Reporter gets inked at tattoo expo

20:24, Feb 16 2014
International Tattoo and Arts Expo
Ink about it: Rachel Thomas gets a new adornment on her arm, courtesy of artist Anna Belle.
International Tattoo and Arts Expo
Green lady: Ashlee Hampson-Wadsworth was bearing some macabre Bride of Frankenstein-style body art.
International Tattoo and Arts Expo
Art hanging: Christchurch model and burlesque performer Cassie Law give an eye-opening display of tissue dancing.
International Tattoo and Arts Expo
Smile for the camera: Dan Pettigrew hasn’t got eyes in the back of his head, but he does have them in the back of his back.
International Tattoo and Arts Expo
Buzzing: Dyl Eyeington gets busy with Hohepa Clarke’s forearm.

Reporter Rachel Thomas braved both a tattooist's needle and her mum's reaction when she visited the International Tattoo & Art Expo at the Claudelands Events Centre on Sunday.

It was a blind date of sorts.

We were not sure what to expect, we were both late and disjointed, but the awkwardness of the arrangement was helped when we discovered we were as nervous as each other.

Australian artist Anna Belle has been tattooing for about three years, but the International Tattoo & Art Expo was her first ever convention.

I've had a tattoo before, but never on a place as public as my arm (sorry mum) and never of something I hadn't drawn myself.

If only, I thought, this blind date ended with dinner.


Not every appetite would awaken at the sight of shaking needles ripping through skin and crimson, seeping juices turning black with ink, but all I can think about is sushi.

Getting a tattoo sends your body into an adrenalin-soaked frenzy as a response to the pain, burning through an enormous amount of energy.

In other words, it's a workout of the dangerous variety and the results last forever.

Anna's parlour is called Wizards of Ink, based in Albury, NSW. To the middle-aged newcomer peering over the partition it does seem like magic - petals materialising on my tricep as Anna scrapes her wand across my skin.

The exhibitor next door, Brendan Russell, specialises in scarification - like branding, tongue splitting and other gruesome activities which oddly enough, do nothing to quell my hunger.

Watching his tools tear the skin off a woman's stomach makes me mentally re-evaluate my pain scale, and count myself lucky I'm on Anna's table.

For a tattoo artist Anna has a fair bit of bare canvas on her own skin. She has a full sleeve, pieces on her legs, back and neck, plus several dermals (under skin piercings), ear tunnels and a small scarification under her chin. At just 28 she's also a wife, adored step-mum and a full-time, paid artist who loves her vocation.

Despite tattoos still having some stigma attached to them by more senior generations (that's you, mum), Anna said more and more older people are getting inked for the first time.

"We had a 70-year-old guy come in for his first tattoo, he got all his grandchildren's names on his arm," she said between strokes of the needle.

The 40-something woman in line after me, in her elegant cowl neck blouse, got a cupcake on her finger.

Do women tolerate tattoos better than men, I asked, mid-shading.

"As a general rule, yes," Anna said.

Ha! It may not settle the age-old question about whether childbirth is worse than getting kicked in the whatsits, but it seems to me ladies beat men in the pain stakes.

I haven't told my parents yet. They weren't angry, just "disappointed" with tattoo number one, so number two will be a fresh blow.

So mum, if you're reading this, I know this won't look as good in 40 or 50 years when I'm old and grey.

But neither will the rest of me, so here's to long-term decoration.