Needles and pain: Newport Tattoo Convention 2010

Posted on May 6, 2010


Needles and pain - the trade of the tattooist

Ever wondered what happens at a tattoo convention? Well, I hadn’t really, to be honest.

Still, while most people use bank holiday weekends to start some long-awaited DIY project or at the very least wander around B&Q for a few hours, on Sunday 2 May I found myself at the Newport Tattoo Convention. There were tattoos. There were piercings. There was pain.

For a £10 entry fee, you’d hope for a couple of freebies. Sadly, nobody was giving away free tattoos. The event consisted of a large hall in the Newport Centre filled to the brim with tattoo artists essentially touting for business – but not on the day. Appointments were pre-booked, so rather than popping along and getting inked on the random, you were basically there to see other people suffering for a few hours. And see what the artists’ work was like, of course. Business cards available to interested parties.

Though not really a tattoo chick, I couldn’t help but be interested in some of the stranger things going on there. Of course, there were plenty of people wandering round with colourful skin (one with a tattooed face, even – that does require a certain level of crazy), dreadlocks, giant holes in their ears, even miniature silver horns in one case. Plenty to make me feel like the least decorated human on the planet, but nothing I hadn’t seen before on the fabulously explicit ModBlog (note: not for the squeamish).

Tattoos might take a while, but it's worth it for the end result

However, I did see two things that I can honestly say I hadn’t seen before. And were very interesting.


The first was watching a scarification in progress by Doctor Evil, otherwise known as Mac McCarthy, whose slogan is: “If you’ve got it, I’ll modify it.”  Now if you’ve never heard of scarification before, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. Instead of inking you for aesthetic pleasure, the artist will basically carve away a few layers of skin, leaving behind a red raw pattern that will eventually heal and leave a scar in the desired pattern.

It’s certainly not for the faint hearted – I watched a grown man have a small procedure on his hand and he was literally white. It’s not a quick job, either. Doing it right takes time, and unless it’s done by an experienced practitioner, you might end up with something looking more like a bad accident.

Traditional tattooing

The second thing was traditional tattooing performed by Lawrence Ah Ching and the procedure sounds equally as brutal, but the woman getting tattooed said it wasn’t too painful. An assistant will stretch the skin taut while the tattooist essentially hammers a stick with several needles into the person’s arm in order to create the desired mark. The needles are in rows, meaning that designs are generally made up of straight lines – presumably out of practicality – but it was a lot more interesting to watch than the more modern tattoo gun approach.

Unlikely though it is that I’ll ever be undertaking either of those procedures, never say never. But there aren’t many places where you pay an entry fee to watch others suffer, and – terrible person it may make me – it was fairly interesting. And there was a ska band playing in the background and a bar in the other room, rounding off the event nicely. Plus, everybody who suffered all day ended up with something pretty which they could even enter into a competition, which makes everything ok.

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