Getting a tattoo is a huge commitment to make. It’s not like adopting a pet or getting married. Sure these things are important, but a spouse can look after themselves (most of the time) and a cat will often run away to where the food is. But a tat… it’s for life. After nearly five years in China (and after watching my brother get inked last month) I decided it was about time to stop thinking ‘if’ and ‘but’ and just go for it!
China Ink studios first opened its doors around five years ago in Binjiang but has since moved to a plush new location alongside the Grand Canal on North Hushu road. It’s owned by world-famous tattoo artist Vincent Chang, but the artists themselves deserve every bit of credit on their own.
My tattoo artist was Yumi, a 27-year-old art school graduate from Hunan. She already had the design I had chosen printed out and was sketching it onto ink paper when I arrived. Around the studio there were other artists drawing designs, readying for their own appointments, and hanging on the walls were designs from previous tattoos (it seemed more like an art gallery than an ink shop!). If you are unsure of what to get, anyone is happy to give you a free consultation and help create something personal. Now, with five studios dotted around Zhejiang and Shanghai, Hangzhou is sure to stick in your mind with a team of all female artists! Yes, you read that right: Yumi, Sara, Eva and Neven are what make this place special and give a relaxing feel to what could potentially be a stressful environment.
So what did Yumi have to say about her chosen career? “I knew what I wanted to do from my third year in school.” Her parents were not very supportive of her choice to begin with, being of the traditional variety, but she boasted that “now they are very proud of me. I’ve studied hard and I’m good at what I do.” (She’s right!) China Ink has a school for those who wish to learn the art in Suzhou. Training can be as long or as short as the student needs; as with everything, everyone learns at different paces!
Yumi told me that the cliental is mostly Chinese but they do get many foreigners too. She went on to explain that tattoos have become less taboo in recent years since people are seeing it more as art form: “We are quite busy in the studio, usually with each artist having one to two appointments per day. It makes me happy to know that people recognize our talent. I myself have done quite a few, all of which have meaning to me.”
When I told my Mum I’d decided to get a tat, the first thing she said was “Is it safe? Is it clean?” Well, for those of you who have maybe been to a sketchy place around these parts, I would say “You missed out!” Not only is the equipment sterile at China Ink but it’s imported from the USA to ensure the best quality. Inside the studio is spotless. Lying in what I like to call the ‘tattoo station’, I could have been in a private hospital. There are comfortable beds allowing for tattooing to be carried out anywhere on your body and spotlights to ensure the girls do their best.
Yumi’s steady hand worked her magic whilst she chatted to me, keeping me relaxed when it hit a painful spot and reassuring me that it was looking good and nearly finished. I won’t lie, it wasn’t as painful as I’d anticipated; nevertheless, it wasn’t completely painless. But actually waiting for the process to begin made me more nervous than anything. The opening soundtrack was Maroon 5’s “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like a Motherf****r” so that didn’t help either! But with a skilled tattooist like Yumi, it was bearable. How does the saying go? Pain is beauty. Looking around at the other clients, I saw no sign of pain on their faces, so I’m either a big girl’s blouse (that’s British for Cry-baby) or I simply chose a more sensitive area.
An hour went by and it was ready for inspection. Fantastic work and great timing too! I posed for a few pictures for them to keep in their portfolio before they wrapped me up and gave me some ointment and after care advice; then I was good to go. Before leaving, I asked some of the other staff for some advice for first-timers: “The most painful places include the neck, chest and underarm, but in general it doesn’t really hurt. Just remember if you ever decide to have a tattoo, it’s very personal. Don’t just follow a trend. Everyone’s got their own style, so be creative and express yourself!”
Of course everything comes at a price, and at China Ink prices are set at 1000RMB, 1500RMB, 2000RMB or 3000RMB per hour depending upon the artist and their level of experience. It may seem above a lot of our budgets, but can we really put a price on something that will be a part of our bodies for the rest of our days? You know, you get what you pay for, and what you pay for at China Ink is top notch quality!
I couldn’t leave without asking about the most awkward place they’ve had to tattoo? This was followed by a giggle: “Pi gu”. Awww, that’s not so bad? I know a few people with inscriptions on their asses. But, wait. It was further explained, “the inside,” A.K.A. the asshole! Should the owner of said tattoo happen to read this, please forward a picture as I’m sure our readers would be intrigued to see it!
Don’t be shy. If you are considering getting some work done, do not hesitate to call China Ink at 4000-309-390, or visit their website for some inspiration: chinaink.com.