Tattoofest Krakow 2012

Published: 23 July, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 214, July, 2012

I always wanted to visit this tattoo convention. I’ve heard so many good things about this event, but unfortunately something always came up and I couldn’t go.

This year however, after talking to organizers, whom I have now met many times at various European conventions and who are great, passionate people, I decided to book my flight right away and put this event into my calendar. One thing you need to know about my diary… once something goes in there, it’s pretty much final. I was particularly happy about this festival and was looking forward to it for many reasons, but mainly because I’ve never been to a Polish convention before! After checking out the artist list, which looked very promising, and doing some research about Kraków itself… well, I couldn’t think of a better place to start my Polish tattoo adventure.

I arrived in Kraków on Friday night, after a rather informative taxi ride from the airport to my friends place. And for raising my awareness about the poor social and economic infrastructure here, it felt good to give the driver a nice tip before turning my mind to the event I was excitedly anticipating.

I was staying in a flat in an old townhouse nearby most of Kraków’s tourist attractions. Within walking distance to Wawel, I hadn’t planned or had time to sightsee, but somehow I got lost and found myself walking around a beautiful castle. Lifts aren’t very popular in Kraków, and stairs are long and high so it was a nice workout before the busy weekend – and believe me when I say it was a very busy weekend indeed.

The building might not be very appealing from the outside, but even a huge grey box can be exciting when it’s filled with some incredible artworks and such a great positive vibe. Through the doors I immediately noticed Jess Yen working on a backpiece. Then there was Kult Crew; Kult is a local, but worldwide known tattoo shop based in Kraków… do the names Davee and Edek ring a bell? Well, they should because those guys are travelling the world showing off their amazing skills.

Right from the beginning there was VANS Authentic painting going on at the stage. Artists:  Davee, Edek, Marcin Surowiec, Fishero, Bartosz Panas, Hakan, Ed Perdomo, Saxe, Victor Portugal, Adriaan Machete, Anders Aagesen, Bam, Lehel Nyestewere, and even Boog himself, were transferring their skills onto the white fabric kindly donated by Vans of their most iconic shoes, which were later auctioned with all the money going to Kraków Zoological Garden.

The program was fully packed with performances and fashion shows; very interesting entertainment, there was most certainly something for everyone. I must say it was pretty crowded in front of the stage most of the time, which I think speaks for itself.

First competition of Saturday, check this out now… The Ugliest Tattoo Contest. A very popular category, very well received by the public and such an ice breaker for everyone. What a great, fun way to start the competitive part of the event! Then to calm everyone down after what was an emotional contest, we were given an insight into the braids world by alternative hair studio, Cococabana. If you thought that you can do anything with ink and skin these days, you were right! And clearly this also applies to hair – the Cocacabana girls have huge imaginations and the skill to match.

After the show, the evening became very busy with the competitions, and that’s where the serious business started. I knew before going to Kraków to expect to see lots of great quality tattoos given the high caliber of artists invited… but what I saw exceeded all my expectations (mine too! Ed.) I’m used to going to conventions where 50 or 60 percent of the tattoos entered are alright, awesome, even breathtaking, leaving a huge percentage of works that aren’t, to say the least, ‘masterpieces’. But here in Kraków, most of the works were stunning and exceptionally well executed. Taking photos backstage was
never busier.

Two artists especially caught my eye: Silvia Pretto and her female portraits – I simply love her great choice of colors and attention to detail; and I can say exactly the same about Randy Engelhard’s piece. Randy works at German studio, Heaven of Colours… I won’t be exaggerating saying that the name of his studio perfectly reflects what his tattoos are like. There were also stunning sleeves by Tofi and big pieces by Bartosz Panas, presenting both of these artists mastered paint-style skills. I could talk for hours about particular pieces, but I won’t do that unless Skin Deep is turning into a book…

I need to add here that I felt truly sorry for the jury. They had many tough decisions to make. I wouldn’t have liked to be in their shoes.

