This year, tattoo artist Stef Bastian returns to The London Tattoo Convention with a new charity project, “The Tattoo Fan Club – Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”.

The exhibition is presented as a tribute to the tattoo legends that came before us, who paved the way and shaped modern tattooing.

Curated by tattoo artist Stef Bastian, over 200 artists have been personally selected and tasked with painting a traditional Japanese paper fan, known as an “Uchiwa”. The result will be a celebration of an artist of their choice whom they feel contributed in influencing and building the foundations of tattooing today.

Stef Bastian
Stef Bastian

Following the exhibition’s debut at The London Tattoo Convention, Stef will be organising an online auction where you can bid to buy one of these hand-painted artworks. All proceeds will be donated to Operation Underground Railroad, an organisation fighting child sex slavery.

Artwork by Alix Ge
Artwork by Alix Ge

Stef, tell us how you got the idea for this exhibition….
The original idea which led to this exhibition sprung up by chance in the kitchen of Henning Jorgensen’s Royal Tattoo, a studio where I worked for years. Later – in line with my habit to always think big – the thing evolved spontaneously and I started to send messages to various friends I have in the sector who live all over the world.

Artwork by Derek Noble
Artwork by Derek Noble

I strongly believe that every successful idea is the product of an honest intention; good ideas come from being passionate about what you do and wanting to offer your personal contribution to society (as opposed to just having a personal achievement), while having fun at the same time. When you enter this “wavelength”, factors around you starting to align themselves and the pieces start to fall into place on their own. You can’t come up with a good idea rationally, because forcing it in this way would mean that you’re not in the right spot – with your head and soul – to be able to access a certain kind of creativity.

Artwork by Ellie Williams
Artwork by Ellie Williams

How did you choose the title “Tattoo Fan Club”?
The decision to call it “Tattoo Fan Club” came from the fact that unfortunately during my travels I’ve often met young tattooists who entirely (and deliberately) ignore the origins of this profession. When you don’t know who Filip Leu or Lyle Tuttle are, it’s time to rethink everything and start over. I’m not saying this to be polemic unjustifiably, but because knowing these things helps you develop a certain gratitude towards the folks who have made our profession possible. This is the only way to create talented artists who respect the sector in its purest essence, who, instead of just taking, ask themselves: “What can I give back to tattooing?”

So I decided that this year’s theme had to be centered around a celebration of these origins, of the people who came before us.

Artwork by Gonzalo Muniz
Artwork by Gonzalo Muniz

And what about the idea of doing a charity auction?
The humanitarian aspect was just a natural consequence. I really believe in the need to share and see the world as one, with all of us deeply connected to each other. This is why I feel the obligation to give back some of the success and well-being (economic, physical, and emotional) I’ve gained, as a sign of gratitude.

Artwork by Marius Meyer
Artwork by Marius Meyer

To paraphrase a famous comic strip: “Great responsibilities come with great power”. It would make no sense to do all of this if personal gain was the primary goal. So I decided to choose a cause dear to my heart: children.

The response from the artists went beyond my wildest expectations.

Everyone worked so hard and enthusiastically to support this initiative. And so – to go back to the beginning of my story – an idea that came to me in a kitchen has evolved into an actual project, and thanks to the generous contributions of all the folks who participated in the online auction, we hope that our donation, even though small, will contribute to improving the life of at least a few less fortunate children. And that right there is priceless.

Read the complete interview with Stef Bastian in the next issue of Tattoo Life magazine!