"Essentially how much you grow and how much you improve is really how much you work yourself. Someone could tell you all the secrets of the world but if you don't wanna listen, you learn nothing."
Jade inks other people for a living but she barely has any on herself - she explains why and how she got started, and shares the common misconceptions people have about tattoo artists
How did you get started as a tattoo artist? Have you always wanted to be one or it just happened?
Well I just got out of my degree and went to Europe for three months, so I had time to think about what I really wanted to do. I had just completed my degree in fashion design but wanted to just try something else out—my friend was apprenticing at a studio and I thought it would be fun to join him. And I never left.
How did you set up shop, with all the supplies and tools?
The shop I work at is not my own. I just buy my own machines and maybe some other particularities that I need, which I can get online or at a tattoo supply shop.
Did you have a mentor who showed you the ropes, or are you entirely self-taught?
I had a mentor in the first shop I was at and she taught me what she could. Essentially how much you grow and how much you improve is really how much you work yourself. Someone could tell you all the secrets of the world but if you don't wanna listen, you learn nothing. Of course it helps if someone wants to take you under their wings and share all their knowledge, but you'd be hard pressed to find that.
What do you usually do in a day?
Well, I wake up and go to work. Usually I've already prepared everything for the day’s appointment the day prior. I stencil the design, paste it on them like a sticker and if they don't like it, stick it until they're happy. So then I'll set up my station, put the ink out, take out the needles—set up basically—then I start. How many appointments I have in a day really depends. Sometimes I'm jammed with font tattoos and can do quite a few people a day, if not maybe just one dude sitting there with me the whole day while I continue on their piece, or even nothing but drawing if appointments cancel last minute. It’s all dependent on the mood of my clients.
How do you family and relatives perceive your occupation?
My dad doesn't really care but I guess that's cause he's white. My mom hates it—she's Chinese so the culture is really quite against it. It took me three years to actually announce it during Chinese New Year. Before I kind of just went like, “I'm freelance”, or starting a blog shop or whatever. My mom still doesn't approve, but not so much because she thinks I'm going to become a gangster or drug addict. It's because she truly doesn't see beauty in it, so, I mean, what can I do right? Haha. She lets me be now generally, but the first two years were full of pretty hardcore nagging. I know she means well so I don't really mind.
What’s your ideal customer, and while we’re at it, which ones are annoying?
My ideal customer would be someone who gives me an idea of what he or she wants, and just let me run with it with no size, colour or coverup restriction, and is also on time for appointments. The worst are those who change their design 10 times, have no idea what they want, and want it really tiny. Also, those who cancel appointments without prior notice, don't listen to advice and the worst of all, bargain.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about tattoo artists, and how do you deal with it?
That we are damn free, haha. A lot of my clients think I only go in, tattoo a little font and then go home to chill in front of my television. I wish. I work proper hours, and spend time drawing other tattoos.
What is your inspiration as a tattoo artist, and do you have a life philosophy that you subscribe to?
My inspiration is other artists—they are overflowing with creative juices and it's just inspiring. (It makes) you want to work harder and get better. That also happens to be what I live by—push harder, get better.
Is there anything tattoo-wise that you love to do or haven’t done?
I love black and grey realism and ornamental dot work, which I do at the moment. I really want to try portraits when I get better.
Is there any tattoo that you would never do on a person?
Nope, I think tattoos are personal, it's not me to decide what they want on their body, I advise against girlfriend and boyfriend name tattoos etc, but generally I'm pretty chill, it's their life. Oh, I probably won't tattoo a dude's penis or something cause that's just really awkward.
Any tattoo trends at the moment that you can’t stand?
Oh definitely but I'm not going to list them out cause they're my bread and butter! (laughs)