In between the contests were the Grotesque Singer act and TRASH Brand – clothing fashion show. Then after announcing the best of the day tattoo winner, the stage was taken over by the legendary Superfly Suspension crew from Berlin along with special guest, Coco Katsura, from Japan. I had the great pleasure to watch their professional suspension and bondage show last year on a much bigger stage. One thing I realized watching them in Kraków… big stage, or small – doesn’t matter at all in their case because they’ll still leave you speechless and wide eyed regardless of the space they have to play with.
After this day packed with entertainment and the tattoo machine buzz still going on in our ears, we went to the afterparty at the Hard Rock Cafe in the heart of Kraków. Sitting outside at the famous Market Square, enjoying the great weather, chatting with newly met and old friends – what a perfect end to a great day.

Day Two

When I realized the day before was so busy that I hadn’t even had the chance to attend seminars and have a proper look from booth to booth to see what’s going on under the needles – that’s when the craziness started. Short day, so much to see and so many people I wanted to talk to.

I almost didn’t notice the Banana Ink booth. Such an amazing opportunity for anyone who would like to see what the work of the tattoo artist looks like and it’s not every day you get the chance to ink a banana under the watchful eye of professionals. Running between the contests, shooting some lovely girls in latex and taking pictures of the artists at work made my day fly by too quickly.

The grey building that I mentioned earlier was surrounded more and more by colorful graffiti along the theme of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). Darek Paczkowski, street artist and the guy responsible for this fun and very informative activity, highlighted that GMO is not a problem only for agriculturists, but also inhabitants of bigger cities. Many people associate GMO only with a thing that is dangerous to health, but Darek wants you to sit up and know that it also causes huge environmental, economic and social disasters.

It was a real pleasure to visit Kraków for Tattoofest and to see so many familiar faces as well as meet some great people from around the world. My sincere congratulations to the organizers for putting such a great event together. They thought of everything, but no surprise there given that I see Radek, Ola and Krysia at many European tattoo conventions. They’re professionals who have been in the tattoo industry for many years and they’re also tattoo collectors themselves. They’re the kind of people I love being surrounded by – people passionate about what they do who somehow manage to make this a wonderful, friendly, fun and homely atmosphere. Well done Tattoofest crew for making this event so special for everyone.

See you in Kraków in 2013 for the 8th edition of Tattoofest… missing you already!

Tattoo Contest Results

Female Composition

1st place - David Rudziński, Theatrum Symbolica
2nd place - Bartosz Panas, Caffeine Tattoo, Warszawa

Large Composition

1st place - Bartosz Panas, Caffeine Tattoo, Warszawa
2nd place - Tofi, Ink-Ognito, Rybnik

Old school/New school

1st place - Marcin Surowiec,Małpy w Cykru/On the road
2nd place - Jacob Pedersen, Crooked Moon Tattoo, Szwecja


1st place - David Rudziński, Theatrum Symbolica, Warszawa
2nd place - Kosa, Art Line, Rybnik

Best of Saturday

1st place - Paweł Gawkowski, Panteon, Białystok
2nd place - Nick Morte, Lucky 7, Norwegia

Small Colour

1st place - Sławek Myśków, Nautilus, Wrocław
2nd place - Kosa, Art Line, Rybnik

Big Colour

1st place - Tofi, Ink-Ognito, Rybnik

2nd place - Bartosz Panas, Caffeine Tattoo

Small Black & Grey

1st place - Elmo, Straight Line Tattoo, Nowy Targ
2nd place - Jarek, Rock Tattoo, Opole

Large Black & Grey

1st place - I Lars Uwe, Loxodrom Tattoo Berlin, Niemcy & Noon, Boucherie Traditionnelle, Francja
2nd place - AgRypa, 9th Circle, Kraków

Best of Sunday

1st place - Arek, Jokers Tattoo, Ostrów Wielkopolski
2nd place - Dzikson, Kraków


Text: David; Photography: Aga Hairesis