Behind the Needle 2: Part three of the London Tattoo Convention series

“I don’t know if I really felt inspired, in as much as I kind of fell into it” Ryan Mason, Scapegoat Tattoo, Portland

This is part of the London Tattoo Convention series I filmed with Papercut Pictures for Zeitgeist magazine


Behind the Needle 1 explored the motivations and inspirations behind four renowned artists’ work, Behind the Needle 2 features four more of my favourites. Ryan Mason (Scapegoat Tattoo, Portland), Jo Harrison (Modern Body Art, Birmingham), Steve Vinall (The Family Business, London) and Brian Thomas Wilson (Scapegoat Tattoo, Portland).

Ryan tells me how he needed to find something to do with his life, that wasn’t a shitty job after dropping out of art school, and what’s it’s like tattooing in Portland.

Jo Harrison
Jo Harrison

Jo talks about punks, rockers and what it’s like being in the tattoo world as a woman. She was actually pregnant at the time of filming and has since given birth to a beautiful baby girl called Marley.

Since Steve has been able to hold a pencil all he has really done is draw, he sees tattooing as one of the strongest and most permanent ways to put your imagery into the world.

Steve Vinall
Steve Vinall

Brian tells me how he got lucky by being offered an apprenticeship and was ‘pretty bad’ for a long time. Now he loves the symbolism of fairy tales in his tattoos. (I think in this part of the film you may be able to hear my stupid laugh in the background!)

He works with Ryan at Scapegoat, and as you can see from the film, they really love each other, ahh. (I LOVE you guys)

Ryan and Brian
Ryan and Brian

Words by Alice Th’ink as seen on Zeitgeist.
Photos by Papercut Pictures

Tattoo crush – Claudia De Sabe

I first fell in love with the work of Claudia De Sabe at the Brighton Tattoo Convention in 2009. So, imagine my excitement when my phone starts ringing and the number that’s flashing before my eyes, is the JOLIE ROUGE (the shop where Claudia works her magic). I have managed to get myself a consultation for next week, ridiculous excitement.

Photos: Louise Hobin, Papercut Pictures and photos from Claudia’s portfolio.

My first tattoo film with Papercut Pictures for Zeitgeist Magazine

I decided a couple of months ago I would like to make a film about the London Tattoo Convention, so I enlisted the help of  Papercut Pictures. I never dreamt for a moment I could actually do it. But, I am pleased to announce the release of my first ever film…

This film is the first in a series for Zeitgeist Magazine. Shot at the London Tattoo Convention on September 23rd, 24th and 25th 2011, this film provides an overview of the convention and asks some of the notable attending artists their feelings on the convention.

Interviewing Steve Vinall
Interviewing Steve Vinall - Photo by Olivia Snape

From traditional Samoan done by hand, to antique Victoriana and old-school Americana, we spoke to some of the leading artists of each style about their particular take on the art form. This film shows the artist’s views on the convention itself. The next film will concentrate on the artist’s and their motivations behind tattooing. Keep watching for future installments.

In order of appearance:
Chad Koeplinger (Paradise Tattoo, Washington D.C.)
Amanda Wachob (Daredevil Tattoo, New York City)
Claudia De Sabe (Jolie Rouge, London)
Deno Jr. (Circus Tattoo, Madrid)
Jo Harrison (Modern Body Art, Birmingham)
Zele (Zagreb Tattoo, Zagreb)
Michelle Myles (Daredevil Tattoo, New York City)
Brian Thomas Wilson and Ryan Mason (Scapegoat Tattoo, Portland)
Steve Vinall (The Family Business, London)
Uncle Allan (Conspiracy Inc., Copenhagen)
Jason Donahue (Idle Hand Tattoo, San Francisco)
Doctor Matt Lodder being tattooed by Uncle Allan
Alex Binnie (Into You, London/Brighton) talking about his new collection of wood block prints
Ryan Mason (Scapegoat Tattoo, Portland)
Pili Mo’o (Mo’o Tatau, Tenerife)
Marcus Berriman (London Tattoo Convention Organiser)

Lies bible tattoo
Tattoo by Uncle Allan. Photo by James Stittle, Papercut Pictures

Music by:
Honkeyfinger – ‘HonknSkronkn’ & ‘Margarine Man’
Black Mass – ‘To The Cross’
The Lysergic Suite – ‘Earth and Water’

Filmed by Papercut Pictures
Special thanks to Olivia Snape who assisted with filming throughout the weekend

London Tattoo Convention excitement

LTC logoThe seventh International London Tattoo Convention, now the most important and crowded convention in the world, will be held over the weekend of September 23/24/25 (NEXT WEEKEND, CANNOT WAIT) at Tobacco Dock. This year, the organisers are opening up even more areas, rooms and attractions than ever before, to meet the public’s inexorably increasing interest in body art.

