The 2nd International London Convention

Published: 12 December, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 140, December, 2006

This had to be one of the tattoo community’s most eagerly awaited events for the last twelve months. Almost before the doors had closed on the hugely successful first show, the cogs and gears had started working for this years convention. The first show was a runaway success with over fifteen thousand attendees and it wouldn’t surprise me that this figure wasn’t increased this year.

Held in the heart of the East end of London, the tattoo convention played host to a myriad of the world’s most talented tattooists. This year the line up was incredible with artists from all corners of the globe and encompassing the many varied styles of tattooing from traditional hand poking and tapping to the more familiar mechanical method more commonly used today. We arrived at the Truman Brewery on Thursday evening and had a wander around the venue. Things were looking good with most of the booths erected and the final touches being put in place by a team of builders, electricians and helpers. You could feel the buzz in the building and the atmosphere was already starting to build for what was going to be another fantastic convention celebrating all things tattoo.


Friday morning the queue, which had started to form from about nine o’clock, was treated to a downpour the likes of which would have had Noah running for the nearest boat yard. The organisers were quick to react and swiftly handed out lots of umbrellas for the crowd, which was a nice touch.


As the doors opened the slightly damp crowd poured into the building, grateful to be out of the rain but more interested in seeing their favourite tattooists in action. There were folk who had appointments booked, who found their chosen artist and sat down ready for some serious tattoo work and others who had ideas in their heads for designs, asking some of the artists if they could do the work as many of the tattooists working at the show decided not to take bookings but to work on a first come, first served basis. So the guys who turned up early and waited patiently in the rain were well rewarded.


The show was arranged over three floors. Well, four if you include the bar and food area. Last year this a was disappointing as it was a little ‘rudimentary’ to say the least, but the organisers had taken note of the criticisms and had gone all out with carpeting, lighting, a stage area, masses of comfortable wooden tables and chairs giving all somewhere to relax and rest their feet and a sixty foot bar, so at no time over the weekend were folk having to wait for too long to get served. The whole convention felt more organised and professional this year much to the delight of everyone I spoke to.


Back on the Skin Deep stand, things were getting busy. I had set up the photo studio directly behind the stand so I hovered about and grabbed people as they walked past to photograph their work. I knew the quality was going to be high this weekend but I was astounded by the sheer beauty and amount of good tattoos that were walking past the stand. So from Friday afternoon onwards myself, Paul and Ashley were flat out, either in the studio or walking about the convention. I would see someone walk past with a full sleeve tattooed by Boris, then see a full back piece go the other way done by Robert Hernandez, or spy a leg piece expertly crafted by Bob Tyrrell, I really had trouble knowing which way to point my camera!


One of last years beefs was for a tattoo convention held in London, there was a serious lack of British artists working, but again, the crew had taken this on board and there was the likes of Fiona Long, Woody, Theresa Gordon-Wade, Lal Hardy, George Bone, Alex Binnie and other big British names all plying their trade over the weekend.


The overseas artist list was as spectacular a line-up as you would wish to see anywhere. The public were spoilt for choice when it came to big tattooing names. You could go get a beautiful traditional Japanese tattoo by the likes of Shige, Henning Jorgensen or Marco Bratt, have a photorealistic portrait by Bob Tyrrell, George Bardadim, Robert Hernandez or Benjamin Moss, adorn your body with some classic old/new school work from the likes of Amanda Toy, Phil Kyle or Rudy Fritsch or have a fantasy pin-up girl etched into your skin by Joe Capobianco, the list went on and on…


Over the three days that the show was open, I very rarely saw an artist without a customer and the crowds on the Saturday were almost too much. You literally had to shuffle your way around the venue, arms at your side such was the volume of people.


One of this years big attractions was the appearance of Miami Ink TV show new addition and Skin Deep 139 Cover Girl, Kat Von D. Kat and her husband were over to tattoo at the show but how she found time to tattoo anybody was a mystery as she spent most of the weekend signing and posing for photos with people. She always had a smile on her face and nothing was too much trouble for her. When she did get down to tattooing, her work was superb as ever, executing some awesome Black and Grey tattooing.


Over the three floors there was a nice mix of Tattooists, vendors selling book, clothing and other tattooing paraphernalia, and of course, two bars, which were jam packed from the moment the doors opened. On each evening over the weekend the three tattooing floors were closed off at eleven o’clock precisely but the downstairs bar was open until one in the morning giving everyone, artists included, a chance to grab a beer or three and catch up with old friends. The London Convention had a truly continental feel about it, wandering amongst the booths, I could hear all manner of accents and languages spoken contributing to the ‘international’ ambience of the convention.


This year the Truman building had been opened up even further to incorporate some art exhibitions. A very large area was dedicated to the traditional art of the Japanese figurative arts, chronicling the work of woodblock printers of the Ukiyo-e period, including some stunning colour prints. This calm and tranquil area served as a good chill-out place for those convention goers who had had enough of battling through the crowds. Also in this room was the striking imagery of photographer and tattooist Juan Puente and his collection of photos dedicated to the work of the great Horiyoshi III. I personally spent ages in this room wandering among the art and photographs losing myself in the incredible artwork and images from around the globe. It was a very nice touch to include another aspect to the art of tattooing to the convention.


On stage in the bar area was the Art Fusion project. This consisted of four canvases on which each artist was given an allotted time to create an image then moved on to the next canvas and so on making the end result a fusion of styles and designs. The end results were a mix of influences and styles blending the create a unique work of tattoo art.


Not long after the stage played host to the tattoo contest. The organisers wisely kept the categories down to a bare minimum but there was still a huge line of contestants waiting to be judged. The quality of the work on show was incredible and I was thankful that I wasn’t judging this one.


The judging took a little longer than anticipated due to the sheer numbers of entrants but the prize giving soon got underway and this year Shige was more than rewarded for his outstanding work, taking three of the five categories. Second and third in the best done at the show class was won by a chap that I’d not heard of before. Jeff Gogue is an American tattooist whose work I’m sure we will see much more of in the future, his shading and colour work is phenomenal and almost photo realistic.


As the Sunday evening drew to a close, I had time (just) to sit down and reflect on what was a superbly run show, packed to the gunwales with incredible tattooists, great facilities and lots of like-minded people all passionate about ink.


Can’t wait for next year…


Text: Neil - Photography: Paul Callby, Ashley & Neil


Skin Deep 140 1 December 2006 140