There are many reasons a person would pay to have someone stab them repeatedly with a needle and then fill the puncture wounds with ink.
From ancient art form to modern expressionism, tattoos have acquired a lot of lore and culture on their way to becoming the ubiquitous badge of individuality they are today.
One in five adults has at least one tattoo, up from 14 per cent in 2008, according to a recent Harris Poll. Most (86 per cent) have never regretted getting inked. Three in 10 say their tattoos make them feel more sexy, while a quarter reported feeling more rebellious.
You wanna talk rebellious? Tattooing was illegal in Winnipeg when Cam Cook started practising his subdermal artistry in 1985. So if you wanted to get inked back then, he says, you went underground and agreed to split the $10,000 fine with him if need be.
Things have changed. "It's become total mainstream," says Cook, 43, who owns Village Ink Tattoo & Piercing in Osborne Village.
So mainstream, in fact, that Nokia has taken out a patent to create tattoos that will tingle or vibrate to let you know your cellphone is ringing. And some people are now opting to ink their wrists with warnings about a health condition instead of wearing Medic Alert bracelets.
Currently, however, the written word rules when it comes expressing yourself subcutaneously. "Probably the biggest trend right now is people writing all over themselves," says Cook. "Before someone might've put their mom's or kid's name on them, but today people are actually grabbing all kinds of random statements. Lyrics from songs are very popular."
As for where folks are saying it with ink, don't get Cook started.
"What I think is outrageous is all the people who want to tattoo their necks and hands and faces," he says. "It's a trend that I think is really unfortunate, and all the tattooers who are busy doing that to people should give their own head a shake."
Cook has a few words of advice for anyone thinking of joining the ink-stained masses -- four words, to be precise: "Think before you ink."
Here's a sampling of some Winnipeggers, spotted in Osborne Village on Canada Day, who took the plunge:
His 'n hers matching house numbers -- 604
"It's our house address -- and our commitment. Instead of having a big wedding, we bought a house. He got his in Vegas, and then I went six months later, to the same artist."
Total tats: 4
"It's my dog. He was a Rottweiler and a Doberman. I had him for eight years, but we had to put him down because he got cancer in his paw. I loved that dog; he was my best friend. I watched the movie Marley & Me and bawled my eyes out."
Total tats: 9
Mr. Mackey (school counsellor on South Park) and his catchphrase: Drugs are bad . . . mmm, kay?
"I went through some dark times with drugs and it's a reminder not to go back. Plus I really like the show."
Total tats: 9
"I got them with my ex-boyfriend. He's got a matching set. We were walking down Osborne and the tattoo artists were standing outside the shop. They said they were bored and offered us a deal."
Total tats: 5
100% Death Proof -- with skull and crossbones
"I've slipped the noose many times, so it's not just after the (Quentin Tarantino) movie. I'm an avid cyclist and as everyone who rides a bike in Winnipeg knows, you're taking your chances. I've been hit two or three times. This is a reminder to be grateful for what you've got.
Total tats: 4
Winged diamond with the words "Use Your Life" and the lyrics "The world goes and flutters by"
About the latter: "It was one of my favourite songs as a kid, by a band called Jonsi. It's just about the pristine quality of life and how you only live once.
Total tats: 2 (He also planned to get a maple leaf in honour of Canada Day.)
Skulls, flowers, woman's head and the Coco Chanel quote: "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different"
"The art is just random. I just think the body is a canvas so I put pretty pictures on it. I'm, like, totally obsessed with Coco Chanel, and that quote is something I kind of live by."
Total tats: 3
Sexy street sweeper and banner with the words: "A Good Street Sweeper Lives Here"
"It's based on a quote from a Martin Luther King speech. Everything I do, I want to do to the best of my ability. This is a solid reminder."
Total tats: 4
Swallow, musical notes and the words: "I would rather be an open sinner than a false saint"
"About six years ago, I was working at Polo Park mall and I saw this guy coming down the escalator and he had it on his shirt. I loved it; it's so me. Those words stuck with me for six years."
Total tats: 6
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo
"I just admire her as an artist."
Total tats: more than 30
Sexy, blood-spattered zombie holding a human heart
"It's actually my mom. She's my best friend and she likes zombies and cheesy horror films. She loved the tattoo. She cried when she saw it."
Figure with a bar-code head carrying a briefcase and a shopping bag and the words: "You can't buy back your life"
"We spend a lot of time to earn money to spend on things. You can't buy back this time you spent to get the money. Maybe it's time to spend more time on things that don't cost money but that make life beautiful and enjoyable."