The Maidstone Tattoo Extravaganza kicks off this weekend to rejoice the strange world of physique modification.
Over the Easter financial institution vacation, hundreds of tattoo artists and fanatics will descend on the Kent Showground at Detling to share their ardour for physique artwork.
“It’s about 1,000 individuals a day that flip up,” says competition organiser Fraser Williams. “I get there at 6am on Thursday and I don’t go away till Monday evening round 11pm. I sleep onsite on a camp mattress. However then the general public turns up at 9am and goes ‘wow’, and that’s the perfect bit.”
The conference started in 2017 when Fraser and his spouse Sam, who owned their very own tattoo studio in Maidstone till the pandemic pressured them to close up store, acquired uninterested in travelling to exhibitions away from residence.
“[Sam] used to go to tattoo conventions and he or she mentioned, ‘How exhausting do you assume it’ll be to do one?’ and I mentioned, ‘I dont assume it’ll be that onerous’ – stupidly!” laughs the 49-year-old. “We thought, Maidstone’s an enormous city and there’s an enormous Kent Occasion Centre on the high there so let’s have a go at it. And it labored. It went very well, we raised a bit of cash for charity, all of the artists had been glad and so we mentioned we’d do one other one, and we simply stored doing it yearly.”
Whereas this yr is the smallest competition to date – earlier years have seen virtually 150 artists arrange cubicles over the weekend whereas this yr is simply wanting 80 – that hasn’t postpone the conference’s common tattooists.
“I’ve supported the present because it first began,” says Alex Criminal, who has his personal tattoo studio in Sittingbourne. “I’m one of the booked up artists within the space with usually round a yr ready checklist, so I’ve at all times supported them.”
Alex, who specialises in realism and portrait tattoos, sees the conference as a chance to showcase his work and drum up word-of-mouth buzz.
“I did a pin-up lady, like a Gil Elvgren portrait of a pin-up lady on the bonnet of a automotive about three or 4 years in the past now, and there was some extent once I appeared round and there have been about in all probability 20 or 30 individuals standing there,” remembers Alex. “Everybody’s very supportive of each other. A whole lot of artists are fairly glad to cease what they’re doing and chat to individuals as they go.
“Up to now, somebody who was getting tattooed on the sales space subsequent to me watching me work booked a couple of day periods with me, so your publicity is good at these types of locations.”
“It’s at all times an ideal weekend and ambiance, and we completely love seeing acquainted faces,” agrees Molly Cleland, who can be attending the conference with Clockwork Ink, a tattoo studio in Faversham. “The organisers are actually pleasant and ensure all of it runs easily for the artists.”
The exhibition has been absent for the previous two years, however is making its return over the Easter financial institution vacation this yr – regardless of loads of monetary struggles for Fraser and Sam.
“The corporate that we use for our tattoo cubicles went bankrupt, so we misplaced £4,500,” explains Fraser as he discusses the logistics of internet hosting such a giant occasion. “We’re having to reuse the tickets we had for 2020 as a result of if we threw them away we’d be throwing away £500. The staging firm is in administration, that was £2,500 for them. We had been talking to among the bands we requested to return two years in the past and so they’ve now quadrupled their worth so we are able to’t afford to place bands on.”
Regardless of being out of pocket this yr, the organisers are decided to maintain the conference an unbiased affair.
“Now we have no sponsorship, it’s utterly unbiased which is a giant deal for us. We don’t do it for revenue. Demelza Home will get donations, the Royal British Legion has a stand without cost and so they increase cash, the hearth brigade had been there two years in the past and so they acquired £1,000 in donations. We attempt to assist native companies, principally, which is what it’s about.”
So, after all of the obstacles which have offered themselves over the previous two years, what can guests really anticipate to see over the three-day occasion?
“This yr I’m doing a Michael Jackson portrait, I’m doing a chest piece and I’m doing a little extra work on my sister’s again piece, which has taken me over 115 hours to date,” says Alex. “It’s fruit, flowers, a girl, candles – she gave me free reign of her again and mentioned design what you need.”
It seems Alex isn’t any stranger to creating spectacular items, as his profession has been filled with high-pressure designs.
“If a mum or dad is unlucky sufficient to lose a child, and you must do the child’s portrait on a forearm, there’s no larger stress,” says the 38-year-old tattooist. “I additionally tattooed nipple tattoos for breast most cancers victims in 2019. I came upon somebody was quoted £600 for 2 nipples and I assumed, that’s terrible. These individuals had been purely profiteering off of somebody’s misfortune. So I mentioned, ‘I’m doing it without cost for the remainder of the yr’ and that submit went viral.
“We set a cap of 1 every week for the remainder of the yr, and I did over 100 in that point. On a weekly foundation, that was transformational.”
However relating to Alex’s favorite piece, that comes again to tattooing one among his private heroes.
“One among my favorite ones is a Freddie Mercury portrait singing right into a microphone. I’m an enormous Freddie Mercury fan.”
“So most of the tattoos we get requested to do these days are different and customized, so could seem uncommon to different individuals,” provides Molly. “I suppose it is simply private desire. Color is one thing that challenges me – I did a color realism nature piece a yr or so in the past that basically made me push myself, however has now change into one among my favorite tattoos.”
Fraser, who has overseen each second of the conference because it began 5 years in the past, has seen some unbelievable work go by way of its doorways.
“There was a man who was in a automotive crash and he did a Ferrari portrait on his leg, and it appeared just like the Ferrari was really on his leg. It was unreal,” Fraser says, reminiscing about among the most memorable moments from previous years. “On the studio, individuals would are available with a reputation and so they’d need it lined with a rose as a result of it at all times labored. Now, you’ll be able to have Disney tattoos, Batman and Robin tattoos – there’s such a wide range of what you are able to do now.
“It’s now not simply the Common Joe tattooing, it’s folks that have spent years figuring out how one can do what they do. You take a look at among the work and it’s like, wow. It’s very spectacular.”
With greater than 200 completely different artists showing on the conference since 2017, Fraser says it’s exhausting to pinpoint too many particularly – however he does have a couple of who’ve stood out to him.
“We had Dan Osbourne a few years in the past doing a little superior work. Tales of Inkspiration’s Terry Brown did an incredible again piece. Kamila Daisy, who works over in Rainham, does completely superior linework and dot work. Ben Griffiths did an elephant some time in the past from Black River Tattoo [in Rainham] – that’s in all probability among the finest studios regionally, apart from Alex Criminal.
“You see the foolish ones too, just like the camel on the toe, otherwise you’ve acquired the finger with the moustache.”
In case you’re considering of signing your self up for a few of these superb items of artwork, you would possibly need to save up some pennies first, as Alex reminds us that these bespoke designs don’t come low cost.
“If one thing’s going to take over 5 hours, we are inclined to cost the day fee for that which is £580,” he says. “A sleeve could be 5 to 6 day periods at that worth, so you possibly can go as much as £2,500 or £3,000.”
So that you would possibly must finances rigorously earlier than deciding to get one among these tattoos. However, whether or not you’re able to get inked or not, Fraser hopes individuals come alongside to the conference and have a good time regardless.
“I’ve an immense sense of pleasure,” admits the hopeful organiser. “Folks come right here and there’s no animosity. There’s no problem. It’s very chilled, relaxed and everybody enjoys it. I’m so enthusiastic about it.
“Now we’re right here, it’s good – I am unable to wait!”
The Maidstone Tattoo Extravaganza takes place from Saturday, 16 April to Easter Monday from 9am to 5pm. Tickets begin from £13 on-line, or £10 on the day. E book on-line here or name 07984 916 932 for extra particulars.