Frankfurt Tattoo Convention

Extras - Issue 17

The Frankfurt Tattoo Convention is undoubtedly one of the oldest tattoo conventions in Europe. HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine spoke with Tommy Köhler, who is the organizer. The tattoo festival will be taking place at Frankfurt Exhibition Centre in Hall 5.0 from Friday, March 20th until Sunday March 22nd. HeartbeatInk would be participating at the Frankfurt Tattoo Convention with its own stand.

Interview by Ino Mei.

This March, Frankfurt Tattoo Convention is celebrating its 23d year. How do you see its progress and metamorphosis throughout the years?

There has been a very large increase of good artists in the world, which means that the demand for tattoos is constantly rising.

How did the idea of a tattoo convention initially occurred and how easy or hard was its realization? 

The Frankfurt Tattoo Convention started with forty tattoo artists participating.At that time, we only wanted to do simple public relations that tattooing society wasn’t able to make on its own. Throughout the years, the festival grew bigger and reached success.

Tommy, has your experience as a tattoo artist and a tattoo shop owner offered you more knowledge when it comes to dealing with fellow tattooists and better understanding of their needs?

Of course. If I hadn’t been a tattoo artist, I would have never come up with the idea to organize a tattoo convention. It was only through the exchange of experience and the help and assistance of other colleagues that the festival was carried out.

Are there perhaps some extra features, initiatives or additions this year as far as the organization of the tattoo convention is concerned?

Yes, there will be a great number of traditional – handpoke tattoo artists from around the world tattooing. So this is probably one of the biggest highlights of Frankfurt Tattoo Convention 2015.

How many tattoo artists will be participating in the 23d Frankfurt Tattoo Convention?

This year we will have more than 700 artists live on site. Among them, there will be five different Greek tattooists, plus your magazine.

What is your opinion about the Greek tattoo scene?

I know that there are some very good tattoo artists in Greece.Every year we do a special theme at the convention in order to introduce countries and their art. I will be visiting Greece in June and I will see if I find time to visit there some studios. Perhaps Greek tattoo artists can be featured as our main topic in the near future.

This years’ main topic are tattoo artists from Russia and Eastern Europe. How will this be applied in action?

As I have mentioned before, we make a special topic for every year, and we always present some countries or regions so as to bring their tattoo art closer to the German and European audience. This is overall a rather difficult thing to put together, and we are happy that we have friends like Matthias Reuss (ed. founder of Edition Reuss) and Dr. Lars Krutak  that are helping us to find and select the various artists.

Do you have any special guests this year?

Dr. Lars Krutak, Keone from Hawaii, and the Borneo Headhunters are attending. The German tattoo artist Krause, who is well known from the TV will also be here, and various tattoo models like Miss IVI and Makani Terror, who will settle the contest on the stage for me.

Would you characterize Frankfurt Tattoo Convention as a family event? Are there infrastructures that “allow” this? Do families actually visit the festival?

Yes, there are a lot of families visiting the festival. On top of it, Sunday is considered to be the “family day”. We have visitors from all backgrounds; from bankers to punks. Frankfurt is a financial center, and that might be the reason why this enormous size of the convention could be achieved.

What is the role of the Frankfurt Tattoo Convention in the German tattoo scene?

It is measured to be the biggest tattoo trade fair in the world. We have not done it deliberately, but it has grown by itself, just by word of mouth. We have currently reached a size where I need to plan everything a year in advance. In the meantime there are about 70 to 80 applications from studios that we can no longer offer a spot on the convention, because we are fully booked. I'm very sorry about this. However, I will not and cannot make the convention even bigger, unfortunately. It won’t work the way I want and then I will no longer have free time at all (laughs).

It appears that the 23d Frankfurt Tattoo Convention is also dedicated to a higher purpose: a charity. You would be donating money for cancer research. When did you start donating and how did you make that decision?

Ten years ago we started donating for charity. First it was with Peta, which is an animal protection organization. Afterwards, we did it with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who wishes to protect marine life. Since then, they've always been on site. About five years ago, we started donating money to orphanages. The last two years we decided to donate for cancer research in order to help the people who are suffering from this illness. This year we will be donating again for cancer research.