Tattoo Freeze 2013

Published: 26 February, 2013 - Featured in Skin Deep 222, March, 2013

It wouldn't be Tattoo Freeze without a little touch of frost, and this year, in the dying embers of a great show, the snow made an appearance too.

What started out as a cool small show to kick off the year has fast become one of the most fun shows on the circuit. This year sported more artists in attendance than ever before and a great crowd who, even though they had one eye on the snow clouds, came in their thousands. Good work everybody.

What the hell else would you be doing on a lazy Sunday in January anyway?

Despite aforementioned weather and the gloomy forecast, Ivana made it over with her magic colour palette; Chris Ormond – complete with wife and baby – managed to ship himself and a mega-ton of paraphernalia over from Malta; Toko and Kev at Needles Side got themselves here from the south of France (one slightly earlier than the other… in that order) – and the list continues, Leila and Magne from Norway, Nino from Milan, Tibor from Woodpecker in Austria – I hope I didn’t leave anybody out there because this is a good place to say a big thank you for making the effort.

Having said that, sometimes just getting around the UK is a chore in itself, and the journey was probably more difficult for a lot of the UK artists than it was for the others.

Sunday morning arrived regardless (as it always does) and it’s good to see a full house set up and ready to go. Even better to see rather a lot of people chomping at the bit to get inside – though granted, some of that may have been because it was so damn cold outside. Never let it be said that Tattoo Freeze doesn’t live up to its name.

With a nice mix of pre-booked work and more than enough artists with blank slates working off the cuff, it must have taken 20 minutes before everybody was head down busy. It was even better to see some familiar faces kicking about too – and I’m not talking artists here. You guys are really making this a fun event for us working it as well with your friendly comments and bringing the family. Although one thing did raise a frown for me this year – whilst judging I saw, sitting down at the front of the stage, an Ewok complete with realistic face paint and costume trickery. Except, the Ewok in question had never heard of an Ewok. This not only confused me, but also Mr Sweeney – we really should find better things to talk about when the show’s over…

Anyway, tattoos and Star Wars characters aside, who could have banked on Jessops going bust! We had vouchers for the winner of the National Photography competition too. No matter, a quick switch to that pool that never empties called Amazon saw Kristy Ranson walk away a happy camper with a smooth £350 for a totally worthy shot of her daughter and friend, and even got her head around sending a message to the masses about choosing your artist wisely. This is what we like to see.

Also worthy of note this year was the input of Tony Unwin at Kirituhitattoo (thanks Chief), who helped us to redefine the award category for tribal. Tribal gets a bad rap these days, and yet, I’m pretty sure nearly every studio under the sun would have gone broke in the late ’90s if it hadn’t existed. Proving that there’s plenty of life in the genre, we’re really starting to look at the living art of multi-nesian tattoos in a whole different light where shows are concerned.

Finally, although you probably shouldn’t have favourites in this game, sometimes, the subject matter or a certain tattoo simply make you smile, so I have no qualms whatsoever on giving an extra mention to Scott Owen at Mantra for his work that won Best Small Colour. I liked that a whole lot – it’s one thing to study work and see how technically excellent it is, but it’s another to just see something that brings a smile to your face. I also need to mention here that the photograph of Tibor’s piece that won Best of Convention is not even close to portraying how superb it was. Up against some really stiff competition – a portrait of Audrey Hepburn for one that was quite honestly phenomenal also – the little dude almost passed out when he found out he had won. There’s some serious talent out there in the world – foster it, be drawn to it, and let them know.

And that – bringing smiles to faces – is what Tattoo Freeze does best. No sad faces here at all. Not until they tried to get on some trains the next day anyway… but at least you were stranded with a cool tattoo, right?

Winners List

Best of Convention - Tibor Galiger at Woodpecker

Best Small Black & Grey - Sile Sanda at Rock 'n' Roll Studios

Best Large Black and Grey - Chris Ormand at Kri8or

Best Small Colour - Scott Owen at Mantra Tattoo

Best Large Colour - Marc Nutley at Studio Ink

Best Oriental - Pete Oz at 7 Star

Best Portrait - Kat Wilson at Hello Sailor, Blackpool

Best Avant Garde - Expanded Eye

Best Multinesian - Mark Frost at Blood, Sweat and Pain

Best Realism - Eugene Rubuls at Ian Ink


Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Nicky Connor