4 Female Tattoo Artists Talk About Making a Mark Through Ink
Hong Kong/ Vibe/ Artists

4 Female Tattoo Artists on Making a Mark Through Ink

4 Female Tattoo Artists on Making a Mark Through Ink

Following a four-year pause, more than 160 artists from across the globe will make an appearance in the city for the Hong Kong China International Tattoo Convention from Aug. 25-27, sharing a common love for ink and tattoo artistry. Founded by Gabe Shum of Freedom Tattoo Hong Kong studio, the convention, now on its seventh iteration, is one of the world’s biggest gatherings of its kind. It also comes at a time when the industry is enjoying elevated popularity for an art form that is at once an outlet for creativity, defiance, loss, and remembering.

The Beat Asia reached out to four female tattoo artists participating at the convention to talk about how they broke into the industry, their favourite styles, and what they think about the current tattoo scene.

Gloria Mak

Describing her decision to enter the industry as one that’s “sealed by fate,” Gloria drew her skills from her former work in graphic and interior design to master the art of carving geometric patterns into flesh. She began by learning the techniques behind drawing tattoos from her mentor and eventually made the huge career leap to become a full-time ink artist.

Gloria Mak tattoo artist
Gloria Mak

In recalling tattoos for clients that left a mark on her, Gloria cited one client request that sprung from a tragic love story. This experience imprinted on her, she believes creative work and craftmanship should run in parallel with empathy and compassion when speaking with clients regarding what they want. “Being a tattoo artist can be more than a job. You have to be sensitive to the needs of your client and listen to them with your heart to preserve something they hold dear,” she remarks.

Please describe your tattooing style. What inspires your designs?

My tattoo style ranges from geometric and black work to watercolour work, which are also my strengths. Before inking, I would ask my clients to share with us their stories and what message they wish to convey through the tattoo. I then put myself into their shoes and try to feel what they feel and think in their own way. The ultimate goal is to create an artwork that can truly reflect the meaning and the feeling that clients wish to deliver or express. This is very critical.

What do you think of the current tattoo scene and how do you think female tattooists are shaping the perception about tattoos and women with ink?

The rise of female tattoo artists proves that our society is becoming more open-minded. It also creates a channel for females to not only express themselves through their tailor-made tattoos, but to gain a better understanding of themselves through the dialogue with the artists.

More importantly, through this support, I can still continue my career as a tattoo artist after having a kid of my own. I don’t think one could wear both hats in the past.

Follow Gloria at @gloria.tattooer

Sheeta Lam

Using the skin as her blank canvas, Sheeta from Morning Tattoo studio skillfully pierces her clients’ flesh with various designs that range from realistic clowns to religious portraits. While recognising the craft as her creative outlet, Sheeta also acknowledges that tattooing is like other jobs that need to get done at the end of the day.

“I like tattoos, I don't hate drawing. I can easily devote myself to the craft I like, which prompted me to become a tattoo artist.”

Lam Sze Ting Shita tattoo artist
Lam Sze Ting Shita

Please describe your tattooing style. What inspires your designs?

A few years ago, I was passionate about creating line-based tattoos. I used shading techniques with fine lines to express the patterns. Recently, I went abroad to pursue further education, and it sparked a strong interest in colour realism tattoos, reminding me that colour is actually my expertise when it comes to drawing. So, I have started slowly creating some colourful tattoo designs. I hope more people will come to me for these tattoos!

What is the story of your first (or your favourite) tattoo?

Let's talk about the most impressive tattoo! At that time, I was studying colour realistic tattoo abroad and needed to complete my graduation work. I invited my colleague to be my model and get a leg tattoo. We did 26 hours of work in two consecutive days.

Follow Sheeta at sheeta_tattoo

Hana Chan

A career shift that took about eight years and surviving a global pandemic to happen, Hana’s foray into inking formally began when she took an apprenticeship programme with Gabe Shum. Now, she makes a mark with her floral patterns dotted across dozens of body canvases that have gone under her gentle hands.

Hana Chan tattoo artist
Hana Chan

Please describe your tattooing style. What inspires your designs?

I will say my tattooing style is Japanese oriental inspired, with florals and ornamentals adding a twist. I am interested in drawing, art, design, visual merchandising, architecture, and Japanese fashion and music. I also love traveling, which helped broaden my horizons.

What do you think of the current tattoo scene and how do you think female tattooists are shaping the perception about tattoos and women with ink?

I am very happy to see that the current tattoo scene is growing healthily with different kinds of styles. I am also glad that the perception of people who have tattoos in general and inked women in particular is slowly changing in a positive way.

I think the influence of celebrities and social media also contributed [to these developments], drawing interest [towards] cute, and colourful tattoo styles. On average, my clients are 60% female and 40% male, which I think represent the growing interest in floral and conventionally feminine tattoos.

Follow Hana at hanax____

Changyuanzi Huang

Design has always been the medium of choice for Chinese tattoo artist Changyuanzi Huang, also known as Yuanzi, to convey her right-brain ideas. She had a background in landscape architecture and contemporary art curation before breaking into the world of ink. Her designs are a play of bright colours and often depict inanimate objects to represent the other side of tattoos that can be cute and gentle.

“I found that tattoos can become the key to opening my imagination and creative door. I treat people's skin as paper and draw on them,” says Yuanzi.

Changyuanzi Huang
Changyuanzi Huang

Please describe your tattooing style. What inspires your designs?
My tattooing style is about fantasy colours. If you ask what inspires me, I would like to say it is love and light. I believe my artwork can inspire the audience and empower them.

What do you think of the current tattoo scene and how do you think female tattooists are shaping the perception about tattoos and women with ink?
It is amazing that I can see many new avant-garde styles in this industry. Many people tell me that my tattoo does not look like traditional ink, but is more like an illustration or a painting.

As a female tattooist, I am happy to see more women in this industry. They bring a different perspective and a new voice. At the end of the day, we are all artists who love this job and want to express our creativity.

Follow Yuanzi at flash_fart_puppy

The 7th Hong Kong China International Tattoo Convention is happening today until Aug. 27 (8 AM-6 PM) at Hall 5G, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Wan Chai. For tickets, go here.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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