Tattoo traditions leave a mark

INKED UP: Tattoo artist and organiser of this weekend's Auckland Tattooing Convention, Pip Russell, says New Zealand's tattooing culture has changed a lot since the first convention 12 years ago.
Jason Oxenham
INKED UP: Tattoo artist and organiser of this weekend's Auckland Tattooing Convention, Pip Russell, says New Zealand's tattooing culture has changed a lot since the first convention 12 years ago.

Tattooing traditions from around the world will come together this weekend for the fifth annual Auckland Tattooing Convention.

Pip Russell, tattoo artist and event director, says a lot has changed in the tattooing industry since the convention was first launched 12 years ago.

One of the biggest changes has been the resurgence of traditional Maori (ta moko) and Pacific (tatau) tattooing, which the convention, presented by the Ta Moko Tatau Tattoo Trust, has helped to drive.

"When we launched the convention in 1999, the customary Polynesian tattoo techniques were still underground.

"There were very few ta moko and tatau artists working in New Zealand," says Ms Russell.

"We brought the best of those artists together, along with their counterparts in western tattooing, and we showed New Zealand what amazing traditional art was like.

"For most people, it was the first time they had seen ta moko and tatau done properly. Ta moko and tatau have enjoyed a huge revival since then, and we're really proud that the convention has helped with that."

The convention will feature ta moko and tatau tattooing being done with hand tools as well as other traditional and modern styles from around the world being done by well-known tattoo artists including Lucky Diamond Rich, the world's most tattooed man.

Moving into the world of tattooing in 2000 was a natural progression for Ms Russell, who had already spent years designing tattoo patterns for her clothing label.

Since then tattoos have become much more acceptable to have, she says.

"Because its becoming more mainstream, people are looking past the stigma and seeing it as doing something for yourself.

"It's self adornment just like buying a new pair of shoes."

Movement towards people wanting to have tattoos with meaning has seen an increase in the number of cultural based tattoos requested at the Balmoral studio Ms Russell manages.

"All tattoos have meaning though – even if its a skull and cross bones it means something to the person that got it," Ms Russell says.

Ms Russell is also seeing a much wider range of cultures getting tattoos than when she first started.

"In China it's totally taboo to have a tattoo, but they're really getting into it."

The Auckland Tattooing Convention is at the ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane on Saturday from 10am to 9pm and Sunday from 10am to 8pm and is open to all ages.

Visit www.aucklandtattoocon.co.nz for more information.

Central Leader