4th Ink and Iron Festival '07

Published: 24 September, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 151, October, 2007

The Queen Mary hosts such a fun packed tattoo festival that Skin Deep decided to send two contributors to cover this HUGE event. Read on...



The 4th annual Ink & Iron festival took place on the pride of the city, that is Her Majesty’s Ship Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for three days in June. Having 3 years to get people talking about the festival the 4th was, according to most people, the biggest so far with the highest standard of artists from all corners of the world. Long Beach is a costal city attached to Los Angles and just a 40 min metro ride from down town LA but with a more relaxed atmosphere than its neighbour. HMS Queen Mary is a chapter in history itself and her remarkable story began when she sailed her maiden voyage from Southampton, England on May 27 in 1936 to New York and then ended her sailing career on December 6th in 1967 in Long Beach California, where she is now sitting on the seabed, rising with the tides.   

A First Class one-way ticket from Europe to the USA would cost you at the time around $265, which would be with inflation, a total of $3.353 in today’s value. Not for the poor as you can see. Her final voyage went to the West coast of the United States and she stopped where she now lies. The City of Long Beach bought her for a total of $3.45 million and converted her into a hotel with 365 room (former cabins). It’s in these cabins turned “hotel rooms” that most of the INK & IRON festivalgoers from other cities and artists stay during the 3 days of the event.   

I spoke to the young and very talented Matt “Dr. Claw” Verseput from Psycho City Tattoo in Lancaster C.A (www.psychocitytattoo.com). Matt is one of the three in the world one-handed tattoo artist according to himself. There is apparently one in Thailand, another in the Midwest and himself. Having been born with a deformed right hand he told me he felt sorry for people who had limbs amputated at a later stage. Having learnt to cope with this he feel he now have no bigger handicaps than an average young tattooist struggling to get his style flowing and in shape.   

“I learned to tattoo as well as finding the style I am doing, which is traditional Japanese from my older peers at the studio where I now work. Artists like Mike Pike, Jojo Ackerman and guest artists like Shad from Belgium have all helped me out a great deal. I have been tattooing at Psycho City for about 2 years now and we are all busy in the shop since people in Lancaster really like tattoos and most of the people you meet have one.”   

He continues –“This is my 3rd time here at the convention on the Queen Mary but it’s my first time working. There are so many really great artists and the calibre is very high, lots of cool stuff to see and do. For me this is a great chance to check out other peoples work, check their portfolios and meet people I would never have the chance to meet otherwise. Lots of clients coming to the Queen Mary come here to see the car show and have a good time and not all of them are here for the tattooing, that’s fine with me though!” he ads ”clients that know a bit more about what a certain style is and who really knows= what they want have done their research before they come here and know who to go to, educated clients are the best and there are lost of them here at this show. I did a Japanese “Hanya” on a girl yesterday and she knew what it was all about, not like “I want that Japanese devil head” kind you sometimes hear!” He continues –“Tattooing has given me everything, a wife, a house, I owe everything to tattooing!”   

The Ink & Iron Festival is just that, a festival more than a convention. On board the ship you will see over 120 tattoo booths as well as a few piercing and various art booths, but it’s the tattoos that dominate big-time. The area where the festival onboard is taking place is a convention centre year around and it’s divided on three decks with booths, a dance floor and stage on first floor (or deck since we are on a ship), and booths on the 2nd and 3rd deck as well, everything is very spacious and open and even if the three days were more or less sold, out you never felt the place was cramped or overly packed. If you slowly walked around the three decks you would be able to see all the artists and their portfolios without any problems. Outside on the spacious parking lots and surrounding areas, 2 stages were set up where predominantly rockabilly bands were performing in the hot bright Californian sun. Here you would also find the “Iron” in IRON & INK, that is the vintage car display as well as custom-built motorcycles on display.   

French veteran tattooist Stephane Chaudesaigues (www.labetehumaine.fr) was invited by Bugs last year to join the festival, himself originally from France. He liked the convention and decided to comeback for a second time. Having made his name in the states as a realistic style tattooist at an early age, before getting a name in France where the tattoo scene hasn’t really caught up with the rest of the world according to Stephane. He says –“Last year there were so many well known names on the list compared to this year, this year there are names we haven’t heard of but when you look at what they can do you will see that the standard is really high this year as well. This seems to be one of the best show there is over here in the U.S. and it seems like most artist from over here are doing either Japanese traditional or American Old School so my style stands out a bit and many local clients like what I am doing over here”.   

