Original Bizarre Interview - By Alix Fox
* What inspired you to host the first Scar Con in London? Why now, and why in the UK?
RG- The whole idea of a scarification convention is not new actually. My dear friend Shawn Porter hosted 3 such closed conferences in the US from 2005-2007, but he stopped hosting them after those three. All artists in attendance were primarily US based artists who were part of an old BME chatroom. That is where most of us initially met and became familiar with each others work.
I really enjoyed participating in those early events, everyone sharing ideas, techniques, information and doing collaborations. No ego or prima donna attitudes, everyone just focusing on scarification as body art.
Since before then, I have been traveling, teaching and working all over the world the last decade +, & have met and worked with so many talented body artists worldwide. It wasn’t much of a stretch to continue in the footsteps of the groundwork that had already been laid by Shawn’s events, but adding international artist and bring all of us together again to share ideas, techniques, tips and tricks once again. This time with some new blood!
The problem has always been finding the right venue , culture/society and location in a country where the laws allow scarification and it is not a ‘grey area’ as it is in so many places. That has always been the issue.
After much searching , brainstorming, and planning, I decided on London for a variety of reasons.
It is no secret that London/UK has always not only been open minded and encouraging of body art in all its facets : Body suspensions , branding , transdermal implants and scarification, but it is also a mecca for these forms of art and the artists practicing these forms of art.
Some of my earliest memories of performance art are of the old Wildcat performance art troupe doing suspensions in the early 90’s for Torture Garden events, which still take place in London 20 years later.
Especially because I wanted to make it an International event for Americans as well as Europeans, England is the perfect in between location, so hosting ScarCon there seemed like the perfect fit.
* Where did you hold the event, and did you encounter any problems getting permission, given that scarification is a legal grey area in some places, and misunderstood by many?
RG- Oh yes, all of that was definitely on my mind hosting such an event and choosing a country and venue to hold an event such as Scar Con. I had offers in other countries in Eastern and Western Europe to host it at tattoo conventions as well as private venues, but I decided on London for some of the reasons listed above.
I held the event in a non descript warehouse used primarily for filming by the movie industry that we rented for the weekend. Since the warehouse is used for a lot of closed set productions , having a semi closed event there wasn’t an issue. We were not dealing with people walking on set or many ins and outs. The owner of the venue deals with such elaborate productions and an eccentric bunch of people regularly , that renting us the place for creating art in skin was not even an issue to him . Lucky us!
As far as the legalities of it all, that was something that was a HUGE concern for me as I am responsible for every persons well being who walks through that door. Clients and artists alike!
For the clients that means choosing only the practioners who I KNOW not only are good artists , artists who can do quality work, and who understand the intricacies of skin tension lines, body and musculature movement, but artists also have great ethics and wont be putting the clients in danger for a quick buck , or doing designs that will not hold up over time as most of the artists attending don’t live in London and wont be around much after the convention.
For the artists , I want to make sure they are able to have a large enough client pool for everyone to do cool work and be able to at least break even and pay for their travels and lodging. Not working in fear of the state/borough/province/state’s local council’s health or safety departments coming in and closing the event down or doing something even worse was also a concern !
* Is there anyone I've missed off this list of Scar-tists who appeared?
- Brenno Alberti
- Christian Bedics
- Bruno BMA
- Christiane Lofblad
- Brian Decker
- Wayde Dunn
- Iestyn Flye
- Ron Garza (WOO!)
- Thorsten Sekira
- Ryan Ouellette
- Gabor Zagyvai
RG- That was the original list of all invited and everyone who originally agreed to attend. Due to a MUCH smaller client pool we all were getting work from in the Uk, not all artists were able to attend.
The only ones who did attend were
Bruno BMA Valscechi (Italy)
Brenno Alberti (Italy)
Christiane Lofblad (Norway)
Iestyn Flye (England)
Ryan Ouellette (USA)
Gabor Zagwai (Hungary)
And myself (USA)
* How did you choose the scarification artists who would take part?
RG - I have been offering scarification to the general public as a service since 1992. In that time I have met and worked with MANY, MANY talented artists worldwide. When I started thinking of artists who I wanted to invite to this, of course my Scar Wars collegues were obvious choices as working staff for the event. I also thought, ‘When I personally think of scarification, who are the first scarification artists to come to MY mind? Whose work impresses me, and who fits the criteria listed above?’
