Mag
Articles
Seven Year Ink

Seven Year Ink

Words by

Published June 20, 2012

In a country where an opportunity to show off skin at the local swimming pool is as commonplace as a trip to the mall, it’s not so surprising to find out that we have the most tattoo artists per capita. In 2005, there were five separate tattoo shops in the 101 area with a total of eight resident artists. To put that into perspective, in Sweden that same year, there was one tattoo artist per 250.000 people. Yeah!
So it’s absolutely no surprise that the 7th Annual Icelandic Tattoo Convention was shoulder-to-bare-shoulder packed with everyone from amateurs to aficionados, first-timers and loyal customers, trying to get some of their birthday suit emblazoned with customised designs. Those who managed to get some ink over the course of the three days were quite lucky as it seemed that all of the nearly two dozen artists, local and international, were almost too busy to even take a bathroom break.
Shouting over the needles
When we stopped by on Saturday afternoon, the buzz of the tattoo machine was cranked up to the max. One had to shout awfully loud to greet people or to get the attention of the very concentrated ink-givers. Most tables were crammed with onlookers, many of them family or significant others. Where yours-truly managed to squeeze through to get a better look, some incredibly impressive work was taking place. First-time international artist Gent Stef, from Italy-via-Denmark, had been working 34-year-told Jón Svanur’s forearm for nearly three hours. “It’s my kid’s Chinese Zodiac sign,” Jón Svanur told us, “It means a lot to me.”
Getting tattoos for the family while keeping it in the family was a big trend at the festival. At Jason Donahue’s booth, another first-timer from San Francisco was preparing to get the names of her two teenage children tattooed to her wrists, while her eldest was getting ink of her own done by Holly Ellis at the next booth.
Ink is thicker than water
Over in the far back corner, American artist Mason Coriell was adding a jukebox to a series of rockabilly portraits he had previously done on 20-year-old student Alexandría. Mason, who splits his time between Iceland and Hawaii, was the kind of sociable artist that regales one with tales of sky-diving and jiu-jitsu training as well as keeping complete focus and precise needle-work. “I am very loyal to him,” Alexandría said, “He’s got me!”
Indeed, much like four hairdressers and other roving service people, establishing a loyal customer base is paramount in the world of tattooing and many of the international guest artists come to the festival because of their loyal clientele. Artists such as Thomas Asher, Sofia Estrella Olivieri and Jason June have earned high-standings from their frequent guest spots at Reykjavík Ink, the festival’s host parlour, and left them in high demand and with little time to spare. Good for them, less good for us poor bastards who didn’t pre-book them (full disclosure: Jason June is responsible for 95% of the tattoos on this article’s author)!
Good vibes in a new space
Aside from the addition of several new international artists to the roster, the biggest change at this year’s convention was its new locale. Whereas in previous years the festival had taken place at the old Bar 11 on Laugavegur and subsequently at Sódóma, prior to that bar turning back into Gaukur á Stöng, it all went down in a huge white tent plunked down in the yard behind Bar 11 this year. “At first I was a little sketched out by hearing it was going to be ‘open air’,” said Jason June who has been coming to the festival since its first year, “but it’s been really great. It hasn’t changed the feel of it.”
The feeling of which he spoke is one that many artists echoed: a good sense of closeness, friendly attitudes, intimacy and a chance to be personable. “It’s not like one of the big conventions where there might be more people, but I’ll do less work,” Jason Donahue said. “It’s smaller in size, but I’ve been busy almost the whole time.” The intimacy of the festival was probably best reflected in being able to stand within an arms’ reach of people getting deeply personal and meaningful artwork carved onto them, in some extremely sensitive spots. Twenty-three year old Bjarni grimaced as Javier Wolf Betancourt tattooed a cassette tape onto his ribs. “It’s always painful,” he said.



Mag
Articles
Two Days Of Criminal Activity

Two Days Of Criminal Activity

by

People thought we were nuts at the time, when in reality we were suffering from good old Icelandic gung-ho enthusiasm. This year, we ought to know better. Three of us—Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and I—got together last year to organise a small crime fiction festival in Reykjavík. After all, how hard could it be? We had all been to a few of these, and it didn’t look like it could be all that much of a headache. It had seemed odd to us that Iceland didn’t have its own crime fiction festival. After all, there are plenty of them elsewhere.

Mag
Articles
A New Wave Of Protests

A New Wave Of Protests

by

Tension has been rising in Iceland of late. An estimated 4,500 people attended a general protest against the government on November 4, almost completely filling Austurvöllur by Alþingi. This marks it as one of the biggest demonstrations this year. The event was initially inspired by a Facebook rant from singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur, wherein he bemoaned the current coalition government’s favouritism of the rich and powerful. Instigator Svavar Knútur began the demonstration by addressing the crowd. In his speech—which has been widely shared across social media since the event—he likened the rally to the first of three warnings his father used to

Mag
Articles
Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

by

Standing by the door of a two-storey building in the Höfði industrial district and not finding a doorbell, I call Chaplas Menke, who says he’ll come down to let me in. My interview subject made local headlines this September, after being reportedly brutalised by the police. Since then, the story has gone quiet. A short while later, he invites me to his abode. He is of average height, dark-skinned, with sunken eyes and a svelte frame. He has a thick accent and speaks hesitatingly, picking his words carefully. I ask him how he’s doing, and he modestly says okay as

Mag
Articles
News In Brief: November

News In Brief: November

by

Icelanders have once again grown fed up with their elected representatives, staging a massive protest demonstration in front of Alþingi last Monday. Thousands stood at Austurvöllur, Reykjavík’s hip spot for protest meetings, to denounce a veritable cornucopia of bad policy decisions (police estimated 4,500 attendees at the protest, while some attendees estimated that they were in fact closer to 7,000). This particular time around, the political party actually leading the country–in this case, the Progressives–have most recently polled at just under 9%. Remember, folks: the last time a ruling coalition stepped down, it was because one party didn’t want to

Mag
Articles
Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

by

After DV revealed that the police had just acquired some 150 submachine guns from Norway, Chief Superintendent Jón Bjartmarz—who refused to answer any of the newspaper’s questions—explained on RÚV’s Kastljós that they have possessed machine guns “ever since after the Gúttó-fight.” “The Gúttó-fight” was a violent clash between police and workers, who were protesting announced wage reductions, back in 1932. The reference is as significant as they get. An Icelandic State Police authority, as opposed to a municipal one, was established in the aftermath of that fight, to ensure that authorities would henceforth have the upper hand against demonstrators. This

Mag
Articles
Pippa’s Wish

Pippa’s Wish

by

A particularly heart-warming story made the rounds recently when a crowdfunding campaign called “Pippa’s Wish” hit its required target, after a month online. The GoFundMe campaign was started by family friend Tamara Antonelli Comerford to take Pippa—a disabled seven-year-old Sigur Rós fan from Missouri, who suffered a stroke at birth that left her with Cerebral Palsy, among other medical conditions—on the family holiday of a lifetime. During an extended convalescence after an operation to reshape her pelvis and straighten her legs, Pippa was in severe pain, but responded with fascination to the soothing beauty of Sigur Rós’ tour documentary ‘Heima’,

Show Me More!