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London tattoo convention

London Tattoo convention, 23rd-25th September.


In September 2011 the London Tattoo Convention celebrated its fourth year at London's Tobacco Dock, welcoming thousands of tattoo aficionados to the three-day extravaganza.


Unsurprisingly, there are tattoos everywhere. Three men wearing only g-strings showed off beautiful body suits. Women flourished intricate sleeves and back pieces in every style from Japanese to rockabilly. Flowers, birds, old school 50s designs, pin-ups, huge tribal pieces; every kind of art work imaginable.


Most of the tattoo artists were booked up solidly, meaning a walk round the packed tattooing rooms was accompanied by the constant buzz of needles. Tattoo collectors were privileged to be inked by talented men and woman from all over the world, including famed British artists Lal Hardy, Jeff Ortega and Valerie Vargas.


The Convention is on two huge floors. Nestled in between the artists stalls on the top floor are rooms filled with print art and trade stalls.


Among other delights, Edgar Hoill showed a collection of his Latino-inspired paintings and photographs, and tattoo artists displayed specially commissioned work as part of a fundraising event for victims of the Japanese Tsunami.


London tattoo convention

Downstairs is a huge canteen, tempting cookie and cake stalls and the fashion & accessories hub - perfect for those not under the needle to combat some of the inevitable outfit envy. (Everywhere you look there are stunning women in stunning clothes, sporting stunning art work. The two girls behind us in the queue, corseted, backcombed,

London tattoo convention

scarlet-lipped and wearing towering heels, were photographed by every official snapper who passed us; no wonder - they looked incredible.) The clothing and jewellery spaces are a fabulous way to spend hours browsing, coveting and spending.


This year, again, stands selling brands like Iron Fist (amazing, edgy heeled shoes and boots - www.ironfirst.co.uk) and Collectif (sexy rockabilly and pin-up clothing - www.collectif.co.uk) shared packed rooms with individual designers of everything from printed t-shirts and leggings to 40s dresses and bright tiki wrap-around skirts to latex dresses.


Limb's stall was a particular draw. Limb (www.limb-clothing.com) sells a gorgeous range of dresses and steel-boned corsets. They're well-made, they're flattering and they could easily make a girl skint. I drooled there for a while, not daring to try anything on in case I was forced to make a dash for a cash machine. Ditto with some of the shoe stalls - I am rarely at more risk of bankrupting myself than while perusing the stalls at tattoo conventions.


Browsers looking for alternative accessories could do a lot worse than checking out the array of jewellery designers. Bow and Crossbones (www.bowandcrossbones.com) is superb for kitsch rockabilly and tattoo-inspired designs. I love, love, LOVE German designer Jenny Luters work (www.jlue-oldschooldesign.de), and to watch her create new pieces during the Convention was inspirational.


There wasn't a single area that wasn't crowded, but at no point did the throng feel threatening. Pole dancers, aerial gymnasts and burlesque performers drew huge, appreciative audiences from a motley crew of tiny girls, huge burly men, punks, goths, transvestites, families, grandparents all with their interest in tattoos and tattoo art in common. This is a truly inclusive event, and even a passing interest in tattoos is enough for you not to feel like an interloper.


Review & photos: Jennie Gillions


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