The End of an Era and the Future of Tattoo Conventions

As the past year has taught us, there is nothing we can truly take for granted. Businesses that seemed set for growth have wobbled, travel to faraway countries is off the table. Even taking the bus to go see relatives a few towns away is no longer a given. What may before have seemed like a chore now looks more like a privilege. 

The international London tattoo conventionThe past twelve months have changed many things around the world. One of the things that went off the table — and will most likely continue to be so for some time was large-scale public events, such as tattoo conventions. As a result, the people behind the UK’s largest regular gathering for tattoo aficionados, artists and collectors alike, have decided to close down shop. Following a 15-year run, the London Tattoo Convention will not return once lockdowns begin to ease up and life returns to something like what we knew in 2019.  

Twenty thousand people to see 400 artists

Each year, about 20,000 people would gather with other 400 artists practising their craft in the UK capital. It was not possible to buy a stand at the convention, rather it worked by invitation only. It featured every style and technique with a focus on the unique and original artistry. But now, it seems the final and 15th edition will have been held at the Tobacco Docks in September 2019. The reason is not merely an uncertain future for conventions, conferences and large-scale gatherings in general, however. One of its founders, Marcus Berriman, passed away in July last year. 

The LTC, co-created by Berriman and Miki Vialetto, has been a large part of the modern tattoo industry’s history and was the first-ever to be held in the UK. The very first tattoo convention was held by Lyle Tuttle and Dave Yurkew in Houston, Texas, in 1976. Since then they have become an everyday part of tattooing life around the world, a time for artists to network and set up guest spots, and for clients to marvel at live show work, and potentially get a piece by an artist, they would otherwise need to travel far to see, adding an additional cost for plane tickets.  

What will conventions look like in the near future?

We could potentially see smaller, more exclusive events before an eventual return to the mega-happenings that tattoo conventions have grown into over the past decade. Perhaps artists will travel a little more sparingly. Maybe this means we will appreciate their time and their pieces, even more, when we know they won’t be hopping across oceans every year to make themselves available. The travel and airline industries do not expect to recover for another three years. We could assume something similar to large-scale international gatherings. 

Meanwhile, in the age of Instagram and the ‘celebrity tattoo artist’ (be that someone with a ton of followers, or one that name-drops the celebrities they have tattooed) it could also make us look closer to home for the fantastic, world-class artists that are quietly practising and perfecting their art in a studio close by. Head over to Vivid Ink studios’ social pages and have a look around, you might just be as impressed as by the fanciest of convention poster names.