Tattoo Freeze 2011 Supplement

Published: 23 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 196, March, 2011

It’s the first tattoo convention of the calendar and the call of the needle brought hundreds upon hundreds to the second annual Tattoo Freeze as we exposed ourselves to a bigger and longer event than the previous year. Would it rain, would it snow, would it shine? We didn’t know any better than you, but we built it anyway - and you came...

"Are they going to stay like that all weekend?"

"That's what being a luchadore is all about mate. They might take their masks off to work tomorrow, but you'll never see them unmask in public. It's all about honour and mystery - you should get yourself one..."

So went a late pre-Freeze Friday night conversation with the security guard in the car park - part fascinated by finding the three masked luchadores had actually come here to work and part wondering exactly what the weekend was going to hold in store for him. He could probably be forgiven for thinking it was going to be unparalleled in his experience the next morning, when those same sleepy luchadores turned up again alongside an entire legion of roller-girls, a fleet of cars and bikes that appeared to have come straight out of a Ridley Scott adaptation of the Wacky Races cartoon and previously mentioned legions of tattooed people (natch). Later that weekend, said same security guard could be found in the relative tranquility of the ice sculpting. Tricky business guarding ice...

So began Tattoo Freeze. I think the absolute majority of us were simply pleased that this year, the snow hadn't made an appearance to unleash chaos unbound. Unlike Tattoo Jam, which officially has an artist Friday to allow everybody time to bed themselves in, Freeze is an altogether more intimate family affair and the Saturday morning proved to be just that, with more families coming to see what was going on than last year - to be honest, we didn't know what to expect having doubled the show into twice the space of last year and adding an extra day to do it in. It would have been fantastic to see miles of fans queuing around the block at 10.30 in the morning (as we did last year), but in the event what we got instead was a non-stop stream of traffic (the human kind) all day long - and all of the next day as well, which was great as nobody was in a rush and it made for a really relaxed show.

First of all, some words on the reason we were all there in the first place: the tattooists. Many had bookings from the minute the doors were unlocked, others came purposely not having taken any pre-bookings to see what the event would bring - and not one went much longer than fifteen minutes before some willing skin unfolded itself before them. Of particular note on this Saturday was the piece that Remis (Remis Tattoo) spent his entire afternoon and evening on - so fine was the work that apart from Stuart, Shelley, myself and the security guard (eager to lock up and go home), there was nobody left in the complex. Was it worth waiting for? And then some! We've seen our fair share of Dia De Los Muertos styled tattoos over the last few months, but I fear no matter how good our photography, it will never do justice to the colour and detail that sprang out of this. Also worth mentioning here is that one of my tattoo heroes made an unexpected appearance - I think I kept a cool head and didn't let on (and with a bit of luck, maybe he won't read this), but for all of my "look forward and find the new talent" ethos, it was a total gas to have Sean Vasquez ask if I could spare him a few column inches to mention his new studio (Triple X) in London.

Saturday culminated of course in the judging of the days events and all I have to say on that subject, is it's always a shame there can be only one winner. Not a shame of course for the winners but with so much excellent work kicking about, it can be pretty tough to draw the line sometimes. Still, in hindsight, justice was served and all the winners were thoroughly deserving - watch out as we plot their progress in the "wild" with features in the magazine in the coming months.

The Sunday took off to an equally fine start - albeit with some rather squinting eyes and ringing heads. Sunday could be summed up as the day in which ladies were painted, ice was magically transformed into a celtic cross, bikes were stunted on and boards were flipped every which way but loose - and I know it's wrong to love to see a rider take a fall, but it's massively enjoyable and part of the reason you watch those events. Well, so long as they get back up uninjured. 