I am excited to announce that I will be reporting from the event for Zeitgeist magazine, with the help of Papercut Pictures. Article and short film to follow, watch this space…

In the meantime here is a selection of photos from last year’s event.

London ConventionDancer at convention

Lee,Simon & Dan,Artist- Lee Simonds @ Cherry Blossom, Walton
Lee, Simon & Dan - Artist, Lee Simonds, Cherry Blossom, Walton
Tattooing at convention
Tattooing at convention

London Tattoo Convention

Keeping beautiful art alive – Cris Cleen.

Cris Cleen Works from Cris Cleen on Vimeo.

Documentary short – Cris Cleen.

Cris Cleen
Cris Cleen - painter and tattooist

Cris Cleen is a tattoo artist who has been tattooing for nine years. His tattoo style is “turn of the century” and “European influenced.” In this beautiful short documentary, filmed and edited by Andreas Tragger, Cleen talks passionately about creating a world of beautiful things and keeping beautiful art alive. Cleen explains the way he feels about the “tattoo experience”, as close-ups of his paintings and tattoos are filmed with a soundtrack that compliments the art perfectly by Dirty Peaches.

To explore his amazing portfolio of tattoos go to

Cris cleen tattoo
This tattoo encompasses everything Cleen loves in a tattoo.
Cris cleen painting
Beautiful art

My cameo tattoo, by Andrea Furci

From start to finish – this is the story of my beautiful new cameo tattoo. blogged about my inspiration a couple of months ago: Beautiful cameo tattoos. I have always found cameo and vintage jewelery extremely pretty and I used this to inspire me.

I picked Andrea Furci at The Family Business to design it for me, his art is very feminine and soft, with a traditional tattoo feel.

Here is the photo story of my cameo tattoo – from bare wrist to lovely new tattoo.

Bare wrist before the tattoo.
Bare wrist before the tattoo.
brave face
Putting on a brave face pre-tattoo
The stencil
The stencil
Stencil on arm
I approved the design and it got stencilled onto my wrist...

Once the tattoo is stencilled onto my wrist, I check the position in a mirror and see if I approve. I approved without hesitation, it felt right as soon as I saw it.

Now of course comes the hard bit…the pain…

The outline
The outline (it didn't hurt a bit...honest...)

How it felt
It is very difficult to describe what the tattoo process felt like, I am sure it differs from person to person…but I didn’t think my tattoo hurt – hurt is the wrong word, it just felt uncomfortable. I could feel a burning sensation on my skin, but more than that I was fascinated to see how the tattoo transformed – from stencil to outline to colour. Watching the ink go into my skin and seeing how accurately Andrea Furci could tattoo. So many intricate and delicate little details, yet never straying outside the lines. Such clean lines and vibrant colours.

During the tattoo...
During the tattoo...
The tattoo with shading
The tattoo with shading
tattoo with shading
no colour yet...

The grand unveiling…the beautiful tattoo with full, vibrant colour – reds, blues and warm yellows.

Andrea Furci cameo tattoo
The final piece - my beautiful cameo tattoo by Andrea Furci
Post-tattoo happiness
Post-tattoo happiness
The tattoo is wrapped in cling film to protect it for the first night.
The tattoo is wrapped in cling film to protect it for the first night.
Bandaged and ready for a beer.
Bandaged and ready for a beer.

Now, I would quite like Andrea to design a man in a cameo frame for my other wrist, maybe with a top hat and pipe, facing into my cameo lady.

Thanks Andrea, I can’t wait to get tattooed by you again in the future.

Girls, skeletons, books and tattoos.

Get your tat outGet your tat out Renee Ruin.

Renee Ruin
Feature girl: Renee Ruin, Melbourne, Australia.
Renee Ruin – beautifully tattooed – publisher by day, blogger by night

Renee Ruin
Renee Ruin
Ruin heart tattoo
Ruin by Dean Petty

Girl with skeleton by Jessica Swaffer - Third Eye Tattoo, Melbourne Australia
Girl with skeleton by Jessica Swaffer - Third Eye Tattoo, Melbourne Australia

So Renee, what do you do?
I work in book publishing, dealing with international co-editions. So put basically, I get popular children’s books published in other languages for foreign countries like Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Japan. After work I spend my time blogging on my site and also other sites I contribute to and catching up on pop culture and playing with my spoilt brat dog, Bowie.

Skulls on both sides of collar bones by Dean Petty
Skulls by Dean Petty
Angelique houtkamp tattoo
Angelique Houtkamp "Geraldine" by Jane Laver - Chapel Tattoo, Melbourne Australia

diamond tattoo What got you into tattooing?
I got my first tattoo at 18 to commemorate moving out of home and eight hours away. That was the beginning. Then I started getting tattoos every time something eventful happened in my life, good or bad. I wanted to try and get something tattooed each year around my birthday as a marker. I also lived with a tattooist for four years so that lead to a lot of random tattoo additions.

