Great British Tattoo Show 2014

That’s it. My virginity has gone. Taken from me like a cheeky Brightonian seagull stealing chips.

I have just returned from the Great British Tattoo Show, and not only has it left me with a bone-numbing weariness, it has provided much food for thought.

As I had never been to a tattoo convention before I did not know what to expect. I had heard stories from friends, seen photos online and read a few short pieces on the role that conventions play in the industry, but I was still completely naive about what was in store.

After speaking with Sion – the editor of Skin Deep – I decided that I would use these two days to mingle, network and seek inspiration for future articles.

At the show itself there were vast crowds of people, hundreds of artists and numerous distractions to keep me from what I intended to do.

As it was my first convention, and because at present I am only dipping my toes into the sea of journalism, I had no real plan of action. No matter the time, on both days, the first port of call became the bar. Cider in hand, and with one of my best mates, Jeff, alongside me, I waded into the crowd.

The crowd itself became a hit-and-miss of inspiration, stories and anecdotes. There were some truly fascinating characters present, but at the same time there were those that contributed little to my own objectives.

Perhaps it was my method of questioning, or perhaps it was because my subjects were not the ideal people to ask, but either way, on a number of occasions I came away from talking to people with a sense of disappointment.

On more than one occasion I spoke to an artist about the culture of tattooing, asking what they felt were key issues, and enquiring as to what ideas and opinions they had. Where was it going? How could technology affect it? What tattoo related stories are very rarely heard of?

Being tattooists themselves I assumed that they would unleash a torrent of personal opinions and thoughts on the matter. That within moments of them opening their mouth my ears would be flooded with new information, new ideas and new ways to look at things. Essentially I was looking for angles. Different perspectives on a subject that already has had so much said about it.

Whilst I did receive some very thought provoking answers, the large majority of the time I got nothing more than an apology and a shrug. “Can you come back to me in five minutes”, “I am sorry, I really don’t know” and “I am probably not the best person to ask”, were just some of the replies I received.

This I found particularly strange. Anyone who is anyone involved in football, be that a player, a fan, a coach, a man in a pub, a small child, or a groundsman, all of them have an opinion on the game. And yet with tattoos it seemed quite the opposite.

People that had dedicated a large portion of their life, and their own body, to this art form had very little to say about it. No opinions of their own, no thoughts or predictions for the future. No theories about how and why tattooing is what it is in modern society. It was all very strange.

That being said, this weekend was by no means a waste of time. I have subjects for three more articles, I exchanged business cards with a handful of people, I lost my tattoo convention virginity, and I was able to spend the weekend with a really good friend.

I have to say a huge thank you to Sion and the people over at Skin Deep for giving me the opportunity to attend; a thank you also to Jeff who, despite having no tattoos of his own and a very limited interest, traipsed alongside me all weekend; and a thank you also to Nicki who used her expert skills to produce this photo, catching me at a moment of utmost professionalism.

Jeff N Pad. Great British Tattoo Show 2014.
Final thoughts. Both Toni Moore and Lauren Brock are far more beautiful in real life than in their images online and in print. Magnetic implants into your fingers are utterly useless unless you want to pick up relatively light metallic objects. Zombie Boy is Zombie Boy and his public appearances consist of him being himself. And despite their unique individuality, steam punk goggles are not in high demand. Not even at tattoo conventions.

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3 thoughts on “Great British Tattoo Show 2014

  1. Just found this article from googleing stuff about the convention. Just thought I might add, conventions are busy places, also with strict time limits and people usually paying a premium rate than normal studio prices. For this reason, asking artists questions during the working hours may result in the disappointing answers you have discussed in your article. I think its unfair to compare tattoo artists with football players. If you were having something put into your skin for the rest of your life, would you want the artist distracted by questions or would you want their full undivided attention? Likewise, if you have been talking to artists even when they aren’t tattooing, I can assure you that conventions are incredibly stressful to work at (I helped my shop out at this convention) and even though artists may appear to not be doing anything, they’re usually thinking about who they have booked in next, preparing for that tattoo, also paying attention to time and it gets stressful, it’s hard work. The fee an artist has to pay to attend the Great British Tattoo Show is higher than you probably think too, so there’s that looming over too.

    I’m not trying to have an argument here haha but I just think perhaps you may have been better off conducting your interviews with artists at the after parties where they have time to sit relax and digest your questions. I think its unfair to shoot us down for doing our jobs well to the point where people couldn’t deal with questions. But I think you’ll find there would have been plenty of people happy to talk to you if you had caught them at the right moments, I spoke to loads of artists at the weekend and learned loads myself (im a tattoo apprentice).

    Like I say, not here to cause trouble! Just wanted to share my thoughts here too.

  2. Very fair point.
    Yeah, I think you are right when you talk about the stress, and that the artists minds may be on other things. As I said, it was my first convention, and perhaps it has shown me that I need to address informal chats and interviews with a different approach. Maybe have a quick 2 minute, relaxed, laid back introduction, exchange some details and then wait for the after party and downtime.

    Thanks for the comment.
    Definitely going to change my approach for the next convention I attend.

    1. I definitely recommend attending more. London Convention at Tobacco Dock is always great and also so is Brighton Convention at the Hilton Hotel. I hope your next experience, you can find the right points to get your information. Have a nice day mate.

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