Search This Blog

Monday, April 17, 2017

I'm not me without my tattoos

I'm fairly sure anyone with tattoos have been in such situations or similar:

"You do know that your tattoos will make you seem less than others, right? No, it's not what I think, although personally I wouldn't do such a thing, but people have been having opinions about tattooed people for centuries, and it's a bad impression." - it's my impression to make, and people will judge me even if I had no tattoos

"Why do you want to get it? I understand, it looks nice, but do you really have to have it that big?" - I have my reasons, which will most likely have nothing to do with anyone

"You were good looking as it is! Why did you have to vandalize your skin like this?" - do you mean that I am now ugly because I have some extra "deco" on my skin?

I've been approached multiple ways about my tattoos - lesser work prospects, potential life as a spinster because no one would want me, and bad impression to notable people in my life who may or may not help me advance.

Being seen as a trouble-making criminal has not been explicitly mentioned, though.

My facade is simple - I tell people that their opinions don't matter to me, and in the end, I will do what I want, life is mine to live, and as long as I live as a responsible person and don't hurt anyone physically, I'm pretty much good. People can judge me or reject interaction with me solely because of my choice of tattoos, and they can be uncomfortable about it (which is the point, more on that later), and ideally - it won't affect me, or at least it won't affect me in a way that I'd give up tattoos.

However, a facade is only a facade. It hurts when people tell me I have less value now that I have tattoos, especially if they come from people close to me.

The intentions are mostly good - they want better life propects for me, but then again if they really had faith in my intelligence which they tout about to other people, wouldn't it be already possible that I know the consequences of getting them?

Oh, wait! No! She has a fucking degree but she must be oblivious to the plethora of consequences that come with tattoos! 

NEWS FLASH: I used to think badly of people with tattoos until I started watching Miami Ink (praise Ami James and his team) and had my horizons expanded.

I also understand the stigma that comes with it - no decent citizen would have their skin so vulgarly marked with nudity, as well as the long-time link between the dark side of society with tattoos. It's also something seen as very outlandish and intimidating: "pay someone a hefty sum to poke holes at high speed into your skin to inject ink for LIFETIME COMMITMENT?!" Thus, people tend to just reject stuff that they can't accept, such as a) someone willing to pay a hefty sum to have their skin 'vandalized', b) have someone use a machine they can't fathom to piece one's skin at high speed, c) lifetime commitment of a certain design ("what if you get bored of it?"), or d) someone who can do all the above and not regret it in the future.

I believe it's something that we just live with, much like women just live with being cat-called and objectified, because it's not something within our control. We can talk back, explain, try to educate, but if they refuse to take the lesson and stay adamant with their opinion, there's not much we can do apart from put on a smile, nod, and agree.

One of the more frequently asked questions that I get is "WHY do you want/need to get them?"

To be honest, I don't have a solid answer for that, or maybe society has warped me so much that I'm now even scared to feel alienated.

I get them because I like them.

Because it's one of the ways I cope with the crippling self-doubt and body dysmorphia that comes with my search of my real purpose in life.

Because I want to be seen as intimidating, to further solidify my facade of strength.

Because it's a silent cry for help to people, to tell them "this is what it means, please help me before my sanity slips away".

Because I want to challenge the beauty standards of people by having as much sex and feminine appeal as I can while having these "delinquent"-type body art.

Because it's something I wanna get with my own money on my own skin, I'm not asking anyone to accept it or understand it or stare at it, so it shouldn't be a problem.

Here are some answers to some common other common questions:

"Why do you want them so big?"
A: I like to make a statement, if my laughter has not illustrated that enough. Also, the only two big ones I have are fairly detailed, so having them too small, it defeats the purpose of asking a master artist to put so much effort into a masterpiece, doesn't it?

"Aren't you scared you'll regret them?"
A: Yes, I'm afraid that my fickle mind would one day decide "actually, I don't like this style/design anymore, but it's now permanently on my body". Which is why I give myself as much time as possible to weigh my options and see if I still want it a few months or years down the road. Also, I try to make it a point to be sure that everything that I get has meaning - each one of my tattoos now represent a part of me. And even if I do regret them years down the road, it will be my regret to take on, because there will be no one else to blame.

"Why do you waste your money like that when you could've spent it on something more practical?"
A: It's a personal preference, like how some people don't mind spending more on food, entertainment, self-pampering, etc. I know people who would rather spend a fortune on games, or spend a bomb on clothes and designer items. People who seem to be like you may not hold the same core values and principles that you do, so I will shut up about you spending so much of your money on [insert what I think is unnecessary and frivolous here], and I implore you to just mind your business and not comment unprovoked about the amount of money I spent on investing in a good artist for a permanent feature on my skin.

