The Fifth International London Tattoo Convention 25-27th September 2009 The last weekend of September saw a real buzz at London’s docklands. For the second year running the grade one listed Victorian warehouse of Tobacco Dock provided the perfect backdrop for the International Tattoo Convention. In just five years, the London convention has established itself as one of the world’s finest tattoo expositions, boasting artistic talent from all over the globe, including Japan, Canada, USA, Australia and home bred UK artists. Welcoming 20,000 visitors and over 200 artists over the course of a weekend, the scale of the event is breathtaking. It is the one time of the year ink addicts can get their fix of quality work by those who would be otherwise unreachable due to geographical location. It’s heartening to discover that the London event is devoid of slag tags and mundane heart and arrow dedications to lovers past, and a feeling of being part of a real ‘tattoo community is discernible from the outset, as punks, bikers, families and ink adorned psychobilly kids all waited in anticipation, quite unsure of what the 2009 edition of the convention would bring. As soon as the wrought iron gate was opened to the public on the sunny yet crisp Friday morning, tattoo enthusiasts and ink virgins alike were welcomed by the maze of glass compartments housing the many tattooists, unsure of where to start or with whom to rub tattooed shoulders first. Upon hearing the first, dulcet drone of the needle echo through the venue, heads turned in excitement as it signaled the beginning of another electrifying edition of the convention. Heading straight to one of London’s premier parlours, Frith Street Tattoo, I soon learned that all their walk-in appointments had been booked within the first ten minutes of opening. Unsurprising, due to the calibre of work created by their artists; Valerie Vargas, one of the most in demand tattooists in the UK today for her effortless, unique traditional style, as well as Stewart Robson, specialist in neo- Oriental and black and grey. Italian bellezza Amanda Toy was also high in demand for her bright, doll-like style, who also showcased her collection of tattoo inspired jewellery. The French pièces de résistance lied in the work of Steph D, Dimitri and infamous Parisian Tin Tin. Flashy, presumptuous and colourful new school, cartoon tattoos were a hit with those seeking something outrageous and distinctive. Shane, from USA’s Trade mark tattoo Csaba Mullner from Pro Arts, Spain and the German Tommy Lee hailed in horror and ink fans alike with their disturbingly realistic style; a breath of fresh air in the current tattoo world’s climate, where old school reigns supreme. Moving to the centre of the venue, and doing away with tattoo machines altogether, Pili Mo’o, Colin Dale, Kazuyoshi and Brent McCownwithout question occupied the busiest room of the weekend; that of the traditional tattoo. The almost silent hand tapping technique mesmerised onlookers, as thick black tribal-esque markings appeared on the stretched skin of the brave punters. Historically, warrior women without these hand tapped tattoos were considered girls, and therefore unworthy of men. Today, however, the pursuit of a traditional tattoo involves a more personal philosophy; pushing the body to its limits in a quest to unfold the layers in the human psyche. Music and performances have become an integral part of the convention, and as any tattoo fan knows, the inked lifestyle and burlesque go hand in hand. This year, the organizers spared no trouble in finding the sexiest and most provocative of performers, namely Brazilian horror-B movie star Calu C. Fur, femme-fatale Scarlett Daggers and Miss Luna Rose, who performed to a post-war soundtrack of blues rock n roll. Vikki Blows, the model of the 2010 Tattoo Energy calendar featured as the main daytime attraction, signing copies of her latest endeavour for the red-cheeked boys and utterly jealous pin-up wannabes, whilst blonde bombshell and tattoo show regular, Sabina Kelly injected some fun into the tattoo contests and ceremonies. Saturday saw the winner of Best Tattoo of the Day, whereas Sunday boasted Best Backpiece, Best Tribal (yes good tribal is possible here), Best Black and Grey, Best Colours and Best of the Show, the latter going to Paolo Acuna of Divinity Tattoo, Phoenix. The line up of scantily clad girls doesn’t end there, with the famous Suicide Girls and Fuel Girls making an appearance, inspiring women of all ages with their non conformist beauty and mentality. The ground floor vaults of the venue laid host to art exhibitions, making the link between tattoos and art-proper all the more clear. World renown tattooists Phil Kyle, Javi Castano, Dawnii Sayers and Suzi Q to name a few, all took part in the Tara Art Project; a dazzling display of vibrant, tattoo inspired art which pays homage to Tibetan culture and religion. Each piece possessed a unique quality, traceable to its creator and their personal interpretation of the progressive destruction of Tibet. Lionel Tichner’s Oxford British Tattoo History Museum again took up its role as educator, enabling visitors to trace the history of tattooing to the birth of mankind, with original photographs, tools and documentation and the Graffiti Kings were faced with a huge stretch of blank canvas, upon which they unfurled their artistic capabilities, laying testament to graffiti as a positive art form. Trade stands and bars were all thrown into the mix, with psychobilly-themed Voodoo Crypt, Vince Ray and Retro Rebels, a real ale and cider bar and a whole upper room dedicated to the sale of hand crafted body jewellery and piercing. Catering wise, the outside food court was adequate if you’re a greasy sausage and chip fan, but lacked any variation and options for veggies, vegans and the otherwise health conscious. At twenty pounds for a day ticket or fifty pounds for the weekend, the price of the convention is modest, yet could rattle up the cost of your ink considerably. However, for die hard tattoo lovers the world over; this is one pilgrimage that is definitely worth the extra pennies. As one of the most important artistic events in alternative London’s cultural calendar, the International Tattoo Convention is the place to be in 2010 if you find simple pleasure in the surgical smell of latex, partying until the small hours or just the buzz of a new needle. The full photo album can be found here! - Sarah Tapscott

There are thousands of pictures of tattoos online that you could use as a reference to help you decide on a design for you.