a bus just to go twenty miles down the road.


I’d like to thank Paddy, Kate and the rest of the Bodyshock crew who worked tirelessly throughout the show. A more friendly, helpful bunch you couldn’t hope to find. Thanks guys, I had a ball. See you all next year. Oh, and the Guinness does taste better in Dublin.


Text and Photos: Neil


Skin Deep 124 1 August 2005 124