With as huge as scarification has become the last few years, the list of artists who I wanted working the event and who understand what they are doing and not just tracing images on the skin is a very short list. Similar to the difference between being a flash tattooer and a tattoo artists who draws his designs to fit the body, I wanted artists working who were real artists and set and are changing what scarification is and will become in the coming years. Scarification artists who are known internationally for their contributions and development of the art form as it is known today. Those who came to mind were the ones who I chose to work this inaugural event. Not all were able to make it, but there is always next time.
RG - *Is there anything I might need to know that I may be unaware of about the trademark styles of any of these artists, and what they're best known for? Are any of them pioneers of a particular detail regarding scars/body mods?
Well, I think everyone there is really versatile and can do whatever their clients ask of them, but of course we all have specialties and things we enjoy doing artistically.
Ryan Ouellette is known for his tissue removal as he almost NEVER does single line work, but to my surprise, for this event most of his pieces were line work, with only one removal piece. That was different for him. Of course he executed everything flawlessly.
Iestyn Flye is also known for intricate sacred geometry style of works that he does. And he did quite a few pieces there of just that. Intricate with lots of skin peeling.
I am known for a lot of filigree and movement in my designs – things that fit the body well. I don’t like doing too much removal and having the piece rely so much on just that aspect of scarification, as sometimes things can heal unevenly and throw the balance of the piece off.
Iestyn and I did a really nice collaboration piece on a client from Sweden that showcased both other styles perfectly. That was really nice. That was what we started the conference off with. From beginning to end, the whole piece was under two hours I think. We did that as an ink rubbing. (getting new pics for you of that healing)
Bruno also has been working a style of scarification that is very reminiscent of the alligator skin style scarification done in Papua new guinea. But he didn’t do anything like that at the event. Christiane also didn’t do any ink rubbing there.
Brenno Alberti who also does quite a bit of ink rubbing did an ink rubbing as well.
* You vetted potential attendees. What was the response to this process?
RG - I have been involved with body suspensions and performance art since 94/95 and over the years I have seen how the suspensions industry has grown, and the growing pains that it has endured because of having shows/performances in any venues that would have us. Venues that were associated more with the fetish scene/dark spooky gothic clubs instead of well lit galleries, rented halls or other venues, where the shows could be done solo and relying on its own merits as theatre or performance art, and not so much as part of something else like fetish nigh/ball event. As a result I think it was much harder for suspensions to get the mainstream acceptance that it slowly is getting because it was associated with that dark art/fetish club aspect for so long. I didn’t want this to be the case for scarification as well and for it to be perceived in the same light or undergo the same growing pains.
Due to the nature of an event such as this where so many skilled practioners make this look very easy and simple, one concern was having people leave the event and go try it and possibly hurt others. For this reason , we vetted ALL attendees and made them fill out a questionnaire that gave me more information on who they were, their place in the industry, what they wanted or hoped to get out of attending, things of that nature. I wanted the focus of this event to be on scarification as an art form, and not just to be perceived as a freakshow, or a bunch of people cutting themselves and people wanting to see the freaks bleeding.
This is why I opted to have the event in a private venue instead of having it in conjunction with a tattoo convention. I think for the most part , everyone was incredibly understanding and I didn’t have any problems with people not answering the questionnaire for attendance. We did have people show up that didn’t fill out the questionnaire who didn’t get in, but overall everyone was really understanding and it was a great inaugural event.
*What pieces of work throughout the weekend particularly stood out, and why? I'd like to hear about unusual designs; designs with particular symbolism or emotional significance about them for either the sitter, the artist, or both; designs in notable places or covering large areas; pieces of work that demonstrated new or trademark tecniques.
That weekend everyone did a lot of nice work, but I think a couple of the pieces
Iestyn did really stand out the most in my mind. He did one piece on a woman tattooist from Brighton that took all day on Saturday. She already had quite a captivating look about her before she received some sacred geometry tissue removal on the sides of her face. At first, I was a bit taken aback by the choice of location for her scar work, but Once everything was said and done, it looked so much better than I ever could have imagined. It only added to her already striking features.
Iestyn pushing limits and boundries for sure! He also did an intricate forehead geometry piece on a woman from Norway that also was quite impressive.
*What did you work on yourself? What were your favourite pieces that you undertook, and why?
RG - I had three last minute cancelations but I was fortunate enough to be able to fill the spaces and be busy all weekend.
As I stated earlier, Iestyn and myself kicked off the event with the filigree framework on a thigh with some sacred geometry inside the framework. It turned out really nice. I was beyond pleased with it.
