IT is known the world over as the home of the Tattoo – but for once it was body art, and not bagpipes, that was pulling in the crowds.
More than 3000 enthusiasts turned out for the third annual International Scottish Tattoo Convention, held at the Corn Exchange over the weekend.
And as well as the crowds eager to show off their best designs, there were 150 tattoo artists from as far afield as Australia and the United States, taking part in what is the only tattoo convention held in Scotland.
The event was organised by James Aitken, of Edinburgh’s Red, Hot and Blue tattoo parlour and Main Street tattoo in Wishaw, who said the crowds indicated the growing popularity of body art.
“We’ve had visitors up from England, people from France and Italy and a whole family from Sweden. The highlight of the weekend for me has been the sheer number of people getting tattooed.
“There was nothing like this in Scotland. We decided to set up a convention on the same level as the large shows in Milan and Rome.
“Our initial intention was to have them both in Glasgow and Edinburgh and rotate them yearly, but we had really good feedback from the first year so decided to stick to the same venue.”
“Everyone has been working, not just the ‘stars’. There are 150 artists and no two people’s work looks the same. No two skulls are the same.”
There are an estimated 60 tattoo shops in the Edinburgh and Lothians area, each employing around three people. Just 15 years ago is it estimated there were only ten tattoo artists in the region, and the rising popularity has been seen across Scotland.
A recent survey found that one fifth of British adults have a permanent tattoo, and the growth of the industry has been fuelled by high-profile celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, David Beckham and Johnny Depp, all of whom have had tattoos.
Mr Aitken reported that the convention had visitors who were in their 60s and 70s, and alongside the tattoo work the crowds were kept entertained by live music, fire breathing, dancing, a one-man band, burlesque performers and a razor blade swallower.
Tattooing has long been associated with such novel types of act, and Mr Aitken said: “Travelling fairs in the United States would always have tattooists.”
The entertainment included a competition to find the first ever Mr and Mrs Tattoo Scotland,
Of course some people live to rue the day they had a tattoo, and Mr Aitken said some people offered tattoo removal alongside tattooing and hairdressing, but said: “I would go to someone who does it as their sole job.”