On the tattooing front, I had a little more time to take in the work at the show (the Saturday was a little lost for me with shooting some video interviews for Big Tattoo Planet) and I found myself hanging out with the other onlookers as Xoil worked his magic on a quite fantastic specimen. I watched Mat Lapping create some of the killer piece that won him (yet another) award at one of our shows and finally caught up with some of the people I'd been meaning to since I started here - namely (but not explicitly), the guys at Rock n Roll Tattoo, John Anderton, Louis Molloy, Derek Nelson, Remis, Tribo, the crew at Flaming Gun - sadly - or not as the case may be - I didn't get to sit down with everybody simply because they were busy! That's gotta be a good thing. You know when an artist is on the big ladder upwards when you can't even catch a minute to say hi to them - and so it was with the crew at Tribo who were reaping the rewards of serious talent and hard work the entire weekend.

Sunday judging was even harder than the previous day. With some pieces being carried over from the Saturday and the best of convention pulling art that we didn't even know had taken place to the stage, Jim Smallman did his "thing" and kept
us all in order and I must acknowledge here, the Best of Convention winner - Meehow at No Regrets - on a unanimous victory from the judging panel.

As mentioned previously, Tattoo Freeze also has it’s fair share of events and there was no escaping them this year. The Rollergirls Derby with a riotous assembly of vocal onlookers particularly made its presence felt. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, it’s a full contact event that at first glance appears to simply consist of girls skating and having nasty accidents, but once you understand the mechanics of the jammers, pivots and blockers, it miraculously turns itself into an adrenaline fueled barrel of fun. It’s very, very addictive to watch and kudos must go to the The London Rockin’ Rollers, Central City Roller Girls, Auld Reekie Rollergirls and of course, the eventual winners of the Derby, the London Rollergirls for making the event a very cool and valuable addition to the show.

Busily cataloguing the weekends action, were the guys with the spray cans (and whatever else they could lay their hands on) at Graffiti Life. The show wall they created across the weekend was really something to behold and a valuable topic of conversation for those queuing for tickets - as the weekend progressed, so the wall grew bigger until finally on Sunday evening, it was complete - a totally unique piece of work that we brought home with us. These guys are something else and are starting to take graffiti art to another level - watch out for them in the world. They have big plans and a cooler bunch of guys I have never met. Plug? Why not - you can check them out over at

The Freeze was also the time to announce the results of the National Photography Competition. To be frank, the standard of the entries was more than we had ever expected and those on display caught the eye of the public too prompting just as much discussion as we had hoped for. The winner (by public vote) was SLEEVES by Davee. This won’t be the last you’ve heard of the competition either. Budding photographers, stay tuned... 

As I’m running short on space now, I need to wrap it up and give honourable mentions and credit where it’s due: Tim and Druids Brew put in a couple of great acoustic sets and it’s good to see that Pumpkin is still hanging on in there (that would be his VW), Glacial Art, those damed talented ice sculptors brought something new to the table this year too and were more than happy to talk about the process of crafting art from ice - these guys even make their own ice in transportable blocks - really impressive if you’ve never seen them in action. 

Finally, it wouldn’t be a personal show review if I didn’t mention the motors... a fine ensemble of cars and bikes made it to the show but standing head and shoulders above all others was that beautiful 1971 El Camino. Man, that had my name written all over it. Money might not buy you love but it would have gone a long way to securing a ride home...

Suffice to say, none of this would have been possible without the help of the event sponsors - namely: Tattoo UK, Initial Medical, Barber DTS, Emillion Irons, Paulo Cruzes, Sterling Sterilisers, Plinth 2000 and C&P Medical. Guys - we salute you! 

So ended the 2011 Tattoo Freeze. Successful? Fun? Mission accomplished? Yeah - all of those things. The only fact we’re unsure of post-event was who won the "who can keep their lucha mask on the longest" competition. I'm kinda hoping that it's still ongoing and will spill over to Tattoo Jam. Now that would really be something.

Same again next year? To make sure I didn’t miss anything out, allow me to hand you over now to Paula...


