Craigy Lee: Misty Mountain Hop - Brisbane

Published: 29 April, 2013 - Featured in Skin Deep 224, April, 2013

It’s no secret of all the places I visited in Australia on my grand road trip in 2011 Brisbane was by far my favourite city. Maybe it’s the fact it doesn’t get much hype as its often overshadowed by Sydney and Melbourne. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe with its condensed high rise buildings, river and wheel, it felt somewhat like London…

Whatever the reason I am excited to be returning and spending a couple of weeks here doing a short guest spot at Lust for Life tattoo and attending the 4th Surf n’Ink convention down on the Gold Coast.

Unfortunately, due to bad weather our flight out of Wellington, New Zealand, is delayed, so when we finally arrive in Brisbane we are greeted with the full on force of the midday heat – it’s the middle of summer here, 35 degrees and humid as hell.

When we finally get into the city we find things have certainly changed while we have been away, the first time we visited was shortly after the 2011 floods which put a lot of businesses along the river out of action during the long clean up operation. To come back and see the place in its full glory is even more amazing – the south bank has been totally transformed into an urban playground, with its parks, pools, bars and restaurants now all fully open, making it even more enjoyable on a hot sunny afternoon.

Lots has changed in the tattoo scene here as well. My buddy Alex Bock has moved from the Inker to Seventh Circle (both studios featured in previous issues); Seventh Circle itself has changed (the premises at least), it’s still operating as a private studio and it’s new home is a beautiful big and airy work space situated in an amazing heritage listed building. Heath Crowe has also joined the crew moving up from Green Lotus in Melbourne. Everyone else I met nearly two years ago is still happily working here which speaks volumes for the atmosphere and working environment owner, Loz, has created.

Mimsy at Trailer Trash Tattoo has done quite the opposite, moving from her appointment only private studio and opening a street shop; she is now working alongside a crew of talented individuals and is a lot easier for potential customers to find.

There is also change in the air for the Surf n’Ink convention. This being its fourth year, it has moved from the Gold Coast Convention Centre to the Mecure Hotel a short drive down the road. The venue change has seen the show become a lot smaller, but size isn’t everything. The new venue means all the artists and convention goers can stay on site turning the show into a bit of a weekend holiday for tattoo lovers. The entertainment stage and tattoo competition stage were right next to the swimming pool meaning you could sit in the pool and watch all the action, now that is Ozzie living! While there were not as many booths as previous years there were still lots of talented artists. I had the pleasure of working next to Remis who was laying down some amazingly detailed portraits and Hannah Cowan from San Francisco who was also doing some beautiful work. Local lad Sean Henry was busy all weekend as were Amanda Cain and Mitch 13 who had travelled up from Melbourne. The crowds were a little thin on the ground but with amazing weather and a change of venue it was to be expected.

The show is growing with a Brisbane version planned for September this year.

My final stop is a short guest spot at Lust for life Tattoo which has just celebrated its first birthday; I met owner Aureole on the convention circuit and she invited me to work at her new place. The shop is unique to Brisbane, situated in Fortitude Valley it combines a tattoo studio with a large art gallery and coffee bar in the front. The gallery area is large and bright with high ceilings, a reception area at the back and a wooden staircase in the corner leading up to a mezzanine level where the tattoo artists work.

The day we arrive is the launch night of their newest exhibition (not planned but timed perfectly). It features vinyl album artwork with everything from punk and new wave to reggae and even some children’s records. The gallery’s exhibition launch nights are always extremely busy and tonight is no different, it’s very social with a large turnout including local press. “We try and do a new show every month now,” Aureole tells me. “Everything from group exhibitions to solo shows featuring artists from all over; we have our own curator, who is excellent at organising and displaying the artwork.”

Indeed I doubt Aureole could manage on her own; she has been tattooing in Brisbane for over a decade and as such has a good clientele and is booked solid tattooing. She has worked at some of the city’s best known studios including Westside and Wild At Heart and still travels to Europe most years to work at conventions and guest spots at the likes of Mo Copoletta’s Family Business and more recently, Haunted Tattoo in Holloway.

As usual when you are having fun, time, as they say, flies, and our trip in sunny Brisvegas comes to an end all too soon. But with another convention and more good times on the horizon in New Zealand, this year is getting into full swing!


Text & Photography: Craigy Lee