We interview Pui Yee, a tattoo artist at Freedom Tattoo
You may have missed it, or you may have been there getting seriously inked up, but a couple of week’s ago it was the annual Hong Kong Tattoo Convention. This convention celebrates everything to do with tattoos – there are a myriad of different designs on display and numerous tattoo artists and tattoo-lovers wondering around. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for tattoo inspo or even if you fancy a spontaneous body art sesh! We managed to chat to one of the kick-ass female tattoo artists at the convention, Pui Yee, who works at Freedom Tattoo (the studio that actually organises the convention).
Tell us a bit about your background – how long have you been tattooing and why did you get into it?
I studied graphic design in Hong Kong and then went to Australia for a one year working holiday. During that time, I became more interested in tattoos and worked part time in a tattoo shop. When I came back to Hong Kong, one of my friends went to get a tattoo… I was curious and went with her, which further sparked my interest. During that period of time, I was also working as a graphic designer, but I felt quite bored. I felt like I couldn’t be that creative as there are so many guidelines as a designer, which meant I couldn’t design my own style of work.
So I started to think about what jobs would allow me to be creative all the time and draw what I like. Through tattooing, I can present my own style of work, and it’s also design related! When my friend got a tattoo at Freedom Studio (Gabe’s studio – the organiser of the Tattoo Convention), I asked him whether he would be willing to teach an apprentice, and he said yes immediately. I was lucky to follow master Gabe, and I then started my own tattooing career almost 2 years ago.
What is your favourite style/subject to tattoo?
I love to draw plants, calligraphy and detailed line patterns. Dot Ink and Black is my main style.
What advice would you give to someone before they get a tattoo?
Usually I need to talk to someone before confirming a tattoo appointment. I need to ask them questions about the graphics that they like, then I can design according to their preferences. Some people don’t have any preferences and just want a tattoo, in which case I’ll design something special for them. The purpose of getting a tattoo is very important, and if I have a better idea of their purpose then I’ll be more inspired.
If a client has specific graphics that they want, I’ll give them advice on the size. If they don’t, then I’ll give advice on the design as well. There are some people who want to get their partner’s name as a tattoo, and I’ll usually ask them if they are completely sure about it. I always think people should imagine a scenario where they break up with this person! I would never suggest it, just in case. Tattoos last forever, relationships might not.
What inspires you and where do you go to fix a creative block?
I love reading books, all kind of books! Everything from psychology and fiction, to finance and poems… reading gives me room for imagination. Books make me feel so many emotions, and they inspire me in different ways.
What’s the most memorable tattoo you’ve done and why?
There was this one guy who needed a tattoo that said “Borrow money but can’t return – 有借無還” in Chinese characters. The reason behind this is that he borrowed money from someone but couldn’t return it. So the guy who lent him the money said that if he got this tattoo he wouldn’t need to return it…
The guy was happy to do the tattoo of course, as it seemed like it was a large amount of money. And even though it wasn’t under the best circumstances, he still had ideas for what font the tattoo should be in and where he wanted it… It was an interesting case to say the least, especially as the guy who lent the money was a lawyer!
*Love tattoos? Check out our guide to tattoos and piercings in HK here!*