Tattoo Jam 2012 Show Report

Published: 07 November, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 218, November, 2012

Here we go again. With the Manchester International Show now sitting pretty in the previously sunny August spot of our calendar, Tattoo Jam found itself a new home during pumpkin season when the sun sets early only to let the stars come out and shine…

When the highlight of Tattoo Jam isn’t getting to swank about in Adam Ant’s jacket, you know it was great show – but where to start? I mean, even when you’re there, it’s impossible to catch everything, but there were multiple opportunities to catch girls walking up ladders made of swords, girls eating fire, girls taking their clothes off… but it wasn’t all for the guys. There was also plenty of time to catch the demon Sickboy drilling masonry attachments up his nose and doing things with a chainsaw that they probably advise against in the instruction manual. Most dangerous of all, there was a stand-up comic with a tongue faster than his brain could keep up with.

Across the traditional three-day tattoo bender, there was also a glut of art, pumpkin drilling, scary dressing up, a couple of nasty looking stilt-walking Ring Wraith type things, and most importantly of all, a mega-ton of incredible tattoos, just as many laughs, and if there were tears, then I guarantee they were for the right reasons.

Let’s rewind for a moment. With the benefit of hindsight and a total of about five hours on stage judging the fruit of everybody’s labour, I can hand on heart say that the standard of tattoos pumped out this weekend is the highest I have ever seen. Everybody brought their game face this year, and the bar has been raised now to such a point where there’s no excuse for anybody in the UK to ever have an average tattoo again. We’re talking some serious raising of standards here… and they were already pretty damn high.

As is only right and correct, it takes me about three hours to do a full circuit of the floor – and may the Gods have mercy, I do try to say hello to everybody, but by the time the bell rings for school to start, it’s not long before everybody on the floor is buzzing with work. So on
a personal note, if I missed you, it’s only out of respect for letting you get on with your weekend.

The Tattoo Masters’ Ball which took place in its traditional spot on ARTIST friDAY evening unleashed a few surprises in the Industry Award camp. Major kudos went out to Bez at Triple6 for taking the Best UK Male award – there was nothing but respect for that one I promise you. It’s kind of like watching Led Zeppelin get an award for something because there’s simply no arguing with just how great that guy is. Rakhee Shah took a hold of the Best UK Female award, and again, that was much deserved. Rakhee plays her cards very close to her chest, doesn’t broadcast anything with a megaphone and slowly, word of mouth has made her very popular – but we’ve been watching, and a lot of us here at Skin Deep rather suspect that she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Tanane Whitfield took home one an award, which was pretty cool given that he designed them for us. Reasons? The guy is a grade-A globetrotter who just gets better and better every time we see him. To put it in perspective for you, when we rolled it at 4am from having a few post-show drinks, who should we find sitting at the breakfast table drawing with Boog and working like a dog? That’s right, Tanane, who had only finished something like a 12-hour sitting a few hours previously. That, my friends, is who the future belongs to.

It also warmed the heart to be able to hand out our new Best Innovation Style Award to Paul Talbot. This new addition to the pantheon was brought about by some thought going into what we saying with these awards. They really had to begin to mean something special as we go forwards, and next year will hopefully see them expanded into more categories (but don’t quote me on that). Anyway, we felt that Paul totally deserved this for sticking to his guns and pushing forward in a style not always appreciated by the British public – that’s one bar already set very high.

Talking of heart-warming, it was nothing but a total pleasure to hand one of these pumpkin bombs over to Wayne and Pam at ABH for their outstanding contribution to the industry. They work tirelessly at everything, if you need a hand with something – they’re the go-to guys. Throw in Ink 4 Heroes and the Cupcake Club and you have a great bunch of people giving everything they’ve got to this community. Totally deserved. No question.

Finally, we also added a Best Newcomer Award; this was aimed well and truly at finding somebody who was on the road constantly, was improving every time we saw them, and was constantly on the tip of other artist’s tongues as somebody to watch out for. Beki Sanderson walked home with that one… a little shell-shocked maybe, but definitely walking.