"Aren't you worried about the impressions that you would make to new people?"
A: Not really, no. Well, depends on who it is. Most of the time, I like to watch how people on the streets react to me when they see me: shocked? Disgusted? Impressed? Thankfully, I work in a place where pretty much everything goes, and I'm valued by what I can give rather than how I look and how I spend my money. As for first impressions, it really depends on whether you actually want to get to know me in person, as opposed to just writing me off as a lost cause on your book.

I accept the fact that society will not take the time to understand you or accept eccentricity if they are adamant about their values, even when I desperately try to persuade people to perhaps stand on the other side of the picture for another angle that they may be missing out. In essence, I'd be lying if I said that any snark comment/spite directed toward my "integrity" because of my tattoos didn't bother me or hurt me. In fact, it hurts a lot. Say you wouldn't do the same, say your money would be better spent elsewhere - that's on you. But what's on you as well is also seeing me as less of a person because I chose to be even more different than I already am.

My point here is: have whatever opinions you have about what you think about my tattoos. I can't make you see through my lens if you don't want to. However, I hope that if you feel the dire need to tell me about your opinions of my tattoos - good or bad - please, at least try to be civil about it. I understand I don't look like a decent person, much less a decent girl worthy of a decent guy such as the person whom I call my significant other right now. In fact, there's a whole other list that could write me off as "unqualified" to be his girlfriend, and that list doesn't include my body modification.

I give silent nods to fellow inked people I meet - in respect and in silent understanding of the little "society" that we form, in silent retaliation to typical society expectations and beauty standards, in embracing our love for body art even in the face of potential spite, discrimination, and isolation. I can't speak for all fellow inked people that they will feel the same way that I do - many of them are emotionally stronger, and take a lot of this with grace. Perhaps they deal with it in a different way than I do, or they're just let it roll off their back - either way, kudos to them.

Perhaps one thing about inked peeps is that... we're all slightly out of place in this world where we desperately try to find relativity and try to fit in somewhere, to fulfill a role and not let our life just slip by in vain. And since we're already labelled "strange", we might as well do it in style - in the form of permanent body art, pieces of myself that we will take to the grave with us to decay, telling the stories of our lives and being permanent reminders of the lessons we learned, the people we met and loved, the silly things that we used to do.

Essentially, live your life and I'll live mine. If our path cross, I take it as fate for me to have met you, for whatever reason that fate has in mind. I just implore one thing... let me live my life, as my mother has let me live mine. I will blame no one and take responsibility for any issues that come with my choices, as will everyone else. There is little else that give my life meaning apart from him, my family, and my love for the limitless world of tattoos - please don't take that away from me.

Friday, April 14, 2017

TATTOO #5: Ai-chan

Somewhere along my adventures on the internet, I found an series of horoscope illustrations, and after further research, found that they were illustrated by an artist called Amrit Brar, who aptly named the series "Shitty Horoscopes".

The series contains several books, and the one I related to the most is from Book VI: After the Fall. 
I had this saved in my PC and phone for a while, wanting it as a tattoo but not sure how to style it. I certainly did not want to rip off the design itself, and even sent an email to the illustrator herself (so far I don't have a response).


Recently, a fairly popular tattoo artist returned to the scene - Hishiko Woo. I had been following her for a while, but never really delved into her designs until recently, after she had returned from giving birth and caring for her son. What really drew her to me were her horoscope designs, and how she was fairly open minded to feminine-gore. Her style was different from other artists in the sense that her style was mostly illustrative clip-art or comic style.

I didn't really know what I wanted, but she pretty much understood the design concept. It was her who suggested that the focal point be on the hands covering the eyes, and the hand around the throat. We set the appointment date to be - ironically - my dad's birthday.

This entire exchange of information was during one of my earlier gym days, in between sets, on WeChat. It felt so impulsive, compared to my previous tattoo ventures where I actually sat down and spent some time composing what I was going to say.

And compared to the unique style of Yang Lee, whose traditional designs are remarkable, Hishiko has a completely different vibe of her own, and the way she got what I wanted even before I elaborated more just cemented her as the artist I needed to have this piece done.


I realized that the period pre-tattoo, I would always have bouts of severe melancholy/depression. There's no explanation for it, nothing in particular that really gets me down - PMS, my weight not going down, even old clothes started fitting again, so the only explanation I had was some kind of pre-tattoo anxiety or something. It kinda happened when before I got my hannya as well, but it didn't feel as severe.

UPDATE: the duration of the anxiety has significantly reduced, but I still get inexplainable melancholy for a couple of weeks before the actual day.



The studio (Haiyuan Tattoo) is a residential unit within Taragon Puteri Bintang (which makes this my first visit to a studio within a residence), on Changkat Thambi Dollah, right behind Berjaya Times Square, and shares a building with Furama Hotel.

Haiyuan, her husband and mentor, was conducting a class when I stepped into the very homey yet professional place. And believe me, she's as pretty in person as she is in her photos. AND HER SKIN IS PORELESS - PORELESS!!!

