Getting a Buzz On - Tattoo Jam 2011

Published: 19 September, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 203, September, 2011

Ah, the sweet smell of an empty coliseum… or at least that’s what it looks like before all those stands go up and the car park gets harder and harder to find room in. Thus began Tattoo Jam 2011.

Hard to believe that exactly one year ago, I stood in the middle of all of this and wondered if I was really going to take on the beast of Skin Deep and its associated entourage. Now? I wouldn’t change it for the world. Well... for the world I might, but you know what I mean.

One year ago, if you told me I would have been sitting on the floor of a hotel lobby with a case of Budweiser, a loaf of bread, Jesse Smith, Sweet Lorraine, Tanane Whitfield and the design crew from Skin Deep comparing great stuff we had all discovered on our phones, I would have laughed in your face. I’m not exactly sure where the loaf of bread comes into play though. I think maybe Jesse bought it out of curiosity at the all night ASDA. Just because he could. Only at Tattoo Jam, huh. Now let me think...

Artist Friday

The day that the artists get to hang out with each other. The day that old friends catch up before the madness begins. The day that artists get tattooed by other artists is always a fun sequence of events.

And what better way to start the show than to check in throughout the day on Jesse Smith tattooing last year's award winner Mat Lapping? Man, that was a long stretch but that’s what you get for holding out for what you really want. Killer work.

It was also pretty great to see the French contingent at the Jam meeting up with each other for the first time in years – Xoil, Noon, Jef and Kostas. Even better to find myself entering into a conversation about the talent of Yann Black. The fact that his contemporaries enjoyed the show so much gives me much faith that next year, I may be able to pull off the impossible and get him over. Fingers crossed.

Event of the day without doubt was the MasterClass that included the skills of Jeff Gogue, Jesse Smith, Nikko Hurtado, Lianne Moule and Jason Butcher. The results of said friendly showdown can still be seen and bid for at (until September 30), but watching these works being created from the ground up was a privilege and a pleasure. I don’t think there was one person in that room not totally knocked out by watching these world class talents working live in the flesh. Not something you get to see everyday, that’s for sure.

Time totally flew by culminating in the main event of the day – the Tattoo Masters’ Ball. Full details of the winners of the awards you can find in a box lurking somewhere within these pages, but all in all, it was a firecracker of an evening. Our resident – and very popular – host this year was Paul Sweeney who stood in for the (and I quote directly from Jim himself) “windswept and interesting” Mr Smallman, who had prior commitments at the Fringe festival. There was Karnage Karaoke, drinking and one hell of a lot of catching up to be done, which eventually and rather hazily led into…


And they’re open! The doors that is – and the whole of Doncaster Racecourse was transformed in minutes from a place in which people looked liked they ‘might soon be busy’ into a joint that was teeming with life. Within a half hour or so, there wasn’t one booth not buzzing with action – and there was some seriously hot shit going down too. The team at Cock A Snook where turning over some seriously impressive and original work throughout the weekend – quite possibly one of the best studios in the UK? You bet.

Saturday evening also saw the results of the tattoo entries of the day, with possibly the longest line of entrants into the ‘Best Small Colour’ category that any convention has ever seen. Flanked by a very heavily pregnant Paula Hardy-Kangelos, Dave Perry and Leticia from Triple X, one thing became very apparent early on to me in the judging this year – the standard of tattooing in this country is quite possibly at an all-time high. Aside from those that registered themselves into the comp, there were dozens and dozens from across the weekend that weren’t entered too. As I said to many people across the pre-show promo for the event, “if you’ve never been to a big show, come. Come and see for yourself what goes on here – you’ll be blown away by the standards.”
Little did we expect to think the same thing, but man, it’s great to see...


