Courtesy of NZ Tattoo & Art Festival: This week New Plymouth will play host to the biggest tattoo convention in New Zealand. Artists from around the world will descend on the TSB Stadium for the two day NZ Tattoo and Art Festival on November 24 and 25. And two people who will be at the convention are local tattooists Jason Hardwick and Paul Gledhill…
The two artists are from the heart of the Taranaki and are featured in a new book on the art form released at last month’s prestigious Franktfurt Book Fair titled New Zealand Tattoo. The book, by photographer Chris Hoult and writer Steve Forbes, looks at the country’s love affair with the art form and its practitioners.
It features stunning photography profiles of leading tattoo artists around the country, revealing their styles and what makes them tick. It chronicles the amazing diversity of styles in New Zealand now, from ta moko artists like Gordon Toi, Riki Manuel and Te Rangitu Netana, to newer artists like Gledhill.
Forbes says interviewing the tattooists was fascinating, and he was surprised that in many cases no one had taken the time to interview them.
“Paul has an interesting life story even though he’s really young compared to many of the artists we spoke to,” Forbes says. Gledhill’s forte is colour cartoon tattoos. “That’s what a lot of people come to me for,” he says.“Not many tattooists are doing stuff like this, so it makes me a little bit different from the rest.” His studio, Ink and Anchor, is located on the outskirts of New Plymouth on State Highway 45.
He learnt to tattoo in Perth, Western Australia. “I was training to be a rigger on an oil rig and one of the guys on the course told me about his mate who was a tattooist who was looking for an apprentice.”
He’d worked as a commercial illustrator and a graphic designer, and it seemed like an obvious path to take. But learning tattooing in Australia was pretty tough:
“I had a very old-school apprenticeship, working 60 hours a week for no money, doing the cleaning. It was an honour to just change the rubbish bins when I started.”
He came back to New Zealand in 2009, although not with the intention of opening a studio. But he bought out an existing business changed the name to Ink and Anchor and says he’s now got a six month waiting list. He’s counting down the days until the NZ Tattoo and Art Festival.
“There’s been a lot of talk about New Zealand being one of the most tattooed countries in the world and New Plymouth has really embraced that culture.”
He says the biennial NZ Tattoo and Art Festival is one of the best in Australasia. Fellow tattooist Jason Hardwick agrees. He runs Black Dahlias Tattooing in Hawera. Jason moved to the Taranaki with his family in 1996, as he thought it would be a better place to bring up his children.
“And it’s a great place to tattoo. Being so close to great surf and the mountains means I’m never short of customers. It’s only in recent years there’s been an influx of tattooists into Taranaki. They are popping up everywhere – it’s unbelievable.”
According to a 2009 UMR Research poll New Zealand is the most tattooed country in the world.