Waking after the first night in our new camper van I felt like a kid at Christmas, it was Tattoo Convention day! Scrolling through the glossy convention brochure my excitement grew as I saw that Bill Loika from Tattoo Peter was going to be in attendance. Exactly a year previously I had an anchor tattoo done at the Amsterdam shop by Frank Paradiso, Bill was also there and after having the opportunity to talk to him and see his work I was super keen to get booked in with him to do my next piece.
I was desperate to get to the Hilton for opening so that I could ensure securing an appointment but, as with all of our trips, disaster stuck and I was hit with a sudden illness! This lead to a much slower start than anticipated and sitting in a shopping centre near toilets for a large part of the morning.
A healthy vegan lunch at Wai Kika Moo Kau left me feeling vaguely human again and brave enough to head to the Tattoo assemblage. On entering we were greeted by some extraordinary custom bikes by V-Twin Motor Custom Motor Cycles, a large Sailor Jerry’ s bar and (obviously) a plethora of tattooed people; for me it was the sort of strange place I had fantasised being part of as a child.
I had already accepted that I would not be getting inked due to our late arrival so we instead took a casual stroll around the large venue. There were hundreds of tattoo artists from all around the word sprawled over two floors, with varying styles and clients. I could have gotten lost for hours looking through books of flash and watching the artists making their work magically transfer from paper to skin.
If gathering tattooists from around the globe wasn’t enough to entertain there were also competitions, live music, art work, magazine stands,food, bars, shops, talks and taxidermy. The people-watching opportunities were endless, kicking back with a Sailor Jerry cocktail and just observing the world go by was an event in itself.
After taking our time to peruse the many stalls we took our second trip round when I noticed that there was no one at Bill Loika’s (my artist of choice) stand except for his lovely wife, knowing that it was highly unlikely I checked his availability – he had one lined up and then was free!! I was ecstatic but had started to take a turn for the worst again; the girl in front of me had cancelled and I was now at the front of the line. I was trapped in a horrid dilemma: do I get the tattoo and risk vomiting in the middle of the convention, or do I face defeat and go hug a toilet somewhere.
By the time Bill returned from creating my stencil I was green but decided to go for it, this opportunity was too good give up.
Though this was my second tattoo show, it was my first time getting inked in such a public arena. The prospect of people watching me was initially daunting, however Bill’s no fuss attitude meant that I settled into my surroundings with ease.
I have three tattoos all done in different shops but I actually really enjoyed getting this piece done at a convention and here is why;
- Even though I knew which artist I wanted there was so much incredible talent to choose from all within the same building.
- Looking through artists books of flash and seeing them work is so much better than trawling the internet
- Getting the opportunity to talk to various tattooists is not only interesting but gives you a better idea if you are going to be compatible. This one may sound a little weird but I prefer an old school no nonsense kind of artist, whereas others may like someone a little more new age and comforting. I genuinely think it is really important to get a good feel for you artist so that you know that your ideas are going to gel. I got a simple swallow but wanted it to be done in an authentic traditional style, we did not have to discuss it as this is the work that Bill specialises in and, with an exchange of only a few words, I trusted him.
- People coming by and having a chat whilst in the chair, their intrigue at what was being etched into my arm was strangely comforting. Everyone was enthusiastic, asked questions and some showed me their work. This included the tattooist from the stand next door who showed me his two swallows; apparently you can tell someone sexuality by whether their swallow has a penis or not which was news to me! This attitude and openness was the resounding theme of the day and created a wonderful environment to be part of.
Half an hour later I had survived without exploding and had exactly the tattoo I wanted. For me, tattooing is not merely a fashion accessory it’s a form of self expression, personal choice and freedom so below is a nice bloody pic for anyone who thinks getting inked is a bit of banter.
Though we had unfortunately only been there for a few hours it was time to leave and sit in a dark corner somewhere quiet. I was disappointed that I could not take full advantage of the event as there was so much on offer. Brighton Tattoo Convention is a dream for tattoo lovers and a great way for tattoo pessimists to see the culture and artistry at its best.