The sound of more than 250 needles simultaneously inking bodies had visitors buzzing at the TSB Stadium this weekend.
Artists from around the world left their mark on more than 1000 people who lined up for new ink over the two-day New Zealand Tattoo & Art Festival in New Plymouth.
Bodies were continually being worked on, with many inked festival-goers adding to their collections, and others experiencing their first.
Oni Events director Brent Taylor said numbers were well up on the 7000 who attended in 2010, and not far off the anticipated 10,000 mark.
"We had over 1000 people through in the first 45 minutes on Saturday," he said.
One of those was the oldest operating tattooist in Australia, Townsville's Ray Shuttleworth.
Mr Shuttleworth, 72, started tattooing in 1956 after building his own machine from a wind up alarm clock with needle attached.
"When I first started tattooing there were only four tattooists in New Zealand and six in Australia so we had it all to ourselves really," he said. "Look at it now."
Mr Shuttleworth, originally from Winton, and his wife Marie were enjoying the festival - their second after attending in 2010.
"Last year I came over as well and had the oldest tattooist in New Zealand give me a tattoo. That was Merv O'Connor and between us we've been tattooing for 117 years."
Mr Shuttleworth was a walking encyclopedia and informed the Taranaki Daily News that King George V had a blue and red dragon tattooed on his forearm.
He also had a piece of advice for those pondering a tattoo.
"If you want a tattoo, go and get one. If you're not sure, don't even think about it."
New Plymouth's Kathy Kupe, 54, got her first tattoo when she was 50, her second at 53, and was contemplating a third when she visited the festival on Saturday.
She was amazed at the artists on show and how many people had come to see them in action.
"It's the oldest form of self-expression, it goes back a hundred years.
"I never thought I'd get one, but I don't regret it. I'm going to get old and wrinkly anyway so I may as well get old and wrinkly with a tattoo."
London Ink Kiwi tattooist Nikole Lowe was blown away by the numbers who had flocked to New Plymouth for the festival.
"It's awesome to see, and I'm just enjoying being back in New Zealand. It's nice to come home," she said.
Mr Taylor said all the tattooists had loved the festival, loved New Plymouth, and were keen to come back.
About $5000 had been raised for charity over the weekend and will be split between Taranaki Base Hospital's children's and neonatal wards.
Mr Taylor said there hadn't been any trouble caused by festival-goers.
"Everyone's attitudes were great and there was a real good vibe up here all weekend.
"It's been a big step up from 2010."
Due to its success, the event will run every year from now on instead of biennially.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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