TattooJam 2010

Published: 22 September, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 190, September, 2010

The biggest event in our tattooing calendar came at us like a herd of rampaging bison. The 2010 Jam was everything we expected it to be and so much more...

There are many ways to kick off the biggest weekend in our year and I almost made it to the cab share that Roman Abrego jumped into that was headed for the Racecourse. Almost being the key word as he was just a little bit too fast for me and those Doncaster cab drivers certainly know a good thing when they see it. Money was changing hands in the taxi rank faster than a weekend in Vegas at the poker tables.

As luck would have it, later on that very same day, Roman being the rather splendid gentleman that he is gave up big chunk of his time to make up for it and sat down to talk to us pretty extensively about his life, the universe and everything else.

In my book, that’s how you start your run at a convention though to be perfectly frank, the time I spent at the train station waiting for the next cab to show up was just about all the downtime I had for the whole weekend. As soon as I was acquainted myself with this seriously excellent venue (they must have spent millions on it and it shows), it was off with a camera crew, a photographer, a Dictaphone and a bag of sharp wits to shanghai as many artists as possible to take part in our video interviews, rustle up future features for the magazine and soak up the atmosphere.

With Paul Booth still being one of the biggest draws at this – or any other – convention, it was good to meet up with him again. He doesn’t change much – but he does get better and better in his domain and puts so much back into the industry that the public never sees, that he probably deserves an award of some description – that would be apart from all the ones he has already. Ten years ago, he was the first tattoo artist I ever interviewed. In that conversation, I learned more about the art and the industry than I have in any other conversation since... and for that I feel justified in paying him this lip service.

Not to be outdone (not that it was a competition), Brandon Bond made his presence well felt. This was definitely his year. More people asked me where they could find him than anybody else and with good reason. One look at his current portfolio show why his name is at the forefront of pop culture when it comes to the ink world. Sadly, as you can imagine, I never got even five minutes to sit down with him. That is one seriously in demand guy – and it’s well deserved. He’s what my old man would called a worker! If Bond believes in something, the whole world will get to know about it!

...and then a strange and very unexpected thing happened. I was downloading some files for the bossman when Jodie Marsh showed up – and I need to say this next bit out loud: I had preconceived notions about her, you can’t help it with people in the public eye for apparently very little reason but she turned me around. Jodie gets a hard time in the press but I tell you what, she works hard at what she does – really hard. She was very nice to all of the people who work for Skin Deep and I found her to be a genuinely nice person. She had turned up to shoot a segment of a documentary she was making for TV but didn’t act like a prima donna and was very respectful of the artists at work. It’s always nice to be surprised.

Anyway, after she had finished talking the hind legs off this donkey, I finally tracked down Megan Massacre at Deep Six who was busy battling the demon that gets to everybody at some time – the travel adaptor plug - and handed over a fistful of her cover shoot copies of Skin Shots. Delightful and committed are a couple of great words to use to describe her. Show me somebody that doesn’t love what she does and I’ll show you a person who’s tired of life.

Is that enough of Artist Friday? No? Want some more? I must have gone back to Tanane Whitfield’s booth six or seven times only to find him – every single time – busy with the needles. That man never stops but I’ll get him in the end. His name is in the front of the book as somebody I’m expecting great things from in the coming year. No pressure then...

No review of the show would be justified without saying a huge thank you to all of the traders manning their stalls this year. You could barely go ten paces without digging your hand into your pocket – there’s some seriously good merch out there at the moment.

But all good Artist Friday’s must come to an end – only this one never seemed to! That very same evening, the Tattoo Masters Ball started off innocuously enough with gentle chat but soon descended into the wanton banshee wailing of the Skin Deep Sirens hogging the karaoke stage – they weren’t the only ones either. Is nothing sacred anymore? And you know, I like Journey, but I swear if I hear that damn song one more time...

Thence came the award ceremony – nervous? Me? Having been in the job all of seven hours? Bring it on. I’ll let everybody else be the judge of that but awards needed to be handed out and awards were – there was a great selection of winners this year and all more than justified. Somebody who was paying attention at the time will have recorded this for posterity and provided all the information in a nice box somewhere in this supplement. Me? I was too preoccupied with the 9000 watt bulbs bearing down on me to be writing.

But with the “official” (I use the term loosely) part over, the Ball got into swing mode within seconds. A big thank you to everybody who came over to say hi and talk about the magazine with me – it’s always nice to be welcomed, though I must have missed a very important meeting about the evening as I did wonder why I was the only person there not dressed as a cowboy...

Still with a long list of people to talk to, the weekend proper began very early. It’s only a short walk from the hotel to the venue but what where all these people doing queuing up at

9.30 in the morning? And as the morning wore on, the crowd outside just got bigger and bigger. And then bigger again. I’ve seen some long lines in my time, but this came under the heading of serious.

Once everybody was in, the Big Game began - the reason everybody came, and boy did they come from all corners of the globe to get some art from some of the best names in the business. It was a sight to behold watching people in line waiting for artists who have studios in the UK as well. It’s very easy to forget with an international festival and big names being bandied about that the majority of artists are UK based and have come to work – and work hard. To those of you who are the backbone of this convention, we salute each of you! The temptation and tendency is always to concentrate on the big names but there are many worthy of accolades working the UK as well.

With very little time to say hello to everybody, we can hopefully rectify that at future events, but meantime I was introduced to a very unassuming couple who caused my eyes to go very wide with the quality of their work. That would be Volko and Simone at Buena Vista Tattoo Club – the results of our liaison can be found in this month’s magazine, so I don’t need to say anything further. Apart from “thanks” and “wow” maybe.

Tattoo Jam '10 Competition Winners

Best small black & grey
Mel by Eze Nunez

Best large black & grey
Stephen Crolla by Jin, Jin Tattoos

Best small colour
Mike Nomikos by Billy Hay, Custom Inc

Best large colour
Rena by George Mavridis, Tattooligans

Best portrait
Joey by Leigh Oldcorn, Cosmic Tattoo

Best backpiece
Katia Aprile by Snappy Gomez, Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour

Best tribal/celtic
Kai by Julie Clarke, Flaming Gun

Best Oriental
Dickie by Arran Burton, Cosmic Tattoo

Best of Saturday
Joey by Leigh Oldcorn, Cosmic Tattoo

Best of Sunday
Sam Sorci by Tanane Whitfield, fuzion ink

Best of Convention
Rena by George Mavridis, tattooligans


Text: Sion Smith & Paula Hardy Kangelos; Photography: Eleri Griffiths, Rafal Jachimczyk & Owen Moran


Skin Deep 190 21 September 2010 190