Saturday saw big queues as usual rattling the doors to come in, and – as always – ten minutes after the doors were opened, it looked like the Jam had already been on for a few hours. And like those battleships in War of the Worlds, still they come.

It’s hard trying to be omni-present at the Jam – it’s a big old space – but across the weekend, I bore witness to some quite remarkable things. Jeremy Miller, who joined us as a last minute addition from the States, found himself both the winner of Best of Saturday and also the creator of a tattoo for Dizz who funded his ink by means of a random collection from the generous patrons of the show. Weird.

My buddy, Mark Poole, not only finished one tattoo this weekend (for the man is well renowned for continually making things bigger than planned once started), but two! Looking forward to seeing more of this ‘finishing’ lark as the year progresses. John Anderton knocked a great sleeve out of the ballpark too and snatched a cool Best Black and Grey trophy for his trouble.

The troublesome crew at Bridgend put in some serious work across the weekend (check out that Michael Jackson tat from Chris), and Johnny D also found himself well and truly making it onto my editorial map by upping his game on himself. Andy Walker at Creative Vandals continues to get better every time I see him; Tony Unwin introduced me to a whole new world when it comes to describing where tribal tattooing is headed in the West; and Toko and Kevin James from Needleside proved that there is nothing quite so captivating as art that you don’t really understand but know is white-hot anyway.

I know I’ve missed out a whole load of people and these are only my highlights – ah, if only I had the room to let you know what everybody was up to. Still, like I say about most things, if you cared, you were there. If you weren’t, next year, come join us. It really is a total blast.

On a final personal note – from Arabella Drummond to Xoil (can’t think of anybody that was kicking around with a name that begins with a Z, so that will have to do), and everybody in between – thanks for making Tattoo Jam 2012 a landmark event yet again.

Which really begs the question, what the hell are we going to do do for next year? Bring it on… whatever it is.


For some reason, we decided in our wisdom that anybody that worked for Skin Deep/Jazz would not be allowed to enter their tattoos into the competitions. Which is dumb because none of us are tattoo artists, but you know what people can be like. Anyway, my buddy James got the chance to sit down with Xoil this weekend and the result is this tattoo right here. Too good to let it sit on his arm forever and not let you guys see it – so here it is. Months of thought, a great artist briefing and a total handover of trust for Xoil to do his thing and you have yourself a tattoo that’s simply incredible. Jealous? Me? I did punch him in the bollocks for his trouble…


Sometimes, something very small can snap a very large object into a very sharp focus for you. Tattoo Jam is a serious amount of fun, but when I got home, I discovered that for some people, it means one hell of a lot more than that. This tattoo – created by Przemek at Dragon’s Den in Blackpool – has a beautiful story behind it. A story that I’m not going to publish here… instead I’m going to send you to its source: If other posts have superceded it, scroll until you find The Perfect Tattoo. My heart melted…

Winners List

Small Black & Grey - Sam by Jarek Baka at The Country Gent / Rock Tattoo

Large Black & Grey - Chris Winlow by John Anderton at Nemesis Tattoo Studio

Oriental - Colin Ellis by Jo Harrison at Modern Body Art

Portrait - Ed John by Ben Laukis at Pure Vision

Best Realism - Lauren Stephens by Tom Ruki at Tenacious Tattoo

Best Avant Garde - Scott Carney by Xoil at Needle Side

Chest Piece - Matt Lowe by Nigel Kurt at Funhouse Tattoo

Small Colour - Adrian Parrish by Simon Cooke at The Ink Spot

Large Colour - Mark Conner by Bez at Triplesix

Best of Saturday - Paul Joyce by Jarek Baka at The Country Gent/Rock Tattoo

Best of Sunday - John Potter by Jeremy Miller at Pigment

Best of Convention - Paul Joyce by Jarek Baka at The Country Gent/Rock Tattoo


Text: Sion; Photography: Mina & Aga