by Evan Duggan
VANCOUVER, April 29 (Xinhua) -- A loud buzzing sound fills a hall at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Friday evening. The noise comes from dozens of tattoo needles, etching ink into skin of people prone on chairs and gurneys.
Body art enthusiasts and many of Canada's top tattoo artists are in Vancouver this weekend for the city's annual Tattoo and Culture Show.
One young man lays on his side on a tattoo bed, his pants pulled down as a tattoo artist needles the face of a wolf-man into his upper left thigh.
Nearby, two friends named Mandy and Kassandra check out drawings in a binder of one of about 70 artists at the show, many of whom already have three days of tattoo appointments booked for the weekend event.
Mandy and Kassandra decided last night to get matching friendship tattoos. "We're looking for inspiration. Just something small and simple," Mandy says.
"We both have similar interests in things, so it would also adhere to what we enjoy in life while also being meaningful in the sense of friendship," Kassandra says.
This will be the second tattoo for each of them. And they're not alone. About 38 percent of adults in Canada have at least one tattoo, according to an organization called Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work, which aims to eliminate the stigma surrounding body art and piercings.
At a booth belonging to Royal Anchor Tattoos, young artist Courtney Laura prepares for a client who has an appointment to get his first tattoo.
She shows the image she'll be inking into his skin. It's a large snake, with fangs and a forked tongue protruding from its gaping mouth.
At age 16, Laura got an apprenticeship at the tattoo parlor in the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster.
"We do custom work," she says, noting it's their third year at the show. "It's based on what people want. I'd say every artist has their own kind of style. We usually have people go through books and kind of check out the artist and I always tell people, get a feel for the style so you feel aligned with the artist."
Laura says she initially liked doing portraits, but now loves to tattoo images of animals. "But I do everything," she says. "I don't turn anything away because it's not my style. It pays to be versatile."
Like with most types of businesses and art forms, technology is changing the body art industry, says Laura Dunfield, as she waits in line to hopefully get inked by an artist from the uber-popular Vancouver shop, Black Medicine.
Companies like Black Medicine are becoming extremely active on social media such as Instagram and Twitter, Dunfield says as a tattoo of a human skull pokes out from under her right sleeve.
"I think it's really important for artists today, using (social media) as a platform to get their artwork out there and for that sharing back and forth," she says. "This is appealing to a lot of younger people right now."
Dunfield says she used to rely on websites and printed drawing books to check out tattoo artists' portfolios, but they were never updated enough.
"This way (through Instagram), you get almost daily updates and get to see what people are doing. You get a better idea of what their artwork is like," she says, before it's her turn to select the image that will be tattooed into her skin.