An Ink lover’s paradise: the Antwerp Tattoo Convention.
Writing for ThisIsAntwerp has brought me to a lot of cool events and places and the Antwerp Tattoo Convention definitely belongs on my list of most fun events to have ever done!
Antwerp is a quaint metropolitan city and we are big on art and beauty. Of course the combination of the two causes a flow of people to flock together on a dreary spring weekend in the Waagnatie.
Diamond City Crew
The convention itself was organized by the Diamond City Crew: a group of tattoo enthousiasts and artists that want to give artists and aficionados a chance to meet up. For those who are already inked head to toe it was a nice opportunity to see what’s going on in the world of inking. For those with not a drop of permanent coloring on their body it was a way to see what it’s all about and how the whole –painful- process goes.
It was a big thing for me to get on my bike and face the frankly terrible weather to get there: but I’m sure happy that I pushed through because as soon as I heard that first buzz of the first needle, I knew I came to an event that was just right for me.
I guess a lot of people would be a little bit taken aback if they entered a hall that was filled to the brim with tough bikermen, but for me it was a little bit like going back to my childhood. Having grown up on the back of a bike, the world that is theirs is also a little bit my own. Even though the men and women look tough (some would call it “angry” or “dangerous”), they’re real sweethearts.
Not a dirty look was given, not a nasty word said. We were all just people there, present for one reason only: body art!
And boy did I see some true works of art.
What makes these conventions so special is that they’re quite the international affair. The Antwerp based crew did everything they could to find artists from all over the planet. Literally. There were artists present for every style, which is plenty! From someone getting the last touches done on a huge chest piece to an artist going at it on their own leg with just the one needle and a dot of ink: there was more than enough to go around. I can honestly say that one day was not enough to get my fill of the entire thing.
Bars, barbershops and a playground
It would be impossible to talk about all the things that made this event so worth of a visit, so I’m gonna go for a couple of things that stuck out by a mile.
International artists ranging from Amsterdam all the way to Brazil and Argentina: These were chosen based on the styles they offer and the work they have done so far. After asking the organization about it it turns out that they don’t go for the best known artists. Instead they look for those who show true potential, skill and talent and who they feel fit in the Antwerp Tattoo vibe. I made sure to ask every one of them why they came and beside the obvious ‘we were invited’ all of them had a soft spot for our city and could not wait to go out after the Convention and check out local bars like Kids, De Muze, The Irish Times Pub and other local pubs.
Chaplin’s Barber shop that had their own stand on the convention: This local barber shop from the neighborhood “Eilandje” was asked by the organization to come and provide the attendants with a slick haircut and/or updo. Chaplin puts their focus on men and take inspiration from the roaring 50s and 60s. Who ever sat down in their chair came out looking like a million bucks.
Body Painter Claude transformed one lucky lady into a walking piece of temporary art.
A playground for the kids! I truly loved this. It made the whole thing into more of a family affair.
Bands providing us with rock tunes and country vibes.
The draw to get something inked myself was nearly impossible to resist, if I may be so bold, but in the end I managed. However: I hope to see many of these artists fill guest spots in shops around town (yes, they visit each other all over the world) so that I get a chance to get some work done. Like many of the visitors I took my chance to look around for someone whose work suited me personally and it did not take long to find that.
In a nutshell
It was an awesome convention where anyone and everyone was welcome to have a look, talk, drink and laugh. I met a lot of great artists, both from Antwerp, from Belgium and from other countries. I would recommend anybody who has an interest in getting something inked to visit your local parlor and have a chat because really: there is not a nicer person than a ‘tattooed freak’. And yes: I consider myself to be one of those.
The Diamond City Crew for the interview, the guidance, the talks, laugh and drinks. More specifically Ruud and Manu: you guys made me feel right at home.
Frank from The Butcher Tattoo (Houthalen) and his willing victim, who allowed me to take close-up pictures of his awesomely realistic work. Also: price for funniest picture face.
Johe from Antiek Tattoos (Amsterdam) for letting me hang with them and complimenting my own ink.
Waagnatie for allowing a bunch a rowdy extravagant but beautiful people to put up shop and have an awesome time.
And last but not least: everybody who made it out there, despite the rain. Beautiful tattooed people and delightfully bare-skinned ones.
Text by Joke Tourné - Antwerp Hashtagqueens
Pics by Joke Tourné - Antwerp Hashtagqueens