Hundreds of tattoo artists from all over the world flocked to Wales this weekend for a showcase of the best in body art.
Not for the faint-hearted, the exhibition hall at the Cardiff Tattoo and Toy Convention was lined with pop-up studios, where artists etched colourful designs into their clients’ skin.
Organisers Steve Collier and Chris Jones said more than 2,000 visitors would pass through the doors of Wales’ first ever combined tattoo and toy event.
Steve said: “You never know how these events will go down, but we have been really pleased with the turnout. Combined tattoo and toy events are much more common in America, but we hope to make it an established part of the calendar in Wales.”
More than 100 artists and 50 stall holders arrived at the city’s Mercure Hotel to set up their stalls and were soon joined by a colourful crowd.
The room was filled with the constant buzz and whir of tattoo guns, as designs ranging from butterflies and fairies to monsters and skulls were etched into arms, legs and backs.
Setting up his stall in the corner of the hall, tattoo artist Paul Humphreys of Oxford-based Evolution Tattoo said: “I have my own distinctive style. I like realism, but I specialise in bio-mechanical designs.
“My designs are usually quite big, so I would only expect to see one client in a day, because it could take six or eight hours.”
Fellow tattoo artist Mark Ford, of London-based Evil From The Needle, exhibits at four or five conventions a year.
He said: “It can be difficult if you don’t know the area, because you don’t know how popular body art will be, but there’s a really good vibe in Cardiff.”
Mark, who became a tattoo artist after dropping out of art college, added: “It can be a difficult environment to work in. In your studio, you know where everything is, but at a convention, things take twice as long because it’s like tattooing from a suitcase. There’s a lot of noise and people come to ask questions, but it’s just about getting into your zone.”
On the receiving end of the needle was 32-year-old Matthew Griffiths, who was having a skull tattooed on his back.
The catering supervisor from Swansea already had several tattoos covering his arms and shoulders, including the one that started it all – a Maori pattern which he had in 1999.
He said: “My mum wasn’t impressed at the time, but my daughter likes them now. I can’t say how many I’ve had, because they all merge and blend into each other.”
Sheri Ryan, 23, an office manager from Swansea who had an owl tattooed on her arm, said: “My grandma loved owls and I wanted to get something with personal significance.”
Sheri had her first of eight tattoos when she was 16 and managed to keep it hidden from her parents for two years.
She said: “I went to a Metallica concert and I got the band logo done on my hip outside. I still love Metallica, but it’s not a great tattoo.”
She added: “I work in an office of middle aged men and they don’t get tattoo art at all. My parents and in-laws are the same – they just can’t see the art in it, but my friends love it.”
The convention opened yesterday and will close this evening.