After taking my arm measurements, she took about an hour to sketch out the stencil from her original drawing, while my boyfriend and I (mostly just me, though) played with their cats and had an early lunch (thanks, YW!). I shall go all out crazy cat lady and say their cats are fucking adorable and so fluffy and so purry!!! One of them actually made the effort to follow my boyfriend around, even kneading on his pants with its paws~~~

We started around 1.30pm, after she prepped the stencil. Because of the immense detail on the design, the outlining took much longer than expected, and because there were so many lines on the design, she had to fill in the hair part so that it would be easier to continue the piece when I go back for the next session.

She asked if she could call me 小倩, after previously calling me 紫倩, from what I presumed was from my Facebook or WeChat. I happily obliged, and to distract myself, sang along with whichever song I knew from their compiled playlist (自誇說一下,人家也覺得我的歌聲好聽 呵呵呵~).

I can't really compare the pain to that of the hannya piece, because of the difference of atmosphere, and the presence of an actual person with me (during the hannya piece, I bombarded my boyfriend, who was then just my friend, with messages counting back in sevens from 1000, which he suggested in reference to Tokyo Ghoul when Kaneki was being tortured). But compared to the forearm tattoo I got, it was definitely much more painful in the sense that the pain never 'dulled'.

We took a short break in between the lining and the filling in of the hair of the girl. Can I just say I'm so happy to have another set of boobs on me now?

She wrapped my piece in saran wrap, another first as the artists for all my smaller pieces used a sterile bandage and taped it down with surgical tape (take it off after 2-4 hours, rinse, air dry, and apply A+D emollient), and Yang Lee only applied a layer of Tattoo Goo onto the finished piece. Instructions were to keep the saran wrap on for 5 hours, then immediately rinse and pat dry with paper towels. I was not to apply any lotion or ointment on it for the first 5 days, but I cheated and applied some After Inked lotion about twice a day (which was how often I washed it anyway).

2nd session is set in April, hopefully that doesn't coincide with the China trip~ Till then, this post will remain in my drafts~



IT DID NOT COINCIDE WITH THE CHINA TRIP! But it did coincide with King's Raid maintenance, much to the dismay of the SO.

A post shared by Kellie Low 紫倩 (@yukari_ivankov) on

We met her in the lift on the way up, and almost immediately got to work after she finished setting up.

The process was much less painful than the previous session, perhaps because it was less needle-to-skin contact duration - the little lines that she used for shading broke up the needle-to-skin contact duration so it was much more bearable, except for that little bit which was practically at the elbow which hurt the most out of the entire piece.

The first part was outline and general filling in of her hair, this part was the shading lines, slight touch up on the hair part, defining the parts of the flowers surrounding it, and color on the lips, severed parts of the hands, and a little color on the nails.

Toward the end of the session, she asked if I minded that she featured me as a 'guest' in her Facebook live session. A little background on Hishiko - she used to be a local host and artiste, and since she has retired from that industry to be a full-time mother and tattoo artist, she does little Facebook live sessions in talk show format to fulfill her urges to be a host. She actually held another live session the previous night, describing how she will start doing talk-show format live sessions to hopefully give insight about various topics to her audiences.

In this session, we discussed the meaning behind my piece, and how tattoo artists can try their best to illustrate their clients' ideas even if they do not have a specific style or image in mind. She also gives a little insight to the style she likes to go along - deformed, but still hauntingly beautiful.



While I did not request the boobs (although I hoped she would include them), there are a few key elements of this piece that holds significant meaning, both toward the original illustration and caption, as well as some elements of being a Libra (which I find applies to me fairly well).

Referring back to the original caption of the illustration, I take that the very hands covering her eyes are actually her own - her overthinking blinding her to the blatant reality before her, and blurring her vision of the path before her. The extra hand is the hand of society - choking her to stop her from being 'herself'.

I owe my growth to one particular person, apart from family. That one friend in university who did not make me feel included just for the sake of being included - she went out of her way to include me in her life, and make me feel like a part that's significant enough that she wanted me around. I requested that Hishiko add jasmine flowers around Ai-chan, in homage to my fellow Libra.

Apart from just being more comfortable naked most of the time, the nudity indirectly represents feeling naked to the world, as if being an open book displayed in a public place to be judged, scrutinized, and being very vulnerable.

In my mind, I desperately want to be tied up - to be tamed, to be given some sort of boundary so that I could at least see how far I can go without falling off the edge.

Starved of what she needs to live - emotional food, affection, attention, understanding from others, acceptance.

Despite all that, she wants to be feminine, pretty, attractive - if not to others, at least to herself. She feels how broken she is, but can't see how pretty she is to everyone else.


In the end, I find myself gravitating more toward black and grey pieces, with minimal color. And I finally have another masterpiece on my skin to take to the grave with me - I never imagined to have a piece like this, nor could I imagine it on my skin, but now I can't wait to see it fully healed!