After the success of last year’s convention, head honchos Fraser and Sam were keen to repeat the event and like many others I was keen to return. I booked my booth and hotel way in advance and then began counting down the days like a kid waiting for, well….Easter. This last year has flown by for me and before I knew it was Fri 30th March and I was back at the Detling Showground setting up for my second year at the Maidstone Tattoo Extravaganza. This time round things had already gone up a notch and the event found itself in an even bigger (and last year was BIG) showroom and spanning three whole days instead of two.
I set my booth up complete with new banner and swish new business cards made by my friends at Printing Progress. Position wise my booth looked like it was one of the nearest to the entrance although I was a little concerned things may get too loud as it was also close to the stage. As is tradition for me it was then back to the hotel for dinner and pre-show beers. The next morning was an early start for the short drive back to the convention. My client for the first day was Brett who like a lot of my regular clients, has become a good friend. My job was simply to carry on chipping away on his skull and roses back piece I’d previously started. Tattooing at an event (and being tattooed) is very different to being in a shop and I fully understand why some tattooists choose not to work at conventions. The workspace is tighter, lighting not always ideal and the live bands are loud and add to that the fact that it’s the goldfish bowl effect of a lot of people stopping to watch and gather round. Another ‘playing in a band’ comparison here but I find it to be a similar feeling of starting off nervous and excited at the same time but soon warming up, relaxing and feeling the groove. Brett is a pro and sits like a rock and over the next five or six hours I manage to add colour to all the roses that surround the main body of the piece. I’ve noticed that over the last few years realism (particularly black and grey) is becoming the tattoo style of choice for a lot of artists and it’s no exception here. However, it’s not a style I regularly do and I find myself in the minority of traditional style tattooing. That’s the way I like it and as a result, a lot of members of the public and a few other artists stop to view and compliment me on my work. Even The Mayor of Maidstone who is there to open the event is kind enough to stop and speak kindly. After Brett I tattoo a little fly from my flash on Michelle’s wrist and head to the bar to unwind after the first day.
On the second day I have another regular to spend the day working on. Graham needs a large gap on the back of his upper left arm filling and requests a skull/rose hybrid ( my clients know me well!). It’s a jagged area as his arm already has various other tattoos but I whip out my trusted sharpies and get drawing straight onto his arm. Once we’re both happy with the design I crack on. It’s pretty big and takes most of the day. I really enjoy freehanding tattoos as the beauty of them is knowing that I could never replicate the design ever again therefore being sure to create a truly unique piece. The client also gets to see the design created from scratch and scribble and become a life long reality. Graham is happy for me to go a little wild so I whack the weird buttons and pull the ugly lever and as a result we are both happy. I then have a wander around the show and say hi and trade art with a few friends that are also working. Yet again, the convention is really busy despite the poor weather outside and it’s cool to see everyone working so hard. We return to the hotel and after a takeaway dinner I draw up a sheet of simple line drawing flash before I melt into bed.
Conventions are normally only two days and on the Sunday morning I’m pretty tired. Luckily, I don’t have anything booked for the final day so after breakfast head back over to the showground. I stick out the sheet of fresh flash and members of the public are soon asking for work. I end up tattooing a small heart and dagger, a pair of acorns and freehand a scorpion as a gap filler in an awkward spot around an elbow. I pack up early today and say my goodbyes before hitting the M20 homebound. Being that this convention is now three days it does seem a tough slog but damn it, it’s fun and the Maidstone Tattoo Extravaganza is gonna be stapled into my diary every year.