From the Pen of Paula Hardy-Kangelos

It’s an interesting name for a convention; the title may well refer to the date of the show- It’s the first convention of the new year, taking place on the second weekend in January and it is undoubtedly true that it is rather cold in Telford in the winter but the words tattoo and freeze go together in a completely different way too. 

Using light reactive chemicals, photography captures a moment in time and preserves that moment forever, “freezing” it for posterity. With photography, the moment becomes a memento, a fragment of narrative from another time and another place.  For me, tattoos function in much the same way as photographs, it doesn’t matter if the imagery has associated meaning or not as it’s the time and experience of being tattooed that is frozen under our skins and carried forward through time by us, the wearers, the tattoo is as much a souvenir of a particular time as any snapshot.

So to be tattooed at a convention is to commemorate a time and a place, as all tattoos do, but this time and place is shared and experienced by others, both at the convention itself and later on, through reports such as this one.

Sharing the experience at Tattoo Freeze were an interesting array of ice sculptors, graffiti artists, roller girls, custom car aficionados and skateboarders – on the surface, all disparate enthusiasms but are all united by a shared interest in another sub cultural practice, tattoos and tattoo art. Skateboarding and BMXing have long been an anti establishment sport and the rock and roll nature of the roller derby girls cannot be denied, tattoos are the force that brings us all together and the presence of other activities at a convention add an extra layer of texture to the sights and sounds, one that fits well with modern tattooing. 

While the Roller Derby and half pipe demonstrations provided welcome additional eye candy, the wide array of impressive tattooers had enough strength to stand-alone. Many other UK conventions ensure their success by providing a concentrated style of tattoo art, Tattoo Freeze instead presents the myriad of possibilities of contemporary tattooing through carefully selected individual examples, including International artists such as Scott Winskye and Mike “the
freak” Oureque. 

Of course, the great preoccupations of contemporary tattooing, Western traditional and Realism were well represented, traditional artists included Nick Whybrow, Pedro Soos, Rachel Jamie McCartney, of Modern Body Art, Nick Baldwin of Infinite Ink and the winner of the large colour category, Mr Greg of Rock ‘n’ Roll tattoo, whose triumphant piece exhibited twin desirable attributes, placement and form and excitingly, lady of the moment, Miss Arianna of Skinwear Tattoo in Rimini, Italy, present and authoring her witty, neat and bold tattoos and Realism and it’s more stylised cousin, hyper realism was demonstrated by John Anderton, Jaroslaw Baka and Tomasz Kulikowski, amongst others. 

Also present were some less definable styles – such as Kamil Mocet’s expressive, painterly coloured work, Kamil’s Oriental category winner breathtakingly original yet everything you’d hope for in a tattoo. 

The Tattoo Freeze event was honoured to be given the opportunity to host tattooer Sean Vasquez, a New York tattooer of recent historical importance, whose plans for a London based studio are soon to realised, heralding a new chapter for his Triple X tattoo shops, a well known and well respected name  in tattoo circles worldwide.

The large, calm space of the International Centre offered generously sized booths and walkways, open spaces that benefit artists, customers and onlookers alike, providing adequate space for whole shops to work alongside their colleagues. 

Two British tattoo studios of the moment, Creative Vandals and No Regrets were present and many of the best entrants in the competition categories originated from the impressively talented artists from these two tattoo houses.

Mat Lapping of Creative Vandals won Best of Sunday and Meehow of No Regrets received the Best of Show title for his Small Black and Grey category winner.  Also from No Regrets, Sass Obuhov produced one of the judge’s favourites in the portrait category with his artful imagining of a hyper real portrait of Brick Top from the film Snatch and his No Regrets colleague, Tommi’s work is also not to be missed. This Cheltenham shop is proving to be a force of contemporary tattooing. 

Despite the slew of up and coming artists present, Tattoo Freeze also welcomed some of the UK’s best-known artists, Louis Molloy worked the show providing a rare opportunity to see him creating his artful classics and Britain’s bard of black and grey ink, Nigel Kurt took the trophy for the large B&G category.

