One of the things I love the most about getting a new tattoo (besides the tattoo obviously) is the noise – the electric buzzing that goes hand-in-hand with the creation of works of art on skin. With this in mind, walking into Tattoo Jam last Saturday was akin to going to listen to the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The sound of almost 300 tattoo machines all being wielded by some of the most talented artists from across the globe was beautiful music to my ears. Held once again at Doncaster Racecourse over the course of 3 days, Tattoo Jam is one of the country’s largest conventions and attracts thousands of visitors. Despite the number of people attending, the venue is perfectly sized so that it never feels overcrowded. I had ample space to wander between artist booths to gaze longingly at all the flash on offer and chat with the tattooists. The only downside of this is that when you have time to look continuously at great tattoos on offer, you have time to say (over and over again), “I want that one, and that one, maybe that one too…”
Whether you were after the gothic, realistic stylings of Ollie Tye, a Mandela from Laura Weller or something a bit more colourful by Foxy Ellie, Jam had the artists to cater for your tastes. I eventually settled on a traditional style mace as my convention tattoo of choice, done by Stuart Clark of Ruby Ink Tattoo. And it wasn’t just the tattoo artists who were there to keep us all entertained and busy, if the journey to Doncaster had left you a bit stiff and sore you could head up to the second floor and unwind with a seated massage and a wonder round the art gallery to unwind. Perhaps you felt your hair wasn’t quite on point and needed sharpening up? No problem, just go see the guys at Sandyman Chop Shop for a trim.
If you hadn’t spent all your money on tattoos then there were plenty of vendors and traders dotted around the main hall offering everything from clothes and jewellery from the likes of Alibi Clothing, Offend My Eyes and Holly Angel Jewellery through to the more macabre delights of Voodoo Oddities and Cranfield’s Curiosity Cabinet. I never thought I would hear myself say I needed a mummified puppy in my life (my girlfriend didn’t agree!) After all the walking, hand-shaking and internal debating of what to spend your hard earned cash on, Tattoo Jam once again had your back with a well stocked bar and plenty of seats on which to park your backside and enjoy the entertainment laid on at the main stage. Brilliantly compered by comedian Paul Sweeney… who at one point in proceedings bench-pressed a young lady from the crowd. Astounding talent.
Whether it was the fire breathing, angle grinding antics of the Chaos Dolls or the purely wince-inducing display from The Baron, the world champion of weight lifting with his nipples (yes, his nipples) you knew you were going to be impressed. Live music was present all day, which made for a perfect backdrop to chat to fellow tattoo lovers and sip on your poison of choice. Proceedings on Saturday were headlined by the judging of the tattoo competitions, with the categories of Colour, Oriental, Black and Dotwork, Avant Garde and the much sort after Best of Saturday all being contested. I certainly didn’t envy the judges at this point; the quality of work on show was simply mind blowing!
The piece that took first spot for Avant Garde is particularly worth a mention as it was a three-way collaboration from Ollie Tye, Hollie May Wall and Lauren Hanson and was breathtaking in its style and complexity (pictured above). Tattoo Jam ticked every box for a spectacular and highly enjoyable event, something it appears to do year on year and is the reason it continues to be one of the highlights of the convention calendar. Speaking for myself, the day was made by the people present, irrespective of whether they were working the convention or a guest, everyone had time to stop and chat and have a laugh. If you weren’t as lucky as me and didn’t get to leave with a new tattoo, you certainly went home with a big grin.