As I walked through the doors at the Montreux Tattoo Convention, there was framed art on the walls, a sculpture exhibition and someone painting. Before I’d even seen any tattoos, it was already a visual treat. I anticipated exciting artwork; colourful imagery or mono colour designs. What I did not expect, was the sound.
The sound of some 150 tattoo guns around me - vibrating and punching - was incredible. All of them dipping permanent ink into the skin of paying customers; turning skin into a canvas - to remember a moment or simply to keep a certain design or image close to them at all times - forever.
In fact, the whole idea of someone making a decision to mark their skin permanently is intriguing. Often this decision has taken
months and months. Often it’s on a whim. For example, I met Constantin, an enthusiastic young man in a hoodie. He saw a picture, liked it and had it inked within two hours! He’d had his first tattoo two years ago. That had taken
three months of deliberation - but now it was addictive. Commitment-phobe as I am, I can’t imagine making this kind of decision. I take longer choosing between a vegan wrap and a sandwich for lunch. Is this why I’m in awe? All these people wincing at the sensation of the tattoo gun have actually made a decision!
Love them or hate them, there’s a certain sense of community surrounding tattoos. It appears dangerous; the biker, the rocker, and the metal head have all used tattoos as a badge of honour. Now, tattoos are less edgy, but the sense of community remains.
Alexandra Fellay is an Events Co-ordinator for the Montreux Tattoo Convention.
What do tattoos mean to you?
My tattoos are a reflection of my life; my story on my skin. These tattoos are my personality, my delusions, my joys, my misfortunes...
Why is there such a sense of community around tattoos?
As with music and clothing, there’s a community around tattoos because people find themselves in a group of like-minded people. For some people it’s simply fashion. But for others, it’s a way of life.
So how does all this play out in Switzerland – a country with a reputation for being somewhat reserved? I asked Nico Cennamo, from the One Love tattoo studio in Morges:
A lot of younger people have tattoos that are quite exposed and easily seen. But many of my customers are bankers, policeman - people who don’t always want to show their tattoos. In that aspect they are reserved but in a way they are more interesting for us.
If, like me, you’re fascinated by watching people becoming human works of art then pop along to a tattoo convention where, bizarrely enough, it’s not weird to stare! But do watch the etiquette:
1. Ask before taking photos, you’ll generally get a nod.
2. Most artists are happy to answer questions, but avoid too many. They’re concentrating.
3. Many customers are happy to talk. It gives them a break.
4. Flip through the artist’s photo books for an idea of their style.
Tattoo conventions upcoming in Switzerland...
International Tattoo Convention of Geneva - January 20-22 2017
Ink Days - Zurich - April 7-9 2017
Alchemy Tattoo Expo - Conthey (Valais) - May 20-21 2017
Montreux Tattoo Convention - September 15-17 2017