Once Were Warriors - New Zealand Roadtrip Part 2

Published: 06 February, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 208, February, 2012

Our final stop of the trip is Auckland which is exciting me for a few reasons, firstly I am working the convention here, secondly I am having a machine hand-built by the awesome Marv Lerning, and lastly, I will be working at Two Hands Tattoo with fellow Londoner, Nick Whybrow.

Along with owner Stefan, Victor, Rachi T, Lukis, Josh and Kieran all work full-time at the shop and with the convention just around the corner, Two Hands is literally bursting at the seams! Stefan is very welcoming to travelling artists and as a result there are nine of us working here this week; the shop is open long hours and we all split up the day to accommodate the tattoos we have to do, working all day and night. It’s an inspirational place to be, art work and flash by artists from all over the world adorns the wall-space giving it the old school flavour, but Stephan has injected his own modern twist.

On a day off I finally get over to visit the very talented and much sought-after master machine builder, Marv Lerning; we spend the day with him as he hand-builds me a machine from start to finish. We start off by picking the frame style, which Marv welds and sands, it is then sprayed and oven baked while the coils are hand wound and assembled. When the frame is dry, the coils are screwed into place and the springs are cut (again by hand) and placed on the armature bar – the last few screws and washers are assembled, some tuning and my machine is ready. It’s an awesome experience watching it come to life from bare components to a fully working machine. They don’t get more custom than that. To check out his creations visit his website at www.westernmagnetic.com. Marv also puts the same care and attention into his guests; his workshop is very busy over the next few days with the arrival of his friends, not just local artists, but internationals as well, all here for the Auckland International Tattoo Convention. We all get to meet, barbeque and break the ice a little, Marv is a most awesome host!

The convention is two days long and runs every other year; we arrive on Friday afternoon for the official ‘Powiri’, a welcoming and blessing from the local Maori and the Ta Moko tattoo trust, which in itself is a great experience. The visiting artists all wait in a group outside the venue as the Karanga (call of welcome) begins by the Tangata Whenua (hosts) this involves singing and three Maori warriors who come towards us with spears showing off their prowess before finally laying down an offering, which we accept to show we are friendly and consequently are welcomed into the venue. The visitors sit opposite the hosts and many prayers, blessings and speeches take place, each one followed by a song. A gift is placed before the hosts indicating that the speeches are finished which is accepted, and then we are invited to shake hands a touch noses, indicating that the two groups have become one for the duration of the event. Afterwards we share food, socialise and finally get down to setting up our booths for the show. I have worked a fair few conventions over the years and this is the first time I have had the pleasure of such a welcome, it really brings all the artists together and gets people talking and mixing before the show begins, making it a much friendlier and enjoyable environment to work in over the weekend. The convention is fairly small, but there are a good mix of international and local artists; John Montgomery has made the trip from California, there are a good selection of artists from Australia including Lucky Diamond Rich, Ali Manners, the guys at Chapel tattoo and Lust for Life, which has recently opened in Brisbane. Aucklands own Sacred Tattoo were very busy all weekend, as well as native, Sam Rulz, who has been very busy travelling the world since we caught up last. As usual it’s the people I have never heard of before that blew me away – you should definitely check out Andy Swarlick from Christchurch as he was working some beautiful tattoos over the weekend. The main focus of the event however is to showcase traditional Maori tattooing and there are plenty of artists proudly doing it justice, both by hand and by machine.

I would like to say a big thank you to Pip and the crew for making us feel so welcome, and also to Brent Taylor who helped me out organising some guestspots and things to see. New Zealand is a beautiful country full of friendly people, who have a strong heritage in tattooing that is possibly one of the oldest in the world. The biggest tattoo show here is in New Plymouth and takes place in November 2012; the website is online and it’s already looking like its going to be an amazing show, if you can make it over and experience this wonderful country its well worth the trip! My next stop is now a day away, when I will be jumping a plane to Singapore to check out the Asian infused tattoo art and work at Galaxy Tattoo in the vibrant Chinatown. Until next month...


Text & Photography: Craigy Lee