So if we look to where the trend is steering with this the West coast now well known but young tattoo, motor and music festival we can only speculate that the Queen Mary will host numerous events in the future. With so many talented artists under one roof it’s pretty hard not to see that the festival will grow each year. If this is for the better or the worse is hard to tell, but if the well-known ghosts onboard HMS Queen Mary (it’s a haunted ship!) doesn’t screw things up too bad, I bet we will see a full ship again next summer.



The line formed, the gates opened, and the bodies rolled in.  Some bare, some covered, some curious, some lost.  There was an almost immediate and highly unfortunate suspension on alcohol, which corralled the plethora of drinkers into stalls that the security officers politely referred to as “beer gardens”.  Whatever.   

Sharing a room with a friend on the ship was a luxury I felt privileged to have.  Made the weekend of shenanigans more fun than it could have ever been without.  The sun, however, apparently does not rise in the belly of a ship.  I was to learn this very quickly, especially after the long nights of drinking that were to follow.   

So Day One continued, and after a few drinks that I most definitely consumed in the beer gardens, I set out to experience the madness.  The 4th annual International Ink & Iron festival was in full swing.  Over 230 artists, from fourteen countries and twenty-five US states, filled three floors of the Queen Mary’s innards.  Artist’s names and studios washed in and out of my brain as I wandered, visually overwhelmed, through an amazing cross section of artists - from Italy, Spain, Texas, Denmark, California, Japan, France, Sweden, Florida, Germany, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.  Like a whirlwind, all were there.   

The event saw twenty-two thousand visitors overall, up ten thousand from the previous year, pouring through the gates at as rapid a pace as the continuous hum of tattoo machines throughout the ship.  This fourth annual Ink & Iron Festival owed its organizational thanks to Trace Edwards and Ruin Van Driessche of Keen Entertainment.  Brilliantly done gentlemen.   

Friday blurred into Saturday somehow… not sure.  My overwhelmed eyes got no break from the stimulation as I wandered around on Saturday past killer motorcycles and through a huge pre-1963 custom, hot rod, and classic car show.  Three stages of music entertained sun-basking crowds with endless tunes – Rev. Horton Heat had warmed us up Friday night, and the A-list continued with Charley Horse, Speed Buggy, James Intveld, Jake La Botz, Shaun Kama & the Kings of the Wild Frontier, Mad Max and the Wild Ones, Diablo Dimes, ADHD, Lords of Altamont, and so many more.  Also available for hungry eyes was Sabina Kelley (the Spokes Model for the event), the Vintage Vamp Cabaret & Burlesque show, a wonderfully bizarre set of performances from Vau De Vire Society, and a mouth-watering pin-up pageant.   

The daily tattoo contests were impressive, to say the least.  I hung through the entirety of Saturday’s contest, and was blown away by the artistic excellence of the work.  The judges had their jobs cut out for them with such a high level of work coming through – Best of Day for Saturday went to Cooper, rocking a piece from Robert Hernandez of Vitamin Tattoo in Spain, for a portrait of Johnny Cash.   

Ready.  Deep breath, a drink or two, nightfall, ghost hunting, bloody sheets, and bam!  Like a slap in the face, Sunday had arrived.  What to do with Sunday… Coffee.  Definitely coffee.  Then some food, of which there was a decent selection.  And then a re-sketching of a tribal design on my ribs.  I loved it.  Shit.  A few more deep breaths, okay, a lot more deep breaths, and three hours under the gun of Marc Cano from Tiger Rose Tattoo.  Yes.   

Bags packed, truck loaded, goodbyes spoken, hugs delivered, and ribs bleeding… the weekend was complete.  The 4th Annual International Ink & Iron Festival was an experience not to be forgotten.  Get your ass there next year!  (www.electricinked.com)


Text and Photographs: Brittany App (http//:www.appsphotography.com) and Mattias Westfalk (http//:www.mattiaswestfalk.com)