Last Sunday I witnessed something rather spectacular at Tobacco Dock – the 2017 London Tattoo Convention. I copy-edited and wrote copy for the souvenir guide so popped along to soak up the show and I was blown away. It was clear on arrival that the atmosphere was building in the queue along the dockside, as eager punters awaited the doors opening to their next ink adventure.
It’s a strange feeling being un-inked amongst a sea of beautifully painted bodies (it makes you question why you’ve not gone under the needle yourself!). There’s something incredibly liberating about it. Watching a venue come alive with the most welcoming atmosphere, where people comfortable in their own skin flaunt their bodies with pride, complementing each other on the sketches on their skin – each as individual as the person wearing them. The positivity is infectious and the humming of the needles is soon drowned out by the buzz of the crowds.
A talent for tradition
This is what tattoos are all about. Identity, tribe and a personal story etched onto the skin. The world’s greatest tattoo artists all under one roof, including Tim Hendrix of NY fame and Japanese legend Shige. Artists showcasing body art from Samoa to the States. And when it comes to entertainment this show has it all, live music from well-known DJs and bands such as Mallory Knox to pyro-fire aerial entertainers Pyrohex and The Fuel Girls and alternative models.
The artistic talent was overwhelming, from Japanese styles mixing with geometric patterns, dotwork, blackwork and iconography through to traditional tribal tattoos. I honeymooned in Borneo, visiting the tribes of Sabah, and one quote stayed with me from my travels ‘A man without tattoos is invisible to the gods’. So, the highlight of the event for me was watching a carpet of cushioned bodies undergoing traditional tattoos. Artists gently hand-tapping ink-covered needled on sticks into patient skin. Creating black lines that represent a person’s journey through life, that form ancient spiritual images inspired by nature – that take hours to complete.
This was an unforgettable experience, it was so much more than a convention, this was a sanctuary for the skin.