Everyday Is A Winding Road... - Craigy Lee

Published: 14 August, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 215, August, 2012

Time flies when you’re having fun, and it goes supersonic when you are travelling. As we hurtle towards the second half of 2012 I stop to ponder the places we have been so far this year, I look in my diary and realise my travel plans are now booked and sorted until March.

For now though I am making a rare stop and setting my sleeping roll down in the town of Stolberg near Aachen, 6km from the Belgian border, where I will be spending the week at Bodyscript Tattoo. The studio has been around for a little over ten years and has a great vibe, friendly, and relaxed with a nice sized reception area adorned with framed, hand-painted flash, and artwork, taxidermy deer heads and cuckoo clocks. It’s just the right amount of modern with a touch of classical German heritage.

Artist/owner, Carina, works full-time along with Jason who is originally from the UK, and apprentice, Sabastian. The shop ‘family’ have been at so many conventions this year that after arriving, settling in is easy and I feel like I’m visiting old friends. Carina is a good all-round artist and has built a strong reputation for the shop over the last decade. Jason specialises in Japanese tattoos splitting the time in his working month between Munich, Aachen and England. The shop caters for most styles of tattooing, customising whatever their customers bring in, creating something they will be happy with. There are no egos, no cool kids, just good tattoos and happy customers, and that is probably why it has done so well in a relatively small town. The week is extremely busy delivering me a bit of everything and working on random artwork and ideas, which is why I love working in walk-in street shops.

“When I first opened the shop I couldn’t have dreamt it would be busy enough for three full-time artists,” Carina tells me “I went to visit the other tattoo shops in Aachen before I opened and talked to them because that’s respectful, they told me it was no problem as we’re in the next town over, but that respect has gone from tattooing now.” With so many shops popping up in almost every town, its nice to see somewhere like Bodyscript doing well by sticking to what they do best, consistent work in a great environment where customers can feel comfortable.

Music and tattoos have always seemed to go hand-in-hand, so what do you get when you mix a three-day music festival with a tattoo convention? Well you get Rock ‘n’ Ink the aptly named three-day extravaganza in Chemnitz, East Germany. I have spent a fair bit of time in East Germany, but as the weather is improving, green trees and colour are replacing the grey harshness that greeted us on previous visits. The show is organised by the very talented and well-respected German artist, Randy Englehard, who works at Heaven of Colour. An artist of his calibre has some equally talented friends, many of which turn up and work on a ‘mega-booth’ together. Among them, Paul Acker, Roman Abrego, Mick Squires, Crispy Lennox and Tommy Lee, who between them clean up a lot of awards over the weekend.

The music sure is loud; artists get given earplugs thankfully, and at one point during the headline band’s set, I’m sure the walls of the booth were vibrating! Germans are very hospitable people and working a convention organised by a tattoo artist is always particularly great – they truly understand what makes a show enjoyable for the artists. The food over the weekend was exceptionally good, and its great being able to nip backstage and grab something to eat on a real plate with a real knife and fork without having to queue up. It was nice catching up with Mick as I hadn’t seen him since I was out in Australia, and I also got to have a few beers with Mr. Halbstark, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite German friends… the guy really cracks me up!

After the convention we head even further east to Prague, which is a short two-hour drive from Chemnitz into the bordering country of the Czech Republic. Before reaching Prague we take a slight detour to the town of Kutna Hora to visit a place I have always wanted to see, the Sedlic Ossuary, or better known as the Bone Church. It is a bit of a pain to find (especially without a sat-nav) but when we arrive we are not disappointed. It contains the remains of 40,000 people which decorate the inside of the building – human bones hang from every arch, doorway and ceiling space, towers of skulls rise from the floor while an impressive bone chandelier hangs from the centre of the room, it all makes for great reference material for tattooing and I leave with a full memory card!

One of my favourite painters, the great master of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha, is from the Czech Republic, which was known in his time as Moravia. Prague is full of his art and design so it is a treat for any fan of his work that his influence can be found everywhere. The municipal building is decorated both inside and out by the artist – viewing the inside in all its art deco glory is like stepping back in time.

There is a brilliant museum in the city, looked after by the Mucha foundation, which exhibits all of his famous Art Nouveau posters and some interesting preparative sketches and photographs. His last great works celebrating Slavic history, ‘The Slav Epic’, are on display at the Veletržní Palác just ten minutes from Prague centre. Most of the city’s architecture is very grand and decorative; the Charles Bridge, which crosses the Vltava River joining the old town to main part of the city, is a great walk on a nice day.

There are 30 Baroque-style statues along the bridge depicting saints and patron saints, all of which look very cool and impressive perched along the old gothic structure. Prague is a beautiful city made even more special by the fact we were gifted with glorious sunshine and near 30ºC heat. Our two days went past in the blink of and eye and I think I shall try and return to work the convention here next year so I can experience some more of this beautiful city, and more importantly, its beer!


Text & Photography: Craigy Lee