Ink and skin take centre stage
By LUKE PRENDERGAST
STICKERS, paint, ink, body art, tatts. Whatever you call them, they were on display in force on Saturday at the 11th annual Lismore Charity Tattoo Show, held at the Italo-Australian Club to raise funds for the Soup Kitchen.
There were prizes for best leg, arm, front, back and head tattoos among 29 categories, including two for piercings.
The competition was merely an excuse, however, for lovers of tattoos to get together and compare body art while raising money for a good cause.
Event organiser and tattoo artist Pete Davidson said about 150 participants ? down on previous years' attendances ? came from as far afield as Brisbane, Coffs Harbour and Boonah to show their stickers and check out others' 'paint jobs.'
Once almost exclusively the domain of the underworld or biker culture, tattooing has become more and more accepted in the mainstream.
Pete said that as a result, the standard of tattoo art had improved, along with other benefits.
"Mainstream's good for acceptance when people go looking for work because half the bosses who interview them now have got tatts," he said.
"But I like the old secret days when you'd knock on a door.
"I like the mystic about it, there was a mystery attached to it. You had to know where the tatt shop was." The greater social acceptance of tattoos has had another benefit for Pete: People are no longer as afraid of him as they once were, although he still gets it.
"You hear things like 'I was afraid to approach you when I saw what you looked like'," he said.
But despite sporting two arms full of paint and an expressed preference for designing larger tattoos, Pete says the trendy modern-day 'boutique' tattoos have their place too.
"Because it's probably as important to them as ours are to us," he said.
"And it's as daring for that person as getting a full back job is for someone else." While it once may have signified rebellion or membership of a clan (and may still), Pete says people also use tattoos as a means of giving themselves confidence.
"I still reckon there are people out there getting tattoos to beef themselves up," he said.
"A lot of people change. When they first come in they won't talk, then they get a few tatts and you can't shut them up.
"It gives them confidence. It makes people think differently about them and so they feel different about themselves.
"It's not so much an attitude but people feel freer to talk, probably because they didn't see themselves as much before, but then they got a tatt and thought 'I am someone'.
"I've seen a lot of people get confidence from a tattoo. It's not just having the tatt, it's getting it too, because it's quite painful, and they feel 'If I've gone through that I can go through anything'." Attila Uto, left, and Di Pymble give the Lismore Tattoo Show a close-up view of their colourful bodies.