What inspires you?
Life, love, death, friends, family,  art, film and books. All my tattoos are related somehow to one of those things or  more than one of those things. heart lock tattoo

Do your tattoos have meanings?
Definitely personal meaning. A lot of them are reminders of particular times in my life and are a personal reminder of a triumph or tragedy. A few are purely aesthetic, but my large pieces all have some personal meaning or personal event attached to them.

bird daddy tattoo
Daddy by Dean Petty

Are you planning more tattoos?
Most definitely. I’m planning an awesome custom piece for my left thigh which is an amalgamation of  Angelique’s style, JT Leroy’s book and Asia Argento’s movie The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. I am also planning this awesome little ode to my dog Bowie, artist Rik Lee is designing it. I definitely want to fill in my right arm with some patchwork traditional pieces and I’d love a beautiful piece to complete my left arm to compliment Micah Caudle‘s beautiful lady, I’d love Rose Hardy to design something a little darker to compliment it.

Rose feet tattoos
Feet Roses by Dean Petty
Custom girl by Micah Caudle - Flying Panther, San Diego, CA, USA.
Custom girl by Micah Caudle - Flying Panther, San Diego, CA, USA.

How would you describe your style?
My tattoo style is definitely more traditional mixed with a subtle darker edge. I love girls and skeletons.
heartogram tattoo
Do you have a favourite tattoo artist?
Far too many to choose just one. My personal fave to get tattooed by is Jane Laver who did both my Angelique pieces. But I love so many different tattooists and their differing styles.

Is there anyone else you would like to get tattooed by?
Rose Hardy, Valerie Vargas, Angeligue Houtkamp, Lina Stigsson, Nikko Hurtado, Jacob Des, Alison Manners, Jon Hall, Geoff Horn, Oliver Pecker, the list goes on…

Boy with antlers based on Sculpture by Beci Orpin by Jake Rolfe
Boy with antlers based on Sculpture by Beci Orpin by Jake Rolfe
Angelique Houtkamp 'Madeleine"  by Jane Laver - Chapel Tattoo, Melbourne Australia
Angelique Houtkamp 'Madeleine" by Jane Laver - Chapel Tattoo, Melbourne Australia
Die Trying on ribs by Zoe Lethbridge (unfinished)
Die Trying by Zoe Lethbridge (unfinished)

Anchors with bows on each side of hips by Dean Petty
Anchors with bows by Dean Petty

Matt Lodder – the art doctor.

Dr Matthew LodderKnow More hand tattooArt Historian

Matt Lodder, the art doctor
Matt Lodder, the art doctor

On the 21st June 2011 I had the pleasure of hearing Doctor Matthew Lodder give a talk on his thesis – Tattooing as Artistic Practice. I have raved, in an adolescent fashion, about Matt Lodder in previous blog posts

Back Business card
The back of Matt Lodder's beautiful business card.

Matt Lodder’s talk was extremely insightful, he posed a significant question: if tattoos are art, then why have they never been analysed as art objects? Discussions about tattoos tend to centre around the psychology of the tattoo wearer and motivations behind getting tattooed. So Matt’s thesis begins where many other discussions end – the tattooed body as art.

The talk raised important questions about the inherent problems with analysing the modified body as art. There are issues with authorship: who is the artist – the wearer or the tattooist? Problems with ownership and copyright.

Lee Wagstaff
Lee Wagstaff

Matt coloured his talk with examples to illustrate these issues. Lee Wagstaff, an MA printmaking student, transformed his body into a living piece of art. Lee designed all the graphics that would be inked onto his body, as the recipient he set out his objective clearly. The tattooer reproduced Lee’s ideas, he was the functionary. However the stylistic quirks of the tattooer will inevitably effect the way the final tattoo looks.

Tim, Wim Delvoye
Tim, Wim Delvoye

This example, plus others such as Wim Delvoye’s Tim, illustrate that tattoos can be art. Tim was sold for €150,000, for this price the piece has to be exhibited three times a year, of course meaning that Tim himself has to travel to wherever the artwork is to be exhibited.

Well, Doctor Lodder talked about his ideas far more eloquently than I, so if you get a chance to hear him speak I highly recommend it…

After all this academia we needed wine and discussion in the pub…

Alice Th'ink and Matt Lodder - in the pub for an apres-talk vino
Alice Th'ink and Matt Lodder - in the pub for an apres-talk vino
No paparazzi please
No paparazzi please

Wine leads to chat about our own inkings and below is Matt’s beautiful padlock tattoo.

Matt Lodder padlock tattoo
Matt Lodder's padlock tattoo - I am hoping to get a padlock tattoo very soon too and I love this one.

Matt also has the words: Curiouser and Curiouser on his wrists, of course I love the Alice in Wonderland reference, being named Alice and having an Alice in Wonderland tattoo myself.

Curiouser and Curiouser
Curiouser and Curiouser - written on the wrists

Top photo: Bottom photo: Ink it up