I also did a slow lorris with an umbrella sitting on a cherry tree with cherry blossoms. This was full scarification sleeve cutting through an arm already tattooed fully black. It was a collaboration with Christiane Lofblad from Norway and myself, on a client who was attending from Croatia. I really love it when people are familiar with my style of work already and come to me with ideas and we can design the piece to fit their body in particular and specifically for them, as we did with that piece. We had the design already drawn and conforming to the clients musculature for the most part. We just drew on the cherry tree branches and blossoms to make sure it flowed and moved well with her body. That was another favorite of mine from the convention for sure!
*Were any new cutting techniques, healing tips, or other scarification-related processes shared over the course of the convention? Any examples of valuable learning you can give me would be excellent.
RG - Yes it was quite nice for everyone to just be in the same room working and talking with each other. I knew everyone already and have done collaborations with almost every single one of the artists working the event, but many of them hadn’t met in person yet. It was nice to see everyone watching, talking and sharing their views on the subject while actually doing work.
You have heard the saying there are many ways to skin a cat, well same with scarification. There are many ways to do similar things in scarification. It was nice to share and compare ideas, techniques, talk about equipment differences etc. as not all things are available in all countries and all those differences will make differences in how the work turns out!
Even aftercare varies so greatly depending on what the client wants the desired after effect to look like and has access to in their respective country! Comparing all these things on a global level was pretty amazing for me personally.
It was also nice for attendees who do offer scarification as a service in their cities/studios to be there to further their own understanding of the art form . The artists were there to answer their questions and the attendees actually could watch us working. You could see them begin to understand how certain techniques were done by watching some of the artists at work.
I have been giving classes on scarification since 2006, and it is nice when you can actually see the light bulb turn on in peoples minds when they truly grasp concepts and how and why things are done. I saw that a bit at this event.
We had people attending from France, Spain, Norway, USA, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Holland, Ireland and other countries as well. Lots of information and love shown for our growing industry!
* What else happened over the weekend? Was there anyone who shared an amazing story? People it was fantastic or meaningful to see or meet in person?
RG - The whole weekend was so much work just to organize and put together. Having supplies ready, finding 12 massage tables and having stations for everyone, getting everything to the location, dealing with attendees, working the door, etc.
I must say it was amazing to have such an outstanding staff to help out and make everything run so smooth. I could have not done it without the help of them.
HUGE THANKS to : Aliceofthedead, Iestyn Flye, Quentin Inglis, Willie Hagman, Joe Wythe, Guiseppe ‘Beppe’ de Palo and Yann Brënyàk.
I would not have been able to pull this off as smoothly without all your help!
* Were there any discussions related to the body modification world in general that took place during the convention which you found intriguing, striking, hilarious or poignant? Give me whatever detail you can.
RG- After the two day convention was over, all of us artists went out for dinner together and discussed the weekends events. We discussed how the event can be better next time and possible options for locations.
Everyone was on the same page about the focus if the event and making it on the art of scarification, and pushing that aspect further into the mainstream. Everyone was this was only a scar event and was not interested in making it another modcon or an event that was focused more on on body art /body modification as a whole.
Altogether ScarCon was a great thing to not only be involved with, but it was quite a good feeling to have so many talented people/friends who I deeply respect as artists support me and this event and to attend an event, and travel 1/4 - ½ way around the world for it. QI think we all had the feeling that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves! J
* Do you plan to do another Scar Con in future?
RG - The whole event had a really nice feeling to it. It was somewhat small and intimate (the busiest day we had maybe 100 people there), but it was exactly as I wanted it. Nice calming relaxing energy, everyone busy and sharing ideas and some collaborations. No crazy chaotic attendees, no bad energy, egos or prima donnas and just lots of good quality scarification work coming out of the event.
The only problem was , as forward thinking and supportive of body art scene is in the UK , it doesn’t have the client pool to support 15 scarification artist doing work in one weekend :-/
For the next one I will be hosting, it will probably be held someplace where there is a larger client base for everyone involved, and hopefully in conjunction with another event that people will already be attending. More on that later, but Be on the look out for the next one around March of 2014!
* Anything else you'd like to add, request or suggest?
If we could include some websites for the practioners..
Added information on scarcon
Iestyn Flye –www. divine-canvas.com
Ryan Ouellette- www.precisionbodyarts.com
Christiane Lofblad – www.Pinpoint-piercing.no
Gábor Zagyvai www.zagyvai.com
Bruno BMA –www.BrunoBMA.com
Thanks for reading!