Tattooed America: The Rise Of Skin Art

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At Dare Devil Tattoo on New York's Lower East Side, Glenda Gonzales is about to take the plunge.

"Actually there's no pain," she told Sunday Morning correspondent Serena Altschul. "I feel numb. Feels numb. Is that how it's supposed to feel?"

She's picked a bluebird for her back. It's her first tattoo.

"I probably decided when I was 18, but my parents wouldn't let me get it," she said.

Now 22, Glenda has made her move — and she has plenty of company. According to a study by the American Academy of Dermatology, 36 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 have a tattoo.

"I mean at this point it's just hugely popular, it's gone way farther than any of us would have envisioned from even 10 years ago," Michelle Myers, who has been tattooing for 15 years, said. "Some people define it as a trend, but I would say it's more like when women started wearing slacks. It wasn't a trend, it just became acceptable."

Across town, at the Last Rites Tattoo Theatre, Yousef O'Dey is also getting his first tattoo from artist Paul Booth. Booth is considered the master of the macabre. His dark and otherworldly images adorn rock stars and anyone with a taste for the night. His waiting list is two and a half years' long.

"I wanted something dark and very unique, and somebody who would understand when I say I want something that is on the edge of being repulsive," he said.

"Right now I'm just kind of rendering the face of the demon," Booth said. "I've always made it a point not to be spouting off, bragging about what I make. I can tell you that, you know, I charge a little bit more than my lawyer does."

Booth says he loves that tattoos require commitment.

"There's a validation in having your art appreciated to the level that someone is willing to wear it on their body for the rest of their life, is a really intense experience," he said.

What's unusual about the man making that lifelong commitment is not just the theme of his tattoo, but what Yousef, who lives in Wisconsin, does for a living. He's a cardiac surgeon.

"This is pretty unorthodox probably for any surgeon, let alone a cardiac surgeon, probably," he said.

According to a recent Harris poll, 16 percent of all Americans have at least one tattoo. CBS News caught up with some of them at a tattoo festival in suburban Chicago.

Diane Filpi is 42 years old and getting her fourth tattoo.

"I'm a nurse, very quiet person, I'm a classical pianist," she said.

Zach Sikora is studying to be a psychologist. His tattoo expresses his belief in God.

"Just kind of symbolizes my faith and having it on me kind of symbolizes me defeating sin, defeating, you know, the struggles in my life," he said.

Nancy Rocha is getting two butterflies which represent her two daughters.

"It's just a reminder of my children, and having the colors and the art on my skin forever, it's just amazing," she said.

  • Caitlin Johnson

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