After a stop off in the centre of town for a date and pecan loaf and a flat white coffee breakfast from Laynes Espresso (of course), we jumped on the free water taxi service from Granary Wharf, which dropped us right outside our destination.
Upon arrival to New Dock Hall stood a strong squad of very believable Star Wars characters, brilliant! What’s more brilliant was the concentration of artistic ability inside the expo; a big room segregated into rows upon rows of desks, jam packed full of artwork, artists originals, stickers, cards & prints, not to mention the faint constant buzz of a tattoo machine and some very industrious practitioners.
In a heaving room there was live music, jewellery stalls, tattoo contests, ethical food, King Koby barbering, a bar… and Laynes Espresso had a stall too (I needn’t have bothered earlier!). The vibes were positive, a certain smell of disinfectant lingered in the air, but so did a sense of artistic celebration, everyone was welcoming and humbled to talk about their work. It felt only right to take part in the Alternative Life Drawing Class at such an event, which actually turned out to be a lot of fun!
As many headed to after-parties at Merrion Street and Santiago’s, we departed this enjoyable weekend the way we came, with a pocketful of stickers and business cards and a massive desire to leave looking like the ‘painted prince’.
Silvia Legaria is the owner of Ultimate Skin in Leeds and the organiser of Leeds International Tattoo Expo. She has worked in the tattoo industry for nearly 20 years and has helped to organise multiple conventions. Independent Leeds caught up with Ultimate Skin’s Katie to find out more…
IL: How did Leeds International Tattoo Exposition come about?
US: We have long felt that Leeds would be a great city for a tattoo convention. With Leeds being such an up and coming city currently it felt like the right time and place for LITE to happen. Leeds has also become a renowned city for tattooing due to the number of high quality shops, both established and new. Silvia is involved with organising conventions, particularly Barcelona Tattoo Expo, so felt that she could give Leeds a well organised, high calibre event.
IL: What does the weekend involve?
US: The weekend revolves around a large quantity of tattooists working in one place. Some artists choose to come to the expo with existing clients, whereas others will draw up pages of flash for people to choose from, often at special prices. There are also traders selling clothing, jewellery, taxidermy and more. LITE also offers plenty of entertainment including fire breathers, sword swallowers, live drawing classes and a charity long boarding race which ends at the convention. The end of each day culminates in a competition in which artists can show off the tattoos they have done that day to win prizes, then on Sunday the artist whose tattoo is named best in show is awarded the grand prize – this year a booth at Besancon convention in France, which was won by Matt Curzon from Melbourne, Australia. Other prizes included laser engraved skateboards designed by Justin Rockett from Ultimate Skin in Leeds and a booth at LITE 2016, which was won by Matt Adamson from Jayne Doe in Essex. There are pre and after parties, centred around Merrion Street and Santiago’s in the Grand Arcade. This year music was provided by Ginhouse Records, who played at a variety of venues across the weekend. LITE 2015 also saw the involvement of The Real Junk Food Project, a fantastic new initiative to intercept and utilise some of the massive amount of waste produced every day by food businesses in Leeds. Silvia tries to support local charities and communities through LITE, so each year Dale Sarok of Vida Loca Tattoo in Bolton has painted a canvas live at the expo and auctioned it off to raise money for Inkwell’s, which is part of Leeds Mind.
IL: Tell us about the tattoo ‘scene’ in Leeds.
US: The quality of work available in Leeds has made it one of the most popular cities in the north to get tattooed so people are becoming more and more likely to travel to Leeds to get tattooed rather than just sticking to artists near them. Whilst Leeds has artists working in almost every discipline of modern tattooing, there is a definite abundance of artists creating old school and traditional work, which has always been a popular style and shows no sign of decreasing in popularity.
IL:What do you think of the increasing popularity of tattoos?
US: The increasing popularity of tattoos means that more and more people are wanting to become a part of the industry, meaning that jobs and apprenticeships are extremely hard to come by, but for people already working in the tattoo industry it is a fantastic time to be involved. It also means that apps like instagram have become an incredibly useful tool for artists as it is a great way to exhibit their portfolio to an ever increasing number of people all over the world. Because people can expose themselves to such a massive variety of artists in almost any place they choose, it means that they may be more likely to explore the possibility of travelling to get tattooed, which appeals especially to tattoo collectors, who like to get tattooed by a large variety of artists.