Heralded By The Glorious Spring Sunshine, the Great British Tattoo Show 2022 Was Back to its pre-pandemic May slot at Alexandra Palace. The last two years faded away quicker than homemade pastel ink.
The joint was rocking from the moment you walked in. On the stage, female fronted rockabilly band, Lady Luck Lexy and the Riverside Boys made a welcome return, having played at the previous show in October 2021.
They played four sets over the weekend, including covers of classic artists such as Wanda Jackson and Johnny Burnette with their self-penned numbers, including lockdown inspired toe-tapper, Isolation Blues. If it’s faultless rockabilly you want, these are the cats to book.
Additionally, there was a fabulous fashion show of extreme clothing that was pretty impractical but stunning to look at by Liam Brandon Murray. Although the event as a whole was family friendly, parents hurried their children away from the rather saucy but fascinating girl-on-girl Japanese rope bondage display by Figure of A (SHIBARI) before they had to answer any awkward questions. And speaking of saucy displays, let’s not forget PVC clad The Fuel Girls, who were sending sparks flying and getting arteries pulsating.
But what’s it all about now, eh? A middle class perversity? Or the ultimately personal means of expression? Although this contributor has virgin skin, it does not lessen the appreciation for the art, the people who wear the art or their reasons for doing so. It is quite possible these tattooed masses are simply much braver than us.
In our pre-mobile phone generation, almost all tattoos were seen as job stoppers, things to hide away lest they be judged and we be sacked.
Now, in the main, people wear their art with pride, on display in all walks of life for all and any to see, and why not? Tattoos are nothing new after all, peoples of the South Pacific have tattooed themselves for Millennia.
The oldest known human to have tattoos preserved upon his mummified skin is a Bronze-Age man from around 3300 BCE. Found in a glacier of the Otztal Alps, near the border between Austria and Italy, ‘Otzi the Iceman’ had 57 tattoos.
Charles Darwin wrote that there was no country in the world that did not practice tattooing or some other form of permanent body decoration.
But on with the show. While for some tattoo artists, TGBTS is a staple diary item, there were plenty of first time attendees. Sammie from Stigma Tattoos told us that she’d only started her apprenticeship three months ago due to it being postponed by the pandemic. She described her style as ‘sketchy, illustrative, and playing with what tattooing is capable of’. Out of her own collection of inkwork, her favourite is her Pokemon dragon. She said that people had told her that it would fade but she had put the effort into aftercare and three years down the line, it is as vibrant as ever. So there’s a moral there kids, look after your dragons.
Although the focus was on tattoo artists, there were a few eye catching merch displays amongst the stalls. Black Heart Prophets Co from Cambridge had a range of skateboard worthy t-shirts designed by tattooist, Dan. Dana Depta’s permanent make-up stall also had a range of cruelty-free horror soaps and sweary socks. Bognor CBD had an array of legal cannabis products to take the edge off the pain of the tattoo needle, including tea bags, vegan gummy sweets and even something for pets.
Speaking of animals although not veganism, the taxidermy stall was back. Who knows what the Wildlife Trust people two stalls away thought of the stuffed hedgehog. Fortunately, we discovered that taxidermy isn’t one of the three main enemies of hedgehogs. Their decline is down to loss of habitat, traffic, and garden fences which stop males from roaming around procreating, so be sure to leave a gap for hedgehogs so they can continue their womanizing ways.
One new feature this year was an axe throwing challenge by TimberJacks. Hitting the target turned out to be more difficult than some punters anticipated, but was certainly one form of therapy.
While last year, blackout tattoos seemed to be the growing area, this year there didn’t appear to be any significant trends or new styles as such, with all kinds of tattooing art represented.
However, we did notice that artists are increasingly pushing the boundaries and blending styles, such as neo-traditional takes on oriental themes. Mandala designs seem to be holding their popularity, particularly with female punters, while characters from popular culture are taking precedence over portraits of relatives. The predicted surge in post-pandemic memorial tattoos didn’t appear to have materialised. When it comes to colour, there seemed an increasingly divide between a more diverse palette for coloured tattoos and a corresponding rise in black and grey styles.
As Lux Interior once said, ‘The rules are – there are no rules, everything goes’. So, whether you want to blend Einstein with a cartoon character or graffiti art with realism, or a donkey with two old crows, tattooing has become a celebration of our mix and match culture where image overrides meaning. Embrace the chaos.
And the winners were:
Best oriental and overall winner – Kustom Creations Tattoos
Best realism – Zen Body Ink
Best traditional – Nick Brace, White Heart Tattoo
Best neo-traditional – Lyndon Minor
Best black and grey – Chay Watts
Best blackwork – Erin, Marlow Tattoo Lounge
Best avant garde – James T. Man
Best colour – Koh Style, Ushuaia Tattoo
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