Cornwall Tattoo Convention came back for its second year at the start of September, and we joined our good friends there – Cat and Mel, owners of The Vault tattoo studio in Looe.
Held at the Royal Cornwall Showground this year, it initially felt quite isolated, but still people found it !
Considering how young this convention is, there is already such a sense of community appearing, among artists and punters alike, many of whom took part last year and I recognised many friendly faces, as well as meeting some new ones!
We came bearing gifts of croissants and pasties, and Cat set about prepping for Ryans knee tattoo. This year Cat was chosen to be on the judging panel, alongside the legendary Doc Price, Lee Holman, and Pash and Uzzi Candy – the new E4 Tattoo Fixers.
With Ryan about to enter a world of pain, Mel and I were open to chat to anyone wandering by, which is I believe, why tattoo conventions are so wonderful. Mel has a natural flair for getting people into conversation, which explained why our stall had a crowd around it more often than not! A lot of the tables have sweets in a bowl, (helpful if you need a sugar boost before or during a tattoo) but also so people can stop, have a look at the tattoo being done if this is the case, read any leaflets, advertising or chat about any products that tattoo artists are selling or are sponsored by.
We struck up several conversations with people passing through, many people were really open to having a chat, and it gave a real insight into the sort of people that come to these events, as well as proving yet again – never judge a book by its cover.
One lady in particular was so unassuming, you couldn’t see any visible tattoo on her. But a bit of conversation later and she was lifting up her trouser legs, pushing up her sleeves and she was absolutely covered in beautiful watercolour style pieces, many of which had personal meanings to her or her family members. We discussed whether tattoos need to have a meaning and/or if its always wise to represent a loved one through a tattoo. For example, a kid might love Disney characters at a certain age, but might grow up to be a goth.
We agreed however, that like photos, a tattoo can be a snapshot of a certain time or a certain person in your life, whether its meaningful or not. Lots of tattoos can have a story behind them without outwardly meaning anything. I have a finger tattoo that means fuck all, looks awful but reminds me of a brilliantly drunk experience in London. And for that, I will always love it.
The seminars began at 11.30, the first by Theresa Gordon Wade teaching artists and customers alike of the Art of a Coverup. Mel and I wandered through the convention, saying hello to familiar faces and nosying at what other artists had at their tables. We watched the cover up seminar from afar, and then I spotted a lizard on the floor.
Not a real one, but a little cartoon painted onto the carpet.
As we were musing at the little guy, we also noticed a paint room opposite, with the words Living Gallery above the door. A guy meandered over and mused about the lizard. Turns out, the backdrop for the main stage hadn’t been delivered on time, so he’d been asked to paint one.
‘Stayed here til 2am finishing it, back here at 7.30 this morning…’ He laughed.
It was during the moving of paints, he’d dropped some on the carpet, and decided to hide it in plain sight by turning it in to the sweet cartoon it was now.
‘I might do some more so it looks intentional…’
Interests piqued by his story, we poked our heads into the Living Gallery. Across each wall was a huge painting of a naked woman, and we were invited to ‘colour her in’ with tattoos. Didn’t need to ask us twice really! Mel got started on a well chosen bit of foot.
Like a fool, I chose a bit a bit of arm, stupidly close to the floor. Time to get drawing, I decided on a teacup, because …well I fucking love tea.
Turned out to be a brilliant spot however, as Lizard Guy was painting a sword just above and we got chatting. His name was Matt, I think! (It was hard to hear over the thump of bass, the next seminar beginning about tattoo aftercare and I was concentrating on my teacup design.) Anyway, he was head honcho of Cosmic Images, and the mind behind the Living Wall. So we will call him Cosmic to avoid awkwardness.
Speaking of which! Cosmic had set out to paint a large sword running down the bit of arm above my teacup, but while he was distracted by everything else, Doc Price, living legend, had turned up and drawn over the design with a face, and Japanese writing. Cosmic wasn’t annoyed, if anything he was honoured to have his work painted over! So his sword design had to be shortened into a tiny dagger instead. Lol.
Losing sense of time completely, I set about painting my design, it was proving to be quite therapeutic, the buzzing of tattoo machines, the music thumping in the background and listening to Mr Cosmic telling a story about magic mushrooms and surf shops, and why never the twain should meet. Long story short, wetsuits hanging in a shop look an awful lot like bodies, more so when the mind is feeling wild, and that coupled with a story about the real life horrors of Vietnam lends itself to what one might call ‘a fucking awful trip.’
Sloping off for a loo break, I walked past the body art parade, last year there were only a couple of people that leant themselves to be the real living canvas, but this year there were several huge pieces going on. Lots of painted breasts, which I believe was for a breast cancer related cause! I should have stopped to ask, but nature was calling!
Outside there were some hot rod-esque cars, a couple of motorbikes and LOTS of people ‘vaping’. The air was a sweet cloud of pretend baked goods. Also outside were the food vans, with an option of vegan foods, curry and noodles and, well chips. As well as The Sisters tea/coffee van that was frequented often by Ryan and I last year, and is run by two sisters who do ‘the best coffee’ according to Ryan, and homemade cakes!
Back to my painting however, my neurotic self couldn’t leave it unfinished, and who appeared again, only Doc
fuckin Price! He’d said hello earlier whilst walking about, I think he recognised us from last year. And now here he was admiring my teacup and painting beside it. I reigned in the excitement by taking exactly 1000 photos of the experience, obviously.
Back to Ryan who by now was not having much fun at all, the lines had been done and the tiger was beginning to take shape. As usual Cat Allen making brilliant things appear with a needle.
Tattoo more or less finished, it was time for Cat to have a quick drink and get on the judging panel. Ryan nipped off for a much needed loo break and I said hello to Uzzi and Pasha, excited for their impending TV debut, we had a laugh about unusual names!
However …. Time for Ryan and I to make a swift exit, Ryan had a stag do to get to (with a knee like a Rhino) and I wanted to get home so our ‘babysitter’ aka Ryans lovely mum, could have a break!
With Ryan hobbling around with the post-vasectomy limp, I proudly showed him yesterdays art to discover the walls of the Living Gallery room were absolutely COVERED overnight. It was amazing. Cosmic showed me a medusa piece a young girl painted and it was incredible! Was amazing to see such a raw bit of talent in amongst the scribbles and graffiti.
At 3pm, there was a barbering seminar, hosted by Ryan’s good friend Sweeney and the lads from Seadogs Barbers. Ryan met Sweeney last year at the tattoo convention, and has been a regular at the barbers since, so during the seminar was passed the mic to tell the crowd about the boys, and the shop!
Seminar over, knee sore, but hair and beard looking fresh AF, we sat most of the day out, observing! I wanted to watch some of the Bizarre Entertainment having seen Toby Lerone walking around the convention on stilts, but when he put a pair of scissors up his nose, I was out of there!!
We stayed to watch the Body Art Parade though, and it was intense, although amazing to see the finished pieces, after walking past half painted people all day. Each piece on Sunday had an elaborate story or theme behind it, each a bit more darker than the first. One lady had simply made someone into ‘Space’. Whereas another had detailed a divorce, cheating and a death or two. Cheerful!
After that it was the final judging, a fire performance, and the Urban Voodoo Machine were playing, but sadly we had to miss it to get back for the Lil, that’s parent life for ya!
Still, we enjoyed every part of this years convention, felt such a part of the community despite not being ‘in the biz’, made some new friends, had a larf with the old pals, and we look forward to next year…
Kevin, the organiser promised me it would be even bigger!