BACK IN 2003, the Tattoo Club of South Australia came into being and promptly launched itself into a position of prominence with its inaugural tattoo show. Fast forward a few years, and a lot of the same faces — with a healthy influx of new faces — are still at it: keeping the good name and the high profile of their club by running a slick and professional tattoo show. And they’ve got a clever twist that not many other people follow — they only put on a show when the time’s right.
It’s not an annual event, although it may well become that one day. It’s a tattoo show that the club puts on when they know they can do it justice, not a panicked series of rushed half measures to meet a deadline. It’s a good solid tattoo show they can be proud of and that they know other people will appreciate and enjoy.
This year’s show was held at the Live Nightclub, right in Adelaide’s city centre, so all the hard infrastructure was readily available — a couple of bars, plenty of seating, different rooms, DJ facilities, and a stage for the bands. Tattoo Club regulars Overdrive set the mood with favourites from musicians like Steve Miller, The Doors, Steppenwolf and The Rolling Stones. All the trappings that were needed for a sell-out show came through the hard work of the Tattoo Club members who organised the contestants, the judging, the tattoo booths, the live video for the crowd, and all the hundred and one little details that make a show flourish.
On entering, one of the first people you’d see after the bustling workers would be 77-year-old Fred. He’d agreed with a couple of mates that they’d start getting tattooed once they hit 75, but sadly his mates didn’t quite make it that far. Up to now, Fred’s had 38 tattoos completed and has another two just about ready to go. Not sure whether it was planned that way or not, but Chloe — with an enigmatic smile and her own collection of striking tattoos — who did Fred’s very first tattoo, was also one of the more noticeable people on the day.
Among the familiar Adelaide based tattooists working on site was Joe Faller, a German tattooist currently based in Ireland — Cork to be exact — and speaking near perfect English with a German-Irish accent and a mischievous air that owes more to Ireland than Germany. Having just come back from Ireland myself, and having met a similarly accented German Bandido who lived in Cork for years, meeting Joe was a strange moment… I mean, what are the chances?
Some of the highlights included Marte’s peacock arm and Tom’s weirdly gory medical scene arm job complete with super sexy nurses, deranged doctors and mummified patients. One young bloke had Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons on his leg as the first of the full set of characters that he plans to get. Something I’d never come across before involved good mates Nick and Danny: their pirate themed arms stood as complete works on their own, but also blended into each other when the two of them stood together. A unique and original thought (especially when you consider there are still people who mainly equate tattoos with skulls, wizards, and oriental dragons) and superbly executed by Tattooist of the Show winner Reg.
As sometimes happens when the best work’s on display, you could only admire the way a good tattooist somehow finds extra space on an arm or some other body part to fit in an extravagantly oversized work of art. Somehow or other, you’d see a tattoo that must have been 20 cm across neatly sitting in an area only 15 cm across. And not looking remotely squeezed or cramped! It’s a gift that seems to defy standard laws of physics, and one that only the finest tattooists enjoy.
Typically, tattoo shows don’t attract much attention from the major media outlets. Perhaps as a consequence of such things as the various Anti Association laws different state governments have introduced, and the FREE Australia Party, there’s been a greater interest in the sort of lifestyle Ozbike readers relish. Accordingly, ABC Radio sent one of their reporters along to do an online feature on the day’s events. Considering the shit camera they’d issued him with, Brett did an impressive job and should be welcome at any future tattoo shows.
There haven’t been many tattoo shows in Adelaide over the last year, in fact, right now, I can only think of this one. But even if there’d been half a dozen of them, Skin Deep would still stand out. It’s the fine product of the endless enthusiasm the Club members have for their art, and you know they’re going to keep on arranging it. But only when the time’s right.
Words & pics by Chris Randells