Organisers of the Scottish Tattoo Convention, one of Scotland's most colourful trade shows, are expecting record attendance as UK body-art fans flock to see some of the world's best-known tattooists and rub illustrated shoulders with the cream of the host country's 200-300 tattoo parlours
James Aitken, the Glasgow-born freelance tattooist who founded the convention four years ago, said this year's line-up of stand-takers was the biggest to date, consolidating Edinburgh as a fixture on a convention calendar that also includes fairs in London, Paris, New York, Brighton and Liverpool.
"Half of this year's line-up are Scottish artists, including rising Scottish stars, and half are travelling artists, including some big international names who have been booked up [for on-site tattooing] since last year's event.
Star names coming to the capital's Corn Exchange include the Scottish-trained Chilean Valerie Vargas and Italian Samuel Briganti, "a young up-and-comer who's going to be a huge name", according to Aitken.
The best tattooists can charge upwards of £120 an hour, for tattoos that can take 50 hours to complete. Many, however, charge considerably less. Aitken said: "It's like anything - some people want Armani, some people want Primark, and often they want them both for different kinds of tattoos. And there are a lot of bad tattooists out there."
Aitken declined to speculate on the amount the convention would generate for the Scottish industry, saying "it depends on whether we get the footfall". He also said that while the venue was now at capacity, he was reluctant to move to a bigger convention centre, describing the Corn Exchange as an old venue that creates the right sort of atmosphere.
He said the Scottish tattoo scene, also hard to quantify in economic terms, was likely to diversify further, but unlikely to shrink as fashions changed. He estimated there were 60 parlours in Edinburgh, 50 in Glasgow, 20 in Aberdeen, and 15 in Dundee, along with many others in smaller cities and towns.
The Scottish Tattoo Convention is at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh from March 29-30. Tickets start at £20. Go to www.scottishtattooconvention.net