The Great British Tattoo Show 2015 – #GBTS review

Miss Shiv Tattoo IG -
Miss Shiv Tattoo in action –

The Great British Tattoo Show (#GBTS) was a scorcher. Alexandra Palace was filled to the hilt with tattooists, tattoo lovers, those that love the art of tattoos and those on the boundary of wanting but not quite daring enough to allow pen to skin penetration.

Given the wealth of tattoo artistry on show, those created at the show and those carried to the show, let’s delve a little deeper on the three concepts that the show was based on: traditional, contemporary and urban in relation to tattoos, fashion and lifestyle.


When one thinks about the word ‘traditional’ in conjunction to tattoos, what does its meaning suggest? two dimensional forms, blue tones appearing to represent black lines and black lines that have the ability to take the shape of a variety of designs but, lack a comprehensive colour palette?

As I searched the GBTS stands high and low, taps and motions similar to caresses were issued to unsuspecting attendees examining the works of art adorning their bodies, but there was still no sign of a ‘traditional’ tattoo. Maybe it’s because times have moved on and the tattoo nation is riding alongside change.

A traditional tattoo #GBTS

One attendee with written art on her neck stood out finally but it was because of the simplicity and relatable nature of the words coupled with a necklet of dermal piercings. The tattoo itself may be perceived as traditional but in partnership with the piercings it is far from traditional.

What did stand out as traditional was fashion but even then this was open to interpretation. Pin ups with racer dresses, platform heels and slithers of leather are all common fashion accessories that are partnered with the tattooed female. The fashion show held at the very centre of the show showcased models wearing impressively high heels with grace.

Fashion show #GBTS


It’s only right that Mowgli the tattooist is mentioned in talks of contemporary art. He snapped up the award for ‘Best Avant Garde’ tattooist. Being one of the first stands I encountered, his work still has resonance in my mind. Jake Sonny, willing human canvas and soon to be apprentice for Mowgli, is who the arms in the picture below belong to.

Art by Mowgli:
Mowgli at work

When asked about the meaning behind this two part piece Jake humbly opened a port hole to an honest window which sounded the importance of lines, the women in his life and a calling to spirituality; a greater connection with the world. In describing how his relationship with Mowgli came to fruition, a parallel immediately sounding in mind in terms of how we are all in some way, shape or form irrespectively connected.

Jake’s connection to Mowgli sprouts from his desire to become a part of the tattoo industry and an affinity to Mowgli himself, by default making him the perfect spokesperson for how Mowgli works in the consultation stage of designing and creating masterpieces on skin.


The turn of phrase, “You get what you pay for” is appropriate in relation to Bower Kustom bikes. For shy of £2250, a lavish set of wheels like this could be yours. With a tap of the handle hidden under this bike seat your butt cheeks will be heated. Perhaps not so alluring to the cyclist accustomed to peddling furiously through red lights. These bikes are for cruising. Another of their unique custom made bikes has Bluetooth: A digitally minded spin on traditional urban BMX bikes.

Bowers Kustom bikes
Bowers Kustom bikes
Putting Bowers Kustom bikes to the test

The #GBTS set out to “celebrate our differences under the umbrella of the one thing that binds us all…INK! Did it do this? Yes!

Living in such cosmopolitan times it’s far too easy to focus on our differences and our lifestyles, which make us individually unique, forgetting our key similarities as humans. Our similarities are our entry points to better connections with the world and other human beings that live in it. I’m very much looking forward to #GBTS2016.

Ace Biggie tattoos on a #GBTS attendee

Words and photography by Ninette Osei Wilson.

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