This weekend, the Minneapolis Tattoo Arts Convention drew thousands -- and many of the attendees became hands-on participants as those looking into ink saw a smorgasbord of styles.
"This is our one vacation of the year," Kean Jaycox said. "This is our fourth time coming up here."
Artists from across the country gathered to show how they can turn skin into a canvas, and for those who think the hum of the needle is music to their ears, those who came to the Hyatt in downtown Minneapolis were treated to a symphony.
"Ever since I can remember, I was getting tattoos," Nate Szklarski told Fox 9 News. "Running out of some room."
To some, body art is risqué. Some even view tattoos as raunchy, but for anyone who has taken a liking to the sensation and results of injecting ink into the skin, tattoos are all about self-expression -- transforming flesh into moving, living art.
"There is no shortage of people who want to get tattoos," Ledan Peace said. "It's become more popular now than it ever has been."
For the artists who attended, there was no shortage of canvas and camaraderie. Peace is one himself -- a second-generation tattoo artist. In fact, his father -- Eddie Peace -- is considered a pioneer.
"My father started our business in 1934," Peace said of the family business. "You can make money, but that's not why most people come to conventions. A lot of people come to these conventions to meet up with their families. We're like a brotherhood -- a really tight-knit brotherhood."
Conventions are also a way for artists to gain exposure and compete for recognition while sharing their talents with a larger audience. Kyle Dunbar is one of the nationally-recognized artists made famous via reality television shows like "Ink Masters."
"The tattoos that I happen to love, and most of the people here seem to be drawn to, are those ones that can't be mainstream," he said. "Completely subjective -- they're all personal."
For some ink enthusiasts, the presence of artists like Dunbar is part of the draw.
"Conventions are cool because you can get tattooed by folks you can't normally get tattooed by," Szklarski said.
Yet, despite their widespread popularity with hipsters, housewives, and anyone in between, the artists admit they believe tattoos will continue to be anything but mainstream.
"I'd hate to think they are," Dunbar said. "I think the largest part that makes them cool is that they're not."
Tattoo conventions have been held for the past 35 years, and there are upcoming shows in Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia that have been known to attract more than 23,000.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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