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Ruairidh Von Linden was about 10 when his older brother came home with a new tattoo.

“My mum was furious with him," Von Linden remembered. "And he had this piece of tribal on his forearm. And I remember seeing it and being like, wow, you know, is that permanent? I just got obsessed with tattooing at that point.”

Image: Laura Philion.

Ruairidh Von Linden found a helmet at a Norfolk military surplus store and painted it for his table at the festival.

Von Linden, who’s based in Edinburgh, Scotland, says that was it. He started making art. 

 "I just had this infatuation with just, art that you can put on your body," he said. "Like, how can I cover myself in what I like, you know? From that point on, it was just like, I need to draw, I need to do tattoos.”

Image: Laura Philion.

Flash tattoo designs at a table at the 2023 Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival.

Marcus Goode works at Ashland Tattoo Company in Ashland, Virginia. He traveled to work the 3-day event in Hampton.

"I got my apprenticeship in 2018, started holding the machine in 2019, and ever since then I've just kind of been wanting to learn and that's it," Goode said. "Really just learn and progress, honestly, and meet new people along the way."

Image: Laura Philion.

Tattoo artist Moony Valdes finished this piece before touching up her older work on this client.

Moony Valdes works for Marked 4 Life in Miami. Her flashbook has everything from dinosaurs to anime -- but her first festival piece was an intricate heart with flowers and fiddlehead ferns.

Von Linden traveled to Hampton Roads from Edinburgh for the festival. He said he'd been rejected for jobs after school because he had ink -- but then he turned to tattooing full time. He found a home in the community.

“I think there's a sort of a family in tattooing," Von Linden said. "When you're a tattooer and you decide to dedicate your life to tattooing, when you meet other tattooers that have done the same thing, there's this camaraderie between people that I really enjoy. Like here’s a thing we're both so passionate about.”