Those that attended the show will be left with many good memories, fragments of the world of tattoo. Some will have frozen mementoes, better than any photograph, new life-long dermal traces of their weekend in Telford. They will be able to look back on a relaxing, laid back weekend where established tattoo artists worked side by side with the new stars of ink. A show where skateboarders attempted to out drink roller derby girls and great art and custom cars were appreciated by everyone, regardless of their side of the sub cultural tracks.  


Roller Derby Rules in a Nutshell


A roller derby takes place on a circuit track, on which players usually travel counterclockwise. The two teams each send five players onto the track — one jammer (scorer), three blockers (defense), and one pivot (a blocker who may become the jammer later in that jam). Helmet covers are used to display the players' positions: a cover with two stars is used for jammers, a striped cover is used for pivots and no cover is used for blockers.

The referee signals the start of jam formation by blowing a whistle. During jam formation, the pack moves counterclockwise, during which time players can change position. All pivots/blockers must remain in the pack (i.e., no more than 20 feet in front of or behind the largest group containing blockers from both teams). When the last person in the pack has passed the pivot line, the referee blows the whistle again, signaling the jammers to take off, and play begins in earnest with a jam.


A jam is a 2-minute period during which the jammers attempt to score points. After passing the pack the first time, jammers earn one point each time they pass an opposing pivot/blocker. Pivot/blockers attempt to assist their jammer through and out of the pack while simultaneously stopping the opposing jammer from exiting the pack. If a pivot/blocker falls or otherwise becomes separated from the pack, she is out of play (i.e., cannot block or assist the jammers) until she rejoins the pack.

The first jammer to legally pass all pivots and blockers once the jam begins wins the status of lead jammer for the remainder of the jam. The lead jammer can decide to end the jam at any time before the 2 minutes are up. She does this by placing her hands on her hips repeatedly, which signals the referee to officially call off the jam.


After a lead jammer has been established, both jammers have the option of passing their positions to their teams' respective pivots (passing the star). This is done by removing the 2-star helmet cover and handing it to the pivot. The pivot then becomes the jammer, and the jammer becomes a blocker for the remainder of the jam. If the original jammer was the lead jammer, the position of lead jammer is not passed on; the position is forfeited for the remainder of the jam.

To impede the progress of the opposing team's jammer, players may block using body parts above the mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands, and head. Elbows may not be used in blocking, and cannot be swung at other players or used to hook an opponent's or teammate's arm. If a player forces an opposing jammer out of bounds, the jammer re-enters behind the player.


At the end of each jam, there is a 30 second break, during which time teams may replace players or switch positions. Players then return to the starting lines and continue to play until the end of the period. Each game consists of two 30-minute periods.
Penalties are given to skaters who skate or block illegally, engage in misconduct, and for other illegal procedures. Penalties can be minor or major. Four minor penalties accumulated by same player or a major penalty leads to the player being sent to a penalty box, usually for 1 minute. Jammers, after passing the pack the first time, score one point for passing each opposing skater in the penalty box. Skaters who incur seven visits to the penalty box or engage in egregious acts of misconduct are expelled from the game.

Got it? Good!


And the Winners Are...


Small B&G: Meehow - No Regrets

Small Colour: Richard Smith - Five Magics

Large Colour: Mr Greg - Rock and Roll Tattoo

Tribal & Celtic: Xavier Joubert - Eds Head

Best Of Saturday: Xoil - Needles Side



Oriental: Kamil Mocet - Hell to Pay

Large B&G: Nigel Kurt - Funhouse

Portrait: Rakhee Shah - Xotica

Backpiece: Julie Clarke - Flaming Gun

Best of Sunday: Mat Lapping - Creative Vandals


Best of Convention: Meehow - No Regrets

Roller Derby Winners: London Rollergirls


Text: Sion Smith & Paula Hardy Kangelos; Photography: Eleri Griffiths, Rafal Jachimczyk, Gaz Evans & Aga Gololewska