AFTER Ry Thompson went under the needle for 13 hours straight in Taiwan, his passion for tattoo artistry only heightened.
That week the 40-year-old Ringwood tattoo artist spent 40 hours, in total, getting "inked".
"It was pretty excruciating, but in the end worth it," he says. "Here in Australia people get tatts for the sake of it, but over there it's a right of passage. The tattoos have cultural significance and flow together to tell a tale on the body."
Mr Thompson has been in the industry for fewer than three years but has come to love his job, growing his client base at his studio, Ringwood Tattooing and Body Piercing.
He says he's latching onto a booming industry. Market research shows the tattoo industry in Australia has grown at a rate of 5.5 per cent in the five year to 2012.
An IBIS World study concludes that "the evolution of popular culture has lifted tattooing from underground scenes and criminal associations, and focused on tattoos as a form of art and expression".
Mr Thompson says people don't look twice at arms or legs covered in tattoos as they used to.
"It's the in thing to do at the moment and has become socially acceptable, although it's still frowned upon in the workplace. I think that will change. It's an industry that is growing and I don't see it stopping any time soon."
The adage that "if you get it, you'll regret it by 40" is a fallacy according to Mr Thompson.
"That's just not true. People could say the same thing about having kids," he says. "It's the one thing that you can take to the grave."
Mr Thompson will be exhibiting his work at the second annual Tattoo and Body Art Expo at the Melbourne Convention Centre next month.
The expo runs from November 9-11 and features local and international artists displaying their work. Details: tattooexpo.com.au.