RITES OF PASSAGE TATTOO FESTIVAL – Day 2. Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton, Melbourne. 08-04-2017.


Words Mikaelie A. Evans.
Photos Matt Allan Photos.

Day two of the annual Rites Of Passage Tattoo Festival held at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building welcomed punters of all ages through its large doors into a world filled of art and culture.

Lining the entrance were stalls of assorted goods, varying from alternative jewellery to barber knives, hot chilli sauces to the soft amplifications from Cranbourne Music’s Fender and Gretsch guitars, along with various merchandise stands like Killer March and Crawling Death.

Following the sound of buzzing needles around the first line of stalls lead me to find the first tattoo booth along the wall, which was Paul Rapley’s stand. Rapley was hard at work on a rib piece, and the guy receiving it made the overly asked question of “does that hurt?” sound even more rhetorical.

The styles of tattoos being done within the venue were varied, but a strong focus was definitely on mandalas and thin line works, water washes and realism, geometrical and intricate origami-like designs that highlighted the progression of tattooing in the 21st century. Among these trending styles were the beloved thick and bold pieces of traditional style tattooing and the larger Japanese body pieces.

Weaving through the crowded lanes of live tattooing took me towards the stage, which was anticipating the next live saga of the Shittest Tattoo Contest… Which would later prove to be a very shit tattoo.

Surrounding the stage were more merchandise booths of artists and Australian labels, as well the growing queue backed out from the Deathproof bar which was serving up Young Henry’s beers. Run by freelance artist Steen Jones, it was the first of the Deathproof pop up bars and it kept the not so straight edge punters happily hydrated. Jones was kept busy with the bar and his live paintings as well as the Few and Far Collective stand – another brand of his – which took up the greater portion of these merchandise booths on the adjacent wall.

Unfortunately Melbourne’s weather made a grim turn and ruined the ambience of laughter from the outside clutter of food trucks, but the fairy lights hung through the trees lighted the way for those hungry enough to brave the storm.

Back inside, there’s still several more lanes of tattoo booths to weave through and down the middle is a larger lane way which on one side has more live tattooing, and on the other a Harley-Heaven, Melburn Made Ink tattoo booth, and Brother Wolf’s live barber stall which gave males the option to leave with a fresh ‘do.

Down another lane, tattooist Adam Lynch is nearing the end of a beautiful half leg piece which is in its final sitting, and the young girl receiving the intricate piece seems grateful that her mother is there to nurse her. Incorporating thin lines with bold designs and a water washed geometrical mandala, this leg piece is one that’ll be memorable for all.

Tatsup has probably the biggest stall of the day, which runs down one of the further back lanes and sells all the tattoo equipment that one could need; inks, needles, balms and wraps, which saw a consistency of customers throughout.

At the end of the lanes is a sweet blue lowrider that’s picture perfectly popped up on its side, with a Mexican blanket hung from the rear bonnet. Next to the lowrider is a piercing stall, which provides the option of a less permanent skin addition to leave with.

The Worlds Most Tattooed Man was also one of the smiling faces and amongst the genuine conversations within the convention that was overall very inviting; the clientele throughout was versatile and that was such a great thing to see the negative stigma of tattoos become detached. It was so great to see so many tattoos and so much talent in one place, and it was a feeling that left me so completely comfortable within my own skin.

Photo courtesy of Mikaelie A. Evans.

After wandering through the booths and various tattooists portfolios, I soon knew that I didn’t want to leave without a new addition to my own tattoo collection. There’s something about being in a huge centre filled with freshly tattooed people and the smell of antiseptic that triggered my instant desire for a new tattoo… And I soon found exactly what I didn’t know I had been looking for on the table laid out in front of Sydney artist, Lorren Norrie’s Bold & Bright stand.

I ended up leaving quite satisfied with my new addition, which is a sweet traditional style skull on the back of my leg, and it’s a piece that I could not be happier with!

Heading towards the exit with my new tattoo wrapped safely in cling wrap and camouflage tape, I knew that I’d just been a part of an event that is its own kind of unique experience, and one that I look forward to being a part of again next year.

More Rites of Passage Tattoo Festival 2017 coverage.
Day 1: Photos Suzanne Phoenix.
Day 3: Words and VLog Callum Doig.