In Europe we are seeing a new wave of big conventions at the moment. Of
course, some people say there are too many anyway, but I think what they
actually mean is: There are too many bad ones. Give me a new organiser
in a new city with a new event any day, as long as the organiser is from
the tattoo scene, the city is easily accessible, affordable and culturally
interesting and the event is well organised, not overpriced and well-attended.
The most important part is the artists, of course: A good variety of interesting,
international and highly creative tattooists is the heart of every event.
Milan is a good example, Rotterdam another one, London seems promising,
and now there is Strasbourg too. It is in France, but Germany is only
a few minutes away by car or train and Switzerland is around the corner.
The old city is an amazing example of European architecture, hotels are
dirt cheap, even though Strasbourg is the seat of the European parliament.
And the organisers are Sacha and Leanka of Primitive Abstract Tattoo,
well-respected artists who attend many conventions themselves. They rented
a huge expo hall, put in a lot of work, invited their friends to help
out, set up a professional website (www.strasbourg-tattoo-convention.com
) and went for it. Affordable booths for artists, merchandisers and suppliers
and a fee of about 10 $ US to get in. There is not much money to go round
in Europe these days, jobs are scarce and times are difficult. But if
you offer a line-up like Sacha did this weekend, have friendly people
as security (instead of intimidating gorillas) and loads of people will
be coming through the door and some of them will get tattooed. There were
7000 visitors over the weekend and all of them were happy to see artists
like Japanese Sabado, the “living laser printer” from Nagoya,
who left everybody with their mouths gaping. Even top tattooists like
Rob Admiraal of Amsterdam were blown away by his inventive, technically
perfect work. Other Japanese guests, like Madoka of Cat Claw Tattoo could
definitely keep up with his quality of work and the traditional Ryu family
demonstrated hand tattooing par excellence. One of the members of the
family, Yushi, practices his work in Seoul, Korea; underground, I might
add, for tattooing still is illegal in this country. There were a few
American guests as well. Jason Phillips and Sean Perkinson of FTW Tattoo
Parlour, Oakland were among the busiest of the whole convention, and even
organiser Sacha had a little coffin tattooed on his neck by Jason. Nick
Caruso (Fly Rite, NY) was there as well and worked right next to Dirk
(Leib & Seele, Germany) and Slick Nick (Inkstitution, Rotterdam).
But what makes Strasbourg such a special event is the great variety of
tattoo styles offered. If you prefer black-and-grey fineline, there was
Milosch from Czech Republic, Jack Ribeiro from Metz (France) or Gabo from
Mexico. Vibrant color work, fantasy style? Look no further, there is Berit
from Berlin , Seb from Avignon or Fabrice from Lyon.
is – surprise, surprise – also quite a scene of “avant-garde”
tattooists in France. They got rid of all conventions held inevitable
for a definition what a good tattoo is. Clear lines? Who cares? Placement
in harmony with the body? No way! An easily readable design? What for?
People like Lionel (www.outofstep.fr.st ), Yann, Navette and Noon aka
“Bill le Boucher” are trying to find a new definition of tattooing.
Make sure you check out their websites, but be prepared: For them, tattooing
is an art performance, where the situation in which the tattoo is made
is just as important as the result. Individual meaning and symbolism are
above all consideration of aesthetics and technical perfection. They are
inventive, creative, spontaneous, funny, unconventional, slightly anarchic
and definitely crazy. And they have no shortage of clients in France (and
growing in the rest of Europe), I might add! Even I got fascinated by
the loveable character that is Lionel of Nantes. The young father of three
(soon four) super-cute kids has given up lucrative jobs in street-shops
do his own thing at Out of Step, a tiny studio in the far west of France.
When at Strasbourg convention I sat down in his chair to have my feet
tattooed by him, he warned me: “While I do this, you will hate me!
Maybe after, you will love me again…” I didn’t really
know what to think about it, until he got started working! I can only
say: It was painful. There is no trick to his scratchy style. It is just
the way he tattoos, working himself into a frenzy mood, sometimes holding
the machine by the frame to get a certain effect! On the other hand, he
likes it when artist and “client” work together. He will ask
you repeatedly your opinion about the evolving tattoo, details are changed
while he’s at it, things added, some crossed out even! At the end,
the finished tattoo is a concerted effort, the result of a certain cooperation,
which is deeply rewarding for artist and subject. I must say I am extremely
happy with my tattoo à la Lionel, even though some people now say
I should get rid of this “stain” on my feet! ;-)
Wherever I lay my head is home!