Bettie Butcher shows off her tattoos. Photo: Vestige Photography USA
Tattoo fans seeking ink-spiration should head to the Gold Coast on Friday, as the fourth annual Surf 'n' Ink festival gets under way.
The family-friendly festival aims to educate the bare-skinned about tattoo culture, while offering those already steeped in it a chance to see the work of artists from interstate and around the world.
"I think in the last 10 years the stigma has changed," says tattoo addict and vintage stylist Bettie Butcher, who got her first design – a black panther – when she was 18, and is now covered in bright flowers, as well as pin-up girls like Bettie Page and Vampira.
Bettie Butcher shows off her tattoos. Photo: Shannon Brooke Imagery USA
"When I started getting them the stigma was still attached that girls shouldn't get tattoos ... I copped a lot of flak."
Ms Butcher, from Wooloowin, says these days there's more widespread acceptance of tattoos for both sexes, and that beauty is more than skin-deep.
"Just because you have tattoos doesn't mean you can't be a beautiful, confident, strong woman, and still be feminine," she says.
"Most people now, even if they don't want tattoos themselves, accept that it's a form of expression, they're not linked to crime, bikies, drugs and all that."
Over the three days at the Mercure Gold Coast Resort, tattoo artists will compete for prizes in categories such as best chest, best back, best feet, best sleeve and best portrait.
There will be a playground for children, a rockabilly band, plus belly-dancing, skateboarding, hula-hoop, capoeira, and other demonstrations.
Ms Butcher is organising the Miss Surf 'n' Ink pageant, which pits half a dozen girls against each other with judges scoring on quality of tattoo work, stage presence and style.
She's a former contestant and has won pin-up competitions around the country.
"I know what it's like when you're up there for your first time, you get so nervous!"
But she while contestants benefit from the exposure, it's even better for artists and potential clients.
"It's a great place to be able to meet artists, look at their portfolios, see them working, have a chat to them," says Ms Butcher.
"That's the best way to find the right tattooist for you."
BETTIE BUTCHER'S TIPS FOR TATTOO
- Start with a small design, in a place that you can cover when necessary – particularly if you're a young adult still starting out in your study/career.
- Each tattooist has their own artistic style, so be sure to research and identify your preferences. Bettie Butcher says a good tattooist will be able to work your design choices into one or multiple pieces. And make sure they're reputable, with adequate health and safety precautions such as sterilisation of needles. "Unfortunately there are still some backyard operations," she says.
- Avoid styles and locations that are ubiquitous. "I have a tramp stamp," Ms Butcher admits. "But I'll probably be getting it covered up."
- Get a tattoo for you, not for anybody else. "All my tattoos are personal memories or designs I want to keep forever," says Ms Butcher.