Phew. Sunday, bloody Sunday. It’s been a long weekend and it wasn’t slowing down any that’s for sure. Another huge crowd streams in and suddenly it doesn’t feel like any of us have been to bed. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of us hadn’t. Sunday saw a lot of work being completed and even more new work started – by the time we got to the awards in the evening, I swear we were all tattoo blind. We mixed things up for the judging this evening where I was joined by my intrepid colleague, Trent Aitken-Smith, and also John Anderton. Hey – if anybody knows technical ability around here, it’s that man. There were some brilliant winners in each of the categories today – there were also some incredible non-winners which is the one time that it really is a shame there can be only one.

Also across the weekend of the Jam – forgive me, the days blurred everso slightly into one – the gorgeous Millie Dollar gave us a show worth a million polaroids, Scary Guy showed up to chill for a while, and the aforementioned Paul Sweeney made an awful lot of fans. Meantime, busy pounding ink, the big guns of Jeff Gogue, Nikko Hurtado and Jesse Smith had moved from the canvases to booths and gathered some serious attention. Also worthy of a mention with some beautiful work that seemingly went on forever (thus working themselves out of the competition) were Victor Policheri, Remis, Tanane Whitfield, John Anderton, Xoil, Noon... hell, the list goes on forever and you can’t be everywhere at once.

One thing is for sure though, there has been a lot of trash talked about this industry recently. It’s been bigged up and put down in equal measure. It’s been accused of being too populist and the media still like to focus on the scare stories, but if you stand above it and look at the quality of the work being put out and what is available to you as a collector, you’ve never had it so good. It’s high time we started to enjoy this art form every single day and not just at
the shows.

The official bit at the end

It would be remiss of me not to mention the sponsors here, who all contributed to making Jam 2011 what it was: Ouch Tattoo, Sailor Jerry and Cheyenne. Special thanks also goes out to our award sponsors (in no particular order): New Image, Emillion Irons (we need to talk about “bar-tactics” next time bro), Dannys Tattoo Supplies, FK Irons, Infinite Irons, Barber DTS, Blue Banana, Got Ink Apparel, Tattoo UK, C & P Medical, Dark Art Airbrushing, Disturbia, Hex, Stigma Rotary and Black Cat Aftercare. Bringing up the rear is also this lovely crew without whom none of this would have happened: Initial Medical, Plinth 2000, The Mobile sink Company, Duncan Technical Services (Autoclave) and Willy Robinson (Tattoo Museum). A nod of the head must also go out to the traders, who remain unsung heroes of events like this by providing a different focus every now and then for everybody.

Good work all.

So there you go. Where else would you see Jeff Gogue riding shotgun in a van that’s seen many better days as he goes in search of art supplies. Like I said, only at Tattoo Jam...

Winners list

Best of Saturday/Best of convention: Robert by Henrik Gallon
Best of Sunday: Joanne by Kosa
Large Black & Grey Greg by Anabi
Small Black & Grey: Mat by Rogal
Large Colour: George Mavridis
Small Colour: Lila by Anabi
Portrait: Daniel by Remis
Back Piece: Dariusz by Kosa
Chest Piece: Danielle by Sam Bowyer
Celtic/Tribal: Jim by Podge
Oriental: Soren by Johan Finné

Special Thanks to our sponsors

Barber DTS
Black Cat Aftercare
C & P Medical
Danny's Tattoo Supplies
Dark Art Airbrushin'
Duncan Technical
Emillion Irons
FK Irons
Got Ink Apparel
Hex Piercing
Infinite Irons
Initial Rentokil
Mobile Sink Hire
New Image Supplies
Ouch Tattoo
Plinth 2000
Sailor Jerry
Stigma Rotary
Tattoo Blue Banana
Tattoo UK
Skin Deep
Skin Shots
Tattoo Master
Big Tattoo

"I worked Tattoo Jam for the first time last weekend and it was great fun! The best convention I've worked so far!”
Aimée Lou, Bespoke Tattoo Company, Guildford, UK

"Just a small word to thank U for your invitation – I have spent a great week end. This was a really well organised tattoo convention."

"Just like to say Tattoo Jam was awesome. All the staff where superb and a credit to Skin Deep mag!"
Jason Ling, Broken Heart Tattoo


Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Kayla Wren