The heart of body art

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

The heart of body art

A model displays a tattoo on her back. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A growing trend

Views about tattoos have been changing in recent years.

"Studios became popular more than a decade ago," says Cao Deyong, owner of Caotang Tattoo Studio in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.

"They spread like wildfire in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Chengdu. The market needs more tattoo artists. I believe the community will continue to expand and bring attention to tattooists, who are currently undervalued."

Still, he's not sure about the industry's future profitability. Some insiders believe the demographic is expanding beyond the younger generation.

"Countless studios are opening in China. But most don't make it past three years," says Mu Mu, a fine arts graduate, who opened Just Tattoo Studio in Guangdong province's Guangzhou in 2013.

All of its tattooists are young women.

"You can see Baidu searches for tattoos have dropped about 10 percent from 2015-16. Perhaps the economy determines demand," she says, referring to China's main search engine.

But certain cities are enjoying a boom, largely fueled by middle-class professionals aged 29 to 39. This demographic seeks "high-end" body art, she says.

"The number of people who are 29 to 39 years old searching Baidu for tattoos is nearly equal to the number between the ages of 20 and 29. The future belongs to those who do top-end work."

She believes Beijing is the best place for artists.

"The capital is a melting pot that welcomes any culture, including underground ones," she says.

David and George say they strive to prove tattoos are as valuable as any other art genre.

"So, we always attend international tattoo expos and festivals," David says.

Si, the China International Tattoo Convention organizer, says the industry offers promising prospects for arts majors, who often struggle after graduation.

"I hope tattoo culture will become mainstream and tattoos will be universally recognized as fine art."

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