The heart of body art

By Ren Xiaojin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-29 07:37

The heart of body art

A tattooist inks a design on a customer during the China International Tattoo Convention in Ningbo in October. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Tattoo studios are springing up across major cities to cater to a new breed of middle-class clients. Ren Xiaojin reports.

Chinese are changing how they think about ink. Tattoos were ubiquitous in Born to Be King, the sixth hit mob movie in Hong Kong's popular Young and Dangerous franchise. They served as symbols of gang culture, as is illustrated by the violence depicted in Andrew Lau Waikeung's 2000 film.

Fast forward 17 years-that attitude is changing.

Today, tattoos aren't only popular among China's hip youth but also, increasingly, its middle class.

This inspired "David and George, the Tattoo Brothers", as they're locally known, to set up a small studio in Zhejiang province's Ningbo five years ago. They'd spent two years honing their craft before opening a 30-square-meter studio in 2012.

"We set up the business on impulse," says George.

"But we needed to master the skills before we could make money. It took a while to build a reputation."

Consequently, it took time to build up a customer base.

They didn't have money to advertise, so they had to rely on word-of-mouth promotion.

"Few clients were willing to trust a couple of random guys," David says.

"But things started to pick up after a year. We've since had to relocate because we needed more space."

They serve dozens of customers a week, especially in the summer.

Prices range from a couple of hundred yuan a piece to hundreds of yuan per hour, depending on the tattoo's size and intricacy.

Clients are typically fashionable 20-somethings with disposable income.

They seek originality in their ink work.

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