Photo by Christine Lai
On March 10, 10-12, thousands of people flocked to the International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the Australian Tattoo Expo. They had over 400 tattoo artists on hand and an impressive line-up for attendees looking to get their tattoos done.
City Hub Sleepy Dave, a Melbourne-based artist who specializes in tattoos, shared his knowledge and experiences with us. Sleepy Dave, a Dot Work and Blackwork expert, has been tattooing for over 15+ years.
Having tattooed cover-ups from ex’s names to ‘bad ideas’, almost nothing is off the table for Sleepy Dave. When asked what his most memorable cover-up or ‘out there’ tattoo was, Sleepy Dave described tattooing the Gucci “crossed G’s” logo on someone’s perineum (“Tattooing the Gucci logo on their Gooch”).
Sleepy Dave had always wanted to do something creative and got his kickstart into the arts by studying graphic design at university before realizing he could not “sit in front of a computer all day doing the same thing”. At 16 years of age, he got his first tattoo. After spending some time in the tattoo industry, a friend recommended that he start a tattooing business.
“I pretty much spent like a few months getting tattooed by a few different artists at the same shop and hung out, helped out. An apprenticeship was the next step. And the rest is history,” he said.
Since 2010, Sleepy Dave is a regular at international tattoo shows. He spoke to City Hub It’s a privilege to be allowed to travel the world twice for work.
“I jumped around a bunch of work with Original Tattoos in San Pedro and Vintage Tattoo Island was in Highland Park. We used to travel every weekend to different cities and attend different conventions. It ended up being 46. It was incredible. We spent so much time on the road”, he said.
Lauren Fox came to Australia as a teenager. After her initial work in Wollongong, Fox moved to Surry Hills to continue her tattooing career. Lighthouse Tattoo Botany has been home to her for five years. She describes her style as mainly Native Traditional with a “Japanese flair to it” and enjoys doing “a lot of pop culture-inspired stuff as well”.
“The main thing that I’d like to do is typically natives, animals, florals, anything nature-based”, Lauren said.
Lauren, who didn’t have a tattoo history at all, got tattooed on her 19th birthday at Manly Tattoos by a female tattooed. Carmen inspired Lauren to accomplish this feat, which was quite rare at the time.
“Back then I didn’t see many female tattoo artists, but I saw Carmen and with my art background, it occurred to me that I could do this”, she said.
Lauren was granted an apprenticeship through an ex-partner’s friend and “now the rest is history”.
“It took a few years to get there and now you can see so many great artists like the caliber of tattooing has just skyrocketed, it’s really exciting”, she said.
When asked what advice she would give to up-and-coming tattoo artists, Lauren emphasized the art of practice, “Just keep drawing, just push it. If you’re not good at something it’s fine, just keep pushing and look for feedback”.
“Do whatever you can do to get your foot into the door, but just practice. If you get knocked back that’s okay, take that on board, you can always make it better.”
Lauren has tattooed “All the places. You name it, I’ve tattooed it, including some quite intimate areas”, and described the funniest tattoo she’s ever had to do was a request by a young man who came in asking for a “stick figure pulling a bong while doing a poo”.
“It was very specific, so funny and odd. Normally you just be like it’s so stupid but for some reason it suited him, that’s one that kind of stuck in my mind since”, she said.
Koko, Bali’s tattoo artist Dewa Koko, is more commonly known as Koko. Since 2007, she has been tattooing. Koko is also the owner of @flashink.bali, and @flashink.seminyak. Koko is also the @flashgym.bali artist. Koko is well-known because of his large and realistic tattoos, particularly across the back or arms.
Koko answered the question about why he got tattoos. Koko explained that he has always been passionate about drawing and art. Unable to pick out a favorite tattoo that he’s done, Koko explained that there were “far too many tattoos that I’ve done in my life for me to single out just one”.
Koko offered advice to apprentices and individuals seeking to jump into the tattoo industry “Keep working hard and do what you love”.
Koko was inspired by a friend to get his start in tattooing. Koko was able to use a tattoo machine, so he tried it on a friend. It was then that he discovered how much he loved the machine.
“I didn’t expect to be an artist, I just loved art and one day I found myself in it for good”, Koko said.
Koko explained to City Hub that his tattoo would take him to all three days of the Sydney Tattoo Expo. The finished product can be viewed here.
As the Southern Hemisphere’s “biggest and best event”, the Australian Tattoo Expo hosted several sideshow entertainments, body piercings, tattoo-related merchandise, and tattoo competitions.
Thomas Worrell was a contortionist who took to the podium. He danced with specialized moves and displayed contortionist skills. DJs entertained the Expo attendees by selecting tracks and mixing them.
Flux Entertainment, a company that describes itself as providing “unique, high impact, jaw-dropping entertainment that will keep you at the edge of your seats”, provided an original act fire show where performers used handheld pyrotechnics, cracked whips, danced, and performed aerials.
The renowned ‘Shittest Tattoo Competition’ also took place, with the main prize for the competition including vouchers for tattoo removal, in addition to joke trophies. One woman won the competition with her Phoenix Bird tattoo and received free tattoo removal.
The Australian Tattoo Expo 2023 is also being held in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne.
Brisbane: June 9-11, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Perth: September 1-3, Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre
Melbourne: December 1-3, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre
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