The Big Chill - Tattoo Freeze 2012

Published: 06 March, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 209, March, 2012

Despite predictions to the contrary, the weather was extremely kind to Tattoo Freeze. Nobody got banged up on the roads… in fact, so far as a winter convention goes, it was pretty damn seamless.

It all began with two polar opposites on the Saturday evening. You always have it in your head that maybe everything will be ready to roll and you’ll be able to hit the bar early, but it never quite works out like that. A few hours in, I find Mark Poole setting up a ‘device’ – a device that has people talking all weekend. With a rig that’s been wired into a perfectly designed steampunk clock, it sure looks the part and does the job of stopping people in their tracks. Nice work.

Meantime, not 100 feet away, John Anderton has knocked himself up a battery-powered rig just for laughs. Not even something as obvious like a car battery, but a little nine-volt square stuck on with tape. It’s at this point I figured it was going to be a pretty fun show come the open doors.

This year, the show has been cut down to a single day and I have to be honest, it’s all the better for it – the line of people outside the door is in total agreement. Intense, extremely busy and a whole load of fun for everybody, maybe this is what the world needs to get the year off to a good start.

Seeing what Xoil has set out for himself in the coming hours is always a great place to begin – and today he has a huge custom piece. I know before he even begins that he will still be putting finishing touches to this piece long after everybody else has started to pack away; and sure enough, come the end of the day, he’s still ploughing in the perfectionist’s finishing touches that make him the cutting edge artist that he is. It looks painful, but beautiful and worth every final stroke that’s put into it. Mark my words – one day his name will be spoken in the same hushed tones as Yann Black as a major influence on dozens upon dozens of artists in years to come…

There are many repeat offenders here this year as well – Tattoo Freeze is really starting to cement itself as a staple in the diary for both artists and fans. On this repeat offender list, we have Kat and Taco from Happy Sailor in Blackpool, who after putting in some serious hours into setting up a great little studio, are really starting to make a name for themselves on the circuit. It’s also great to see ABH again – those guys must prop up most of the conventions in the UK right now.

It’s also always a pleasure to see people work so hard that you never get a chance to speak with them. Most notable under this banner are Jo and Rachel (Modern Body Art), who, every time I walked past, had their heads down as far as I could see for the entire day. Or maybe they just saw me coming…

Meanwhile, in the background, those Roller Girls took to the arena again. I can’t say I understand the rules any better than I did last year, but man, it’s incredibly good fun to watch. I think the key is to stand there for a long period of time and let it sink into you by osmosis – either that or get a pair of skates on.

Ice sculpting is not normally top of my list to stand around and watch, but again, the guys at Glacial Art prove that when you actually see something being created in the flesh – so to speak – your opinions can be changed quite dramatically as you marvel at exactly how great art is created.

And I think that brings us pretty much full circle. There’s a lot of fans here this year for whom it’s their first time at the show – any show come to that – and this is what conventions do best. Providing a wide open forum for people to engage, or not engage if they prefer – is priceless when it comes to pushing tattoo forwards as an artform. Of note this year – and frowned upon by some (self included originally) was the addition of the VW Camper trade area. Whilst the traders themselves held no interest to me personally, what it did provide was a great environment for those who were mildly interested in tattoo to filter across into the main arena to see what it was all about.

Suffice to say, there were more than a few people towards the end of the day sporting a cling-film wrap as well as sexy additions for their buses – and that can only be a good thing. Thus, I stand corrected.

One of the things I do understand in the peripherals around here though is music. Such is the nature of working a show that you never get to see all the things you wanted to, but in the run up to the show, I became quite enthralled by Jemma Krysa’s YouTube uploads. That was one aspect I wasn’t going to miss out on. If you’re a fan of acoustic music, you’re missing out on a real treat if you’ve been neglecting Jemma. As luck and technology would have it, you can rectify that right here, right now:

In the coming years, I for one (and I’m not alone) would welcome more acoustic-based music at all conventions. The show is after all about the art, but to be able to opt in/ opt out of acoustic performances is genius – and hellfire, there’s some serious talent kicking around this country if you care to look.

Finally, it was nothing but a pleasure to see Chantale Coady walk away with the Best of Convention award for her Pan’s Labyrinth depiction. It’s not been so long since she decided to go it alone, and winning was testament to how long and hard she has worked – besides which, it was damn fine piece in the flesh – hopefully the photograph does it justice. For what (always) seems like an eternity on the judging stage, we came up with nine great winners. Not to take anything away from those winners, but it will always be a Highlander’s shame that there ‘can be only one’, when there’s so much good work to choose from. Check out the box copy for the official results.

The Winners

Best of Convention - Chantale Coady, Electric Vintage
Best Small Black & Grey - Anabi, Anabi Tattoo
Best Large Colour - Phatt German, No Regrets
Best Small Colour - Carl Zambra, Bodyart
Best Back Piece - Daniel Watson, Vida Loca
Best Large Black & Grey - Ronnie Goddard, Blood Sweat & Pain
Best Portrait - Kat Wilson, Happy Sailor
Best Tribal/Celtic - Mark Frost, Sim1ink
Best Oriental - Daniel Watson, Vida Loca


Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Aga Hairesis