This year, the Saskatoon Tattoo Expo attracted 160 artists from across Canada.

The city is no stranger to tattoo trade shows, with the annual Ink Alley Tattoo and Art Show running for the past decade, but this year was the first it saw the show re-branded as the Saskatoon Tattoo Expo.

'We are doing what we did 50 years ago!'- Jody Spychaj

Jody Spychaj, a 16-year veteran of tattoo artistry, planned the ink-centric event this year.

"It's been revamped. I took it over and we changed a lot of things," Spychaj said. "It is a different show, something more geared towards the artists. Because if it is geared towards the artists, they want to be here and if they're here the clients want to be here."

Spychaj's strategic changes appear to be working. This year's turnout of artists from around Canada filled an exhibition hall at Prairieland Park, making it the highest attended in the event's history.

In the past, Spychaj said, the most artists the show attracted was about 60.

Row after row, artists from around the country displayed their artwork at temporary tattoo stations, many equipped with beds, ink pots, and needles.

Walk-ups welcome

Sherri McEwen has come to the show in Saskatoon for the past four years. She said it is the only time she gets to see her preferred tattoo artist, Kevin Johnson from Calgary.

tattoo expo 2

Kevin Johnson prepares the stencil for Sherri McEwen's tattoo. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

Every year McEwen gets a new tattoo at the show from Johnson, in front of hundreds of people.

"[This year] we're doing a hummingbird," McEwen said. "It is not too bad. People walk by and look and take pictures and get ideas."

Johnson said tattooing a client in an exhibition hall rather than a tattoo shop does present unique challenges.

"It definitely tests your abilities. Being organized is the biggest thing," Johnson said. "Sherri and I, our interaction here, that's [my] day ... it is pretty intimate regardless of the situation."

Danielle Nemedy is an aspiring tattoo artist working out of a tattoo parlour in Edmonton. She said building a trusted reputation as a good tattoo artist is no easy feat in the male-dominated profession.

"I am definitely trying to get myself in there. It is a lot easier when you have friend's who own shops and you get to work in the environment," Nemedy said. "It is inspiring. You get to see a bunch of different ideas and perspectives and it is just great."

Back to basics

tattoo expo 3

A women sits while she gets a tattoo at the Saskatoon Tattoo Expo. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

Spychaj said he wanted to make the show more family-oriented to reflect the reality of tattoo enthusiasts in Saskatoon.

"The community of people getting tattoos nowadays is a lot different then it used to be," Spychaj explained. "The average people getting tattooed are women 27 and under."

Spychaj said the demographics are changing, hearkening Canada's tattoo world back to its roots.

"Everything goes in rotations. We're kind of back to how it was in the '30s, '40s, '50s when women's husbands were away at war, they were getting little tattoos at home," Spychaj said. "Everybody always thinks it was the men getting the tattoos back then, and it was actually the women. We are doing what we did 50 years ago."

The Saskatoon Tattoo Expo runs April 10-13 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon.


Replay the Saskatoon Morning live below. 

Join online host Matt Kruchak from Monday to Friday between 6-8:45 a.m. on cbc.ca/saskatoon for a lively and engaging live chat. While chatting, tune into Saskatoon Morning on 94.1 FM with host Leisha Grebinski.